Walking into the Whisky the first thing I notice is not the stage where a band who is not My Ruin teaches a lesson in metal mediocrity, but the merchandise booth to my immediate left. Here red wax candles burn, casting a warm glowing, warming glow over the myriad of goods, many of them hand-made, bearing the My Ruin name.
I peruse the merchandise. I buy the brand new EP on Century Media Records, “The Shape of Things to Come…” I wait. I drink six-dollar whiskeys on ice. I wait. I peek at the opening bands from behind a sea of sweaty black-haired heads. I watch three bald, muscle bound men in the pit attack each other like fighting cocks. I want to get away from them. Their menacing violence intimidates me and I head upstairs. I watch the men dressed all in black. I drink six-dollar whiskeys. I watch the women dressed all in black, but mostly I wait; wait for My Ruin. Wait and drink. It’s always painful to wait for My Ruin; to wait for Yael, wait for Mick, wait for Meghan and wait for leading lady Tairrie. The other bands play, but I can’t take notice. I’m too busy waiting, and then it happens. The introductory music blasts from the sound system. The bass rumbles. Mick, Meghan and Yael take their places on the stage. The crowd around me inflates in screams, and then there’s Tairrie and then the show has begun…
Yael is a juggernaut behind the drums; wait, strike that, she’s a drummernaut behind her kit, pounding up blisters, shaking off the pain and taping up her cuts. She sits, pumping the double bass drums, keeping the beat, then stands, pounds the tom, crashes the cymbal and retakes her seat to thunder on under the bright lights and rising heat.
Meghan keeps her head hung low, her waistband low and her body bent low. Everything about her is slung low and rumbling. Doubled over, her painted arms stretch down to the floor playing the bass that brushes the dirty maroon stage as black dreaded tendrils of hair sway back and forth obscuring her bass and ashen half-moon face. With jarring ferocity and a flurry of blackened snakes Meghan steps forward and growls into the microphone reinforcing and enhancing Tairrie’s own screams.
Meghan’s technical bass riffing and Yael’s precision drumbeat commingle in the air, forming a thick impenetrable groove over which, Mick lays down the law. On the opposite side of the stage from Meghan he stands. His handsome, rigidly set, face is framed by side-burns stolen right off Roddy McDowell’s Cornelius mask. He stomps his pedals, flails the guitar strings and holds his six-stringed master out before him, neck thrust upwards to the heavens like an offering, each thick combatant chord soaring skyward, seeking approval from Hendrix, Rhoads and others fallen in battle whilst serving their brutal electric god. Mick is a central attraction here on stage left, garnering support from cosmos-eyed fans. Two mustachioed gents time-warped straight from a nineteen-seventy-five Kiss concert hammer the air, grimace in glee, shake their mangy rat’s nest hair and attempt to shout the rafters down every time Mick launches into a solo. The music has taken these fellows far, far away from the Whisky-a-go-go, and they are a tidy contrast to the legions of Tairrie B. supporters out in all their fashionable glory.
A blanched kewpie doll ensconced in black, complete with a pointy blond coiffure has entered a trance. His skinny frame sways in hypnotic rhythm to the bass and drums while his mouth recites every last lyric as if it were an incantation upon which his life depended. White-faced fans like trout in the shallows bask under My Ruin’s bright mid-day sunshine. They scream along with Tairrie, “Not made to measure, baby! One size does not fit all!” and they hear the message and it is a much beloved mantra of empowerment that infects the up-turned star-struck faces of her fans. The frontline at a My Ruin concert is predominantly female, and more than that, predominantly females who seem to be carving themselves in Tairrie’s vampish image of pale face, black hair and red lips. There’s a tribal element with My Ruin weaving shamanistic magic that calls these young people forth to believe in something, to believe in My Ruin and, most importantly, to believe in themselves. Empowerment is easier to clutch hold of and bring to fruition when one has a role model full of poise, self-confidence and determination to guide the way.
