By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
The overall impression: a hard-working, professional, talented, charismatic, distinctive, modern arena-rock band. In a small club. With no record contract.
THE CONDITION IS TEMPORARY. MY Ruin will get signed again and make more CDs; they have a slew of unrecorded material, and Tairrie B simply won't allow it to go unheard. The only question is how long the next label alliance will last -- there are wrecks in Tairrie's wake. Still, My Ruin is her best shot yet at a durable run. Part of the reason is maturity and experience. Another part is the stabilizing influence of Murphy, the wayward yet dependable son of a Southern Republican atheist.
"He is my partner, and I know that My Ruin wouldn't be this band without him," says Tairrie. "I'd be doing spoken word in a café had I not met this man. He changed my life."
The life of Tairrie B has been like a guerrilla war. Raised by her grandparents in Sylmar. Running wild and in trouble from an early age. Identity clash as a white girl bouncing among cultural allegiances -- Anglo, Latino and black. Breakdancing on the street. Digging rap and figuring she might try it herself.
The rap idea sounded good enough to N.W.A's Eazy-E that he signed Tairrie B to his Ruthless Records and in 1990 released a star-studded album, The Power of a Woman, that turned out to be the first by a white female rapper. There were conflicts, but she held her own.
"I had to deal with some pretty scary people, and some pretty misogynistic and racist men," says Tairrie, describing her attitude as, "No, I'm not gonna fuck you for a record deal. I'm not gonna suck your dick for you to produce my record. I'm not gonna sit here and shut my mouth so you can make all the publishing money, and I'm just some token white bitch who stands around and gets called the devil all day."
According to Tairrie, Dr. Dre even laid hostile hands on her at the 1990 Grammy Awards. But the most damaging fracas occurred after she read a bad freelance review of her album in BAM by Cashbox staffer Ernest Hardy (now a frequent Weekly contributor). Hardy had opined that a certain song made one long for James Cagney to show up with a grapefruit, and she barged into his office, daring him to apply the citrus himself. Her name-calling and the bad vibes that were generated cost her the support of her label's publicity staff, which refused to promote her. So her first album was stillborn. Her second, already in the can, was never released. In late 1992, still under contract to Ruthless, she exited with the tapes to No. 2, and walked on down the road.
It didn't matter. Tairrie was into rock now, anyway. She saw the light when she caught Ice-T's "Cop Killer" act with the rap-rock fusion group Body Count, and became one of the first to follow, in 1993 forming Manhole -- a name that had already been claimed, so it was changed in 1997 to Tura Satana.
"I wanted to write lyrics about stuff that meant something to me," she says. "Abortion. Rape. Domestic abuse. The media. I started working for Rock for Choice, and the Feminist Majority, and for battered-women's foundations. And I just grew up really quick in the early '90s."
For inspiration, Tairrie was looking to Glenn Danzig, Phil Anselmo, Henry Rollins, Nick Cave. And she was thinking, as she's recalled many times, "I don't want to fuck 'em, like all those other girls around here. I'm gonna be them."
Though Manhole copped a buzz in England thanks to Tairrie's tough stance and hot look, the group, undersupported and underdistributed in the USA, didn't make waves at home. Tairrie felt her bandmates lacked the drive to make it, and besides, she was ready to drop the mosh pit and the politics and get more personal. So that story ended in 1998, just as Tura Satana won a Kerrang award for best independent band.
The ever-busy Ms. B launched her solo-project stage of My Ruin with the aid of bassist Melanie Makaiwie, members of Downset and a number of other friends, releasing the poetry & punishment Speak & Destroy in 1999. She had seen Murphy, who'd fronted a couple of bands already, and wanted to hijack his ax; soon they were sharing more than studio time. Mattox, who'd been in the punk band Naked Aggression and Taime Downe's the Newlydeads, came onboard for A Prayer Under Pressure, and . . . hmm, this was starting to look like a band. Once they found out how much New York rock vet Yael added to their live show, it was a done deal. Tairrie's Ruin was everybody's.
A Prayer Under Pressureis a high-impact record. Good playing, good co-production with boardsman Nick Raskulinecz (Danzig, Foo Fighters), whose knack for translating rock to disc gets A-pluses from Tairrie and Mick. But My Ruin's next one is going to kill. These four have toured a lot, and they're now a unit with dimensions; ä they can bring all their shit to the table. Murphy will step out on guitar. Mattox and Yael breathe together; they're having fun. And Tairrie -- let's think for a second about what she contributes, besides that jaguar roar.