His new book and album reflect the idiosyncrasies of life on the road.
“It has to drone. That’s the basis of it. There’s an underlying softness to the music that it’s making. It’s just being modulated and massaged by the weather.”
Quintron spoke in 2014 about the Weather Warlock, the analog synthesizer he had just developed to translate weather into sound. Since then, it has been audible at WeatherForTheBlind.org and the occasional concert. During Prospect. 4, Quintron installed one on the Ogden Museum of Southern Art’s fifth floor terrace, where when amplified its low, electronic moo could shape the atmosphere of the Warehouse District below just as the atmosphere shaped its sound.
The concept for the Weather Warlock and its online roll-out mark the synthesizer as an art project, and Quintron has been art guy. He installed himself in NOMA as part of 2010’s joint “Parallel Universe” show among Miss Pussycat’s puppets. There, he turned the act of recording Sucre du Sauvage into performance art. But his punk/egalitarian ethos is too strong to let anything he touches live solely in the gallery. Many of Weather Warlock’s parts can be found at Home Depot where anyone can get them, and his rock ’n’ roll is the sweaty variety for the audience and himself.
Weather Warlock lives on both sides of that divide in its nature and performance, as the recently released album Headless Falcon demonstrates, and his new book Europa My Mirror performs similar alchemy. He thumbed out the text for the book’s chapters on his iPhone, but the content is far from rudimentary. Each new city brings a new story and ultimately new reflections on the life of a touring musician. Stories, truths, and pearls of international traveling wisdom—Alka-Seltzer is hard to find in Europe—blend together effortlessly.
The projects share an unassuming quality, and both work against type. Quintron recorded Headless Falcon live in Abu Dhabi, where he was joined by Eyehategod drummer Aaron Hill and area musicians, who join him on an oud, a mellotron, and hand drums. On the vinyl album’s side one, “Dune Basher” evolves from an oud and Weather Warlock duet into a pastoral desert boogie, with much of the percussion for the track coming from splash-like synth sounds instead of Hill’s drums or those of other percussionists. The guitars on the cover and Hill’s presence behind the drums suggest that Headless Falcon is Quintron’s heavy metal project, but Hill only visits “Dune Basher” for a few cymbal splashes. Otherwise, a funky calliope, Weather Warlock’s electronic raindrops, and lightly percolating hand drums drive the piece.
The flip side, “Fuck the Plan-O,” features Hill and guitars more prominently in a space rock jam. The droning bass whoosh of the Weather Warlock and its patient, morphing sound creates the illusion of movement and a sonic platform that other instruments join and duck out. The forward motion is the star of the track, which is muscular more than heavy. When it ends with a coda played on the oud and the dripping Weather Warlock, the sense of arrival is unmistakable. The only question is whether you’ve arrived at the destination you hoped for.
The destinations only semi-matter in Europa My Mirror. Some work out better than others for Quintron and Miss Pussycat on a 2016 European tour. Paris—good. Barcelona—not so much. Inedible paella and playing as the opening act for a DJ mashing up the hits of the ‘80s were only two of the insults the city had in store for them. But destinations exist for the book’s purposes as places to land basic truths about—or reveled by—touring. After their sound engineer’s personal belongings were stolen from their van, Quintron reflects on breaking down your life to something that can be stolen in seconds:
Part of the beauty of touring is that it forces you to fit your entire life into one single bag. Daily existence and goals take on a Zen simplicity: drive, eat, load, play, drink, load, eat, sleep, repeat. Your address is the van, your bedroom is your suitcase, and you must protect both at all costs so that you can fulfill the mission.
Years on the road have worn some fatalistic grooves in Quintron, but the default assumption that shit won’t work hasn’t dulled him to the joys he encounters along the way. While tripping, the impact of jamming with Lou Reed sinks in. When the opening band in Madrid bet won big betting on the soccer match that threatened to leave their show sad and empty, Quintron and Miss Pussycat ended up riding the rush of entirely spontaneous joy that took over the room.
As someone who knows he has a finite number of touring years left, Quintron lists ways to work smart, not hard. “MY touring life runs on shitty coffee, good whiskey, and a bag full of OTC drugs from the Walmart in Chalmette,” he writes. He has lived the romance of rock ’n’ roll long enough to see through it, and although couch surfing is a necessary way to tour at one stage in a career, he and Miss Pussycat now stay in budget hotels on the outskirts of town pointed toward their next gig.
“No morning traffic, no visits from local drug goblins, and clean sixty-dollar beds galore!” Priorities change.
Quintron is casually witty and self-aware throughout Europa My Mirror, but his offhanded storytelling shouldn’t obscure the book’s subtle gravity. His touring do’s and don’t’s come from experience, and he documents the passage of days and years as much as miles. His reflections stem from the desire to do it all again and again, changing as necessary to making playing music on the road pleasurable, profitable, and personally meaningful. His ability to endure the rock ’n’ roll life put him in a position to make space rock in Abu Dhabi with a heavy metal drummer, local players, and the weather to drive his synthesizer.