Naarm/Melbourne-based musician and songwriter Michael Beach is back with new song ‘Out In A Burning Alley’ from his forthcoming self-titled EP. Beach is intensely cool and has become a master of writing and harnessing beautiful melodies, creating a spontaneous feel in his songs, wrapped up in a lively, elegant squall of garage rock n roll and swirls of distortion. Beach’s work is always engaging and vulnerable. ‘Out In A Burning Alley’ reminds us of what makes him an excellent songwriter.
How are you? What’s life been like lately for you? You’re currently in the US spending time with family.
MICHAEL BEACH: I’m well, thanks! It’s been real nice to get back to California after too long away. We came over to visit my parents but my mom got COVID the day before we got here, so we’ve had to improvise a bit. Life was pretty busy before I left…a ton of work to do with the new record coming out, but Goner and Poison City have helped so much, so I feel pretty lucky. Off to Big Sur today, plus a visit to Robinson Jeffers house in Carmel. Stoked!
We’re premiering your new song ‘Out In A Burning Alley’ the first single from your up coming 12” EP that will be out in September; were there any specific influences for this song?
MB: Thanks! I recall wanted to cross a Saints-style guitar tone with a Peter Laughner rambling narrative—not sure why but I think those were my compass points for this one.
What’s one of the biggest things you’ve learnt about while songwriting for your new EP? Do you have any rules for yourself?
MB: No rules ever. Keep it wild and free. Ha! The old ‘serve the song’ maxim is a good one. Otherwise I’d say the more time goes on, the less I know. ’m gradually unlearning everything. My brain is decaying nicely by this point.
What was the experience like of recording ‘Out In A Burning Alley’?
MB: It was a grand old time. Andy/Poison City offered up his family’s country house for us to record in. I moved my 8-track up there and we spent a couple winter days recording, eating, and drinking. Excellent memories with excellent friends—it was a totally enjoyable recording experience.
You’ve been making music for some time now; who or what helps you trust your instincts in relation to your creativity?
MB: As far as trusting myself, I think friends help a lot, and I’m lucky to have such excellently creative friends. Time and experience have helped. I enjoy the process of creation so that’s enough most of the time.
You’ll be touring the US in September/October and play this year’s Goner Fest; what is something that you have to do before a performance?
MB: Yeah, can’t wait to be back in Memphis! Before a show…stay connected to the band, connected to the audience, connected to spirit of the thing I’m trying to get across. Keep it connected!!
What’s something that’s been bringing you a lot of joy of late?
MB: Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain. Anybody out there wanna book me some shows in Scotland?!
Low Life are back with third LP From Squats To Lots: The Agony And XTC Of Low Life! A rich and complex album, that has vitality and backbone with an air of cool and restraint. There’s spades of texture and unfiltered emotion on this shining record. Gimmie recently caught up with Low Life’s drummer Greg Alfaro.
How are you? What’s life been like lately for you? What did you get up to today?
GREG ALFARO: All things considered, pretty damn good thanks. No band stuff for ages though, which sucks, just busy parent life. I’m far from the perfect father/role model type but I’m still learning things every day. There’s lots of lockdown home-schooling, work from home, trampoline sessions, feeding chooks, storytimes, watering gardens, kicking footballs, Lego, enforcing screen time limits, peacekeeping, nurturing and yelling, Dad shit.
Today was chill though, got first Vax jab, so come what may.
Low Life are from Warrang/Sydney; didyou grew up there? What was your neighbourhood like then and how have you seen it change?
GA: I actually grew up in a housing commish suburb down the freeway in the Dharawal/Illawarra. It was rife with the type of intergenerational criminality and mental illness you’d find in pockets of struggle all over the land. It was the typical BMX, bush and beach childhood mostly, but I do remember lots of overt and casual racism towards us wogs and Indigenous folk from the, I suppose, terminal bogan kids (Westies to us then) who didn’t know any better, and their older, scarier (to me) generations. Some wised up, worked hard and moved on from all that, some even became cherished friends, but most didn’t. Fun childhood, just fraught with bit of paranoia.
I do remember lots of family trips to places like Fairfield, Liverpool, Redfern, Bondi for South American festivals, functions and family friends sleep overs. My uncle had a band so music was central to those Sydney trips.
Sydney skateparks, record stores and eventually gigs featured a lot as I got older. Shows around all the ‘live music mecca’ venues from the Annandale over to Selinas. For me this wasn’t in some classic yobbo, beer drenched, oz rock, heyday nostalgia terms (that vibe was still around). I was just out of high school, so heading up to watch proper weirdo local and overseas bands most weekends was a real eye and ear opener. The 90s were also way darker and more violent in my recollection than the pre-pandemic decade or so. Young and winging it with a lot of funny and heavy ‘firsts’ to discover.
These days (or before lockdowns) there’s still the proper weirdo bands and characters, just seems everyones nicer to everyone’s faces. There’s no real pub circuit and its punch-ons (no great loss). More warehouses and DIY shows by dedicated fans and the odd friendly swindling scumbag. Still heaps of great young and middle aged bands too.
Recently on the LL Instagram you guys posted a photo of a “pseudo squat” on Shepherd Lane in Chippendale where LL was born; what do you remember about the place?
GA: That was just before I joined Lowlife. I did work with Mitch & Cristian & was in a different band with them around that crazy time too(2009-ish?), so I was all too familiar with that energy. I just don’t remember personally ever going to that particular house. From what I’ve gathered it sounds just like places I’ve lived and squatted in(some with Cristian) where decadent, deviant behaviour festered and thrived. But also a special place where deep, lifelong friendships and grudges form and intensify.
How did you first discover music?
GA: Remember that ‘Moscow!Moscow!’ song? Where the blokes are doing the Fonzie dance? It’s wild. That’s my first musical memory.
