A couple of months ago, Alarcon and I had a little e-caucas to sift through candidates hoping to find the definitive list that may answer that most important of social questions: Who are the hottest female guitarists? Many of you piped in, questioning our choices, and our heterosexuality at points, but one name got unflailing support: Ruyter Suys from Nashville Pussy.
Now being a woman in a band with "pussy" in the title usually will win me over anyway, but Suys is the real deal rock chick. I lurked around during the sound check at a recent show here in town, and tracked down the affable vixen, and pestered her with a couple questions:
Outsideleft: First off, how do you pronounce your name anyway?
Ruyter: Like "rider sighs." Or better, "ride her sighs" (laughs)
How long has the band been together?
A couple of years ago, me and Blaine (frontman for the band) got married. I was a groupie for his band (Nine Pound Hammer)
What was your reaction to being listed as one of the hottest female guitarists?
Totally cool, except I can't believe you didn't include Nancy Wilson. I should've gotten first, because I got cruised once by Joan Jett who's also on your list. I didn't realize who she was at the time, but this fine buff woman with a short Susan Powter bleached cut was totally looking me up and down, and I thought, Damn what a hot chick. It wasn't until after she'd left that I was like Oh shit, that was Joan Jett!
So how is the state of women in rock, in your eyes?
Slowly getting better, if Barbie is any indication. She's even got a guitar now. I didn't have Barbies growing up, I had a guitar, but now girl's can have both.
Do you consider yourself a feminist?
At this point, someone form one of the opening bands was hanging around talking about Hank III and Ruyter had this story:
When I was 23 living in Nashville, I printed up these flyers, looking for people to play with. It said something like "23 year old rock chick guitarist. Likes the Cramps, Lynyrd Skynyrd etc etc" and had this huge list of dislikes and my phone number. Tons of people called me up saying they liked the flyer - and that was it, they didn't ask me to play with them. And Shelton (Hank III's real name) was one of the only people that took me up on it. After a while, he told me that Hank Jr was his dad, which was kinda impressive, but then every one in Nashville is someone's illegitimate child. I know this guy that's Ralph Emory's lovechild, and he's only alluded to in one of the biographies, that there was a child that Emory was paying support for. I though he should call his band "Ralph Emory's Lovechild."
I asked Ruyter for a photo with me, but she put me off until after she "got pretty" so see the above for the results. Plus she was kind enough to make me look tall in the photo.
Now, one other comment before I get to the band a performing/musical entity: It should be said that bassist Karen Cuda is a stone fox in her own right, and a tight bassist to boot. I checked out a couple other bands that evening as a part of my bar hopping ritual, and was struck how the bass was either buried in the mix, or too over the top, like ex Butthole Surfer Jeff Pinkus was playing with his band Honky in the opening slot. A guitar friend said Honky was usually tight as a garrote but the bat cave acoustics in the club were messing up the sound. Dunno, to me, he was all intensity but no groove that night. Cuda, however was in the pocket, looking alien-rocker-chick hot. Blaine Cartwright could reasonably be described as "an ugly motherfucker" (and I say this with some authority, being one myself as evidenced by the story photo) by traditional beauty standards, but he's a hell of nice guy, and has a whooped up preacher-on-crank metal yell verging on Black Metal frenzy, and is one intense frontman. And as he wound up "Keep on Fuckin'" he pointed to Suys, bent over backwards ripping off a godhead solo and shouted "and she keeps on fuckin'...ME!" Big respect, ugly motherfucker.
The band started up with a longish almost psychedelic acid breakdown before knifing into the anthem "Pussy Time." Nashville Pussy has the hard rock chops down, riff heavy like AC/DC with plenty of high rock theatrics especially on the part of Ruyter, resplendent in painted-on tight red jeans and a cup-runneth-over top. She plays to the hilt too, shreds harder than most Sasquatch men on her self-modified Gibson SG (she said the first thing she does is rips out the front pickup so it has just the one volume knob) while whipping every dude and girl in the audience into a hormonal frenzy. Next to me in the pit was a guy staring squarely at Ruyter's merchandise, while his firecracker co-ed girlfriend dry humped him for pretty much the duration of the show. Ahh, to be 20 and be King of the Universe again.
The band tore through their set, pulling mostly from the latest album but also great tunes from their back catalog like "Gonna Hitchhike Down to Cincinnati and Kick the Shit Outta Your Drunk Daddy" and "Go Motherfucker Go" but you start to loose track in the unrelenting torrents of psychobilly madness. I'm rather fond of psychobilly - it's unrepentant in its sleazy shtick, its often pushing the envelope of bad taste, and it kicks all kinds of ass live. Where Nashville Pussy and groups like the Cramps succeed is that they understand what the people want: they want you to put on a goddamn show already.
I think the crowd was waiting for the infamous "Blaine shoves a beer bottle into his kneeling wife's mouth" but it never came to pass. What we did get instead was a final freakout that involved Suys breaking up to three strings on her guitar and using one of them like a bow I think, with Blaine shaking up beers and spraying the crowd and whipping himself up to such a frenzy that we thought he might explode.
It was beautiful stuff. Reminded me of when I first saw Rev, Horton Heat or the Cramps back in '89. It was cheesy sleazy campy hi octane full throttle rock-n-roll. Its life affirming in the current bloodless, neo-shoegazer state of indie rock that someone still remembers that rock-n-roll was originally a jazz term for the one thing that ties all the world's great music together - fucking. And when we lose sight that, fundamentally, it's all about pussy, we've lost the game.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com
March sees a greatly expanded reissue of Elliott Smith's most critically acclaimed album Either/Or