They’ve got the same staying power as the late Lemmy and co., the same tenacity and the same dedication to everything rock’n’roll, and they’re also louder than everything else: meet Nashville Pussy.
They’ve got the same staying power as the late Lemmy and co., the same tenacity and the same dedication to everything rock’n’roll. Meet the American Motörhead.
Nashville Pussy are the American Motörhead. If Lemmy was here, he’d tell you as much. Rising from the ashes of Kentucky-fried rural hardcore band Nine Pound Hammer in the late 1990s, the quartet exploded onto the underground rock scene and shattered every preconceived notion about how rock’n’roll was supposed to look, sound and act in the postgrunge era. They were like Chuck Berry with rabies, or maybe the Ramones zonked on moonshine and sunstroke. They were American werewolves on wheels who breathed fire, swapped spit and bludgeoned their audience with sex, sleaze and neck-snapping riffs. They were every teenage rock’n’roll dream brought to towering, terrifying life. That was 20 years ago, and since then they’ve never stopped, never faltered or even slowed down.
The band’s core remains husband-and-wife duo Blaine Cartwright (vocals/guitar) and Ruyter Suys (lead guitar). Their new album, Pleased To Eat You, is out now. It’s their seventh, and probably their heaviest yet. As we speak, they are shoving their belongings into gym bags and pillowcases, preparing for another European tour. No remorse. No regrets. No Sleep til Strasbourg.
The inauspicious origins of Nashville Pussy go back to an ill-fated Nine Pound Hammer tour in 1997. “Me and Ruyter had been married for two or three years already and we were already working on stuff, but we’d been spending all our time, money and effort getting Nine Pound Hammer on track,” explains Cartwright. “So after I had to call home to borrow some money to fix the van – we were stranded in Yuma, Arizona – I think my parents were relieved I was gonna be in a band with Ruyter.
“We’d been toying with it a bunch – we didn’t even know what kinda music we’d play. Ruyter’s guitar playing is pretty versatile, so we coulda done garage stuff or surf stuff, but I think AC/DC won out basically because it was time for a band like that, for a good hard rock band. I really wanted to make a go of it, because Nine Pound Hammer… I mean, it wasn’t half-assed, but it was definitely threequarters-assed. The van broke down for the fifth time on the West Coast, and we had no resources, and basically that was it. To our credit, Nashville Pussy has also been in tough spots where we had no resources, and we just let it roll off our backs. With Nine Pound Hammer it was more like: ‘Okay, God is trying to tell us something.’ Like God doesn’t want us to have this band, because the van broke down,” he says, laughing.
“I always liked Kiss and AC/DC, because they had stage presence and they had a show.” Blaine Cartwright
The tough times certainly weren’t over, either. Not long after Cartwright and Suys got Nashville Pussy together, tragedy struck.
“Well, our house burned down – with us in it,” Suys recalls. “We were sleeping, and our neighbours banged on the door. We didn’t even realise it was on fire. It was some faulty air conditioner. We ended up running outside, literally naked, and watched our house burn down. So we had nothing to lose anyway. We could either sit around in the ash, or hit the road. We had no reason to tour so hard, we were comfortable where we were, but it was like a sign to go out there.”
And go out there they did.
Nashville Pussy rode into battle during a particularly virile moment in rock’n’roll history. The late 90s saw the introduction of raw, saw-toothed garage rock bands like The Hives, The Vines and the White Stripes into mainstream culture, while the underground rock scene was bursting with the heat, excitement and ferocity of both Scandinavian ‘actionrock’ bands like Turbonegro, The Hellacopters and Gluecifer, and feral American ‘glunk-rock’ rippers like Zeke, Supersuckers and The Dwarves. “The competition was fierce,” acknowledges Cartwright. “So you really had to go all out.”
And that’s exactly what they did. After bringing in ex-Nine Pound Hammer drummer and future Hookers mainman Adam ‘Rock’n’Roll Outlaw’ Neal and fire-spitting six-foot glamazon Corey Parks on bass, Nashville Pussy created perhaps the most over-the-top rock’n’ roll spectacle since mid70s Kiss. Their stage show was a low-budget eyepopper of leather-on-leather-on-leather, fire breathing, girl-on-girl make-outs and reckless homemade pyrotechnics.
We used to literally light fireworks off on stage,” Suys remembers. “Our roadie had a detonator in his bag. That was his job, to detonate explosives.”
“Our whole stage show fit into a bucket,” Cartwright says, laughing. “But we really wanted to make it as much of an actual show as possible, because I thought that was something that was really missing at the time. I always liked Kiss and AC/DC, because they put the time in.
They had stage presence, and they had a show. I definitely think we brought that back in Nashville Pussy. If I had some shitty job and I went see a band, and it was this big spectacle, it made going to that shitty job the next day a little easier. People might think it’s cheesy, but cheesy is better than lazy.”
Of course, no band can get by on flashpots and cleavage alone. So the Pussy made good on their ‘American Motörhead’ promise, delivering their audacious debut, Let Them Eat Pussy, in 1998. Filled with savage motorburners like Go Motherfucker Go, Blowin’ Smoke, and Eatin’ Dust, the album solidified their sound as a sort of punkfuelled, triple-speed AC/DC wrapped in a southern-fried coating of gutbucket hillbilly recklessness that suggested they
were probably capable of just about anything. The album cover was equally outrageous, featuring Parks and Suys on the receiving end of oral sex. Nobody could handle it, even then; copies of the CD were sold wrapped in black plastic bags.
