© Dave Ling - February 2003 - previously published in CLASSIC ROCK magazine
You couldn’t shoe-horn another soul into the Underworld in London’s Camden. In the bar, fast-flowing beers are souping up the party atmosphere and on the stage the band are pulverising the living shit out of their instruments.
“Here’s a true story about being thrown out of the house for snorting cocaine with your girlfriend’s sister – and having sex with her mother,” announces the vocalist/guitarist to rousing cheers. “It’s called ‘The Bitch Just Kicked Me Out’.”
The Georgia-based four-piece concerned are Nashville Pussy, an act sworn to offend and delight with their trailer trash attitude and no-frills, Confederate-infused hard rockin’ boogie. Pro-alcohol, pro-drugs, pro-nudity and pro-freedom of speech, they are simply provocative.
They formed when Canadian groupie and aspiring guitarist Ruyter Suys and Nine Pound Hammer guitarist Blaine Cartwright got married and decided to form the band they wanted to see, or as Suys puts it: “The band that makes you want to fuck the guitar player”.
‘Let Them Eat Pussy’, 1999’s Mercury Records debut album sported a sleeve depicting Suys and bassist Corey Parks in the process of receiving cunnilingus, and their turbo-charged rock’n’roll – a sound they call “southern discomfort” – was even nominated for a Grammy that same year.
“I listen to AC/DC and Motörhead, of course, but also to all kinds of shit, even things like Funkadelic”
Parks, who had further enlivened Nashville Pussy’s shows by breathing fire onstage, left acrimoniously for “chemically induced” reasons following the band’s second album. Released in 2000, ‘High As Hell’ sported titles like ‘Blowjob From A Rattlesnake’ and included the song ‘Go To Hell’ (“Last night I caught my wife/Fucking two of my friends/Smile on her face/A dick in each hand/Guilt running down her chin”) when it surfaced via the independent label TVT Records. By the time of their current release, ‘Say Something Nasty’, the Pussies had once again switched labels and bass players, this time to Artemis Records (home of Steve Earle, the Pretenders and Boston) and with new four-stringer KatieLynn Campbell, best known for her role in Famous Monsters with Sean Yseult of White Zombie.
There are obvious reasons for this sell-out crowd. It doesn’t take long for Ruyter to remove her top, playing most of the set in her bra. KatieLynn eventually joins her, and the audience’s appreciation peaks when Suys performs a tasty slide guitar solo, Blaine’s beer bottle teasing them as it caresses his wife’s cleavage.
So are Nashville Pussy the latest in a long line of bands using sex to conceal a lack of talent? Not at all. Truthfully, although they have yet to fully capture their incendiary live power and excitement on record, they’ve rightly been acknowledged as one of the liveliest, most salacious and downright entertaining concert acts doing the rounds. Tonight they prove without doubt that they’re the real deal.
“When we formed this band we wanted to rock harder than anybody else,” Ruyter Suys (prounced ‘Rider Sighs’) explains before the show. “We’d seen a lot of good players in Nashville, but none had a fucking clue about entertaining audiences. Blaine’s previous band, Nine Pound Hammer, had two albums at that point; they’d toured Japan and Europe three times, and Canada a bunch of times and America twice. We wanted to do more than two shitty national tours. They’d had their chances to play with Motörhead, but nobody jumped on it. When I came along, I was like Yoko Ono to the band, and once they broke up it was the full-on Yoko thing.”
DL: The circumstances of the band’s formation were pretty interesting. You met Blaine while he was playing a gig with Nine Pound Hammer – you were both wearing Motörhead T-shirts and three months later were married.
Ruyter: That’s God’s honest truth, I followed him around Europe. Now I’ve experienced the groupie thing from the other side it’s pretty freaky that somebody would cross continents to see you, but that’s what I did… it was fucking crazy. We hung out for three jam-packed months and got married, which was just the most ludicrous thing we could do. We dared each other; didn’t tell anybody, just went off and did it.