Tairrie’s lyrics are drawing a line. They are demarking a battleground where on one side is the traditional forces of Hollywood and all that it emphatically stands for, and on the other side of the no-man’s land is My Ruin. My Ruin doesn’t rail against fame; they rail against the narrow gateways to it (gateways so narrow that you’d better have a membership to 24 Hour Fitness and skip two meals a day if you want to cram yourself through). The lyrics on “The Horror of Beauty” seethe with animosity for the ideals of beauty that have been constructed in the music industry. As The Buggles said, “Video killed the radio star.” On the radio no one can see your scars. On radio, no one can see your flab. Radio hides unsightly imperfections (-take a look at Stern, Limbaugh and Leykis, of course, not even radio can hide the ugliness of these men’s hearts), but the music industry, the shallow-end of which is rock and roll, has moved from being a largely auditory medium to visual.
Still, My Ruin is part of the underground metal scene and the underground metal scene has never been a world of shapely physiques and pimple free visages (“Kill ‘Em All” era Metallica anybody?).
It’s clear My Ruin wants to widen the gates to fame, expand their fan base and break on through to the other side. Is fighting the narrow-minded star-machine of Hollywood while simultaneously seeking to join it contradictory? And if Hollywood is fake and My Ruin is real, then what will happen if the mighty machine opens up and pulls them into its folds?
(Interview with: My Ruin singer Tarrie B and guitarist Mick Murphy)
How has the new album come into shape since “Prayer Under Pressure of Violent Anguish” came out in 2000?
Tairrie B: We put Prayer Under Pressure out on Snapper and they licensed both albums to Spitfire in the states and Spitfire basically told us under no circumstance were they going to promote the record. The president who’s no longer the president, Paul Bibeau told me, “I don’t like you and I don’t like the band and I don’t really give a shit,” but Snapper licensed them both records so they had the right to do as they wanted and we couldn’t do anything about it. Then we released a live album, “To Britain With Love and Bruises,” and then I decided I was going to wait out my contract. We didn’t want to resign with Snapper. Snapper decided last year to put a two-record collectors set called “Blasphemous Girl” which is basically the first two records and some b-sides without even telling us and kids on the net are like, ‘Oh! You have a new record out!”
Mick Murphy: We had to find out from the fans.
TB: The release had a bunch of pictures of me, some stuff written about me in there and nothing about the band. And this year when we got our deal with Century [Media] now they [Snapper] just released a record called “Ruined and Recalled” which is available in the States as well as the UK, and it’s the same thing again, the two same records again. They just keep milking the sounds of the band.
MM: It makes us look like we’re not even a band anymore, like we’re broken up, but you know what, we’re still making new material we don’t need them to release the same two albums fifty times.
Is Snapper doing this?
TB: Yes. I hold Snapper completely responsible for the Spitfire fiasco. We have a song called “Spitfire” on the new record and that’s our big fuck you to that label and what they did to us.
MM: But what you’re asking about the new album is that these songs have been written over the course of the past couple years. These songs were recorded really fast; we had more time to play the songs as a band and have more of a whole band vibe with the delivery rather than writing the songs, recording them and then figuring out what we’re going to do live. I think this album comes off more like a real My Ruin album.
TB: I feel this record [The Horror of Beauty] is definitely our best. This record wasn’t overly produced. We wanted Mick [Murphy] to produce it. Nick Raskulinecz who did the “Prayer” album did four tracks on the record. Mick took the band in Deadzone Studio with our friend Todd Osenbaugh and he basically ran the show. It was his [Mick’s] first big production album as a producer. We all sat back and said, “O.K., we’re going to listen to Mick and trust him and his musical vision on this,” because we all admire him as a musician and do trust him because he essentially wrote the record, brought it all in to us and then the band kind of re-works things.
MM: I’ll blueprint the song and then the band kind of finalizes it. Instead of saying play this, just like this [taps the coffee table forcefully with a pen held like a conductor’s baton] and everyone feels like they have nothing to do with the song. I want everyone to feel like they put their stamp on the song.
TB: I love it because it’s very raw. It wasn’t done with a huge budget or in fancy studio. It was done how My Ruin is, just raw and in your face, and we love it. We’re getting the best responses from this album than we have from any album.
MM: We didn’t know what people would think because it is a really straight ahead, raw, rock and roll metal album, but people seem to be refreshed by it.
Wasn’t there a Grammy winner involved in the production?
TB: Nick Raskulinecz.
MM: He did four tracks on the record, and those we’re recorded awhile ago actually.
MF: Which tracks did he produce?