“I didn’t think people were gonna be upset, because if you look at the cover, the women are in charge of the sex act,” Cartwright explains. “There’s some fringe elements out there that just don’t like any sex acts, like if you have a cover like that then clearly some man must’ve thought it up, right? A bunch of people even refused to print the album cover. It really splintered people. Some people just really misinterpreted the message. And if you chime and say: ‘It’s not really like that’, then it’s already too late, they’ve had their first impression and they don’t want their mind changed.”
Ironically, the band suffered accusations of sexism, when even a cursory glance at what was actually happening revealed Pussy’s feminist bent.
“The women have always been equals,” says Cartwright. “I don’t understand why people don’t see that. I remember when our album Get Some  came out and the Village Voice made a big deal about not reviewing it. The editor wrote a thing about how they were throwing it in the trash, and how the Voice didn’t support Nashville Pussy’s message. And this was the same editor that was putting Paris Hilton on the cover all the time and saying she was the new face of feminism. I dunno, man. History will reveal all. I do wish more women had picked up the guitar because of us.”
“I think they did,” offers Suys.
“I do too, but I always hoped it would make a bigger impact than it has.”
It probably will. It just might take a hundred years to set in.
“That doesn’t help me much,” Cartwright says, laughing. “If I knew I was gonna influence somebody’s grandkids I woulda had my own.”
Nashville Pussy made their bones in divebars all over the US before befriending Motörhead, who took them on tour in 1999. The experience was a life-changer.
“They taught us everything, says Suys. “They taught us how to tour. They taught us how to do drugs. And Lemmy was incredible. Sometimes I’d see him between soundcheck and the show writing out handwritten letters to his fans. He was just incredible.”
The band took the lessons to heart, and developed a work ethic and tour schedule that made them impervious to the slings and arrows of a dying music industry. MTV, radio, record sales, all of it vanished in the ensuing decades, effectively ending the careers of most of their peers, but Nashville Pussy barely noticed. “Well we never even worked within the industry anyway, really,” Suys says with a shrug. “We were always outsiders, so it didn’t really affect us that much.”
They did have at least one brush with the mainstream, when the hilariously mean-spirited Fried Chicken And Coffee from Let Them Eat Pussy was nominated for a Grammy. That happened, seriously. They also, inexplicably, became bigger than Bruce Spingsteen in France.
“We were on TV in France, and that ended up being great for us,” Suys explains. “It was an afternoon show broadcast all over the country, it was us live. They also had Bruce Springsteen on that show, and now we’re both popular there. We played the same festival, and we had more people than Bruce Springsteen! He had fifty-one thousand, we had fifty-three thousand.”
There were a few bumps along the way, of course. There were sparse times and dirty deals. Perhaps most notably, Nashville Pussy went through as many bass players as Spinal Tap went through drummers before settling in with Bonnie Buitrago nearly a decade ago.
“Being in this band is a big decision, and it wasn’t made lightly by anybody,” says Cartwright. “Getting out is sometimes their last chance for having a normal life, for having a kid or to get health insurance, or whatever. They’re not getting that playing with us. Anyway, that’s always what it was, there were never any big fights or anything. Bonnie’s been with us the longest, and she would’ve been doing this anyway. She’s in for as long as we keep doing this, and I don’t see any reason why we should stop.”
Indeed. Especially now, when one of their strongest records in years, the Daniel Reyproduced Pleased To Eat You, is out in the world. And while the album does show some hints of ‘maturity’ – there’s a Steve Earle cover, and some tasty, classic-rocky Hammond organ riffs – for the most part it’s exactly what you want from Nashville Pussy: a fistful of dirty, lusty, dusty, maximum rock’n’roll. Songs like the ferocious Go Home And Die and the Lemmy-inspired rave-up One Bad Mother deliver the greasy goods with the kind of wild-eyed venom you’d expect from bands half their age. And according to Cartwright, that’s pretty much the way it’s always gonna be.
“The last thing I want to do,” he says, “is, like… I call it the Paul Westerberg [The Replacements] syndrome – you’re in this kick-ass rock’n’roll band, and then all of a sudden you’re sensitive – like out of nowhere. I don’t like it. I don’t wanna sing acoustic songs about how wild and crazy I used to be. I like Lemmy and Iggy and the Ramones and the Rolling Stones. Everybody I really like stays true to their music to the end. I think it’s shitty to change gears on an unsuspecting audience. I still have a lot of energy to blow off. If I ever wanted to do something different, I’d make sure I still had the hard rock going. I don’t really see it happening – I don’t see us cleaning up.”
And they don’t see themselves slowing down, either. They’ve got a whole slew of tour dates planned throughout mainland Europe and the UK. And then… God knows where.
“We used to say we’re never going back to this club or this city or this record label again, and then we always did,” Cartwright says, laughing. I mean, you don’t look at your tour schedule and go:
‘Wow, finally, we’re playing Toledo again! Des Moines, great! Fargo, yeehaw!’ But we’ll go back there, and maybe it’ll be fun. It might end up being a good show. You can never tell when you’re gonna have a good time.”
Truer words never spoken.
“We played the same festival, and we had more people than Bruce Springsteen!” Ruyter Suys
Pleased To Eat You is out now via EarMusic. Nashville Pussy tour the U K in November.
Pussy cats 2018: (l-r) Blaine Cartwright, Ruyter Suys, BenThomas, Bonnie Buitrago.
Nashville Pussy in May ’98: (l-r) Blaine Cartwright, Ruyter Suys, Jeremy Thompson, Corey Parks.
“For what you are about to receive,may the Lord make us truly thankful.” Blaine Cartwright with NP in Montreal, Canada in 2014.
Hair-raising stuff: Ruyter Suys with Nashville Pussy inLisbon, Portugal in 2009.