DL: What was the attraction to Blaine? He’s not exactly pin-up material, is he?
Ruyter: No, he’s not. But, I dunno… Blaine’s a man of focus. He knows what he wants and he does it.
DL: You recently stated that yourself and Blaine have a very open relationship while you’re touring. Does that mean what we think it means?
Ruyter: If you’re good enough, I guess so. Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like we’re married till we get home. We’re just real comfortable with each other’s sexuality. He doesn’t hamper me, he likes me for who I am. And if he changed that, I don’t know if he’d like me anymore. He’s never been one to put me in a fucking pumpkin shell. He’s the first guy I’ve met that can put me on a leash long enough so I will always come back. Blaine’s like, ‘Go ahead, do whatever you want’ and I’m like, ‘Really?’ He just wants me to go and have fun.
DL: So would you ever consider having sex with a fan?
Ruyter: Yeah, maybe if the audience was full of Angus Youngs [laughs]. He would have to be damn fuckin’ cool to come up with a line I haven’t fuckin’ heard yet.
DL: Do some fans take a while to get the message when you turn them down?
Ruyter: Some are persistant to the point of being a complete bitch. We’ve done some horrible things to people because they annoyed us. I once used my guitar as a weapon on a really drunk guy, and I felt bad about it. I had to apologize to my guitar afterwards [laughs].
If I’m on the same level of drunkeness as them it’s no problem, but if I just got off stage and haven’t had a drink yet… damn, don’t try to impress me by falling into the dip or something. You know, some people come in and just like pass out into our fucking [backstage] rider. You wind up having to slam the door in their faces.
DL: You’ve been called the “hardest band working in showbiz today.”
Ruyter: Well, I don’t know anybody who plays more than us. We’ve had just a week and a half off since February. It’s fucking retarded how much this band tours. This is a trial by fire for our new bassist, KatieLynn. We fly home from Europe tomorrow, she’s home for two days then off to Japan [with Famous Monsters].
DL: What was the weirdest show you’ve played?
Ruyter: In Nelson, British Columbia, up in Canada. It’s a little mountain town with a population around 16,000 that’s notorious for having some of the best weed in the world. By the time we arrived, it seemed like everybody had been partying for a week because Nashville Pussy was coming to town. We played three songs and the entire town’s power went out, so everybody started throwing weed up at us. It was like locusts or something, you looked down and it was like all over the stage! We felt terrible when the power didn’t return, but some people were so out of their minds that they didn’t notice.
We had a day off the next day so we played again, and somebody actually brought a cereal bowl of marijuana to our room, complete with [rolling] papers. It was like, ‘Welcome to Nelson’.
Do fans sometimes read the publicity and misinterpret the type of show they’re about to see?
Not so much these days, but sometimes. Usually it’s women that see the word Pussy and make assumptions. We are not a bunch of pussies – we are Pussy with balls. We’re doing something that most women would be proud of, and when they do actually see us they say, ‘Oh, I thought it was gonna be a strip show’. Angus [Young, of AC/DC] strips way more than I do.
DL: Have there been troubles with feminists?
Ruyter: Just the fucking opposite, man. My mum’s from the bra-burning generation and, believe me, she tests me every step of the way. Really, I think we’re the most feminist band out there just by the nature of how cool our dudes are, and what they let us get away with.
The band’s first album, ‘Let Them Eat Pussy’, surfaced through Mercury Records in the UK.
DL: What are your views of major labels?
Ruyter: We’re all for them as long as they do the fucking work. We’ve never really distinguished between the majors and the tiny labels; bullshit exists everywhere. Mercury seemed relieved to finally have a band with a sense of humour after dealing with Hanson and Vanessa Williams. But those places have higher turnarounds than Taco Bell. The same guy who loved you last week is now somewhere else. Who do I talk to now about my life, y’know?
DL: After six years aren’t you sick of playing clubs by now, and if not what kind of career goals do you have?