TB: Radio Silence, Stinkface, Nazimova and Burn the Witch. He won a Grammy for the Foo Fighters album. Mick was in a band with him back in Tennessee.
MM: Nick and I were in a band for ten years.
So there was no co-production involved? It was just you producing.
MM: Yeah, me with Todd too. Todd helped and the band helped.
TB: You headed it up. He’s being Modest. We all have our inputs obviously. I look at the band like this: this band wouldn’t be My Ruin if it wasn’t for Mick. Until I met Mick I didn’t want this to really, truly be a band-band. He is the musical director of the band and I’m more the artistic director. I do the art, the website, the imagery, the merch.
TB: Yeah, lyrics, and I think the lyrics have a lot to do with the art, but with Meghan and Yael together they make it a band, a unit.
Speaking of the art… Conceptually, there was nothing Catholic on stage this time.
TB: [laughs] I miss Jesus! Actually, I wanted to go a little different this time and a lot of people have asked me why there’s not a lot of religious imagery on this album.
MM: Things change. We’ve been living in the real mother-fucking world this two and a half past years, and that’s what Tarrie has written about: the reality of our world.
TB: All my records in the past, just to clarify this, have been the reality of my world. I’ve always said my religion is relationships. This record is definitely about relationships with managers, labels, each other. It’s a very big gamut of topics here, but it’s all basically about relationships. One day I just came up with the idea of “The Horror of Beauty” because of a lot of things that I’d read in the press, see out there in magazines and how I felt about myself as a woman in rock-n-roll and as a woman in general: the pressure of looking good, the pressure of sounding good. It’s not just a physical thing when I say “beauty.” I also mean it as a an emotional thing, a musical thing, the beauty of the music and what music has turned into with MTV and the radio stations that are force feeding all this bullshit down you. There’s so much music out there and you get this much [holds up fingers spaced about half an inch apart]. When there’s such a wide variety of music and we’re only given so much. Even M2 and all those channels, they don’t really represent what’s out there. The metal bands that are selling records and doing so great, and where do you see them? Everything is like P Diddy, pimps & prostitutes or whatever cute emo band of the moment is making noise. Please, give me a break. Emo to me is safe. I’ve been doing emo, emotional music, for a long fucking time. Emo or Screamo or whatever the fuck they’re calling it.
MM: But make it clear, we’re a metal band.
TB: We’re a metal band.
MM: We ain’t no emo band.
TB: No, we’re not a fucking emo band. If you’re gonna scream, scream and go balls out; come with the rock balls out. Don’t scream and go to your little melodic part that’s safe for the radio to get a hit.
So did somebody really tell you you’re too heavy to be a rocker?
TB: It was Brian Malouf, A&R guy from RCA Records, I have no problem saying it. We sent him a package. Some friends of ours were signed to the label. Mick and I were at home one day and he phoned up and he said, “I just want to tell you that I think your sound is great, I think the band is great, the music’s great, the package is great, the image is great, but I looked at a video from your UK tour and I was just wondering, do you have a problem with your weight? Because rock stars are supposed to be thin I’m afraid. So how much do you weigh?”
And I said, “You’re fucking kidding me, right?”
He says, “I send my bands to personal trainers. To be a rock star now days you have to be thin.”
MM: We’re talking about hard rock bands.
TB: Phil Anselmo [Pantera/Superjoint Ritual/Down] does not go to a personal fucking trainer, sorry! It’s one thing to get in shape and do whatever if you want to work out, do it for you like when I know I need to have my stamina up. I do my own things, but I’m not going to go out there and start getting a fucking trainer and bodybuilding so I can be skinny and thin on stage to fit a certain stereotypical image. I’m not going to do it. And I found it really insulting what he said to me, and another thing I found funny is he said, “You’re a really pretty girl. You’re so pretty I could see you on the cover of magazines.”
I go, “I’ve been on plenty of covers of magazines. It has nothing to do with how much I weigh.”
He says, “But oh if you were thin you could be on lots of covers of magazines.”
This is so insulting.
MM: This is also the kind of guy that thinks if the band has its own opinion about how things should be they’re combative.
TB: Right, he tells us were very combative. He sat at dinner with us and he said, “What are Britanny Spears girls going to think of My Ruin?”
