My Ruin have long been one of the most exciting and innovative metal bands on the planet. With vocalist Tairrie B’s outspoken lyrical onslaught backed by her partner Mick Murphy’s unquestionable talent for tearing you a new one with his guitar, the band have always been at the forefront of modern heavy music. SPHERE’s Shelly Jenkin catches up with Tairrie for a raw and honest chat about what’s been going down…
“Never be afraid to be yourself. Imitation is suicide.”
S] Good day Tairrie, how are you today?
T] Great! Thank you.
S] Where are you and what can you see outside of your window?
T] I am in my home office. I can see black skies, the shadows of palm trees and the city lights.
S] Do you ever stop to censor yourself and stop from sharing something too intimate with the audience?
T] I suppose that really depends on the situation and the song however, I definitely feel the music Mick writes for My Ruin resonates just as strongly as my lyrics. They really go hand-in-hand with this band. I think that a few sincere, well thought out words and phrases can go a long way. I’ve never really felt the pressure to censor myself because if I did I would be faking it. In fact, it’s quite the opposite with my observations. I have many strong opinions on various subjects and I find it hard not to share more of them in my music. Especially nowadays with the state of our country and how politically aware I have become this past year on so many important issues. As far as being intimate with my audience, I think I’ve always naturally just been that way both on record and stage without really thinking about it but I’ve also learned over the years that sometimes less is more. If I read something back and feel it’s a subject or style which may not be suited for My Ruin yet I am still inspired to tell the story, I have created a different environment where I know that I can be a bit more vulnerable and confessional in terms of novelistic role playing. My side-project The LVRS is a spoken word act set to a more atmospheric style of musical soundscapes which I record with Mick whenever the mood strikes. We like to think of it as violently sexy storytelling while My Ruin is more of the confrontational catharsis. Both bands are very passionate and therapeutic for me as far as my writing yet with both there is that fine line of what is revealed and what is obscured in a metaphorical sense of what I am saying. For me, it’s always been lyrics first as I am not a musician. I am drawn to writing which is sharply perceptive and particularly penetrating no matter what the form of delivery. I love reading and discovering new and classic writers along the way. I try to keep my lyrics relevant to my surroundings, emotions and state of mind at the time I am writing them.
S] You recently got married (congratulations! and what beautiful wedding photographs!) to Mick. How is wedded bliss thus far, and does it make being on tour easier?
T] Thank you. It was a beautiful day and being married has been really nice. No complaints. I’ve been touring since 1996 before I met Mick and to tell you the truth, I’m kind of burnt on the idea of being on the road at the moment so we’re taking a little break from playing live but I’m sure I will feel differently next year once our new album is done and a few new things we are currently working on are in place. I’ve never really been a huge fan of living out of a suitcase and sharing my personal space for long periods of time and the road can be very unpredictable depending on the tour and people in our band at the time. Mick and I have not yet had a chance to get in the van or bus as husband and wife however we’ve been together for over nine years and have toured a great deal in that time so when we hit the road again, the only difference is that we will be wearing wedding rings.
S] Have you any good anecdotes from the last tour? And, what was the most significant or memorable moments?
T] There are always memorable moments on tour that will stay with you forever and then there are those you would like to forget. I think our most significant moments happened soon after our last tour ended, not so much on it but I will say that on the last night of the tour, one of the opening bands decided to dress as My Ruin on stage during their set and seeing the singer, who happened to be a black guy with a huge afro, dressed like me right down to my make-up & tattoos was definitely one of my funniest memories from the tour.
S] You have been Tairrie B as we know her now for roughly a decade…In that time the music scene has changed dramatically. Are you pleased to have ‘survived’ it and what are your thoughts on the industry at present?
T] It’s a bit longer than that actually but yes, I guess you could say I’m a survivor although, I’ve always felt very disconnected to the music industry. Mick likes to say ‘nothing means anything anymore’ and I have to agree on some levels. I have many conflicting feelings about the business of music in general. I think that the more things change, the more they stay the same I suppose. I don’t find there are any huge changes being made in music scene these days except to say that there seems to be a lot of bands with the same carbon copied female vocalist popping up all over the place but nothing I find to be that interesting unfortunately.
