Blaine Cartwright: Guitar, vocals
Ruyter Suys: Lead guitar
Jeremy Thompson: Drums
Karen Cuda: Bass guitar
You might be forgiven for thinking that the players behind Nashville Pussy would be terribly intimidating. You’d be wrong, but it would make sense that the ladies and gentlemen responsible for that sound–and those album covers–would be fiercer than hell. Apparently, though, the fierce is saved for the rock, and Ruyter, Blaine, and Denver’s own Karen Cuda are sweet as can be.
I talked glam rock, sexual politics, and Ike and Tina Turner with a highly caffeinated Ruyter. With Karen, we discussed the Denver scene and the difference between her own work with Hemi Cuda and being the new kid in Nashville Pussy.
Get your asses out to see them with the Supersuckers on Saturday, November 12, and don’t you dare make any comments about women playing guitar. They’re very nice, but I bet these ladies can still kick your ass.
KaffeineBuzz: It’s really funny how hard a time some people have with the word “pussy.”
Ruyter Suys: It’s only music. And even if it wasn’t only music, it’d only be sex, to quote Larry Flynt.
KB: It is only sex. It’s got to be interesting, because people probably don’t expect there to be two women in a band called Nashville Pussy.
RS: That’s the irony. Neither of the women in the band are pussies by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, everyone in the band is kind of ballsy. The music is rather ballsy, too.
KB: I’ve read a lot of comments regarding “the unexpectedly good guitar” or something along those lines. That’s got to be something that gets irritating to you.
RS: Yeah, but you know–I know people have been getting a little better about it, and I haven’t had a lot of predecessors, so I can understand people’s surprise. I do the same thing, as a woman. I go expecting greatness, and I’m often let down. There’s been a few times–the last time I saw Heart, I was really, really, really happy that Nancy Wilson kicks ass. I know exactly how people are.
But I get the same thing when I go watch men, too. Being capable or having good taste has no sexual boundaries. Men suck just as bad as women suck. I can’t say it has anything to do with the sexes. I understand going to shows and being let down by guitar players, that’s for sure.
People are slowly getting used to a woman being both sexually comfortable with herself and being able to rock at the same time, which doesn’t seem to be very hard to do, but for some reason it’s certainly hard for people to get over.
KB: I certainly can’t play the guitar, but still…
RS: My heroes have always been like, Jimi Hendrix, where sex and guitar were like the same thing. No one went “Oh my god, he was humping the guitar!” It’s one and the same. But when a woman does it, all of a sudden that’s all she’s doing. It’s like the guitar playing is–“Oh, does she play guitar too?”
People’s brains get stopped at sex, most of the time, and they won’t go any further. They won’t remember that you played guitar, just stop at “She took her pants off!” and forget the two hours of rock’n’roll that preceded it, whereas if you go to see AC/DC, no one goes “Oh my god, Angus Young showed his ass to everybody!” They go, “That show fuckin’ rocked! And he showed his ass to everybody!” With women, all they do is talk about the ass. But I think people are slowly getting over it.
With this album, especially, people are finally slowly saying that “sex doesn’t matter!” Because I’m female doesn’t matter, this is a great guitar record. I’m very grateful that people are finally coming around to that.
KB: It is a great guitar record. I was going to comment that this record sounds more polished to me, almost a glam-rock sound.
RS: Yeah! I like those words.
KB: The earlier records were a lot more of a punk rock sound.
RS: I think we were still really proving ourselves. When you do have two women in the band–plus, Blaine was in this band called Nine Pound Hammer before he and I met, and we were kind of in a Yoko/John situation, everyone was like, “What are you doing with her? You guys are retards. You’re going to start a band, that’s so stupid! It’s going to fail. It’s not going to be as good as Nine Pound Hammer.”
Nine Pound Hammer was really aggressive, country-punk, kind of like Johnny Cash meets the Ramones, fucking amazing. I married him because he was in that band. He was the most intense guitar player I’d ever watched. He’d set the bar. So one of the things, when Nashville Pussy came out, we had to make sure that we weren’t wussy; that we weren’t all of these things that people were telling us we were going to be. Like, “No, she can’t rock, what are you doing starting a band with your wife?”