When did you start playing drums and who or what first inspired you to play? Was there ever any other option for you?
GA: My uncle’s wog band had this exotic looking drum with a proper black and white cow skin, looked like it had been violently hacked off its rump somewhere in the Andes and plonked straight on this big arse bass drum. This thing fascinated me as a kid and I would whack the shit out of it with gusto every chance I got. From there I was hooked and would tap out beats and make whimsical childish songs on and about anything and everything.
I kept tapping away, absent-mindedly encoding lots of 80s metal, pop and hip hop I’d hear as a kid for many years before I properly started giving two shits about bands. I’m pretty sure it happened one day when my older bro and his mates must have been smoking some of that gold-stamped red-cellophane hash that was everywhere back then. Because the dodgy fuckers put on The Doors (as they do). With those vapours swirling around I remember zoning intently into the drums on ‘Peace Frog’, a simple beat doing some heavy lifting on the galloping rhythm. After that, they probably greened out, and I started taking drums slightly more seriously.
Punk & hardcore stuff got me going faster and more intense. Fuck, I even tried and failed those blast beats, but that shit is unnatural to me, more human torture ordeal than drumming. But hats off if you can be bothered learning it.
I’ve played different instruments in different bands over the years too, but plodding along on drums is my favourite thank you very much.
How did you find your local music community? What was the first local show you ever went to?
GA: Kinda inevitable, music was so linked with our skating so much back then, but also a bit of blind luck. We just happened to grow up where some older friends were getting amongst the Sydney and Melbourne punk underground scenes, which spurred us on. We sputtered through attempts at various covers and line ups until we got it going for ourselves. Eventually we’d get our own songs and shows on the scene. Sometimes our friends would invite us onto their bills. Been at it ever since.
Pretty sure first show was ‘Proton Energy Pills’ and ‘Social Outcasts’ at Thirroul Skating Rink/Skatepark around 1990-ish. They were our older mates and had 7″ records so were totally legit to us. I remember seeing old VHS copies of ‘Decline..’ some ‘Target’ vids, ‘Repoman’ & even ‘Thrashin’ and the cluster of punk clips on Rage. We were doing our post pubescent aping of all that action down the front. Pretty funny memory. One of the records was actually sponsored by the governments ‘Drug Offensive’ harm reduction campaign, which we all found utterly hilarious. Holy shit, if only they knew the completely unhinged animals they’d sponsored.
I understand that Iggy Pop’s albums Lust For Life and The Idiot were reference points sonically for Low Life’s new album, From Squats To Lots: The Agony And XTC Of Low Life; in what ways? What do you appreciate about those records?
GA: Probably were, but I just can’t remember anyone mentioning it or writing that in the album notes. It’s been ages and too much has happened since. I can really only remember Killing Joke’s name being tossed around somewhere in the haze.
But so they should be reference points, they’re amazing albums. I think there’s definite nods to them, and I appreciate shitloads.
I knew this duo had form because my younger self heard Bowie’s polarising mix of ‘Raw Power’ first. That hellride became an instant all time favourite.
I heard ‘Lust for Life’ next and that immediately raced for the title, just via different neural pathways. The famous usual suspect songs are lauded with good reason. They are perfect anti pop masterpieces that manage to spark the intellect and warm the genitals. Thats some feat.
But songs like ‘Sixteen’ ‘Some Weird Sin’ ‘Turn Blue’ ‘Fall in Love With Me’, they carved slow & sinister routes into my subconscious, they’re still carving. This record has often been a flaming torch in a dark cave for me. The cover alone should cheer any sad fuck up.
I heard ‘The Idiot’ last. This record took longer to seep deep into my bones. Big departure from what I’d grown up on to that point, but I trusted their instincts. Before actually hearing it, I’d read in Iggys ‘I Need More’ book that they were mostly Bowie arrangements with Iggy chiming in his nihilistic poetry and ad libs. I thought I was ready for it. So when ‘Sister Midnight’ kicked in like the depraved evil twin of ‘Fame’, it was clear it was gonna be an awkward journey through Bowie’s coke-ravaged musical psyche, just with Iggy, fresh from the asylum, as the (mis)trusted co-pilot. I love how its cold monotony almost smothers it’s funk pulse (Low Life turf), but it’s there, as is Iggy’s, reanimated from his death tripping scumfuck years, just without all the mania pushing his voice to its limits. Yep, less was finally more here (more Low Life vibe too). The rest of the album stays icy, but with beautiful, fleeting hooks on ‘Baby’ and ‘China Girl’.
‘Nightclubbing’ still washes over like a heavily tranquillised cabaret number, squinting west through a glory hole in the old Iron Curtain at all the fake, sexy madness swanning around. Uncomfortable, but at peace, piling out in its own warm fluids. Great song.
‘Mass Production’ is an almighty closer. Building and writhing into almost David Lynch creep territory. An unnerving loop of self loathing & cruelty (LL anyone?) and oppressive, unrelenting head-in-a-greasy-vice synth that essentially does the job of squeezing any remnants of Dum-Dum-Motor-City guitar muscle out of Iggy (for some decades anyway) and any poor, unsuspecting, punker-wanna-be (young me included) who sat through a listen, axe at the ready, impatiently waiting in vain for some kind, any kind of ‘Extra’, ‘Rawer’ or ‘Furthermore’ fucking power. It’s brave. Glad I persisted with it.
Each listen still astounds, and it’s still casting a long shadow over the rich post punk underground from mid 70s Berlin all over the anti mainstream music world & my feeble brain. I just can’t help but imagine influential bands like… ahem… Einsteurzende Neubauten, Tuxedomoon, Wire, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Boys Next Door, Warsaw, Big-blah-Black blah fucking blah etc, all having the initial fire cracker lit under their pimply post punk arses upon hearing ‘The Idiot’ back then.
