Nashville Pussy go down in flames.
By Carly Carioli
JANUARY 26, 1998: With a nom-de-sleaze nicked from Ted Nugent's mostly incoherent introduction to "Wang Dang, Sweet Poontang," Nashville Pussy are about to release their first album, Let Them Eat Pussy (Amphetamine Reptile 069), a 12-song, 27-minute seizure in which the Detroit bloodline (Nuge, Stooges, MC5) shares equal time with the alcohol-poisoned speed retch of early Motörhead. The band versify on such noble statements of purpose as "I'm Going Down," "Eat My Dust," "Go Motherfucker Go," plus a cover of the Smokey Robinson/J. Geils chestnut "First I Look at the Purse," everything whizzing by like so many mile markers on the roadkill-splattered highway to hell.
But that's only the beginning. What's made Nashville Pussy the name on the lips of everyone from the puritanical punk 'zine Maximum Rock N Roll to Juliana Hatfield to a friggin' Baldwin brother (Steven, who had his Harley flown in to see 'em at the Continental in New York City, hyped them on Howard Stern's show and took it upon himself to mediate a dispute between the band and the Hell's Angels) is a live spectacle that's somewhere between a Ramones-ified update of the Ike and Tina revue and a circus sideshow. You'll laugh, you'll fry, it's better than Kiss Alive.
Fireplug-shaped frontman Blaine Cartwright (formerly the guitarist and chief songwriter for the Kentucky cowpunk band Nine Pound Hammer) has a choked, raspy growl like Wolfman Jack with a Lemmy in this throat and a redwood-sized chip on his shoulder, bellowing (and not for nuthin' either) about how he's gonna kick everyone's ass. His wife, guitarist Ruyter Suys, flashes a beauty-queen smile, lots of cleavage, and a bag full of gonzo guitar-god leads that could make her America's first unqualified female fret hero. And doing, say, Tribe 8 one better, she's probably the first woman to ever make out with another woman on stage -- while simultaneously letting loose a blazing Angus Young solo. That's no small risk when you consider who she's kissing -- seven-foot (from the heel of her boot to the crown of her cowboy hat) bassist Corey Parks, who looks like a tattered, pornographic phantom of the unreconstructed South, with a huge block-lettered biker-style "EAT ME" tattoo'd on her belly, leopard-print thong panties creeping up her crack, and high Cherokee cheekbones shaded by her beat-up Stetson -- and who one-ups Jerry Lee Lewis by spitting genuine great balls of fire into the audience.
"Ruyter, man, she's hell on wheels," says Parks from the Pussy Palace -- a three-story house in Athens (Georgia) that's sorta their version of the Stooges' Fun House -- where the band are sitting around watching old Ozzy videos. "With that chick, if you're standing in front of her at one of our gigs, you don't know whether you're gonna get kicked in the teeth or if you're gonna get the hottest, juiciest, wettest kiss you've ever had in your life. I've seen her do both on many occasions. Me and her are a double threat -- we give it to you from both sides. I'm more apt to grab someone by the back of the head and shove their face in my pussy than I am to kiss 'em on the mouth."
Parks has sustained third-degree burns on occasion, but her molotov spitballs, which she learned about from an ex-boyfriend ("We split up: I got a real kick-ass belt buckle, I got our dog, Elvis, and I learned how to breathe fire -- that's about all I got out of it"), are more likely to scorch other people than herself. "Generally I'm really good with clubs, but there's instances when I have idiots in the audience who I guess want to be set on fire. You know, I'm assuming that's what they want when I'm standing in front of them yelling for 'em to move. And they're saying, 'Hit me.' Well, all right.
"In New Brunswick I set a guy's mohawk on fire. I blew the flames on him from the waist up. And the fireball came up and enveloped his body -- it didn't catch him on fire but it caught the hairspray that was in his mohawk. He had a twin mohawk, and when the flames came up, his fucking mohawk was on fire, like twin flames. It was beautiful! Someone apparently has a photograph of this guy on his knees with his hands in the air as if he was praying, and the band to the left just fucking rocking like there's no tomorrow, and his mohawk -- twin flames.
"And just in DC we had some freak, said he's gonna sue us 'cause I kicked him in the balls. I was trying to jump off the stage to blow fire in the crowd, and he wouldn't fuckin' move, he was standing there with his mouth dropped down around his fuckin' ankles, so I kicked him in the balls -- I wasn't aiming for his balls, the balls were just there, y'know?"
Flaming mohawks aside, Nashville Pussy represent a new wave of punk rock and roll to emerge from the garage-band underground. In later years garage has begun to evolve from Mod-suited, Farfisa-toting retros emulating the Chocolate Watch Band into a rear-guard action that seeks to reconcile the amped-up energy of punk with the soul and grit of '50s and '60s rhythm and blues, values that have been whitewashed from three-chord pop-punk and hardcore. But even the best of these remiscegenations -- Chuck Berry meets the Ramones (Teengenerate), Little Richard meets the Sonics (the Oblivians), Link Wray meets the Germs (Guitar Wolf), the Crystals meet the Runaways (the Donnas), and the MC5 meet, uh, the MC5 (Lord High Fixers) -- have ended up stranded in a ghetto of tiny labels, vinyl-collecting obsessives, and tunnel-vision 'zines that fall well beneath the radar of the mainstream.
Cartwright's old band, Nine Pound Hammer, labored in this vacuum during the late '80s and early '90s, establishing a solid track record of witty, supercharged hillbilly punk. Over three albums for Crypt Records they distinguished themselves as the menacing, rancid flipside to the twangy, happy-hick kitsch exemplified by Southern Culture on the Skids and the Reverend Horton Heat. And though it's only a hop, skip, and a jump from Nine Pound Hammer to Nashville Pussy, it's not surprising that they're wary of the garage tag.
"Garage tends to be a little thin," says Parks. "We're a rock-and-roll band -- y'know, AC/DC. Motörhead. When I go to a show I wanna be turned on. Like, don't you miss guitar solos? Remember those things, guitar solos? Like, overwhelming fuckin' guitar that just blows you out the fuckin' back door, that's so loud you leave with your ears ringin'? I mean, that's what we wanted, that's what we all miss."
When Nine Pound Hammer called it a day, Cartwright started piecing together a "supergroup." In the original line-up were Hammer drummer Adam Neill and Suys, who'd already co-written one song on Hammer's swan song, Hayseed Timebomb. "During the last Nine Pound Hammer tour, Adam and I were analyzing, well, what would we do different?" says Cartwright. "I wanted to try all kinds of stuff in Hammer, but our singer thought it would cheapen things, and he was probably right. I wrote the songs from his point of view, for his voice and his sense of humor -- he liked to have songs that had a sorta moralistic or political edge to them. These songs are just different -- mostly, Nashville Pussy songs are just about how bad-ass we are. Kiss was the first band I ever saw, and that about sums it up."
Picking up Parks in North Carolina (current drummer Jeremy Thompson replaced Neill), Cartwright whipped Nashville Pussy into shape on a diet of Kiss, AC/DC, Teengenerate, and Devil Dogs covers and promptly hit the road. Last year, their first full year of existence, they played 200 shows (this year they're hoping to top 250) and sold out the first pressings of all three of their singles (the last of which sold out a 1000-copy run in three days). They briefly flirted with signing with Epitaph before inking a one-off deal with Amphetamine Reptile. "We went and looked at Epitaph," recalls Parks. "It was fucking weird. We're walking around this enormous place, it was fuckin' beautiful, very impressive. But it was all these Southern California, dreadlocked, US Bombs T-shirt-wearing guys. Like, if I woulda yelled 'Lynyrd Skynyrd' in that fuckin' place I woulda started a riot. They're running around going, 'This is our accountant, Laura,' and the guy's talkin', talkin', talkin'. But Blaine's dead silent, and the first thing he says is [adopts the drawl], 'Who does yer fuckin' dishes, man?' "
Which makes sense, because Cartwright is a pragmatist, and he understands the pragmatism of American spectacle -- rock or otherwise -- as well as anyone from Kiss to P.T. Barnum, whom he echoes on "I'm the Man": "I'm the man, a real motherfucker/You ain't shit, just another sucker." And Cartwright's trailer-trash-on-wheels spectacular is primed to pounce -- he may have hit at just the moment when the mainstream is ready for a little nasty fun again.
"Our record is on the cover of CMJ this week," muses Parks, "and it's right next to DJ Shadow. We couldn't help but wonder -- we're looking at it going, 'Who the hell is DJ Shadow?' And I'm sure DJ Shadow is looking at it going, 'Who the hell is Nashville Pussy?' "
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