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, and they’re also louder than ev­ery­thing else: meet Nashville Pussy.

Classic Rock - - Contents - Words: Sleaze­grinder

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 [2005] 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.

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