published in and courtesy
The Puppetry Journal (ISSN.0033-443X)
The Puppeteers of America Inc.
4923-37th Ave S Minneapolis, MN 55417
Vol. xx - No. x - Summer 2003XXX
Interview by Mike Smith, www.encroach.net (home)
I started this article as a review of Miss Pussycat's puppetry video North Pole Nutrias. I then went to a live show of Miss Pussycat's when she toured to Chicago last Winter. People were laughing and screaming. I saw a greater need and opportunity of adding an Interview with Miss Pussycat for the readers and archives of Puppetry Journal.
Miss Pussycat lives, puppeteers, and runs a puppetry venue in New Orleans called The Spellcaster's Lodge. She tours to festivals and with rock groups throughout the US and beyond. She is President of Rhinestone Records and produces vinyl LPs of her puppet band, Flossie and the Unicorns. She started with puppets at a young age touring with a church group. She has achieved unique status as a Rock-Star Puppeteer.
Review of North Pole Nutrias, directed by Rick Delaup
If you are unfamiliar with Nutrias, they are a swamp rodent. The Louisiana government was on a campaign to get its citizens to hunt and eat them. Miss Pussycat's Nutrias are much too cute to even think of eating. They are marvelous puppets with big orange teeth, pelts, outfits and weird high-pitched voices. The Nutrias win a trip to the North Pole, and learn of their recruitment to save Santa's toys from a terrible toy-virus.
The video's elements are crafted and woven well. Great puppet-band scenes, music, sound effects, and dialogues mesh with fantastic and wonderfully low-tech visuals. Miss Pussycat's craftwork in puppets, costumes, and set design is fabulous and fun. The story is intriguing and the puppets do there job of entertaining and convincing. The video includes voices of New Orleans celebrities such as Glitter and Gold (a New Orleans singing duet), Mr. Quintron (night club organ player and inventor) with his Drum Buddy, and New Orleans' sheriff Harry Lee, ironically, an infamous nutria hunter.
Video allows an artist, especially one such as Miss Pussycat, much more time for details than an on-the-fly live show. I was happy to see Miss Pussycat and her unique style in both of these performance environments, and suggest the full experience. The video ran on New Orleans Public Television and is a Holiday classic for sale through Miss Pussycat's web site: www.quintronandmisspussycat.com.
Interview with Miss Pussycat
Could you elaborate on your use of prerecorded music in your puppet shows?
I like prerecorded sound tracks and the process very much. I have never done it any other way, even back in church. I REALLY love doing the voices by adjusting tape speed. Digital pitch shifting is not as good. My four-track of choice is a Tascam 424 . Heavy smokers' voices sound the best. Lately, I have been using a portable mini-disc recorder to record people reading their lines, and then transferring tracks to the four-track. The transfer also compresses the tracks a little.
I always start with a script and I basically know what I want. First I record the dialog with a mini-disc recorder - its portability is very helpful in getting to people to record them saying their lines. For North Pole Nutrias, I got Sheriff Harry Lee to do the voice of the bad guy - and I had to go to his office at the police station and do it pretty fast.
Then I hire people to do guitar solos, and I record the sound effects ( like breaking glass ). It is then all mixed into my four-track - and keyboards/drum machine/samples are added as needed. A lot is done with tape speed. If I start laughing uncontrollably during the recording part of it, I know it is going to be a good puppet show. I really love Cheech and Chong records. Of course the puppets are there when I record the show. Then I mix down with Quintron. He is very encouraging.
What are challenges and benefits of doing puppetry at rock clubs?
Doing puppet shows in rock clubs is GREAT. I get to travel all over the world and and hang out with bands all the time!
Making a sound track that was not blown out and distorted over a rock club PA has been one of my biggest challenges. For years people could not understand what the puppets were saying unless they bought the records- and it was because I did not know how to mix down very well, or about compression.
Another major challenge is making a show/puppet theater that can be set up really really fast - there is usually a band on before me. And keeping everything tidy on tour. Each puppet has it's own sleeping bag and a then they go in their trunk. When my clamp lights get yucky, I get new ones, even if the old ones still work. Another really helpful thing is putting a nice piece of pink canvas on the ground behind the puppet theater, so the puppets (and Q and I ) don't get too dirty. Rock clubs are pretty filthy and the stages are covered in spilled beer.
And of course, the puppet shows are all about bands and DJs and putting out records if you're, like, a coven of witches, or a gopher.
I always make a matching show-business dress that goes with the puppet show, and the current puppet theater, which also matches Quintron's organ cover and his suit. Color theme is very important. And there is civilian clothing to go with the puppet show (a commemorative paint-pen art sweatshirt). Usually the dress has my hand-sewn appliqué of the puppets in that particular show.
What are some memories from your tours?
On my recent trip to France, we played at an electronic music festival in Nantes, with Jean-Jacques Perry! One of the high points of the whole tour was that I got my picture taken with him and he kissed me on the cheek!
Going on tour w/The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion last summer and with Stereo Total last November. Also when Flossie an the Unicorns were invited to London in 1999 to do a "Peel Session" at BBC-1, by John Peel. That was great because, well, it was a Peel Session and there were all these amazing microphones for the puppets and we had a tea break at 4.
What are your influences?
Cartoons and bands. I love George Pal's Puppetoons. My favorite puppet show of all time is TV MOUSE by Gregory Williams. Lucille's voice is great, and the story is great and the sound effects are funny. My favorite record right now is Friends Forever by Magas. Branson, Missouri, is very inspirational. I go there once a year to look at time share condos and go to the shows. Jim Stafford's show is the best.
What goes into making your puppets and costumes?
It is kind of like channeling.
How is your venue, The Spellcaster's Lodge, doing?
The Spellcaster Lodge is doing wonderfully. In a few weeks Magas, Adult, and Vickie are all playing here. It is going to be a rave. The Lodge isn't a regular venue- it a only open for special parties. Throwing a party is an art.
About your video, North Pole Nutrias; how long did it take to make?
Almost all of the shooting and editing was done in three and a half months - working on it everyday .Then we went back a few months later and reshot one of the scenes and did some more editing .
Has your puppet show affected people's ideas on eating Nutria? Do people really eat Nutria?
How are you producing, and distributing the video?
I had the videos and boxes manufactured by a company out of Vermont called Media Vision. The main distribution is selling them on tour, and stores in New Orleans carry it.
What are your plans
for the future?
Right now I am writing a new live puppet show, for tour. It is about a snowball stand that is run by an alligator. We are going on a two week tour of the mid-west in June. A new Quintron album is coming out in June, so we will be on tour a lot this year. Hopefully there will be more TV and video projects in the near future too - Dusty and Treasure go to Mardi Gras!
Miss Pussycat: www.quintronandmisspussycat.com (currently not available 8-2003)
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