I said, “I really don’t give a fuck what Brittany Spears fans or Brittany Spears thinks of My Ruin.” [laughs]
MM: You know what they’ll do is they’ll out grow Brittany Spears and probably start liking bands like My Ruin.
TB: Exactly. That’s what “Weightless” is about [a song off “The Horror of Beauty”]. I quote him.
What is beauty?
TB: I think beauty is way more an attitude than a look.
Do you think we’re getting programmed?
TB: Yeah, definitely we’re getting programmed. Everything programs you. I think too many people see beauty as an outward thing. Beauty is in the eye of the believer. Beauty is different things to different people.
Speaking of beauty, tell me about the merch.
TB: I do that with Yael. I design all the merch. I bounce the ideas off the band. The merchandise is really important to me. I think it’s nice to have a band that offers a lot of different things, atypical things. I make custom things. I think sometimes the kids are really overwhelmed. I think people are use to a couple items, no really special things. I like them to feel like it’s personal like they come to our merch booth and it’s made for them. It’s like a little swap meet with all these different items and some custom items. It’s very inviting. Merch is really important to me. It’s what represents your band out there on the streets, and I love the fact that we have patches and stuff so people can stitch their own shit up and make their own custom stuff. When we went out with Kittie on the road last year we didn’t have a company behind us and we were the first band of four sometimes five. Played early in the evenings. Some towns knew us, some didn’t, but we put up our merch church and we’d all go sit out there with our kick-ass merch girl. We had a big tip jar, parents would give us hundred dollar tips. We were out selling everybody on the whole tour, and we’re the opening band. That’s how we were living.
Pretty soon we noticed other bands were kind of copying what we were doing. They were sitting at their merch table, talking to all the kids, adding tip-jars, suddenly they were changing their merch, ordering more merch on the road. They were having items like we were having. They saw what was going on with us. We put out candles, candy. We made it all really exciting. Kids loved it.
Did that six week tour with Kittie go smoothly?
MM: It was a bus tour and we were in a van driving ourselves.
TB: Except for Meghan. Meghan got to ride in the bus all the time.
MM: Wait, I’m trying to make a point here.
TB: So am I [laughs].
MM: The point is it was rough, but it was the hardest work I’ve ever loved.
TB: We were going to go on the second part of the tour; we were invited on the second part of the tour, but suddenly we weren’t after the tour ended.
MM: Yeah, the tour ended kind of ugly, but that dramas getting old.
Who would you like to tour with?
TB: I would love to tour with Monster Magnet and Clutch. For me, those are bands I would love to see every night. It’d be a pleasure being on the road listening to their music.
You’ve gotten deals with Hot Topic to carry your merch and you’re sponsored by Vamp Energy Drink.
TB: [laughs] We’ve been sponsored by a lot of companies. Even before our record deal Yael and I got a lot of companies behind us from clothing and cosmetics to DW Gibson and Sennheiser Microphones. We’re a good team, and appreciate their support.
MM: If you know how to work it it’s easier than people think. I suppose that’s why we’ve had fallouts with managers because a lot of managers we’ve had, Tairrie’s done a much better job. They’ll get in a huff and go, “Oh no, I can’t work with you.”
TB: I know what this band needs. I know what this band’s about, and I’m not going to just hand the band over to some schmuck. I want someone to step up, who’s number one, got some balls, has got a business head, isn’t afraid of a woman who has ideas and has a mind. It takes a strong man to deal with a strong woman. It doesn’t take a weak man. So we don’t have a manager yet. We’re looking for the right person and we’ll know the right person when they approach us just like we knew the right label and now they have confidence in us especially after Saturday night.
How were all those kids already singing along?
TB: [laughs] I wondered that. That’s the funniest question. When we went to the UK we went on stage and from song one these kids knew every song. I was looking in the audience and I was thinking, “How the fuck do they know all the songs on the album?” And then we figured it out. It’s all the home videos. They’ve got some of the album songs on them. And little by little I would write lyrics on the internet in my diary. I keep an online journal, and I get emails asking, “What is the lyric in the verse of…” and I’ll write it to ’em back. One good thing, I think, about our band is that we are so personal with the fans of the band. We keep online journals. We have email so you can write to the band and we write you back. I’m full-on with it, and Mick sometimes worries I’m too full-on because you get too personal with people and it gets kind of weird sometimes, but for me it’s also really cool going to the UK and meeting all these kids I’ve been conversing with over email for the past two years. It felt like your family there that’s come out to see you. They came from France, Japan, Sweden, Spain. It was fucking unbelievable. We were like, “You came to the UK just for the show?” Yup, fuck yeah we did. We’re here. And these little My Ruin Girls with My Ruin tattoos, fucking red lipstick, front row screaming “Made to Measure!” Fuck yeah! It was awesome.