And so they should of, because despite Iggy’s penchant for self-sabotage back then, and Bowie’s possible own attempt on his careers life with ‘The Idiot’, it’s still an amazing fucking album. So yeah, shitloads.
It’s up to each listener who gives enough of a flying fuck, to decide if we’ve summoned anything sonically from those records. I certainly won’t be dwelling on it, they poisoned my blood years ago. But from what I’ve heard so far of the new album, and remember making it, it definitely feels like they’ve been stirred through the LL cauldron of ideas. Mitch is a lifer, no hand-brake, always stirring. Next!
The album’s title borrows a little from the Irving Stone 1985 novel title, The Agony and Ecstasy, about Italian Renaissance artist, Michelangelo; how did it work its way into your title?
GA: Hahaha, It does? Never read it.
The boys may or may not have a deep appreciation for that book that they drew the inspiration from, I don’t know or care really. Sounds interesting though. I just figured it was a common enough relatable phrase that rolls off the tongue nicely? Innit? Triumph/Tragedy, Comedy/Horror, Pleasure/Pain, Mushrooms/Manure, it’s all part of the calm and the chaos. It all suitably applies to the Low Life saga over our lifespan that’s for bloody sure.
What has been the most standout moment of both agony and ecstasy for you from LL’s journey so far?
GA: There are reams to draw from here, but I think the ill-fated USA tour some years back perfectly encapsulates both.
Imagine all that organising, booking, payment, anticipation, excitement & long arse flights. Only for poor Salmon to be detained in immigration limbo with Guatemalan gang bangers and unceremoniously shafted back across the ocean. After the initial confusion, stress & shock, and after it was clear he was home safe, we just accepted our cards. We were in America and we weren’t playing any gigs. So naturally we pivoted to glass half full mode. Met old friends over there and made new ones. Had a ball.
How long did you guys spend writing for The Agony And XTC..? Is there a particular way that your songs often form/come together?
GA: Maybe a year, Mitch had half the song ideas mostly worked out not long after Downer Edn came out. But different things stretched it out, and even standard band stuff like getting a jam locked in can take us ages. I remember getting a lot of these new songs started around practising sets for upcoming shows, then we’d run out of time. I really felt underdone before finally recording this one too. Covid wiped out heaps of preparation time. We only had a few proper band sessions where we got to write stuff, flesh out ideas and refine them where necessary. But I felt like I personally just needed a few more ahead of recording my drum parts. The guys, bless them, would sweetly reassure me it was sounding fine though. Liars. Normally we would have done just enough without over cooking it.
What’s the song ‘Hammer & The Fist’ about?
GA: I’m so sorry but I haven’t even heard that song in ages. I still haven’t received the record, Cristian’s got ’em all. I only have scant memory of a slowish beat with a sombre bass run, no guitar or vox. So fuck knows what it’s exactly about yet. I do have my own suspicions about ‘Hammer’ & ‘Fists’, and they ain’t pretty. Mitch insists it’s all open to listener interpretation anyway, so choose your own misadventure I suppose, yeah sorry, maybe just ask Mitch?
How did song ‘CZA’ get started?
GA: I did hear a rough cut of this with some Samoh footage early this year. Dizzy started up that riff and it sizzled straight away. Yuta and I jumped onto it quick smart, not wanting to lag on the flavour he was frying up. Cristian rumbled in. I do remember pissing ourselves laughing at all the backing vox on this one, because Salmon had put on some suitably absurd, dark but hilarious lyrics to harden it’s crust.
Which song on the new record means the most to you? Why do you have a fondness for it?
GA: So far ‘Collect Calls’. This tempo is right in my sweet spot and the mood kinda shifts gears quickly into some unexpected guitar twists. Like that Crossroads-Battle of the Hot Licks duel, but with Johnny ‘Dizzy’ Marr vs Greg ‘Yuta’ Sage. Sounds like the lyrics could be about a troubled soul who isn’t completely detached from family and friends, but possibly wanting to detach from a desperate reality? Your mate? I dunno, ask Mitch. But they are kinda harrowing and beautifully delivered by him and his sister Beth.
I only heard a mix of some songs together while my son was in a major surgery in October 2020, which was a welcome distraction. Then nothing for ages while dealing with all that in hospital. When we finally got him settled home in December 2020, the Passport video came out with ‘Collect Calls’. Hearing that song in that video really snapped me out the hospital reality that had been all consuming and all around grim. That song reminds now reminds me of starting a very different phase of life with great hope for his recovery & future. Ripping skating clip and a beautiful song.
The album was recorded last year with Mickey Grossman (who also did your previous release Downer Edn and Oily Boys’ Cro Memory Grin); What was the process like for you? What can you recall of the recording sessions?
GA: Disjointed & gruelling, but fun. With no practice for months, I did about 10+ songs in about four hours and was exhausted, pretty out of it and just plain struggling. The vocal sessions were cool though, just back to clowning around with the gang again, yelling & hooting funny backing vox and improper dining. Mickey rules, he seemed to innately know what we were doing more than we did sometimes, and had more patience with us than we probably deserved. He is a treasure. Luv him.
One of the overarching themes of the new collection of songs is the celebration of resilience. I know that personally you and your family went through a lot last year with your beautiful boy Vincent having an awful accident while bushwalking. How is everyone doing now? What are some things that have helped you with your resilience and helped you get through this challenging time?
GA: Doing great now, just got the all clear for all physical activities again but the nature of a brain injury means possible future challenges. He is totally still the sweet, fun loving and mischievous little boy he always was. We were lucky on many different fronts with this outcome because it is clear that after a whole year that his selfless nature and bright personality are still all there. That is probably the biggest joy and relief to us all. Getting him and his brothers back to the school environment amongst friends is next in his recovery.