It sounded so insanely lame, like the disaster potential was so huge, the chances of us sucking were so huge, that we had to make sure we were heavier and faster than Nine Pound Hammer to start with, just to make sure that we blew everyone’s expectations out of the water.
And then of course when you have women in the band you have to prove that gender has nothing to do with it. Because we’re female we had to prove ourselves a little extra hard. The first records were totally punk rock, proving we can play on this team.
Now we’re kinda relaxed. Now we know we rock! We always have, but we had to take a little breath, do a little practice, do the warm-up fifty million times, but I think the world’s probably ready for us now.
KB: So you’d agree that it’s more of a glam-rock sound on this record?
RS: Oh, totally. We like that sound. It’s not as glam rock as some of the stuff that’s out there at all, but we’ve got a real soft spot for Slade, Sweet, T. Rex, stuff like that. We don’t sound like Marilyn Manson or anything, and he probably could cite all the same people, but yeah, we definitely like that glam rock sound. There’s definitely a little more polish on it this time.
We had Daniel Rey, the guy who worked with the Ramones, as the producer. He’s really good at capturing the riffs in your songs, making them not more poppy, but more catchy, more hooky. I think he’s managed to take a lot of Blaine’s stuff and make it more hooky than ever. It was really cool. And we have a lot of similar tastes, as far as like Sweet and Slade, stuff like that, status quo, a lot of British glam that we haven’t actually been able to tap into before. I think a lot of it had to do with us getting better as musicians, too.
KB: It’s interesting to look at the British glam influences but then again, you’re obviously a Southern band and you have a lot written about a certain very American stereotype.
RS: But that’s continuing an American tradition too, Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd, most bands from that same era, their biggest influence was a band called Free, which was Paul Rodgers who wound up in Bad Company. Free, when they were teenagers, they were one of the most influential bands on the whole rock scene. Skynyrd ripped them off, and Zeppelin ripped them off a bunch, just stole big giant hunks of the songs or just redid the songs, and you assume all this time that it was a Zeppelin song or Skynyrd and it was Free the whole time.
So we’re furthering the Southern tradition, and then Free was trying to be an American blues band. It’s a constant cycle of ripping each other off. Music has no boundaries when it comes to that shit.
KB: This is another new record label for you, right?
RS: Yes indeed.
KB: How many have you been on now?
RS: Oh, too many to count. One per album, I think. But then we also have different ones throughout the world. It seems like record labels end up folding really fast these days. You can’t trust any label anymore. I don’t know if you remember growing up and being able to trust one label to put out all the music you dug. I knew that all the music that comes out on Bonsai Records or something like that, that it would be fine, that I could trust whatever comes out, but no record label is like that anymore. Everyone changes with the wind. Every time we turn around, it seems like another record label’s folding or turning into something else. Everybody’s buying music on the Internet, record labels don’t know what to do anymore.
We kind of take it as it comes. It seems like we found a really good label this time. In North America, these guys put out us, Ted Nugent, George Thoroughgood, and I think that’s it. Then they do all these amazing DVDs, they put out the Rick James DVD from last year, Ike and Tina Turner DVD, really crazy shit, a bunch of stuff off the History Channel. But as far as live music goes, there’s only like five bands they have on the label. So it’s really cool, we get tons of attention, we can phone up and talk to the janitor at the record label and they know who we are. Not like most record labels, you phone up and they’re like “Who?” We were on Universal Records, one of the biggest labels in the world, or it was at the time, and you had no weight whatsoever to throw around. So it’s nice to be on a smaller label, where they know everyone in the band. It’s way cooler.
KB: You mentioned Ike and Tina Turner, so I have to ask you about the cover song, “Nutbush City Limits.”
RS: We love our Nutbush! I don’t know where the hell that is. I wonder if it even exists?
KB: It does. It’s in Tennessee, I think. A guy that I used to work with went to a bike competition in Nutbush, and I remember laughing at the name back then.