Do fans ever get overly emotional? Grab your hand, grab your head and hold on too tight?
MM: A lot of times it’s harmless, just people excited and holding on, but there’ve been a couple of people in the past who have crossed the line. Scratched her really bad or messed up a song by grabbing hold of the mic, singing the wrong part of a song and not letting go.
TB: I had a girl who sliced my throat with her fingernails, but that’s uncommon. When I lay back in the crowd the weirdest thing happens to me. I feel kids caressing my face, they rub my cheeks, they touch my hair, they hold my hand, they give me kisses on the cheek. It’s really emotional. They’ll scream with me in the mic with me. It’s violent in a nonviolent way. Usually it’s the girls getting crazier than the guys.
Non-violent? Metal pits have always been scarier to me than punk rock pits.
TB: Oh, I think so too. We’re not big fans of the mosh pit. I know when we go to shows we like to feel it, breathe it and experience it. It’s not great fun to be smashed into the whole time. We want women to be able to stand up front with us and not be beat, man-handled, pushed, groped or shoved to the ground. We want them to feel we’re all there together to enjoy the show. Let’s go to a rock show and leave feeling fucking great about everything.
MM: Well, you know people express themselves in different ways. At our shows a pit’ll break out every now and then, but mostly people at our shows are watching it and getting into it and not, “Look at me! I’m the guy throwing the biggest fist!”
TB: My Ruin music is about bleeding on the inside, not about bleeding on the outside.
There’s a spider on the floor!
[At this point a black spider the size of a Mini-coop came barreling across the floor. The tape stops. Mick deals with the vital-fluids-sucking beast and I restart the tape.]
TB: For those who don’t know Rick, if you shut your eyes, you’ll think you’re talking to Tom Green. Are you from Canada?
No, I’m from Wisconsin.
TB: Okay, you sound exactly like Tom Green. Has anyone ever said that to you?
Yeah, maybe. A couple times. Would you say the new album is informed more by classic rock and roll than metal? I really hear that, especially on “Made to Measure.”
MM: Yeah, “Made to Measure,” was intended to be a straight up rock song, heavy, but based off more rock-n-roll riffs.
TB: When Mick and I write it’s really cool. He’ll come up with really killer things and he’ll bring them to me and I come up with stuff really quick for Mick’s songs. In my old band I had a really hard time with my old guitar player. We didn’t vibe. We really weren’t on the same wavelength.
MM: I’m definitely very influenced by classic guitar rock and seventies heavy metal. I think it’s some of the best rock ever and I want to bring that back to the band, back to metal.
TB: I haven’t heard many people compare My Ruin to other bands in our genre. They’ll say maybe it sounds a little Sabbathy. They’ll mention little things they can hear in it but they’ll never say “this band sounds like this band.”
Did you ever have guitar instructors?
MM: My first job I had was a guitar instructor. I was a very bad guitar student because I have my own ideas about what I want to do. I know the sounds that I like; the notes that I like. I was in college a couple years and I took Jazz Music, but I had already taught myself to play before that.
Would you ever teach guitar again?
MM: Who am I to tell someone else how to play? I feel like it’s a true expression. I mean Eddie Van Halen taught himself how to play and listen to the stuff that came out of him from 1978 to 1984. It’s art to me and all the people who tried to imitate him, it sounded cheesy. To me I kind of like the rawness of being self-taught.
TB: I taught myself to scream too. [laughs]
Tell me about walking onto the stage.
TB: We feel like a powerhouse when we walk up there. We don’t walk onstage with a “We have anything to prove attitude.” We’re not like one of those bands going “We’re gonna get up there and fuck everyone up. We have something to prove! We’re fuckin’ bad!” We’re just who we are.
MM: We’re not trying to be mean and weird. We’re trying to have a good time.