His strength recharged my resilience when it got dark for me. I can still be a nervous wreck around him in some situations too, but having the family, friends and band behind me, random texts, big and small gestures, sympathetic smiles and hugs, lovely meals cooked and delivered, rides to and from the hospital, babysitting, was all so important. All this support from family, friends and even strangers will be appreciated for as long as I’m breathing. Thanks again gang..X
Can you share with us a funny Low Life-related moment that still makes you laugh when it comes to mind?
GA: Yuta the scooter rebooter cracking the public scooter code in Adelaide and shredding down the boulevard towards our show was hilarious. We ended up getting fed so much food off the venue before playing that it actually ruined us.
That may sound silly, and it is, but it stands out to me because it happened in a heightened emotional time just after some close friends had passed, and just before Covid stopped everything. This bizarre inter-zone period in time and space also coincided with a super rare Low Life purple patch of gig momentum (about 3 gigs!) that was focused and fun, with plenty more on the horizon.
That and the last Maggotfest featuring Coco-the astounding human kick pedal, that was funny.
Turns out these were our last two real life, beer drenched, oz rock, sweaty gigs.
Why is music important to you?
GA: Wow, again, reams.
Being preoccupied with Vincent’s recovery in and after hospital, Covid lockdowns, home schooling and the general pandemonium of family life within this whole shitstorm, has just meant that music hasn’t been important at all for so long now.
But this interview has brought it all home for me. I’ve dribbled on heaps, so I’ll try to keep it short.
It’s been a direct portal and a soundtrack to countless worlds, perspectives, memories, emotions and the odd nightmare. Creating music with friends (and kids now), and expelling all the energy, good and bad, through it. That’s important and shitloads of fun for me. Hopefully do it again ASAP.
Power Supply have come together to bring us an inspired record for grim times. The Naarm/Melbourne group features Leon Stackpole (The Sailors), Richard Stanley (Drug Sweat), Per Bystrom (Voice Imitator) and Mikey Young (The Green Child). In the Time of the Sabre-toothed Tiger packs a one two punch with its bright melodies and first-class songwriting. An invigorated, yet chilled and charming style of garage rock, that will have you smiling; the sincere and entertaining lyrics a highlight.
Gimmie are excited to premiere first single ‘Infinity’! We chat with vocalist-guitarist Leon about the track and forthcoming album, out October 22, a co-release between Anti Fade and Goner Records.
We’ve been listening to the new Power Supply album In the Time of the Sabre-toothed Tiger on high rotation all week. It’s such an incredible record. It has a really bright feel to it and it’s made us really happy. In grim times, like the world has been experiencing of late, it’s nice to have something like your record to lift the mood.
LEON STACKPOLE: That’s really nice to hear. It makes me feel happy too.
When I recently spoke to Billy from Anti Fade Records (who is putting the record out) he told me that you’re one of the funniest guys he knows. How important is humour in your life?
LS: It’s through everything really for me. I really like music that has a sense of humour. I also like music that is serious too, but I think that some of my favourite stuff has that extra little bit, that humour, in it. I gravitate towards those sorts of things.
One of the things that I really love about Power Supply is your lyrics. There is a comedy in there, but then there is also introspection and a lot of thought behind it.
LS: I think you could say that… [pauses]. Sorry, I’m just walking past my wife in the garden.
LS: There is humour. The lyrics that are on there are probably no particular theme, yeah?
I feel like it’s a real collection of thoughts, from everywhere, just from living life.
LS: Yeah, there is. I made up all of the album pretty much. Probably the ones that get on there are the ones that are the least ridiculous [laughs]. Some of the songs I’d take to rehearsal to play to the guys and they’d just go, “Oh my god, what is that?” [laughs]. They may consider it to play live once in a while, but other than that they just go, “All right, it’s a bit too absurd.”
[Laughter]. I understand that when you got back into the shed to write the record that “jams became songs, jokes became lyrics”; what is one of your favourite jokes that became a lyric?
LS: I think the ‘Time of the Sabre-toothed Tiger’ one makes me laugh. It comes from the concept of when people talk about anthropology and evolution, these sorts of concepts, and how all of our behaviours go back to early humans, back in the time of the sabre-toothed tiger. When my wife and I are talking about things, we’d be like, ‘what would they have done back in the time of the sabre-toothed tiger?’ That crept into the lyrics to the point where I suppose you hop into a time machine and go find out. To me, that’s funny! I don’t know if it is to anyone else though [laughs].
[Laughter] It is. I totally get that. There are a lot of moments lyric-wise on the record that had me smiling in amusement and laughing.
LS: I think ‘Infinity’ is funny as well. That song is completely absurd. I haven’t actually talked about these songs to anyone, you’re the first person I’ve spoken to. It’s funny you’re asking me these questions because I was just out in the bush taking the child for a ride, feeding the guinea pigs and things, it was getting closer to the time for us to chat and I thought, aww sheezus those songs, I have to talk about those songs! [laughs]. I called up Per and said, Per, what do you think are the themes of the songs on this album? He said, “It’s kind of like all these songs that you made up before lockdown that kind of predicted lockdown. Fuck, we’re soothsayers or something like that!” [laughs]. I don’t know if I honestly believe that, but it’s interesting to hear his perspective on it.
I love how the opening lyrics for ‘Infinity’ literally say that Mikey sent you an MP3 and the title was ‘Infinity’.
LS: [Laughs] That’s exactly how it happened.
Did you ask Mikey about why he called it ‘Infinity’?
LS: I never did ask him about it. My son became a but obsessed by that song. With the last verse about lying on your deathbed, he’s like, “What’s a deathbed, dad?”
Wow. That’s a big question.
LS: [Laughs] Yeah. Then he became obsessed with the concept of infinity as well. I pinched all of his little phrases that he says for the other song… what’s it called?