RS: Political references aside, it’s funny. Maybe the international people are thinking that, they’re trying to get our take on politics. We’re just big Ike and Tina fans. They’re not the greatest role models in the world, I guess, but they’re me and Blaine’s role models. We’re going to try to take Ike and Tina’s message and do it right.
KB: You mean minus the abuse. Or, you know, mutual abuse.
RS: Yeah, all the stuff that they did wrong, we’re going to try to do it right. And all the stuff that they did right, we’re going to try to do right also. Regardless of how hard Ike beat the shit out of Tina, they made some heavy-duty rock’n’roll. Ike was probably–he’s considered maybe the guy who wrote the very first rock’n’roll song. He played piano on “Rocket 88,” which is like maybe the very first rock’n’roll song ever recorded. The guy’s a genius. And she was too. If we could emulate what they did in any form it would be fantastic. So yeah, they’re our mentors.
KB: Can you tell me some things about Atlanta and the music scene there?
RS: Actually, when we got started we weren’t even in Atlanta. Blaine and I lived in Nashville, our first bass player lived in Chapel Hill, and our drummer at the time lived in Kentucky. So we would meet at our drummer’s mom’s house in Kentucky, hang out for three, four days, deep-fry hamburgers, and learn to play all these songs that we wanted to play. It kind of went from there. And as soon as we learned to play a set, we went on the road. We did our first gig. But we never had a hometown, so our first gig was a road gig. I think we had to drive seven hours to get there. We never had to deal with any kind of local club politics, any of that bullshit.
And then as soon as we got rolling, our house burned down in Nashville, and we wound up being kind of forced to be on the road all the time because we had no home. It put our band into overdrive, we started touring all the time because what else were we going to do? Go home and sit in the pile of rubble? Our house burned to the ground! So anything was better–touring, sleeping on a punk rock guy’s floor next to the kitty litter box was better than going back to Nashville. It was just depressing.
That’s where we got our best start from. We got known really quickly because we were hitting everybody’s hometown that same year. Everywhere. Then the whole band moved in together in Athens for some period of time. That was one of those notoriously nasty rock houses where the whole band lives together. It was kind of gross. We couldn’t handle it. Blaine and I had been married for like five years and to move back into that kind of scene was just awful. And we used to drive past Atlanta all the time, looking at it we’d see the big buildings and go, “Wow, wonder what’s going on in that city.” It just looked so exciting, and then we’d have to drive those last 40 minutes to Athens, they were like the longest 40 minutes of your life, that road to Athens.
So finally me, Blaine and Jeremy all moved to Atlanta. We got too teased from seeing that big beautiful shiny city with all its exciting buildings. So now we’ve all been here for probably six or seven years, and it’s fucking fantastic. It’s like the New York of the south, if anyone wants to move to a big city, this is it, it’s the only place to go. It’s very distracting and it’s perfect for when we get off tour, there’s tons of shit going on all the time. No one gets bored here. Because we’re on the road all the time, we’re pretty trained to get bored really fast. After we’ve been in a city 24 hours, we usually want to leave.
KB: It seems like every time I’ve been to Atlanta there’s a new neighborhood or something springing up.
RS: Oh, yeah. I don’t even profess to know any part of Atlanta whatsoever. We’ve been here for years, but we’ve probably been here in total only a year, if you added up all the months. We still go to the same bar from the first time we came here. Some bars are actually closed so we’ve been forced to find alternates, but we still only know about eight places in the whole city. But we like it. Blaine and I live in an awesome Mexican neighborhood where it seems like we’re on tour all the time because we’re the only ones who speak English. It’s like being in a foreign country all the time.
KB: The last thing I have to ask is how things have been going with Karen.
RS: She’s steppin’ up, man! She’s brought a lot of really great stuff to our recording and to the whole energy, so it’s been really good. We’re kind of busting her cherry right now on the road work, so it’s been fun. She’s a really cool woman, too. I think she was kind of designed by some great god somewhere to do this with us. She’s got all the elements. She’s been slugging it out in Denver for a while, so I think it’s time for the world to meet her. I’m really glad that we are allowed to take her and show her to the world.
