Puppet shows are mostly rare these days, and it’s even rarer to see kids dancing to an electric homemade organ. But when inventor/musician Quintron and puppeteer Miss Pussycat get onstage, both puppets and dancing to the organ seem not only natural but inevitable. At live shows, Miss Pussycat performs her psychedelic puppet shows after the duo’s music has already warped your brain, which really ups the night’s sense of weird. Quintron’s most recent release, 2008's Too Thirsty 4 Love, is a lo-fi romp through electriconica, rock 'n' roll, noise, and blues. Quintron—the German-born Robert Rolston—toils just as hard on his songs as he does his instruments, and his light-activated analog synthesizer—the Drum Buddy—is proof of this. The limited-release machine has been a work in progress for nearly 15 years, but with Kanye West blogging about it, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes the next Auto-Tune. Before his show on Thursday at The High Noon Saloon, Decider caught up with Quintron to discuss inventing instruments, the birth of musical genres, and Snuggies.
Decider: What led you to build your own instruments?
Quintron: I started inventing musical instruments as soon as I started playing music. I was originally a drummer, and like a lot of drummers I couldn’t afford drums, so I just made my own crap to beat on. That slowly evolved into the band MATH—a Chicago band from back in the day—that was all about finding your own crap to beat on and fixing old broken electric organs. I’ve always been an electrician and a tinkerer, and my father was an engineer who taught me all of that.
Q: [Laughs.] I was probably joking. But usually when I talk about a specific genre [for my music], I’m talking about swamp-tech, and all of these people in New Orleans are making this electronic music that's really slow and sloppy, and it has super fucked-up lo-fi electronic roots to it. At the same time, though, some inspirations are coming much more from what you would call normal music, or R&B and rock ‘n’ roll, so its not coming from just electronic music.
D: Does creating new instruments help create a new genre? Or is that not something you're trying to do?
Q: I don’t think a genre can be based on an instrument, but I think a genre can be built around a single instrument. You can say the electric guitar certainly helped create the genre of garage rock, but there’s something else that has to contribute to start a truly new genre of music. Sometimes it’s about one person or one pioneer, but it’s also about a certain culture and a certain period in time. Technology is totally a part of it, too. You wouldn’t have house music without early-'80s digital drum machines that could make really big, fat, kicking drum sounds.
D: What’s the worst invention of all time?
Q: I am going to say there is no such thing as a bad invention, although there are some things that are unnecessarily improved upon that just seem to make life more complicated. The Snuggie, an improvement upon the blanket, comes to mind, but the infomercials have provided Miss Pussycat and I with so much enjoyment that it can't really be bad.
D: How about the best invention of all time?
Q: I am going to have to say that Nicola Tesla's various patents involving the harnessing of alternating current would top my list. Miss Pussycat says scissors—think about it.