‘Infinity and 90′?
LS: Yeah. ‘Infinity and 90’.
I was going to ask you if there is a connection between the songs ‘Infinity’ and ‘Infinity and 90’?
LS: Yeah, there’s a connection… I’ve never really thought of this before. So, since hearing ‘Infinity’, my son was obsessed with the concept and we were driving along in the car and he’s like, “Daddy, I think I know the biggest number ever! Infinity and 90!” [laughs]. I wrote it down and when it came time to write the song, I thought they made good lyrics, so I threw Archie’s lyrics on there.
That was one of the songs that had me amused by the lyrics. I also love the line: Does the mountains make the mist or does the mist make the mountains?
LS: I love that one too. We were driving to Melbourne passed Mount Macedon, it was covered in cloud. My son was contemplating that and said that, that’s how that lyric came.
The next line too, about there being a bee in the car; that was real too?
LS: We were in the car and there was a panic. In absolute terror and fear he’s like, “There’s a bee! There’s a bee in the car!” But actually, it was a piece of dust [laughs]. I don’t know how he confused dust with a bee, by the way.
It’s funny because as a listener who has no idea of the backstory of the song, you could listen to the lyrics and it could sound like an abstract metaphor and you could read really into it like, oh this is such a deep concept! In reality though, it comes from the everyday ordinary life stuff you experience.
LS: Yeah, for sure. I love that.
The way you deliver the vocal for ‘Infinity and 90’ is almost whisper-like; what inspired that?
LS: I’d been listening to a lot of La Düsseldorf that day and somehow or another that voice ended up on that song.
I think the vocal delivery really suits it. I also love how every song on the record sounds different. I don’t want to sound too wanky, but the cohesiveness of the album feels like a journey.
LS: Yeah, yeah. There’s nothing wrong with a good journey here and there.
Are there any lyricists that you really love?
LS: Yeah. It’s funny, this morning the local radio station was asking people about that, to text in and say their favourite lyricists. People were writing in fairly regular things. I thought, what would I do? I’ve been listening to Kate Wolf lately, a lot. I ended up texting in and saying, Kate Wolf. Some of her lyrics, songs like ‘Green Eyes’, I love that song. It’s beautiful, just so perfect and genuine.
When did you first start singing?
LS: I used to sing in bed when I was a kid, until I’d finally fall asleep. I didn’t really sing that much until we started a band with some friends of mine called, The Sailors. It was a good band because we’d all jump in and have a go. With Power Supply, I’m trying to get everyone to do backing vocals. I think Mikey is finally coming around to the concept [laughs]. I like to hear backing vocals, I love them.
Same! I’m a big fan of backing vocals. The band No Doubt have some really cool backing vocals that Gwen Stefani does. They’re actually really interesting and have some cool harmonies.
LS: Yeah, right. I haven’t really listened to their records except for the hits and a bit of her first solo record [Love. Angel. Music. Baby]. I kind of like that record.
That record rules!
LS: I like the big hit off of that one. The one where she’s basically struggling to come up with new songs.
‘What You Waiting For?’?
LS: Yes! That’s a classic that song. I do like that record. When the harmonies are done really well it’s just wonderful.
Totally! Do you ever get self-conscious doing vocals?
LS: Not so much anymore. I remember the first gig that us guys played, I didn’t really have any lyrics [laughs]. I was driving to the gig trying to make them up; that was probably a bit nerve-racking.
How did the gig end up going?
LS: Well, it’s amazing what you can get away with! [laughs]. The gig was fine.
How did a Mark Rodda painting end up becoming the album’s cover?
LS: That was Per’s research. How it went about it, I’m not sure. We did look at a few different things and a few different artists’ styles. Per looked at all that stuff and we discussed a few. In the end he said, “This is the one.” And, we all agreed.
When you look at the album cover, what do you get from it?
LS: I haven’t seen it for a little while, but it makes me feel warm inside.
LS: It probably looks a little desolate. I’m living in Central Victoria right now, so everything is a little like that sort of a landscape, which I feel pretty comfortable with. How about you?
I get more of a lush feeling from it. The tree gives me ancient forest vibes. I think it ties in with Time of the Sabre-toothed Tiger theme too.
LS: I do recall us making that connection. I do guess that’s why Per suggested it.
What’s one of your favourite things about the new album?
LS: I love the sound; I think it sounds amazing. We recorded it at The Tote in the front bar. We did a residency in September two years ago; we played each Sunday afternoon. We left our gear there on the last night and came in on the Monday and recorded it there, cos we were pretty well-practiced. You’ve got the traffic out the front, I thought it was all going to come through the windows, but it’s fairly well insulated and you couldn’t really hear anything else. In fact, the beer fridge was making more noise than anything else and we had to turn the beer fridge off.
What did recording at The Tote add to the songs or experience?
LS: It made it feel more comfortable because we’d just played there. It’s been hard for us to get together to play. I’ve been in Castlemaine, Mikey is down on the Peninsula, the other guys are in Melbourne. We have to make an effort. We played five gigs in a row over five weeks and recorded, we were hoping that we would feel comfortable, relaxed and well-practised. We do have fun together. We recorded in one day. We’ve added some overdubs and things in since; a few years for some overdubs! [laughs].
How does it feel to finally have the album coming out in October?
LS: A relief really. Just last year I was saying, oh, let’s just put this out on Bandcamp and be done with it. It kind of felt like that for me [laughs].
I’m glad you didn’t just release it digitally. It’s such a beautiful album and deserves a physical release. The album is too special for it to only be digital!
LS: It’s been such a long time since we recorded it all.
Have you listened back to it recently?
LS: Nah, but I probably should. We have been talking about playing some gigs, but I don’t think it’s going to happen for a while.