(A couple of hours later, I got the lovely Karen Cuda on the phone to get her take on things.)
KB: We wanted to know how things are going for you with Nashville Pussy.
Karen Cuda: It’s been great! Obviously, I’ve been playing someone else’s music. It’s a little different than playing your own songs that you wrote, spilling your own guts, but the subject matter’s always pretty loose and silly and fun and it’s just about rockin’ out. I’m really stoked to be playing with such great players, and we have a great time, and it really doesn’t feel that much different than playing with Hemi Cuda, because I’ve been playing for so long, it’s all kind of the same in certain ways. But we definitely get treated better when it comes to hospitality, and you know there’s always going to be a great crowd. People really go nuts, so it’s really gratifying in that sense. It’s rewarding to be on a bigger level.
KB: Yeah. Denver, is, well, it’s Denver. . .
KC: You know, I hear that a lot from people who live here, but going to so many different places all the time–it’s actually a pretty cool town. There’s a lot of cool bands based out of Denver, it’s just that there’s only a handful that are actually doing stuff, doing what it takes, being on the road and all that. That’s kind of how I got hooked up with this gig in the first place, being on the road with Hemi Cuda so much, just the network of people along the way.
KB: Can you tell me a little more about how you ended up with Nashville Pussy?
KC: We have some mutual friends, since they’ve been touring around forever, and so have we with Hemi Cuda, so when they needed somebody, they contacted our friend Frank Meyer, he plays in a band called Sweet Justice now, he used to be in Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs, and Hemi Cuda’s done a bunch of stuff with them, and he was good friends with Nashville Pussy too, so they trusted his opinion and asked if he knew of anybody that might fit the bill, and he mentioned me. So they called me up and asked if I wanted to come out and play, and I said “sure.” I said “Fuck yeah!”
KB: What are your plans for the future with Hemi Cuda?
KC: It’s on hiatus for now because Annika recently had a baby, and I’m obviously busy with these guys, especially since the album just came out. We did recently record a new album. It’s still in the process of being mixed and completed, but we plan on releasing that within the next year, and then other than that, I’m sure we’ll do more stuff. But we’re finding that right now is a good time to chill out and focus on other priorities. Definitely not done, though.
KB: It’s got to be nice to have something that’s your own and not just playing other people’s songs.
KC: Definitely. I think it’s necessary as a musician. I think that one of the reasons that a lot of us play is to vent, get rid of a lot of our stuff. We have to have an outlet. I’m still always writing stuff, writing words. I might eventually write stuff with Nashville Pussy, they’re pretty open to that. Blaine’s always full of ideas, which is really cool, but yeah, I think I’ll always need my own outlet, be doing my own thing in some sense, even if it’s just me with a four-track in my basement by myself, I’ll still probably always be doing something on my own.
KB: It’s good to see people from Denver getting out and getting noticed. There’s a lot of good bands in Denver, but it seems like a lot of people aren’t willing to get out.
KC: It’s easy to be a big fish in a small pond in this town. You get a taste of what it’s really like when you leave town and you’re playing to people who’ve never heard you before and you’re trying to make an impression and sell your records, that kind of thing. You can play Herman’s Hideaway every week, or Cricket on the Hill and people will come out and you can have your loyal fan base–I guess everybody wants something different out of playing in a band, some people want that and have a family life and do just want to play on the weekends, but if you want to be seen, you want to be recognized, noticed on an international level, you definitely have to get out of town so people can see you.
The thing about Denver, too, is that there’s a lot of cool stuff going on, but there aren’t a lot of industry people, so you can have a packed room, but until you go to New York or L.A., are you going to play in front of anybody that can help you out, from the business aspect of things, record labels, et cetera.
KB: I talked to Ruyter and Blaine earlier, and they had nothing but good to say about you, so it seems like everything’s going well.
KC: As they should! I’m kidding.
Catch Nashville Pussy with the Supersuckers at the Bluebird on November 12th.