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A few weeks ago a CD arrived at Bluesinlondon Towers, beautifully packaged with arcane Faith Healer / Medicine Show style ephemera and containing a collection of old timey sounding songs recorded on, it was claimed, 19th century wax cyclinder technology. Every snap crackle and pop (and there were many) was lovely reproduced and, combined with an outsanding collection of excellent songs fantastically performed, the overall effect was a rather magnificent.
Closer inspection revealed that not only was this album genuinely recorded on wax cylinder, but Madame P. was about to embark on some shows here in London with our own Tom Rodwell which would demonstrate this recording process in live performance. You can read our piece on those shows here, but we thought it was also a good idea to find out a bit more about the curious world of the Madame so we summoned her up on the Talking Spirit Board and transcribed the answers below...
RW: Just to give us an idea, can you tell me where you are as you're writing this? (In the world/city/neighborhood/locale/where you're 'at'...)
MP: I'm in the "Lil' Casita de Pamita" which is Spanish for "my apartment," which happens to be located in Los Angeles. Packing my bindlestiff and my steamer trunk for my Trans-Atlantic trip.
RW: You describe what you play as "old wierd American music"... Can you expand on that a little... What sources do you draw from, generally and specifically, musically, and in the wider culture?
MP: I'm obsessed with what I like to call "rural blues, proto-jazz and jugband stomp" - all the great music from the earliest days of recording, when exploitative American businessmen out to make a fast buck were recording any possible thing that they thought could turn aprofit. I like old comic numbers from the 1800s, songs about drugs and booze, songs with sexual innuendo, anything that is odd. Cylinder and record companies had no idea as to what would be popular back then, so they recorded anything and everything. One of my favorites off the top of my head is "Molly Man" by Red Hot Old Mose.. it's a recording of a guy doing his street vendor song.. for the longest time, I was like, "What they hell is he selling??" and then I realized that "molly" was short for tamale!
RW: What for you is the appeal of this?
RW: It feels like there's a fair bit of interest in this kind of old-timey-folky-rootsy-old-wierd culture going on generally, and you're over here doing some shows with like minded individuals, so would you go as far as to say you indentify with anything that could be called a 'scene'?
MP: One thing that's nice about what I do is that it sort of fits into a lot of little niches. I play with carnival sideshows, I fit in with old time bands, I've done burlesque shows, I can play little Bertolt Brecht-like cabarets.. really, when I find anyone who is retro and a little out of step with the mainstream we welcome each other with open arms. We're a very loose pack of outsiders, but we're everywhere. I often experience a wonderful sense of mutual recognition with other acts. We do something completely different from each other but we find each other and it's like long lost lovers being reunited. We're excited and interested in what the other is doing and performing
RW: Can you tell me a bit about Euphonious Prognostication, and the Mystic (is that what I should call it?) apsects of your show?
RW: Can you give me a brief run-down of the various weird and wonderful instruments you play?
RW: Where do you travel with your shows - what sort of places do you play?
MP: Wherever they will have me! I have played street corners, cabarets,
RW: So what about this Wax Cylinder recording then... How did it come about?
RW: And how has your CD of lovingly reproduced wax cyclinder recordings been received?
RW: Is this part of a 'movement'? (The nearest similar equivalent I know of is Brown Bird Rudy Relic - I don't suppose you know him?)
I hadn't heard of Brownbird Rudy Relic, but I just looked him up and gave him a listen and he's wonderful!
RW: And finally, any message for your British fans prior to your arriving on these shores?
Madame Pamita will be performing and recording live onto wax cylinder as part of The Back to Wax Revue with Tom Rodwell, The Borough Cat and The Vulcan Cylinder Record Company (Read our feature article here >>) on the following dates :
Wed May 20 - The George Tavern, 373 Commercial Road, Stepney, London E1 0LA / 8PM £6
Sun May 24 - The Luminaire, 311 Kilburn High Road, London NW6 7JR £10 / £8 adv through www.wegottickets.com
Madame Pamita & Tom Rodwell live in the UK May 2009:
Thurs May 14th - The Gladstone Arms, 64 Lant St, Borough, London SE1 1QN
Fri May 15 - The Alma, 95 Church Road, Crystal Palace, London SE19 2TA (with Joe Wilkes)
Fri May 22 - Brooks Blues Bar at The Telegraph, Telegraph Road (corner of Wildcroft Road), Putney Heath, London SW15 3TU / 8PM £12
Sat May 16 - Matsu, 558 Mile End Road, London E3 4PL
Sun May 17 - Dr King’s Jailhouse, East Dulwich Tavern, 1 Lordship Lane, Dulwich, London, SE22 8EW / £5