Ruyter: We’re not sick of clubs, that’s for sure. If we get asked to open up for Iron Maiden, AC/DC or the Rolling Stones, that’d be cool. We bounce back and forth. We’ll play for 200 people or we will play for 10,000 at the drop of a hat. We’re pretty fucking happy to be at this level. I really admire the longevity of the Cramps and Motörhead. [Laughing]: Rock ‘n’ roll’s gonna go the way of the blues, we’re gonna become legends just by sticking it out. We want to do this for life.
DL: What’s the reaction in Bible belt towns to a band like yours?
Ruyter: As far as I can tell the Bible belt stretches from one end of the fuckin planet to the other. We were in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and this preacher decided to tell people not to come to our show. He was standing out front shouting, ‘No! Don’t go here!’ And when we were out with Marilyn Manson, people were walking around and actually blessing the arena. They had like misspelt signs, ‘Your going to hell’, things like that. We made a point of going out before every Manson show to see if there were any new freaks. It was fucking retarded, we even saw a family sprinkling holy water on the arena.
DL: Any idea how many copies of each album you’ve sold so far?
Ruyter: Between 60-100,000 worldwide, I think. But it’s hard to say, because there have been vinyl and collector’s editions, all sorts of shit.
[At this point we’re joined by Blaine]. You recorded and mixed the new album in Kentucky, which is a dry country, and in just three weeks flat. Were these two pieces of information related?
Blaine: It was lucky that we had the local bootleggers’ phone number. This guy from the next town sold liquor, and it was pretty cheap. He’d come by every night with cold beer and weed. Actually, no, he didn’t bring weed, man. I had to bring my own. I always end up getting run out of every town I’ve ever been to. It was like, ‘Oh yeah, my dealer will be round in a few days’. But it never fucking happened.
Ruyter: Most bands take more than three weeks to make a record, but that’s only because they’re buying drugs and sleeping with hookers! There were just a couple of half-decent restaurants and a Wal-Mart, but it was an awesome place. We worked 13 hour days, at the very least.
Ruyter once admitted that “we practice as little as possible, so we can get to the bar.” How would you both describe the band’s levels of musicianship?
Blaine: I’m really proud [of them]. We do actually practice way more than Ruyter realises, sometimes for three days straight before we go on the road. But then the bars are open till four in the morning…
DL: As guitarists, who inspired you?
Ruyter: My heroes have mostly been dudes, and I find them sexy as hell. We’re just trying to do the same thing. Rock ‘n’ roll makes me horny anyway. Well, it’s supposed to…
Blaine: AC/DC and Motörhead, of course, but we listen to all kinds of shit, even things like Funkadelic. Last night I listened to BB King all night. I also love Foghat, and Status Quo. No-one knows them in America, but we went crazy on them after discovering them a few years ago.
“The only bad thing about drugs is that they turn an asshole into a super-asshole”
DL: Your new album has a song called ‘You Give Drugs A Bad Name’. The lyrics sound like they were inspired by a specific person.
Blaine: The first verse is about our old bass player [Corey Parks]. That was a real incident, ‘Get your ass off the bathroom floor’.
DL: So what’s your stance on drugs?
Blaine: I like them. There’s lot of good things about drugs, the only bad thing about them is that they turn an asshole into a super-asshole – people who shouldn’t be doing drugs in the first place. Those people should get the fuck out of our way and let us party.
I like to smoke pot if I can find it, or hash. And cocaine if it’s free, and as long as it’s not being stupid. Everyone says it’s rock ‘n’ roll to OD, but people were OD-ing long before rock ‘n’ roll, and they will be long afterwards. Certain people will act like fucking morons [on drugs], and it looks good in print, but if you’re around those motherfuckers all the time it’s awful.
Ruyter: What reinforced that for us when we toured with Motörhead for a year. You rock as hard as you possibly can at night, then party as much as you possibly can. It’s vital that neither intrudes upon the other.