TB: We walk up very confident. You know what? I love smiling on stage now. My old band, in Manhole I could never smile. I never got that feeling on stage that I could just be me and be really happy up there. I can see the difference in when people would say shit to me before I could sock somebody from stage. Now it’s a different feeling. I’ll say something to you, but I’ll get you with my words.
You get people with songs too.
TB: [laughs] Yeah, you get ’em with songs. [big laugh]
What’s the song “Stinkface” about?
TB: You know what it’s about.
TB: I’ll be honest. I’m not going to lie. The song “Stinkface” is about Meghan. It was written before she left the band.
MM: For those of you who don’t know, Meghan left the band for a short period of time a year or so ago.
TB: Yeah, she left the band for three months and we had a replacement bass player. “Stinkface” was my feelings about the situation, about her and our relationship within the band. I needed her to know how I felt.
And now she joyfully does back up vocals on it.
TB: She loves that song. It’s really shows what our band is. The song has taken on a new life. It was about my relationship with her, but now I don’t feel that way anymore. Now it’s about my relationship with people who fuck with me. It’s more of an outwardly thing and I think she feels that way too. When she was gone I was mad at her, but I really missed her too. Now, I’m happy she’s back. I’m happy we’re on Century Media and that we’re doing this whole thing we’re doing right now. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it without her.
Century Media has mentioned you guys going on Ozzfest?
TB: Century Media is totally behind our band, both the president Marco Barbieri and our A&R guy Phil Hinkle have been 100% supportive of both our musical and artistic vision. Personally, I feel they’re the first men in the music business who have treated me with respect as an artist, as a female artist, and I think we have a great working relationship. Now as for Ozzfest, I don’t know how I feel about paying a whole lot of money to play for twenty minutes in the hot sun.
What do you mean “paying money”?
TB: Paying money? You have to pay to get on Ozzfest.
So Ozzfest is “pay to play”?
TB: Well, it is on the second stage. Of course it is. You know that.
I didn’t know that.
TB: What? Everybody knows that.
MM: Well, if they don’t they will now.
TB: The first stage isn’t, but the second stage is. With a lot of tours, it’s pay to play. There’re a lot of tours out there that those people are on those tours because they bought themselves on those tours. I can’t condone pay to play gigs. There are certain ethics I do have. I do have that punk rock ethic, I guess, even though I’m a metal chick. I do want to be on good tours. I do want to play with bands I like. I’ll be straight up with you, most of the bands on Ozzfest I can’t fucking stand. A majority of the bands that are out there and paying to get on shit, I wouldn’t fucking go pay a dollar to see. Sure Ozzfest means great exposure, but it’s not necessarily the size of the show that matters, it’s the heart of it.
MM: Basically in the mainstream what you have is pop pretending to be all these things. You have pop pretending to be country. You got pop pretending to be metal. You got pop pretending to be rap or R&B. The director decides to dress the pop chick as a metal chick with her fake metal band behind her. It’s just such a bunch of crap. I just want people to be true to themselves and not jump on the latest bandwagon. Hey, what’s cool now? What’s cool now? Make your own cool. Ozzfest can be a bunch of drunk and sweaty misogynistic men trying to feel up every woman that walks by and just acting like a bunch of assholes.
TB: I hear a bunch of horror stories about Ozzfest. For me, I would love to put together a Lilith Scare. A bill with some kick-ass bands, some female fronted bands that are hard edged and alternative and punk and fucking metal and all those things that are a little bit scary, that guys’d be “fuck yeah! I’m going to go see.” and women would be like “Hell yeah. A kick ass tour.” I’ve said this for a long while and spoken with a lot of people about this in the industry over the past several years, and I want to do it and obviously, someday maybe I’ll get the chance. I’ve never felt I was in a position to make it happen until now, but with Century Media maybe this could truly be the shape of things to come [laughs]. It needs to happen. I really believe that our band is different, that we can fit in with a lot of bands on a lot of tours, but I just don’t want to do certain things. I don’t know. I don’t want to sell myself short. I don’t want to put it out there on some shit level. And I definitely don’t want to pay thousands and thousands of dollars to play for fifteen fucking minutes.
MM: At noon.
TB: At noon! I don’t want to do it. Maybe that’s a bad thing?
I’d say that’s a good thing. Any last words?
TB: One size does not fit all so for those who haven’t seen My Ruin try us on for size and see how we fit.