By Carl Begai
I recently caught up with My Ruin vocalist Tairrie B. for BW&BK to discuss the band’s new album, Ghosts And Good Stories. My first ever interview with Ms. B. took place in 1997 for her one and only Tura Satana album, Relief Through Release, which lasted over an hour (thank hell I brought a 90 minute tape with me – yes, in the age before digital doodad recording). The second go ‘round happened in 2000 for the A Prayer Under Pressure Of Violent Anguish record, a long distance one-hour chat that I’m hoping the label paid for. It came as no surprise, then, that our long overdue meeting of the minds resulted in another marathon conversation. Check out Chapter 1 here, then feed your brain on Chapter 2 below…
Long before Arch Enemy vocalist Angela Gossow was a metalhead household name, way before In This Moment’s Maria Brink and Walls Of Jericho’s Candace Kucsulain became screamo pin-ups, Tairrie B. Murphy was shredding up a vocal storm. My Ruin’s new album, Ghosts And Good Stories, features Tairrie at the top of her game and out for blood. The fact that the aforementioned bands boast flashier promotion and bigger tours than My Ruin hasn’t left her bitter, just more determined to continue educating people with quality mayhem.
“To be perfectly honest, I’m not really interested in the kind of so-called respect a band like In This Moment gets,” states Tairrie, blunt and to the point. “I’m familiar with the band as they used to open for us in LA, and they are nice enough people, but I’m not a fan of their music or image in any way. I find it all very contrived and derivative of many other bands that have come before them; just my personal opinion. We took Walls Of Jericho on tour with us in the UK back in 2004 and they got a great response. Again, not a fan of their music or genre, but Candace is an energetic front woman on stage. I just find it hard to take some of these bands that play up the whole tough-and-independent-strong-female-vocalist persona seriously when I know behind the scenes the guys in the band are basically in control of everything. I’ve seen that with a lot of female fronted bands over the years. No one has ever told me what I can or cannot do or say in my last band or my current one and no one ever will – including my husband. I have my own mind and I speak it just like Mick (Murphy / guitarist, husband) speaks his. We make decisions as partners rather than someone telling the other one what they can do and we respect ourselves, which is the most important respect to have in the music industry as far as we’re concerned. I think our passion for our music is what pushes us and has continued to push us to where we are today with the release of our sixth album together.”
“We’ve actually supported many bands on real tours and played some really great one offs as guests of bands like Slipknot and Motörhead,” she continues, “but the truth is, we’ve also been offered tours we have no interest in being a part of, especially when it comes to touring with some of these female fronted bands who are popular nowadays in the metal scene. Just because My Ruin has a woman does not mean we go well with every band with a chick singer. I hate getting lumped into a certain category just because I’m a woman. Other than Juliette Lewis and Alison Mosshart of the Dead Weather I cannot name a female in rock I find interesting or original at the moment…especially in our genre.”
Tairrie also shares Gossow’s view that the meat market approach taken by many of the women in metal these days destroys any chance of credibility.
“Most of these girls are more interested in posing half naked and becoming the next ‘Hottest Chick In Metal’ than having any sort of musical integrity as an artist. There are too many catsuits, costumes and egos for my taste. I don’t bitch about things because it is what it is. I simply state the facts and the fact is My Ruin is not a part of the mainstream metal world on certain levels because we have refused to play the game or kiss the right rock ass. It would be great if more people knew of our band but on that same note, in order to get commercial success and acceptance you sometimes have to sell yourself out and become something you’re not and we’re just not willing to do that, so I guess it’s the cross we have to bear.”
Speaking of image, it’s interest to note that Tairrie and husband Mick have never downplayed their status a couple. In fact, they’ve gone so far as to launch a spoken word project under The LVRS, which says it all.
“There’s one thing I can’t stand in rock and that’s when someone is phony about who they are or the image is they portray in their band to their fans. It’s pretty pathetic when couple in a band lie about their relationship simply because they want their fans to think they’re available. I think it’s important to be honest with your audience and most importantly yourselves. They respect you for it and you don’t come off like a couple of Hollywood douchebags.”
“The LVRS is heavy in a whole other way,” she says in comparing the project to My Ruin. “We’ve just recorded a new album called Lady Speaks The Bruise which is available to download online (www.thelvrs.bandcamp.com) along with our previous album, Death Has Become Her from 2006, which was a limited edition CD that’s now out of print.”