When we jam and it’s Mikey, Richard and Per just playing away, it’s the best thing for me, I just sit back and listen to those guys.
We’re excited to be premiering ‘Infinity’ the first single from the new album!
LS: That’s so great!
There’s a lot of stuff around water and the environment that seeps into the music.
I know that you work in environment protection roles, so obviously you have a passion for doing that.
LS: For sure. It’s probably the sub-theme in the whole sabre-tooth-tiger-thing—environmental change.
I totally got that. It’s interesting how a lot of the world seems so divided right now and people get so hyper-focused on particular things and who is right and wrong, but they also forget that there’s crazy stuff going on with the planet, climate change, depletion of land and resources. If we don’t have a planet then we’re not going to have anything! It’s pretty much the number one base thing we should be concerned about.
LS: Yeah. It’s pretty fundamental [laughs]… that’s just trying to add some humour to it, because it is fundamental.
**Note: This interview is an extract. The entire chat where we talk more about the album, Sun Ra, turning every day occurrences into song, and more, will appear in the October print issue of Gimmie**
Here’s the first sneak peek at ‘Infinity’ from Power Supply’s forthcoming album, In the Time of the Sabre-toothed Tiger:
Michael Beach’s fourth studio album Dream Violence carries a touch of the sublime throughout, with moments of naked expressionism and dramatic arcs he explores the duality of the human condition and the struggle of finding and maintaining hope in times that are not so hopeful. A beautiful album from an interesting artist. Gimmie recently got a little insight from Beach.
You first started playing music while at the University of Southern California, but didn’t fully dive into it until you spent your first year here in Melbourne. Previously you’ve mentioned that “my first meaningful connections with other musicians came from my initial year in Australia”; how were the relationships different here than what you’d already experienced in California?
MICHAEL BEACH: I guess it’s just timing. I met amazing people in Southern California, but when I met my first bandmates and friends in Melbourne, it was life changing. Those early friendships were the ones that gave me the confidence to pursue music.
In March you released your fourth album, Dream Violence. The title comes from a song on the release; where did the title-track’s name come from?
MB: I like the dichotomy of the two words. Dreams aren’t often associated with violence, but can quite often be. Violence seems to be just behind the veil of society and certainly seemed to be seething when I was writing this record.
Dream Violence was recorded with multiple line-ups in multiple locations in Australia and the US; how do you feel the energy of the varying line-ups and locations helped shape the LP?
MB: Everybody brings something different to the table, and I like bringing people together and seeing what happens. The record has a lot of different moods that reflect all of those different people and places.
What’s one of your fondest memories from recording?
MB: Etep, Matt and Innez (of Thigh Master fame) and I recorded a few of the tracks from the record at my place. It was one of those really relaxed sessions where all the mistakes sounded right—there were a lot of happy accidents—it was a really fun way to record.
I understand that you have a pretty laborious process of writing, editing, and arranging your music; can you tell us about your artistic process please?
MB: Yeah—I take my time, and probably over scrutinize things. Not always the most enjoyable process, but I’m working on that. I don’t really have any one process, but I do try to play at the same times every day, so I have a routine built around that.
What’s a really special moment for you on the album?
MB; I love that got to improvise the title track with Chris Smith. It was a first take. I’m a big fan of his records, so to have him play on mine is really special. But really that’s the same with all the folks on the record as well.
One of the overarching themes on the record is of the struggle to maintain hope during challenging times; what are some things that has helped you with your personal experience of this?
MB: Off the top of my head—friends, music, art, books, nature, seeing a psychologist, exercise, and my partner’s eternally optimistic outlook on life.
We really love the album cover art painting by Charlotte Ivey; can you tell us the story behind the cover please?
I’m glad you love it, I do as well. Charlotte did a bunch of eye studies of friends’ eyes. That’s her eye, and I love the intensity and hyperrealism of it.
During the lockdown as well as continuing your day job you worked on the completion of your studio; tell us a little bit about your studio? What were some important considerations in regards to creating a conducive space for your work?
MB: It’s an 8-track analogue tape setup with a nice mixing desk, outboard gear, and a bunch of synths and amps, and my piano in my living room/live room. I’ve got digital recording gear if I need more than 8 tracks, but I like working within those limitations when I can. I like having good light in my studio, and I have a favourite kind of tea that I keep stocked. As long as all the equipment is working and not getting in my way, I’m happy.
I know you also had the opportunity to read a lot more during lockdown; what were a couple of the reads that had you engaged and what did you appreciate most about them?
MB: I recently read Shots by Don Walker—that dude can write! Such gorgeous prose and a very visually immersive book. Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman was pretty great as well—it was inspiring to read a hopeful book amidst a lot of rough news last year.
Who is an artist that makes you think outside of yourself or your surroundings? What particular work of theirs first had you feeling this way?
MB: I’m listening to Fennesz while I’m writing this. His music is totally transportive and dreamlike. I love it. My bandmate Etep played me his record Endless Summer on a long highway drive in America, and I’ve been a massive fan ever since.
Why is music important to you?
MB: Most of the good things in my life have happened because of music. It was and still is transformative for me.It brings me together with my closest friends.
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.
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…
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?
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.
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.
Here at Gimmie we’re big fans of Quintron and Miss Pussycat! The New Orleans-based creatives have recently released new album Goblin Alert, a rollicking good time of organ-driven electronic rock n roll done as only they can do. For this record they ditched the drum machine in favor of including musicians Sam Yoger (Babes, AJ Davilla) on drum kit and Danny Clifton (Room 13, Jane Jane Pollock) on hollow body guitar. Gimmie interviewed both Quintron and Miss Pussycat; today we share our chat with Quintron, with Miss P’s chat coming next week.
QUINTRON: I released a new product of this invention I’ve been working on all through the Covid times called ‘The Bath Buddy’ it’s a water conservation device. I just put an infomercial out for that.
