QUINTRON: RISK YOUR LIFE TO BECOME A CALLIOPE PLAYER

August 5th, 2009 | Interviews


keenan marshall keller

Stream: Great Organ Moments sample one

[audio:http://larecord.com/audio/greatorganmoments-1.mp3]

Stream: Great Organ Moments sample two

[audio:http://larecord.com/audio/greatorganmoments-2.mp3]

Stream: Great Organ Moments sample three

[audio:http://larecord.com/audio/greatorganmoments-3.mp3]

Quintron invented the dream-machine-slash-drum-machine called the Drum Buddy and Miss Pussycat invented Pussycat Caverns for her puppets, and during slower moments at their Spellcaster Lodge in New Orleans Quintron compiles the Great Organ Moments thrift-store organ classics compilations. He talks now to John Henry about what organs he loves and what organs he respectfully fears.

Tell us about the organ music mix CDs you’ve been making.
Quintron: I’ve been buying these organ records for I don’t know how many years. I’ve always been an organ player my whole life so I used to buy every organ record that I ever saw in a thrift store—anything that had a picture of an organ on it or had anything to do with organ music, I would buy it. I have thousands of organ records but the thing about organ records is that most of them are terrible. Or they maybe have one or two good songs on them and I would always forget which records had the good songs. So I had the idea that I should spend a week or two going through all of these records and really plucking the great songs and create a compilation that was the best of the best of all the organ records that I own. I think maybe it’s a total of about 150 minutes of organ music. And it’s called Great Organ Moments which is a title that Miss Pussycat came up with.
Who’s your favorite organ player?
Just technique-wise—and this is based on the realm of thrift store organ finds, and when I say ‘thrift store organ finds’ that in no way demeans the musical prowess of musicians ending up in thrift store bins. But anyway, her name is Ethel Smith and I think she’s one of the greatest B-3 players ever to have lived. I love Jimmy Smith and I love Alfred Bolden who was a great gospel B-3 player, but for pop B-3 organ technique you can’t beat Ethel Smith. Her hit was ‘Tico Tico’and her hit album is called Kitten on the Keys
Do you collect pipe organ music as well as the electric organ?
I collect both. There are religious pipe organ music records which are very boring mostly. I love Messiaen but I don’t sit around listening to Messiaen. But there are a lot of pop pipe organ records and I do listen to those. My favorite old record label of all time is called Cook Records. It was started by this guy Emory Cook who was a partner with one of the guys who began Folkways Records. Emory Cook was an audiophile nutcase and he made straight-up stereo experimental records and he was obsessed with the pipe organ. He was obsessed with the acoustics of these different spaces pipe organs were in. He made a lot of pipe organ demonstration records or pop pipe organ records and some of those ended up on my two-volume compilation Great Organ Moments.
You ever play a pipe organ?
I was recently hired to play at a Catholic wedding. It was very traditional and very serious and I went to the church on Esplanade Avenue to check out the organ. I didn’t want to embarrass myself on some instrument I didn’t understand and all pipe organs are different. So I went to this church at the address that I thought that it was and I played on this pipe organ for hours and hours, jamming and jamming and playing my own music and then two hours later the priest comes up to me with a nun and says ‘You’re at the wrong location—you’re actually next door.’ I went next door which was actually the Catholic girls’ school annex where the wedding was taking place, and there was a Hammond B-3 which I’m very familiar with. I sat down and played on it after playing the pipe organ for two hours and I literally almost cried. It sounded so weak in comparison.
You ever play a calliope?
No, but I would really really love to. There’s a calliope on the Mississippi River that I hear every single day—the Natchez I believe is the steamship’s name and there’s an old woman that plays it. I don’t know what her name is but she is very wonderful. There is a peculiar thing about calliopes in that the power for the pipes that generate the sound for the calliope music is actually generated from the steam from the steam engine. The one in New Orleans is actually a real steam calliope. A lot of calliopes are fake. I would love to play it. It’s my dream actually. There’s supposedly—on a real old steam calliope—a release valve that you have to be careful to release enough steam so that the pressure in your organ tank doesn’t build up to such a point that there can be an explosion. The calliope is a dangerous instrument to play. You risk your life to become a calliope player—it’s true.

QUINTRON AND MISS PUSSYCAT WITH STATIC STATIC AND ALL LEATHER ON THU., AUG. 6, AT THE ECHO, 1822 SUNSET BLVD., ECHO PARK. 8:30 PM / $12-$14 / 18+. ATTHEECHO.COM. QUINTRON AND MISS PUSSYCAT’S TOO THIRSTY 4 LOVE IS OUT NOW ON GONER. VISIT MR. QUINTRON AND MISS PUSSYCAT AT QUINTRONANDMISSPUSSYCAT.COM OR MYSPACE.COM/QUINTRONANDMISSPUSSYCAT.