[Blaine wanders off again]. DL: Ruyter, it sounds like you’re not missing Corey Parks…
Ruyter: Fuck no, not at all. And she quit, we had no idea she was even having any problems. We thought that she was getting better because, like I said, we were all learning from Motörhead. We thought she was learning how to be a capable drug addict, but then she just freaked out. Everybody had had enough; we were on tour with four bands and everybody advised us to just let her go. It had been a long time coming, and we were grateful.
DL: Unlike Spïnal Tap who had perpetual troubles with drummers, you’ve not been able to find the right bassist till now.
Ruyter: And manager troubles, I think we’ve now had one per bass player. After Corey we had a chick named Tracy. Initially, we got her to just to see if we could do it without the flash, because Corey attracted all sorts of people with her look. So we got the best best player we possibly could. People instantly saw the difference. I guess I didn’t have that faith in the audience that they’d pick up on it, but immediately people started telling us we were tighter than ever. But then Tracy seemed to have enough of the incessant touring. And she quit by email, which I’ll never forgive her for. That was awful.
KatieLynn has been playing bass since college, and she’s perfect. When we auditioned her, we soon realised that she knew everything well enough, so we just went to the bar. And she loves travelling, thank God!
DL: Are Nashville Pussy on a mission to put the sex back into rock ‘n’ roll?
Ruyter: [Laughs]: I don’t think it ever left. Sex is what rock ‘n’ roll means. Maybe we’re trying to expand the sexuality, to prove that women can do this thing too, and not have to be up there as eye candy or whatever.
DL: That’s an interesting statement. Please elaborate.
Ruyter: Well, all the guitar heroes I’ve ever admired, it’s been for two reasons. Not only are they great musicians, but I’ve also wanted to fuck ’em. That starts when you’re 12, y’know… Jimmy Page is a fucking god, and for sure that’s part of the equation. Now – and I’m not just talking about us – bit by bit women seem to be getting more into rock ‘n’ roll. And people are agreeing we can do both; we are fuckable and playable.
DL: Is music in general becoming a bit too squeaky clean?
Ruyter: It’s always been that way, even in the good ol’ days. The Carpenters were Number One in the 70s, and the radio has always been crap. It’s all getting so fucking electronic now that disco sounds like rock ‘n’ roll to me. I listen to Abba and I think, ‘Wow, they’re actually playing their instruments’. Isn’t that pretty sad?
DL: What are your thoughts on a popular female arist like Britney Spears?
Ruyter: Britney’s fine. With the volume turned down, I don’t mind her at all. I think she’s real cute. She works real hard, but I’m grateful I’m not her.
DL: Are Nashville Pussy using the most brazen forms of titilation to glamorise a fairly basic form of rock ‘n’ roll?
Ruyter: We’re actually playing it down, compared to most guy bands. How come? Well, neither [KatieLynn nor me] gyrate nearly as much as Steven Tyler does. We’re nowhere nearly as blatant as half of our heroes in the 70s were. Nobody’s packing their pants or anything up there. If anything, this is a toned down version of our heroes like David Lee Roth and Robert Plant.
DL: The difference is that Steven Tyler doesn’t play in his underwear…
Ruyter: I don’t think so, I hope not.
DL: But you guys do…
Ruyter: Sometimes, and I’ve only only got one pair. And so far most of Europe has seen them.
DL: Does it cheapen the music in any way?
Ruyter: Fuck no. Some people might notice us because of our image, but they become fans by appreciating the music. Who pays to see AC/DC just because Angus moons the crowd, or because of their cannons?
DL: Okay, let’s take rock ‘n’ roll out of the equation, what do you prefer, sex or drugs?
Ruyter: Oh man… it’s gotta be sex on drugs! But if there has to be a choice, I’d definitely say sex.
“We’re actually playing [our sexuality] down, compared to most guy bands. We’re nowhere nearly as blatant as half of our heroes in the 70s were”
DL: Despite the fact that many men find you attractive, you say you cannot watch yourself on video.
