Lutsko talks about music, puppets, and the weird combination of the two
The Puppet Revolution is upon us. Unlike the Robot Uprising or the Zombie Apocalypse, this fabulously fine following of fantastic freaks is filled with fluffy felt and funky friends. If you’ve never seen Nick Lutsko and the Puppet People play a show, you might be missing out on something that you would find to be highly entertaining.
If you can dig puppets playing rock & roll, then you will surely enjoy the performance that these gentlemen bring to the table. If you like to dress up as a furry creature or trippy puppet, then you might be in nirvana at one of their shows. Nick and the boys are one of the most intelligent, talented, friendly, and cool groups of dudes that you could ever find to entertain yourself with.
Their ability to combine art, music, writing, costume, and genius publicity stunts has set them right up there next to Chewbacca and Big Bird. Do yourself a favor and check them out.
We sat down with head puppeteer Nick Lutsko to find out what makes him tick.
The Pulse: How did you get your start? What are your earliest experiences making art?
Nick Lutsko: I don’t know if you would call it “art,” but my earliest experience making music was in 5th grade with my friend Wesley. We were a two-piece punk band called Sin¢e When? Our writing and recording process were one in the same. I would press record on Windows Sound Recorder, play guitar and incoherently scream into a computer microphone (primarily about clowns, dwarves, etc.) while Wes followed on drums.
We recorded over 100 songs in a four-year span. None of them are listenable. I started playing in a funk-rock trio called Infinite Orange my freshman year in high school, and that was my first real experience doing music. We played Riverbend and Nightfall a handful of times and recorded an album with Matt Skudlarek. We had a good run, but things fizzled out when we left for college.
TP: Who are some of your influences? Favorite artists?
NL: The Beatles. Bob Dylan. Tom Waits. Ween. Primus. The Beach Boys. Talking Heads. Oingo Boingo. Jim Henson.
TP: What is your philosophy when it comes to creating?
NL: Find what moves you and use it as fuel. Nothing is off limits. Always experiment. Do the thing and don’t make excuses. Rinse and repeat.
TP: What materials and processes do you use to make the puppet costumes?
NL: Lots of hot glue. Fur, foam, felt, fuzz, fabric. All the F words basically. Cardboard. Styrofoam balls. Googly eyes. Yarn. My process is very much trial and error. You get close to my puppets and see that they’re being held together by safety pins and wads of glue. I call it punk rock puppetry.
TP: How does the addition of costumes affect the performance?
NL: I think it cuts through a lot of the noise. There’s a lot of great music that takes multiple listens before I really connect just because of whatever else is going on. Say you walk into a bar to drink and hang out with friends, there’s four white guys on stage and the music is great, but it doesn’t really register because you’re not there to listen to music.
Replace the four white guys with giant puppet men and you’ve managed to steal their attention for a moment. In that moment, we hope the audience will make some sort of connection with the music. It’s a dirty trick, really. It’s the equivalent of a small child learning magic tricks to earn his/her parents’ affection. But it’s so much fun.
TP: Any upcoming events/projects/recordings/etc.?
NL: We’ll be headlining Nightfall on June 3rd and we’re extremely excited. After the show, we’ll be leading a puppet parade from Miller Plaza to Revelry Room for an after party with Decibella. It’s going to be a blast.
We’ll have a horn section, drum line, hundreds of sock puppets to hand out, a couple giant puppets, fire dancers, art cars and art bikes, circus performers, etc.
If anyone wants to contribute in anyway, bring your craziness to Miller Plaza and come march with us. MAKE AMERICA WEIRD AGAIN. Also, I’m writing and recording every day and hope to release some new music this fall.
TP: Observations about Chattanooga’s art and music community?
NL: The city is really beginning to embrace it and everyone is bringing their A-game. It’s amazing and I’m honored to be a part of it.