On Nov. 29, New Orleans-based musician and musical inventor Quintron tweeted, “If I was a movie today, I would be Beat The Devil.” Directed by John Huston and co-written by Truman Capote, the 1953 film stars Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, and Peter Lorre and concerns, according to IMDb, “a group of rogues who hope to get rich” in Africa “and a seemingly innocent British couple. They meet and things happen …” While considered primarily a spoof of the film noir genre — which Huston pioneered with his classic, The Maltese Falcon, also starring Bogart and Lorre — Beat The Devil has also been called a thriller, a crime drama, a romance, and a comedy.
The film is, in a word, unclassifiable. Same goes for Quintron, who, alongside his wife, the puppeteer Miss Pussycat (aka Panacea Theriac), will board the Carnival Imagination on February 10 for the Bruise Cruise Festival, a three-day “rock’n’roll vacation” from Miami to Nassau and back. (Visit /bruisecruise to learn how you can enter to win a free cabin for two.)
Born Robert Rolston, Quintron grew up in Alabama before making his home in New Orleans’ …
Born Robert Rolston, Quintron grew up in Alabama before making his home in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, where he has been churning out foot-stomping “Swamp-Tech” dance music with a full-bodied Hammond B-3 and a lab’s worth of self-made electronic instruments for more than 15 years. He is also the score composer for Miss Pussycat’s elaborate puppet shows, which are a regular feature of the duo’s live performances.
A telling note about Quintron’s organ: its backside is an engine grate with a working pair of mounted headlights. So, to a crowd, Quintron’s instrument may look like a speeding car headed their way.
Despite the wonderful weirdness, Quintron and Miss Pussycat have collected some mainstream accolades recently. First the 100-year-old New Orleans Museum of Art, the city’s oldest fine arts institution, invited them to set up shop in their neo-classical building to create their latest album, Sucre du Sauvage, before the public eye. Self-described as “incredibly private”, Quintron told me in a recent phone interview that the “public aspect was really hard”. But having full access to the museum was “amazing”, he said.
“We were like employees with full 24-hour access,” he said. “We could just run around. If I got sick of recording, I could go sit in front of a Rodin sculpture. It’s amazing that they let us do it.”
Then, in early December, Quintron earned a Grammy nomination for his work on the latest Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys album, Grand Isle, which features a cover of Quintron’s “Chatterbox”.
“It’s the kind of thing that means a lot to your parents,” Quintron said about the nomination. “I mean, I can’t say it’s not thrilling to be spoken of in that realm, because it is. You hear about it your whole life, this national awards ceremony. I would be a liar to say it didn’t mean anything.”
– video from Bruise Cruise 2011 kick-off party, at Grand Central
With a strong tailwind following the NOMA residency, the Grammy nomination, and a recent collaboration with hip-hop producer Mannie Fresh, artist Swoon, Miami’s Godfather of Noise, Rat Bastard, and others on an installation-cum-orchestra called “The Music Box”, Quintron is excited about heading to Miami to perform on the Bruise Cruise for the second year in a row. At last year’s Grand Central kick-off party, Quintron told the crowd he and his wife were Miami natives “in our minds!” On the phone, I asked him if he was just playing to his audience.
“No, Miss Pussycat and I have always said that if we didn’t live in New Orleans we would live in Miami,” he said. “This is not pandering to Miami in any way at all. Miami is similar to New Orleans in that it’s uber-American in this weird way, in what a melting pot it is, but at the same time you’re totally in a foreign country.”
That said, Quintron says he can’t imagine living anywhere else.
“I think the things that are important in New Orleans, music and food and the sensory bacchanalian things that have been put upon this earth for us to enjoy, are more important here than other places,” he said. “And that makes me feel like making music is something religious and more important than just entertainment.”
As for the Bruise Cruise, a standard bearer for a musical paradox — is there anything less rock’n’roll than a luxury cruise? — Quintron describes it in terms of revelry rather than reverence.
“You only live one time,” he said. “If someone says, ‘Hey, we want to give you money to go on a boat with your friends and a bunch of bands you like — do you want to come and play?’ I think the answer has to be ‘Yes. Works for me.'”
Before the cruise ships out, the full line-up, including Fucked Up, King Khan & The Shrines, and Thee Oh Sees, will play over two nights (Feb. 8-9) at The Stage, in the Design District. As at last year’s kick-off party, Quintron and Miss Pussycat will stage a puppet show during their performance, the details of which they are keeping a secret.
Knowing the performers, it will defy classification.
To RSVP for the Bruise Cruise Kick-Off Party at The Stage, visit the Facebook event page. To learn more about Bruise Cruise 2012 and how you can enter to win a free cabin for two, visit our dedicated Bruise Cruise page.