Nashville Pussy guitarist Ruyter Suys just can’t get enough.
And with constant touring, recording and writing in the mix, her life is a lot like a Nashville Pussy record — fast and loud.
Her husband, Blaine Cartwright, plays guitar alongside her in Nashville Pussy, and when they aren’t hard at work on that, they're usually out touring and writing with a host of other projects.
Nashville Pussy’s latest album, Up the Dosage, is raw and reckless. Littered with filthy lyrics, sexy licks and heavy riffs, it is rock and roll to the core. I recently spoke to Suys about Up the Dosage, her rock and roll life and her extensive gear collection.
GUITAR WORLD: It’s been five years since the last Nashville Pussy release, From Hell to Texas. What have you been up to?
Well, in the Nashville Pussy world, it's constant touring. Blaine and I also have a radio station called Slinging Pig Radio through Slinging Pig records, and in the last year we’ve written and recorded with four of the bands through that. See, we accidentally get downtime and then — bam — we join a band.
Blaine wound up reuniting with his old band, Nine Pound Hammer, and they toured and recorded an album. Then he started a whole new band with the Remnants called Kentucky Bridge Burners, and they recorded an album. I’m on about 80 percent of that, playing mandolin and keyboards. When he was in Europe with Kentucky Bridger Burners, I joined a comedy metal band called Dick Delicious and the Tasty Testicals. We recorded an album and toured.
We did two tours. We did one with Nashville Pussy and the Dwarves. Then we did our own solo tour, which was fucking insane, and I’m totally impressed no one went to jail and we all came back alive.
The new Nashville Pussy album, Up the Dosage, came out last month. How does that fit in among all your other projects?
We always collect riffs. Between one album and the next we spend a lot of time just laying down groovy tracks and keeping them close to you, in your voice memos on your iPhone or a cassette or what have you. We’re just always collecting riffs, so when it came time to record this album you just go back to the files and find out what rocks.
The writing of the songs and the recording of the album didn’t take more than a month total. It went really fast, and I think most of it was from being pent up. We hadn’t done this in a while with Nashville Pussy, so when we got to the studio and it was just kinda like you hadn’t got laid in a while, y’know? We were all just fucking ready to go, and it just came out really fast.
Where did you record it?
We recorded at Nitro Sonic in Lexington, Kentucky. It’s kind of like our little home away from home. We’ve got all types of shit there. The producer/engineer Brian Pulito is the old Nine Pound Hammer drummer. He quit the band to start his own studio, and we’ve sort of got this partnership going on with him right now.
We keep all of our gear there that we don’t take on the road, and we collect shit everywhere we go. You collect amps and guitars, fucking keyboards, mandolins and violins and anything that goes "bing!" Our house was just overflowing with gear, and one day we decided, we’re taking this all to Kentucky.
We managed to load up most of our shit and bring everything to the studio and essentially store it there and it can be used by anyone who records there. We have a shit load of Marshalls there, the Fender Rose, the Warwick. I have a giant Yamaha speaker cabinet for vocals or piano, and we got all these guitars we collected over the years hanging up there. It’s our little oasis.
So with all this gear you've collected, what do you use to record?
Ah, man, my setup is always like a Marshall half-stack and an old pre-'70s Champ. Those are my sounds. I’ve got my SG Standard. It’s glorious; I have a number of them.
Were you searching for a specific tone on the record? Did you know exactly what you wanted?
We just used what we liked, but that little Champ has been taking over the sound more and more as the years go by. We only use it in the studio. It’s like a foot high and classic Jimmy Page. Neil Young used one too. It’s just got a fantastic fucking sound and a single speaker. You can’t bring it on the road. We were splitting the signals with one line going to the Marshall, some on the Fender and then the Champ. We’d go back and forth leaning more toward the Marshall or the Fender. But as the recording progressed, we were just going straight Champ.
It was almost all Champ. It’s got such a fucking great sound and, of course, we put it in a hallway instead of like in a booth, and everyone had to be really quiet when they’d walk over. We eventually just started miking it more and more in this hallway, and it just sounded fucking phenomenal. That little itty-bitty thing put out so much great sound.
How was it working with Rick Beato? Was this your first time doing an album with him?
Yeah, he’s a friend of the band. We had mixed it on our own and we really liked it. When we played it for Rick, he was like, "Man, I think I can do it better." So we gave it a shot and he did one song and played it for us and everyone was like, "Oh yeah, we gotta let him do the whole fucking thing.” I think he was itching to do something heavy. He managed to really bring out a good fucking solid punch.
Before we met we had this hilarious conversation on the phone. He was like, “Well, what do you want out of this album?” So I said, “I’m a guitar player,” and he goes, “What does that mean?” So I say, “What do you think I’m gonna say?” He answers, “You’re gonna tell me to turn up the guitars.” I said, “Exactly.” So if I don’t have to tell you to turn up the guitars, then everything is fine.
That explains one of the songs you wrote for the album — "White and Loud."
This is a message to all you countries out there that have a fucking 90-db limit at a public fucking festival. Jesus Christ, man, there's nothing more disheartening than being at sound check and them telling you the snare is too loud. You know we have Marshalls, right?
Well, you have to crank those.
Exactly, man. You don’t buy a Marshall stack to be the quietest thing in the house. The whole idea is to drown out my mother.
On the song "Hooray for Cocaine," you’re playing mandolin. How long has that been going on?
Yeah I’m playing a mandolin on that one for the high girly vocals. I’ve been playing mandolin seven years or so. I don’t really practice it or anything like that, I just kind of have a Jimmy Page problem, where he played mandolin so I want to play mandolin. And it’s fucking fun to play. It’s like playing speed metal, that shit. I just keep the mandolin when we’re touring, and on the bus I’ll jam along with whatever music we’re listening to. It’s a fun little challenge to get your fingers across the little frets.
When you guys are playing live, do you stick to the record or is there some jamming going on?
We usually have a little area where we jam out. We have a couple of songs that require jamming. We used to do "Nutbush City Limits," a Tina Turner song, and that always had a nice little hook we could just fuck off for a while and do whatever the hell we wanted. We’ve almost always had a song that required a section like that. So yeah, there’s always an element of jamming. And I’m not exactly tied to any of my solos. I have a tendency to make shit up a lot. Whatever feels good at the time.
What was the first guitar you ever owned?
The first guitar I had was my dad’s, a Yamaki acoustic. He still has it and it absolutely plays like butter. I had found an old Silvertone, which kind of has the Les Paul shape, three pickups, a blender knob, the finish of a dinner cloth. I found it in some dude's garage and he let me have it for free. I got someone to hook up the electronics. I still have that guitar. It’s the magic guitar; we wrote so much Nashville Pussy on that thing, it’s ridiculous. If Blaine and I ever got divorced, that’s what we would fight over. The first guitar I ever purchased was a Telecaster made by Mann and it looked like what Jimmy Page played so I bought that.
What are you most proud of on Up the Dosage?
I’m insanely proud of my solos. There are a couple of them that’ll make me cry if I listen to them. There’s just some heavy-duty energy going on on some of this shit. I love the solos on "Rub it to Death" and "The South’s Too Fat to Rise Again." I cut a lot of these things live and stuck with my first take on about 95 percent of this shit. It was the easiest recording I’d ever done; the shit just flew out of me. It was kind of like I wasn’t even there, it was just whatever the music was and it was just really fun. Nick Hodgins