What inspired you to create The Bath Buddy?
Q: Check out the informercial. There’s a website for it bathbuddy.space. I don’t know what that ‘space’ is all about but it’s the cheapest website I could buy.
In our house we have three or four people and no showers, only bath tubs ‘cause it’s New Orleans and everybody has those big clawfoot tubs. They take a while to fill up, you turn the water on and you go check your email or do something and you forget about it then the water goes into the overflow drain and you start wasting tons of water; we’ve left them on for way to long sometimes and flooded the house downstairs a couple of times. I was like, why isn’t there this thing that alerts you to when your water is at just the right level that you want it? I invented this thing for us and our roommates, I made us put them on all of the tubs and it totally worked. Our water bill started going down, a lot! I thought it would probably be something that other people would be interested in so I built some, letting people check ‘em out. Farmers and people who have livestock, horses especially, where you’re filling up these giant metal tubs of water, hundreds of gallons. You put the hose in it and leave it for a while. I was talking to people that would forget overnight and they’d really waste thousands of gallons of water; those people are into what I made too.
What is it that interests you about making things?
Q: That one was to solve a problem. As long as mankind has ever and shall ever exist there will always be gaps between problems and solutions, there’ll be voids there and that’s usually what interests me in making something. Usually, it’s that there’s a thing I want to do or problem I want to solve and there’s nothing that I know of that’s available to solve it or do that thing.
In the case of the Drum Buddy, it was a musical thing where I mostly play by myself one-man band style and I wanted to do something with my right hand that made a certain type of sounds like cylinders, like scratching a record but playing an analogue synth at the same time, where I could still play with my left hand with the organ, that’s how that project got started.
You’ve been making things your whole life; what’s something valuable that you’ve come to know about creativity that you could share with us?
Q: It’s something that everybody kind of knows but it’s that nothing is ever done, at no point will civilization be able to kick up their feet and say, ‘Alright, we got it licked’ and read magazines and play video games for the rest of eternity. There’s always going to be whatever you’ve built to solve whatever problems is going to become obsolete in that it’s not sustainable anymore; it is suddenly in the world wasteful or too expensive to operate or too big or heavy or whatever. The main thing that occurs to me over and over is that everything is a prototype, everything is just getting ready for the next, for Mach 20.
The first track on your new album Goblin Alert is called ‘Teenagers Don’t Know Shit’; what were you like as a teenager?
Q: I didn’t know shit! [laughs]. I was a pretty lonely, insecure, confused teenager, that probably describes most teenagers but some hide it better than others. I was super-duper insular, brooding, moody and private; not confident, not good in school, not a good relationship with my parents, pretty unhappy honestly. The song is by no means a diss on teenagers either or some political statement at all, it’s something else though, I hope it doesn’t come off like that.
No, I don’t think it does. How did you first discover music?
Q: Everybody discovers music by living in a musical world, it’s all around us, especially growing up in the South. I think people are surrounded by music, no matter what culture or no matter where you are.
Who were the first bands or artists that really spoke to you?
Q: There’s like your childhood musical curiosities. Children’s music is really special in its own thing. Then music turns into this thing where it represents the type of person that you’d like to become or the dream that you would like to dream or the fantasy that you want to perpetually have or the escape pod that you want to get into. A lot of the music I liked when I was really little were these dramatic… I was really into story songs like ‘Dark Lady’ by Cher and ‘Half Breed’; songs that were little mini-movies. Then the energy and the excitement of punk rock, like every other person that got into that [laughs].
You started making your own music when you were a teenager?
Q: Yeah. I started building instruments. I started out as a drummer. I built trashcan woodblock kits in the garage. I was always fooling around with tools, my dad’s an engineer so I always had toolkits and wood to build stuff and I had a garage because I was a suburban nobody kid. I was building big junky homemade trashcan drumkits in the garage.
What drew you to making your own music?
Q: I sort of did right away as a pretty young teenager started having bands and playing covers of songs that we could learn and stuff. It was something to do that I was kind of good at.
Do you think making music and inventions helped you with your confidence?
Q: Yeah, for sure, fooor sure. If you’re a creative kid or an artsy kind you might try a bunch of different things and I did. I tried Art class because I liked the art teachers and I liked the other kids who were into art. I liked Drama because I liked the drama teacher and the other kids that were into drama. I thought I liked them but then they were just so outgoing and something else that wasn’t my thing and then I found the brooding, angry behind-the-dumpster music kids and was like, okay! I’m good at this thing and I like those kids better [laughs].
Why did you feel it was time to make a new Quintron and Miss Pussycat album?
Q: Well, to be perfectly honest, we had the songs, a good batch that were mostly, except for a couple, that were road-tested. We hadn’t made an album for a while where… a lot of bands get stuck in a rut where the first album is really great because it’s road-tested and the lyrics, it’s your life on the page, then you make another one and you start recording it and maybe it’s half-baked. We didn’t make one for a really long time because we wanted the next one to be baked fully. We spent a real long time baking it and it was time to put it out and we had a great opportunity to go into this new recording studio in Gainesville, Florida; one street from Tom Petty’s boyhood home! We were the guinea pig band for this very fancy new tape studio called Pulp Arts. They let us have almost free recording and the engineers got to learn their way around a tape machine, the new equipment and the room. It was a great situation.
How do you capture your energy on record?
Q: I think most of the time we’ve failed to be honest [laughs]. This album gets pretty close. We had a live drummer and live bass player; we’ve never had that before, that makes a living breathing human musical experience a lot easier to capture. Being a first-time thing for us, it was really exciting. We’ve never toured with a live drummer, so it was all new and the excitement of the new keeps everything popping for everybody. For the most part though, I would say that we’ve always been better live than anything we’ve put out on record, with the exception of the more abstract experimental records that are made to be on record, those stand on their own. As far as capturing the Q & P live experience, I’d say it’s more misses than hits.
