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
MS. B IS WHAT GUY PINHAS, A BASSIST and a retail promoter who worked with her at Noise Records during her Manhole days, calls "a promotion machine." She's on the phone, to journalists, labels and whoever she thinks can help the band, seven days a week. Pinhas fondly recalls one wake-up call from her at 8 on a Sunday morning. Largely through her efforts, My Ruin has secured endorsements from yin to yang. On the road with Kittie, they were down with Red Bull. Or up with it.
"We had 40 cases, and we were like this . . ." Tairrie pants and bugs her eyes. "We were Red Bulled out of our mind."
Tairrie endorses Sennheiser microphones; Murphy does Gibson guitars; Mattox got a bass from Fernandez; Yael had DW drums make her a signature kit, and also does ads for Paiste cymbals and Regal Tip sticks. A friend's clothing company, Beauty Fiend (also a song title, not coincidentally), sponsored the Kittie tour; a new supporter is Hot Topic, a chain of nearly 400 Goth/rock mall stores that normally takes on only big names like Marilyn Manson and Korn. But My Ruin records are right there on its shelves.
My Ruin also take their own store on the road. Many bands do, but there's a twist here: My Ruin's "merch church," in addition to dispensing the group's own CDs, T-shirts, candles, bracelets and pins, serves as a kind of trading post, where fans can bring in Ruination they've made at home, and maybe compare it to Tairrie B's own clothing line.
Called Blasphemous Girl after a song from Speak & Destroy ("Honesty looks good on you"), the line is basically thrift-store jackets, dresses and what-all that Tairrie has artfully amended with paint, song lyrics ("Please forgive me for not being pretty"), religious images, rosaries, non-functional zippers and many, many safety pins. You can find them at a few places in L.A., including Blest on Cahuenga in Hollywood, a boutique featuring similar-minded clubwear. Going through the racks, one notices that Tairrie has also adorned most of the items with a patch or a button featuring the My Ruin logo -- fashion and advertising. "Smart girl," says the saleswoman.
All this marketing, as well as the groundwork laid with Tura Satana, paid off on the Kittie tour, My Ruin's first U.S. circuit appeal.
"We turned a lot of heads," says Murphy.
"We had a big tip jar," Tairrie amplifies, "and parents were handing us, like, hundred-dollar bills, going, 'We want to help you! We understand!'"
Likewise, footage from My Ruin's 2001 tour of England documents shrieking crowd receptions and a front row of young women made up to look like Tairrie, who says she's often approached by fans who credit her songs with boosting them through a rape or a self-image crisis. Though not overweight herself, she's been shafted for not being an emaciated rock ä waif: "I'm not anorexic, 'cause I fuckin' eat," goes a lyric to "Weightless."
As word of mouth grows, the wonderful world of product releasing gets ever crazier. While My Ruin's CDs haven't been universally available due to premature burial by Spitfire, the American label that licensed the English releases for distribution, Tura Satana's have just been augmented and repackaged -- without Tairrie's consultation or approval -- to capitalize on renewed interest generated by her recent work. She's telling everyone not to buy them.
IN THE MIDST OF SUCH UNCERTAINTY, the four seem quite relaxed at a rehearsal a couple of days before the Troubadour gig, despite a couple of semicasualties. The first: Tairrie's calling Mattox "Meghan Mad-Pox" tonight -- the bassist is dragging, having soldiered in despite a fever and numerous scary-looking chickenpox all over her face, which she'll pancake over for the show.
"I'm thirsty," complains Yael.
"You want some calamine lotion?" Mattox offers.
The other wounded party is Tairrie B -- she's spent nine hours getting hair extensions, which are piled on her skull like rag bundles. "My head feels like it weighs 300 pounds," she whines. "I can hardly rock."
Murphy, who's just gotten his baby, a rare Gibson R/D, back from the shop, gently prods them into action. And they play. Very, very loud. Tairrie's doing full-on stage moves. "Turn the guitar up!" demands Yael. "Turn it down!" yells Tairrie, and they giggle. Tairrie wants to switch a couple of songs. The rest veto her.
It sounds good. There's the slower, Sabbathy stuff, and the gut-punching, punky stuff. Freaky effects from Murphy; a tight unison ending. A new song, "Get Pretty," has a particularly irresistible, musicianly, off-accented groove that will go down well in concert. A direction for the future?
Well, nobody knows the future. All we know is the past, and My Ruin have positioned themselves in a long line of L.A. rock that goes from the Doors to the Runaways to L7 to Rage Against the Machine and System of a Down. And let's not forget X.
"Exene's one lady who hasn't gotten true credit for a lot of things that she's done," says Tairrie, who shares the X-woman's love for religious art and offbeat clothes. "She's an underground hero."