Ruyter: Oh yeah, but that’s not because I don’t think I’m damn sexy – I know I fucking am! It’s because I make these fucking faces… every time I see myself on video it’s like, ‘Holy fuck, I’m a rabid nut up there’.
DL: You mentioned touring with Marilyn Manson. Did you get to hang out?
Ruyter: A bit. He was really cautious with his words. He came in one night and said, ‘You guys really tore it up there tonight’, and we said, ‘Thanks, Brian’ – yeah, we called him Brian! And he’s like, ‘I didn’t mean you don’t tear it up every night, but tonight you seemed to tear it up, er, extra!’ We tried to offer him a solution to the amount of Xanax he’d taken the night before. We were eating these peppers, which were hotter than a motherfucker. They totally burn your system out, it’s fucking fabulous, they’ll get you through your cold. But he said, ‘No, it’s fine. I just did seven lines of coke’. And that show, the last of the tour, ended really early. There was a riot in the parking lot. You know that traditionally people pull pranks on the last night of the tour? Well, somebody put a happy face on this podium instead of his ‘Antichrist Superstar’ logo. When he saw it, he got off the podium and tried to pull the happy face off, but it wouldn’t be removed. Three roadies moved the podium and Marilyn just stormed offstage, the whole band was left there in their pith helmets acting like robots and wondering if he’d come back. They tried to blame that one on us because I’d been in the pit taking pictures, even tried to hold up our money. We thought it was absolutely fucking hilarious.
“Did we ever meet Ted Nugent? Not in person, thank God!”
DL: The band took their name from a rap on Ted Nugent’s ‘Double Live Gonzo’. Ever meet him?
Ruyter: Not in person, thank God! He’s kinda geeky, so I can kinda relate to that. He once interviewed me on the phone. Luckily, we had his instructional guitar video, so we knew what to expect. The first thing he said was to go out and get myself a Gibson Birdland guitar… but that you couldn’t do that, because he had ’em all! Then he just wanks [on the guitar] for about 20 minutes, not teaching you anything. We watched it about three or four times and began to understand how his brain works. He’s part car salesman, part talk show host with little bits of reality here and there. So by the time he phoned, we were totally prepared.
“Gene Simmons has this way of making you feel violated, just by looking at you”
DL: I gather Gene Simmons is now a personal friend.
Ruyter: [Proudly]: He recognized us last time we met.
DL: He must’ve hit on you, right?
Ruyter: He knew I’m married, but he still has this way of making you feel… [considers words carefully] violated, just by looking at you! Gene’s stared down every one of our bass players. It’s like, ‘So what’s her story?’, ‘Is she gay?’, ‘Well, what about the new one? Has she got a boyfriend?’
DL: If you could put together a five-band package to tour with, who would you pick. AC/DC must be one, right?
Ruyter: I guess we’d be headlining, and AC/DC could open up for us. Can we pick dead bands? Let’s go with classic Lynyrd Skynyrd, Aerosmith while they were still on drugs and the Rolling Stones – ‘Exile On Main Street’ era – and maybe Iggy Pop. I’d pay to see that, with or without us.
DL: What would you like to be doing in five years time?
Ruyter: The same thing, but on a better bus.
DL: What about having kids?
Ruyter: No, Blaine and I are still working on the cat thing. If we could find a cat that would put up with us then we could think about children, but right now we have a drummer and that’s enough.
The official Nashville Pussy website
Until witnessing Nashville Pussy in the flesh, I wasn't too convinced by them. I've really gotta admit that. The records were... okay. Little more than okay. But live, the band really made sense. Perhaps using the word 'flesh' at the start was appropriate. Their proclivity towards removing clothing was what fuelled my doubt. Anyone remember Lisa Dominique?! Meeting the band before their gig at the Underworld was reassuring. Ruyter Suys exudes a homely star quality, and seemed to have nothing to hide. She also plays a mean guitar, and up on the boards her band entertain like few on the circuit. There's definitely talent there. So, are Nashville Pussy using sex to sell their music? Read the interview and make up your own mind! (17th April, 2005)
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