Strength in a woman can be intimidating, but in contrast to Tairrie’s tough-as-nails approach to her music, performance, and things that set her off she and husband Mick are remarkably fan friendly. They provide almost daily updates on My Ruin’s activities and occasional glimpses in to their personal lives outside the music, and for Ghosts And Good Stories they welcomed the fans into their proverbial living room, issuing professional quality behind-the -scenes video episodes from the recording sessions. For an old warhorse of a band without big label support to go to such lengths is uncommon, and they should be applauded for their efforts.
“Old? Damn, we’re not exactly Def Leppard, Mr Begai. Jesus! I prefer the term ‘veteran.’ It sounds a bit more suited to our style since we’re not a band from the ‘80s, but we have a history and a nice collection of recordings under our belt (laughs).”
“Multi-media technology isn’t really new to us. We’ve actually been embracing this type of thing since the beginning of our career and before many bands were doing it. In 1999 I documented the making of My Ruin’s first album Speak & Destroy in a short film based on my recording sessions in London before I took it from essentially a solo project to a band in 2000 when I met Mick. During the recording of our A Prayer Under Pressure Of Violent Anguish record we documented everything including our album listening party, which we made into a home video and sold exclusively at shows and online. In 2003 we got a bit slicker and I put together a 13 minute film noir style movie/EPK with the director of our ‘Made To Measure’ video that featured live footage, photos, personal interviews and studio footage of our band for our album ‘The Horror Of Beauty’. We also filmed the making of our ‘Made To Measure’ video as well. We’ve actually acquired quite a collection of footage over the last 10 years from various shows and interviews. It would probably make for an interesting film about the band as a whole if we ever decided to do that.”
“Interesting” isn’t the half of it…
“On our 2008 album Throat Full Of Heart we decided to film our studio sessions for a different reason at first not with the intent to put them on the album. I was in a serious car accident the night before we were scheduled to start recording and ended up in the hospital having surgeries and almost losing my left arm. Instead of canceling our recording I asked Mick to go ahead as scheduled and document it for me so I could feel like I was there with everyone while I was in the hospital. I had shared some of my healing process online with our fans, and when the time came for me to record my vocals I was still in the midst of my recovery with an arm full of staples and stitches, so I thought it would be interesting to document my recording sessions as well. It eventually became a part of our album as a second disc DVD along with the making of our ‘Ready For Blood’ video.”
In all honesty, Ghosts And Good Stories is something of a surprise. It has an infectious ebb and flow that hasn’t been heard on a My Ruin album in years – personal taste prevails – raising questions as to whether the Murphys’ changed their focus or attitude compared to previous outings prior to the latest recording sessions. Asked if she’s surprised by the strength of her own work, Tairrie simply considers it a great day at the office.
“I don’t think I was surprised by the end result on the new album because we worked hard to achieve it and I’m very happy with it. I’m really not sure what you’re talking about in regards to something having changed in terms of our focus. Our new album is not a total 180 % different style of recording or stretch from our previous records. Maybe it’s just the fact that we had more time, less drama surrounding it and only three people creating it. Josh Lynch who co produced the album with Mick did an amazing job in helping us to capture our sound this time around and together with Mick produced a truly beautiful and brutal recording that has a timeless feel for us which I hope others will find to be true as well when they hear it.”
In closing Tairrie offers a look behind the title of the new album, as no My Ruin fan would believe for a moment that she picked “Ghosts And Good Stories” out of thin air because it sounded cool.
“The title was inspired by something I had read one evening written by a good friend of mine from Knoxville. These four words just sort of jumped out at me because they seemed to embody a very classic Southern Tennessee Williams vibe. For some reason I began to feel compelled to call the album this based on everything Mick and I had been going through leading up to the time we began our writing. It was very descriptive of what our recordings meant to us in regards to our life and I couldn’t seem to get the phrase out of my head. I guess you could say the ‘Ghosts’ represent the people who are no longer with us in the metaphorical sense but seem to continue to haunt us in Los Angeles by six degrees of separation. The ‘Good Stories’ represent exactly what they are, the interesting true life tales which inspired the lyrics.”
“The black and white photo on the album’s cover is actually a real vintage shot of my great-grandparents from the early 1900’s in front of their home back in Michigan. I came across it while looking for something else packed away in an old wooden box filled with family photographs when we were writing. I remembered having seen it years ago and never really giving it much thought but when I saw it again it really spoke to me as the image that illustrated the album title. It brought it to life visually in my mind because I could kind of see myself and Mick within it, in some otherworldly way. The story of My Ruin is much like the story behind that photograph, rich with history and a colorful past, very fitting.”
Check out my interview with Mick Murphy here. My review for Ghosts And Good Stories can be found at this location.
For a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the album go to My Ruin’s YouTube channel. Audio samples and purchase information can be found here.