Miss Pussycat: Secret Projects, Capers and (most importantly) Having Fun!

Original photo: Doug Hill. Handmade collage by B.

We adore NOLA-based musician, artist, puppeteer, zine creator and all-round creative Miss Pussycat! She’s a true original, one of the most individual, loveliest and happiest people you’ll ever meet. She creates her own world full of colour and magic and brings a whole lot of that, as well as joy, to ours. Along with her equally amazing creative partner Quintron (read our conversation with Q here) they’ve released a banger of a new record Goblin Alert. Gimmie got an insight into her wonderful world.

MISS PUSSYCAT: Hi Bianca! How’s it going?

Really great! It’s wonderful to speak with you again, we first chatted in 2012!

MISS P: Yeah, it’s been a little while! [Laughs].

I’m excited there’s a new Quintron and Miss P record! How have you been?

MISS P: I’ve been good, all things considered. I’ve had a lot of projects to work on through the whole pandemic, I’m pretty good at entertaining myself. I guess Quintron told you we’re in Mississippi, it’s so beautiful here now. We’re on a little trip.

What did you do today?

MISS P: Today we just walked around, it’s soooo beautiful! As you know, everyone’s been cramped up in their houses, us too. We met our friends Julie and Bruce Webb from Waxahachie, Texas. We’re just getting out of town.

Lovely. Why do you love to make things?

MISS P: I like making all kinds of things! Lately I’ve been doing a lot of painting, oil paintings of my puppets doing things like camping or playing in the snow. I’ve been making a lot of ceramic statues of my puppets too, it’s really fun to do. I can’t do live puppet shows right now.

I saw that you had some art shows happening.

MISS P: Yeaaaaaahhhhh!! One of them is at the Webb Gallery, that’s why we’re meeting our friends Bruce and Julie, so we can give them the art for the show, it’s their gallery. I just had another one open in Pensacola, Florida at the Pensacola Museum of Art. They’re different shows.

The one in Pensacola, I made maracas—I’ve always wanted to do that! I made maracas I shaped them out of brown paper and wood glue, it was very intense glue it turned my hands yellow! It looked kind of gross for a while. It was worth it! My favourite maracas I made are Mr & Mrs Circus Peanut. There’s one that’s a witch. I made nine maracas; I call them ‘maraculas’. I put aquarium rocks inside of them to make the rattling sound, I think they’re going to work really good but right now they’re in the museum for the art show. I made them all little satin pillows ‘cause they’re resting because they can’t do a rock show right now, they’re doing performance art, laying down on a little stage in a museum [laughs].

That’s so cool! I remember last time we spoke you were just making the covers for them, the little outfits. Now you’re actually making the maracas.

MISS P: Yeah, that’s new, I did that in the summer for the first time. I’ve made the covers, the little outfits for my maracas for years and years and years and I always thought it would be so fun to make the maracas, so I did it!

Where did you get the idea to use aquarium rocks for the insides?

MISS P: I was just like; I wonder what would sound good? I’d taken some of my maracas and cut them open last year to see what was inside and the best ones had little seeds inside, it looked like gravel, like an irregular shape. I looked around our house and I had these speckled aquarium rocks and they sounded good. I had to try things out.

You mentioned you’ve been doing a lot of painting; have you always painted?

MISS P: I haven’t painted much in the last few years but I used to paint a whole lot! My grandmother taught me how to paint, she didn’t start painting until she was a grandmother. She was a nice country lady; she liked to sew and cook and play piano. She took a painting class and started to paint pictures of barns, flower bouquets and meadows. When I was growing up, I’d go hang out with her and she’d show me how to paint. I think anybody can paint really, you just do it and then you’re doing it. But she showed me her tricks.

This year being home so much and having all this time I thought I’d paint, it’s really fun. I thought, ok, I’m going to paint pictures of my puppets doing all these funny things like having a campfire in the woods and roasting marshmallows or going to the beach. It got really hot in New Orleans this summer and we don’t have very good air-conditioning in our house so I thought I’d paint puppets in the woods and it’s snowed [laughs] they’re having snowball fights; it was a way to pretend that I had air-conditioning. It’s like a fantasy, I want to think of something that will make me really happy and paint that.

What’s one of the best tricks that your learned from your grandma about painting?

MISS P: That the sky changes colour the closer it gets to the horizon; you can make it go from light to dark or dark to light. Another one is that you can take a sponge and put a little paint on that and dab it on the canvas, that can make really good tree foliage or bushes [laughs].

Do you have any favourite colours that you like to work in?

MISS P: Well, one of the fun things about painting is that you can make any colour you want and colour combinations are really fun. In general, I like a combination of warm and cool colours. I have a whole thing about colours, I like pink and red together and I like pink and orange together but I don’t like orange and red together. Cambrian yellow is a good colour, straight out of the tube it’s an intense yellow.

Art by Miss P.

You’ve been making things for so long and have lots of experience making all kinds of things; what’s one of the best things that you could tell someone about creativity?

MISS P: First of all, go have fun of course! The more fun you have the harder you’ll work. Always when I have something that I am working on I say: this is my secret project. I keep it a secret and that makes me feel like I’m getting away with something, like it’s a caper, that makes it a fun secret. I don’t talk about it much until kind of the end, I think that’s good advice.

I love your new record Goblin Alert, it’s super fun.

MISS P: Thank you! It was really fun to record with our friends and do the record in Florida. I always wanted to record in Florida.

Why is that?

MISS P: I just like Florida, it’s one of my favourite states. Different parts of Florida are different but I just thought it would be fun to record in Florida.

Like I told Quintron, one of my favourite songs on the album is ‘Block The Comet’.

MISS P: We were in Oklahoma – that’s where I’m from – in the summer and there was this big meteor shower called the Perseids meteor shower, we were laying in the backyard at one in the morning watching the shower. The song is inspired by that, it’s literally about comets/meteor shower [laughs].

All the songs on the new record are pretty fun and upbeat for the most part. You think about how people might react to it and I always want people to dance and have fun—I just want to make party music!

What was the inspiration for the album cover idea?

MISS P: In the picture Quintron is a chef and I’m a crawfish… [coughs] wait a moment let me have a drink…

No problem.

MISS P: I’m outside and I think there must be a lot of pollen here. [Clears throat] We took that cover picture, our friend Tony Campbell did it, he’s also took the picture for the Organ Solo record cover. We took the photo on Easter Sunday in his backyard.

Before that on Madi Gras, Quintron and I had a show in the French Quarter and we pretended it was a crawfish boil. We dressed up like on the cover. A bunch of my friends played maracas with me and we had backup dancers and everyone dressed like crawfish or the ingredients that go in a crawfish boil like potatoes and celery; my friend was an ear of corn and her outfit was sooooo good! Quintron dressed as the chef. We made these pots out of aluminium foil and carboard and they had fake flames on the side, so it was like we were being boiled alive while we played the show!

We made a video, someone taped that show, we never have people tape our shows. You look at the footage now and it’s so great, people all close together at a show and they’re dancing and sweating and that’s something that can’t happen right now. The video is for the song ‘Goblin Alert’

Are there any ways that ideas come to you most often for your creative projects?

MISS P: I always carry around a notebook and some pens and pencils. I feel like I’m just waiting for the ideas. Sometimes they come to me in the middle of the night and sometimes in the morning, I feel like I’m there and I have a net, that’s my notebook, and I’m ready to catch them. I feel with really good ideas, you don’t have them, they have you. It’s like they’re a ghost that’s haunting you and you have to do what it says. I try to just make myself available [laughs].

I asked Quintron this next question too when I spoke to him because you have a song on the album called ‘Teenagers Don’t Know Shit’; what were you like as a teenager?

MISS P: I grew up in a really small town, in Antlers, Oklahoma. I was a pretty angry teenager because I was so weird and living in a small town, you had to act tough because you were different from everybody else. I was a real loner. I was a typical teenager in the angry-rebellious-teenager-type way.

What was the first creative things you started making?

MISS P: As a kid I painted with my grandma but I didn’t take it too seriously it was just something really fun we did. I liked to write, I always liked to write stories and plays. Growing up in a small town, I didn’t study art or go to shows because none of that was available. I was in marching band and played tuba [laughs], that’s how I learnt about music. I sewed because my grandma would sew some of my clothes, probably the best clothes I ever had was sewn by her and homemade. That’s how I learned to sew and crochet, that’s just what you did. So, I had a very dorky approach to the Arts [laughs], I guess it wasn’t very cool. I still sew, I still crochet, I still paint and I still play music!  

I started doing puppet shows when I was a kid ‘cause I was in the Christian Puppet Youth Ministry through the church [laughs]. We told Bible stories with puppets. We’d go to other churches to do this too. I’m still doing puppet shows; I’m doing all the things I used to do.

I noticed you’re doing a zine called Camelot about puppeteers.

MISS P: Yeah, I’ve done one, I want to do another one! It was a kind of secret project [laughs], a caper, so I could interview and talk to some of my favourite puppeteers. I thought if I had a zine, I could interview them, and it worked! One of my favourites is Peter Allen, he lives in Missouri now in a small town and there’s not a whole lot written about him; his puppet shows are mostly in libraries and places like that. He’s such a good puppeteer! I thought if I interviewed him, I could ask him all of these questions and find out what his secrets are! [laughs]. That interview ended up being over 9,000 words long.

I also interviewed Nancy Smith. She has a puppet theatre in Arizona. I’ve known her a long time but more like, oh, she’s this great puppeteer, one I really, really respect but because of this project I got to sit down and ask her lots of questions. It was so great. A zine can really open doors! [laughs].

Totally! That’s why I’ve made zine for over two decades. I know that feeling of seeing people make really cool stuff and it gets you curious like; how did they even do that? How does that exist? They’re doing something you think is so cool and awesome and you just wanna know everything about it.

MISS P: Yeaaaaah! You totally get it. Transcribing interviews can be very hard work though.

It can be, but I’m one of those weird people that actually enjoy it. It’s part of the process and you learn lots while doing it, things that can’t be taught in a classroom or from a book. It can roughly take around three hours to transcribe and edit a one-hour interview. I like transcribing interviews and putting them out there in that format because I love to encourage people to read, I think reading is important.

MISS P: Oh my god! [laughs]. I bet you’re really good at it now and faster than most.

Yeah, this year alone I’ve interviewed over 100 people already and like I said I’ve been doing it for over two decades, since I was a teenager.

MISS P: Who’s the craziest person you’ve interviewed this year?

I would have to say maybe Damo Suzuki from Can.

MISS P: Oh whoa! Cool!

I did the interview without any pre-planned questions and we spoke for a couple of hours about creativity, freedom and of discovering yourself through doing all these creative things and the importance of not taking on other people’s information and of tapping into your own and the things that spring from within yourself.

MISS P: That sounds like such a great interview to do.

Out of all the people you’ve interviewed for your zine, was there anything cool or interesting that you learned?

MISS P: There was! I don’t know much about Punch and Judy. Peter Allen is this Punch professor, that’s what they call it when you’re good at doing Punch and Judy shows. Do you know what a swazzle is?

No.

MISS P: A swazzle is like this little reed that you put into your mouth and that’s the voice of the puppet Punch. It sounds crazy! It’s amazing. You have to learn how to do that and he showed me how to make a swazzle. You put it in the back of your throat and you have to learn how to talk through it, and not swallow it [laughs]. The joke is, if you swallow two then you’re a professor [laughs]. You’re supposed to tie a piece of dental floss to the swazzle and tie it to a button on your shirt, so that if you’re choking or swallowing it you can pull it back out. I’ve never swallowed one but I can see how you could, they make such a crazy sound that just makes me laugh, then it would be very easy to swallow it.

How did you get into making ceramics?

MISS P: Ceramics is soooo fun! When I was in college, I did a lot of ceramics, then you get out of college and you don’t have a kiln or all of the space to do it. Two years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night and I was like, I have to do ceramics again—an idea had me! I thought I want ceramic piggy banks that are shaped like my puppets, it would be so funny. I found a community ceramic studio and have been making ceramics of my puppets, I haven’t figured out the piggy bank thing yet though. I will though. I made one and it wasn’t very good. It’s such an intuitive and earthy thing to do, I think it’s really healthy.

I love the mugs you made with the lion on it.

MISS P: Oh, you saw Mr Lion! They’re fun. Mr Lion is a stuffed toy that was Quintron’s mother’s and now we have it. It’s this big stuffed lion that’s at the foot of our bed.

What are the things that make you really, really happy?

MISS P: A whole lot of things make me happy. Things like working on a secret project and the feeling of working on that project, of it being so fun, that’s one of my favourite things, just being inspired.

My cat Coco Puff makes me really happy. She’s a Siamese and loves to wear hats.

Quintron makes me happy, he makes the best things like The Bath Buddy. He’s just so funny and so good! Seeing what he does makes me very happy.

Live shows are really fun but it’s the building up to the live shows too that’s really fun for me.

What is it about the build up?

MISS P: It’s exciting! It’s terrifying! It’s an adrenaline rush. It’s like an adventure movie and things come up and you have to overcome those things.

That’s a fun way of looking at it. You seem like such a happy, positive person; do you have days when you’re feeling down too?

MISS P: Sure. I’ve had times when I was really sad. I try to avoid being sad because I can get soooo sad, so depressed. I try to ward that off by always having bright colours, like every room in our house is painted a pretty colour. I try to be really careful not to go down that dark road [laughs] because it’s a looong dark road that just never ends. The best way is to just always be happy… of course though, I’ve been sad.

Is there anything in particular that helped you in those times?

MISS P: Getting busy. I think I’m the saddest when I’m not busy or not working on a project. Having secret projects to work on makes me not sad.

I won’t ask you about your secret projects your currently working on then because if you told me they wouldn’t be secret anymore but, is there anything you’re really excited about right now?

MISS P: A lot! The things that I feel like I’m at the harvest fest point of, all these secret projects all at once. The art show in Texas, I’m excited to show things to people. It’s a weird time though because people aren’t really going out. When my friends have come over, I shut the door to where I’m working so they can’t see it, so I haven’t showed anybody yet.

Anything else to tell me?

MISS P: I’m really excited to do puppet shows again, for the longest time ever I haven’t really been working on one. I have some idea for one I want to work on for sometime next year.

The songs on your new record are each like little stories; do you have a favourite story?

MISS P: One of them is ‘Weaver Wear’ and it’s the theme song for a puppet show that I’ve been working on for years but I really haven’t done the show or not in the way that I thought I would, I thought it would be a puppet movie. I made all these little shows for it; it’s about puppets that are fashion designers.

Amazing!

MISS P: They are multi-generational fashion house, they’re The Weavers. They’ve been fashion designers since the middle ages, they started out during the plague and made these capes that could either be a cape or if there was a dead body you could through it over that so you don’t have to look at it [laughs]. They had their own sheep that they grew and they made wool from the sheep called ‘Weaver Wool’ which is patented. In the ‘60s they come up with these really high fashion designer jeans. There’s a grandfather names William and the grandmother Betsy was a model but now she’s really elderly, she only models for charity events [laughs]. Their grandchildren live with them but are in their twenties and there’s one being groomed to take over. Mindy is the youngest child but doesn’t look anything else like anyone else, she might be illegitimate, she does all the work and she’s going to go blind because she sews all the time. The grandfather goes missing but they find his finger in a letter and they think he’s been kidnapped by their rivals, who make everything in China and they want to get Home Economics out of school so nobody knows how to sew… Betsy and Mindy and the family need to come up with a new Fall line, so they come up with shoes ‘The Weaver Walker’. Shoes for dancing. For some reason I haven’t made the movie yet though; Hollywood didn’t come knocking at my door yet for that one! [laughs].

I did the live puppet show just about Mindy. It’s about Mindy and a moth, the moth wants to eat all of her clothes she’s making. They make a deal that the moth will help her sew and then she’ll give it all the wool scraps after the fashion show. I wrote a theme song, that’s ‘Weaver Wear’! That’s on the album. There’s a lot behind that song [laughs].

I really love how you completely create your own world! It’s amazing.

MISS P: It’s all just so fun! That’s the most important thing.

Please check out: QUINTRON & MISS PUSSYCAT; find Goblin Alert here out on Goner Records; find Miss P’s projects here.

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