I see a lot of slick costumes or silly almost inappropriate ‘little girl’ looking dresses on many of these frontwomen but there’s no message except, ‘Look at me and want to fuck me’. True rock and roll is about saying ‘fuck you’ and that’s the message I relate to. I think it’s time for women to bring some real aggression back into the equation but that’s just my opinion. On a good note, I do think there are a lot more bands these days adopting the DIY approach and that’s great to see happening because I believe we’ve reached a point now, where the powers that be behind the scenes have really sort of sold out the ‘art’ part of the artist. I’ve learned a lot about the industry over the years through personal experience and while music has a holiness and sanctity about it, unfortunately the big machine does not. Music has always been a very powerful force in my life as well as my husband’s and it’s something we both feel should not to be watered down or manufactured into soulless, mindless bullshit. The major labels are these giant conglomerates slowly turning music into fast food commercials where everything is pre packaged to sell a certain way to a certain demographic and they have lost touch with the true artist which to me is the ultimate sin. The business of music is based on numbers and unit sales, and quantity, not quality. I do feel there is a difference between the two. It’s very difficult in this day and age to find people in the corporate world who actually care about the music much less the artists they are signing, most don’t care about what they sell, they just want to sell it.
My Ruin is not a huge band by any means but we are just as relevant today as we were yesterday and will be tomorrow. I think our music can stand the test of time and I’m proud that I can say that. I’ve watched so many bands create a buzz, get that hype, get signed, get dropped and disappear. It happens constantly. It’s hard for an independent band to sustain their musical life for so many years and stay true to their art and I think we have done both but it takes dedication and belief in yourself when others do not have it in you. Many of the bands we love don’t sell millions of records but we still love and support them because that has nothing to do with it. There are many things I would like to see change in music and hopefully they will someday, as for now I just call it like I see it.
S] If you made me a mixtape, what songs would you put on it?
T] I’d probably put a little bit of everything I enjoy listening to. At the moment it might be Unida, The Hellacopters, X, Boss Hog, Kiss, Derringer, Barry White, Vincente Fernandez, Sly And The Family Stone, Parliament Funkadelic, Danzig, Burning Grass, Ana Kefr, Black Flag, Boogie Down Productions, Blood Duster, Van Halen, Kyuss and Ice Cube with a little My Ruin thrown in for good measure.
S] Blasphemous Girl Designs is another project you have immersed yourself in. Can you talk about your aesthetic sensibilities with regard to the designs you create?
T] I’ve always been of the opinion that inspiration comes when you least expect it and I started BGD because I was inspired to create something personal for the fans of my band as a sort of extension to our regular merchandise. I wanted to give them something they would feel was more like a keepsake and made on a personal level for them by me alone rather than just a mass produced t-shirt. BGD is an eclectic range of both custom created and deconstructed one-of-a-kind designs. My collections feature everything from hand-crafted sacred adornments, to limited edition conversational pieces in the form of jewellery and clothing.
I like the idea of transforming and combining unusual elements together and I refer to it as wearable art created for the individual at heart. In my last collection, which was based around jewellery, I had a few signature pieces such as my stamped leather hearts like the one featured on My Ruin’s ‘Throat Full of Heart’ album cover, relics and ex-votos which I really love because they are so unique and real statement pieces. I also mixed religious icons and vintage chains to form a unique heavy metal synthesis by way of multi-chain necklaces. In my new second collection which I have just launched, there are a few leather hearts back by popular demand and some new jewellery designs such as clay skull rings and snakeskin cameo wristbands but my main focus is on the clothing side of things with patch worked and studded denim vests, jackets and jeans, collaged appliqué and iron on t-shirts, painted vintage slip dresses, military caps and various embellished knitted and leather items. I also decided to cut a bunch of custom stencils which have been incorporated within many of my pieces. I’m very drawn to religious icons and I enjoy using these images within my designs mixing them with rock and roll inspired found objects such as tone and volume knobs and various vintage materials such as brass door plates, chains and cameos. I’m self-taught so I just do it as I go and let my subconscious ideas flow. I think that’s the fun in for me as well as the beauty of it. Having an unconventional approach to my designs allows me to be impulsive when I’m in the process of creating. Each piece is made with love and has a whimsical feel to it which is the whole vibe to BGD. It’s about working intuitively.