I know that you like to invent your own sounds and that your music often comes from hundreds of hours of experimenting; what experimenting did you try with this batch of songs?
Q: I had a new Mellotron at my disposal, so there was lots of messing around with that. I just made a solo Mellotron record and I’ve really been getting into that instrument, I’ve been exploring what it can do, playing it through other things and using it with a Talkbox. It’s usually finding new pathways through new sounds and new instruments and the fun of going into a big fancy recording studio and they’ll have amps and weird stuff laying around, your ideas come from the things around you, also the people you’re with.
Do you and Miss Pussycat work on the lyrics together?
Q: Sometimes yes and sometimes no. There’s definitely songs where it’s all me written, I have all the lyrics and I’ll present them to Miss P and she’ll be like “I don’t like that word, why don’t you change it to this” and it will explode my head in a whole new direction! I’ll change a word here and there; she’s like a final look editor sometimes.
Then there’s songs that she writes completely. I’ve pretty much been the one that writes all the music but sometimes she comes with a set of lyrics and it always has to do with puppetry or some crazy story that she has. With ‘Goblin Alert’ we sat down at the kitchen table while we were in the studio and wrote the lyrics together.
Were any songs a challenge to write?
Q: ‘Goblin Alert’ was the biggest challenge because it was so last minute. I’m not the fastest draw in the west when it comes to organ, I’m more of a slow, nod-your-head- jamming kind of guy; that song was really fast! Getting the riffs down the way I wanted to, I had to do a lot of takes, it was really hard. We were stuck on the lyrics almost to the last day of recording and we had some brainstorm epiphany between the producer Greg Cartwright and me and Miss P sitting down to write the lyrics. That was a tough one.
There’s a song on the album called ‘Where’s Karen?’ that was written about a girl the went missing at Mardi Gras.
Q: It was actually a friend of ours. It was a friend who… it was Mardi Gras day and he was off in his own world, if you know what I mean being Mardi Gras and everything, and he kept talking about this girl named Karen that he was worried abut and where she was. We didn’t know what or who he was talking about and we had to go out. It’s how the song describes it; it was freezing rain. We went out into the day and we locked him in this apartment so he wouldn’t hurt himself but I left the tape recorder in there recording to see if he was going to spill the beans on who this Karen was. That inspired the fantasy of the song, it’s not a direct from life narrative telling.
So, you kind of made a field recording of him?
Q: Yeah, and the whole day walking around Mardi Gras I was thinking this is going to be a song. When we get back, he’s going to tell us what he is talking about and we’ll find out who this is. It’s such a great line for a song, this was way before the stupid meme, it was way before that was a thing that this was going to be the name of the song.
One of my favourites on the album is ‘Block The Comet’.
Q: That’s a collaboration on lyrics between me and Miss P.
What’s something that you’ve learnt from Miss P? Last time I spoke with her she told me that one of the best things you’ve taught her was to make a marshmallow casserole.
Q: A marshmallow peanut casserole!
What I’ve learnt from her is how to be happy, honestly, that’s the god’s honest truth. How to ignore other people’s negativity and to be happy, to walk through life in a dream of your own making, how to make that purposeful and helpful. That’s kind of oblique but that’s the biggest thing I’ve learnt from her. Miss P is just one of those people that… it’s scary sometimes when the world kind of cracks through the shell, sometimes it does for everyone and it’s like, hey, the devil is out here and sometimes the sky is falling and sometimes people die. When you’re so intent on just being happy and spreading joy, sometimes those are the people that get hurt the most when that bubble gets cracked a little bit, which can worry me but I have seen it’s a better way to be than to be constantly aware of that and ultimately playing to it, it’s more cynical.
What drives you to create so much? You have the Weather Warlock invention, you put out a book, lots of different kinds of records. You always seem to be making things.
Q: I don’t know. Anything I could say would sound corny. It’s just to keep from going crazy, I suppose. I get ideas and I become obsessed with them becoming reality.
Is it satisfying once you make it reality?
Q: It is! I’m not one of those people that are depressed when a record come out. I like results. I like finishing things. I like putting the stamp on it and putting it in the mail, saying that is done, that is ready for primetime! Then moving on to the next thing. Really the joy is in the creation. I’m proud of having records out and it’s nice when people say they like them, but the real joy in life and the most time that you spend as a living organism is in doing the actual things, that’s just fun, right?
Q: It’s not saying thank you very much and taking a bow—it’s doing stuff.
Yeah, it’s the process, those moments and it’s the connections you make with yourself or with someone else you’re working with, it’s an experience you’ve had together.
Q: Yeah, that’s the essence of friendship and relationships. In order for me to become intimate with somebody or become friends even with somebody, we have to work together or we are just not on the same page, it’s not going to happen. Everybody that I really end up spending a lot of time with or becoming friends with or having relationships with, it’s only through work. That’s when your facade is gone, that’s when your ego is gone, that’s when you’re chipping away at something that is not you. It’s the only way to produce a really truthful communication between people.
Do you learn things about yourself when making songs?
Q: I can’t say I’ve ever stopped and said, hey, Quintron, that’s not your real name is it? No. Did you learn something about yourself today? [laughs].
I read an interview with you in Popular Science magazine and it said your name was David.
Q: Ah-ha. I’m named after my father. I’m a III. Even my dad calls me Quintron. It’s been a nickname for so long. It just sort of happened because the first album is under that name, it’s something that people just started doing and journalist started doing because they thought that’s what I wanted to be called or that it was my real name or something. It’s been so long and I think it amuses my family enough that they have adopted that.
Q: Yeah, when your parents participate in your rejection of reality! [laughs].