S] What are your views on the way you are portrayed by the music press – You are one of the most polite and softly spoken musicians I have had the fortune to meet, a description which is in opposition to what’s sometimes written about you. Do you worry about conflicting tales about your persona?
T] I really can’t help how people perceive me and at this point in my life I really don’t care. I am who I am. I do think that my ‘persona’ has been a bit overblown in the music press almost as many times as my band has been misunderstood but that’s how it goes and I’m not exactly what you would call a ‘shrinking violet’. I definitely have a strong personality and I’m not afraid to speak my mind whenever necessary but I’ve never really gone out of my way to provoke strong reactions in people or try to be verbally shocking. I think I’m actually calmer and more low key than people would expect me to be. My relationship with music press, especially in the UK, has run the extremes of both hot and cold over the years and I suppose in some circles my reputation precedes me but the truth is that many of the people who have an opinion about me have in most cases, never even met me. So there you go.
So many women in rock these days seem to find it necessary to portray an over the top sex kitten image to draw attention to their band which I just find kind of sad really. If your music is great then you don’t need to resort to dressing like a hooker on stage to compensate. I prefer the focus be about my body of work rather than my body and my music has always been more important than my outfit. You teach people how to treat you and when you dumb yourself down to nothing but tits and ass then that’s what you become. Anyone can take their clothes off in a photograph. To me, that’s backtracking when women have been fighting for so long to be heard and not just seen as sex objects. I have known a few women in my genre who although they claimed to have strong opinions, have felt the need to keep quiet on certain issues because they were afraid they would be labelled a bitch or hard to work with. I guess I’ve done the opposite.
I’ve always been outspoken on topics that concerned me because it’s who I am as a person and it’s important to me that people know I have a brain. There are people I do not like and I do not hide it. I find it hard to be fake just so people will like me and well, I’m not running for political office or most popular. I’d rather be myself and keep it honest whatever the outcome. I really could care less how many friends I make or lose these days. In many ways, the press world has become a lot like Hollywood, meaning it’s who you know and all a bit bitchy and backstabbing. Especially on the publicist side of things, these people can sometimes be bigger divas and drama queens than the artists they work for, believe me. As far as the critics go, why should I be nice to people who have given my band bad reviews? By ‘bad’ I do not just mean ‘not good’. I mean hateful. I take it very personally when people attack my band for whatever the reason but it really cuts when it becomes so apparent that it is personal and has nothing at all to do with my music.
There are a few writers out there who feel it necessary to try and put me in my place and diminish my work by insulting it for no other reason than they have a chip on their shoulder. When our music is just lumped into some genre that we have nothing in common with such as ‘Goth’ or our songwriting is reduced to nothing more than ‘hate’ lyrics, it strikes a chord with me. It all becomes a bit tiresome after a while and rather than get upset I’ve learned I have to just laugh it off. I’ve grown a great deal as a woman and developed as an artist over the years. I’m not the same person I was when I released my first metal album in 1996. Yes, I am still as strong and steadfast in my convictions as I ever was but I have also learned to be more restrained and no offense but as the years go by I am becoming more and more violently allergic to journalists in general.
S] My Ruin have finished another round of extensive touring this past year and released a new live album & DVD as well as a full length album…dare I ask what is next?
T] Mick and I went through a lot together and with our band after the last tour and after we got married we made a decision to take a break from playing live shows for a while and sort regroup musically speaking and just enjoy being newlyweds for a while. I also wanted to do some designing with BGD and get my store going and maybe do a little spoken word recording with our side-project. We didn’t necessarily plan on getting back in writing mode with My Ruin so quickly but it just sort of happened and we started working on what will be our seventh studio album. We have a lot of new songs written at the moment now we’re really excited about recording our next album once we are ready to do so. I’m also working on something related to music and my past but in a book which is something I have been casually talking about for years and I’m finally setting time aside to focus on. It’s been nice having some personal time away from all the pressures and deadlines of My Ruin but I know they are just around the corner.
S] Thank you very much Tairrie, have you any words of wisdom with which to depart?
T] Never be afraid to be yourself. Imitation is suicide.
For more information visit the band’s Myspace.
Check out this video for ‘Religiosity’ below: