Lollipop Magazine is being rebuild at LollipopMagazine.com. Lollipop.com is no longer updated, but the archive content will remain until 2018 (more or less).
Check out our new site!
Nashville Pussy | Get Some |interview | Blaine Cartwright | rock | Lollipop
Get Some (Spitfire)
An interview with vocalist/guitarist Blaine Cartwright
By Scott Hefflon
Photos by Bruce Bettis
This is the mag's second or third interview with you, but it's my first, so let's start at the beginning... Fourth record, on a fourth label, right?
That's not a bad thing, really. We never really had a nasty break with any of the labels, we just thought that they didn't do the complete job, and they thought they had better things to do. (chuckles)
I've talked with the Reverend Horton Heat a couple times, and he completely dismisses what label he's on as important. To him, it's all about the live show, so major, indie, rock, punk, roots label, whatever, it's all the same as long as the record is in stores.
We've usually been like that, a real live band, but with this record, we wanted to start being a recording band. We'd done a ton of gigs, but not nearly as many records as we should've. It's not that we wanna be a studio band, but we want to write more catchy songs, spend more time on production, and think of each song not just as something to play live, but something that might be a single. We want every song to sound like us on our best night.
We're also getting older, and we wanted to return to the roots of why we're in a band in the first place. Not just playing shows to pay rent. We took some time off, we came back and practiced a couple times a week, and it was like the old days again. We let the boredom work for us, ya know? We remembered why we didn't like regular life in the first place.
Did you get all geeky in the studio and experiment with all different kinds of gear?
Daniel (Rey, producer) made us try a few different things, because we're really loyal to our guitars. But Ruyter (Suys, guitarist and hottie) and I just had our two main guitars stolen at the airport (after recording).
You mentioned taking time off...
Everyone had had enough. We were still doing well live, still plenty of hot spots, still making money. We were playing Japan and we started to really take off in Europe. We played Europe like we play the U.S.: We hit every nook and cranny. If it could hold a couple hundred people and a PA, we were there. Then we did this really long tour of Canada, and in Saskatoon, Jeremy (drummer) and my wife (Ruyter) told me that unless we figured out a better way to do this, we should all get regular jobs. So I started writing songs for the next record, and we all tried out regular life.
The results were about what I expected. (laughs) After a while, they started to ask if we were going to tour again soon. They were both working construction, with friends, and it was a good situation. Working with friends, listening to tunes all day, but part of it was just having to be somewhere by eight in the morning. (laughs) Plus, if you build a deck for someone, or you help restore a house, it's not like people stand around and applaud as you do it.
The death of meaningful lyrics (or a good stand-up comedy routine) is when you get too far removed from your audience and start bitching about airlines and room service and the loneliness on the road and stuff that has nothing to do with US anymore.
Foghat disease. I love 'em, but every song was "out on the road, here we go again." I thought lyrics were going to be a difficult, but even during the break, writing lyrics was still easy. I was writing for my other band, Nine Pound Hammer, and switching from that band to this band was easy, no writer's block or anything. I don't think I'm pretentious enough to have writer's block. This is actually our first record to come with a lyric sheet.
I've always meant to ask: How do you distinguish what's going to be a Nine Pound Hammer song from what's going to be a Nashville Pussy song?
It's a fine line, but I can never convince one band to use material written for the other. I had some songs leftover after Nine Pound Hammer got back together and recorded, but when I played them for Jeremy and Ruyter, they said they were better as Nine Pound Hammer songs. If I have a simple, goofy little riff, and that's the basis of the song, that becomes a Nine Pound Hammer song. If Ruyter can add something to it to make it more than that riff, then it becomes a Nashville Pussy song.
A lot of it is just the hillbilly thing. Nashville Pussy doesn't really do the country/cowpunk beat. Our drummer doesn't listen to country, and the Nine Pound Hammer stuff is still very rooted in country. Pussy tends to be more rooted in Ramones and AC/DC, and more R&B, believe it or not. I consider Nine Pound Hammer to be my punk rock country band and Nashville Pussy to be my punk rock R&B band.
Is "Nutbush City Limits" a Tina Turner song, or an Ike and Tina song?
It's Ike and Tina, and she has credit for writing it, but I also heard that Ike wrote it and she got credit for it for tax reasons. It's on her latest greatest hits album, so she must have the rights to it. They have a DVD out on our label, from 1971, and it's amazing. Ike and Tina are one of my favorites. I know we come off as a bunch of rednecks, but we listen to a lot of late '60 and early '70s soul and funk. I've met George Clinton a few times, and my hero is James Brown. I saw him when I was in high school, him and B.B. King and other blues players. That's who we rip off, if we can. (laughs) It takes talent to rip those guys off!
If you really listen to the way the different instruments play off each other in an Ike and Tina song...
Ya never really get what a "locked down" rhythm section sounds like until you hear one of their songs.
No doubt. With this record, we wanted to get the drums up loud and have the bass locked on with it.
Cuz you mostly get a shitload of AC/DC comparisons.
That's what I try to tell people. AC/DC and Aerosmith got it from Howlin' Wolf. Angus Young obviously likes B.B. King and Chuck Berry. You have to know where it came from to do it right, and to take it anywhere else.
By now, as road dogs, you must've played everywhere, with everyone.
We've played pretty much everywhere, and we just keep going back. We have a chance to play India in 2006, so that's crazy. My favorite people to tour with are (The Reverend) Horton Heat. Great guys, nice working situation, and those guys pack in a big crowd, and they come armed with money to buy tee shirts. They rock out, but they're polite and respectful. I can even tell stories between songs and no one yells dumb shit at me. When we play more punk clubs, even announcing the songs is hard, because people are yelling requests or "Free Bird" or yelling just to yell.
We toured with Motörhead, and Marilyn Manson, which was the first time we played arenas.
That pairing always surprised me.
We were the lowest on the totem pole. Originally, it was Monster Magnet and Hole opening, but Hole freaked out and quit, and Manson didn't want to get some huge, demanding band, they wanted to get someone cool to open, and they picked us. Then, Monster Magnet got the chance to go to Israel, Hawaii, and Russia with Metallica, so the choice was to go to Hawaii with Metallica or slug it out with Marilyn Manson in the Midwest during the winter, so they left, and then it was just us and Marilyn Manson. In some places, like in Iowa and stuff, people came to the show, just to see some crazy rock show, and we did really well. In some places, big cities with factioned off Goth crowds, they didn't like it AT ALL.
Someone wrote to us saying "you guys and your old amps..." It was funny. Cuz we have amps from '63 and '64, and I don't care who you are, if you know your gear, you cream when you see our amps. When Marilyn Manson play, there's not even an amp visible. It's just a weird feeling, because I don't like to be made to feel that what we're doing is "old." Then again, when we played the Middle East, up in your neck of the woods, the show was 18+ and there were all these hot 20 year old girls at our show. It may sound shallow, but I judge an area by how many pretty girls there are and how good the food is.
I'm surprised you haven't toured more with Monster Magnet.
We both do a lot better in Europe. They got really abandoned here. They had a gold record or whatever, and then they got dropped and abandoned. I just don't really know how big rock'n'roll is anymore. It doesn't have anywhere near the draw hip hop does. If I were a kid today, I really don't know what I'd be into, ya know?
We've reached the point where teenager's parents listen to Led Zeppelin and AC/DC, so the music of rebellion is anything BUT rock'n'roll. It's why electronic music boomed a decade ago (but the movement was much like the music: It was repetitive and never built into much of anything), and black metal and Goth rock each had their spike, and now hip hop is the new way to shock your parents. Because all white parents are afraid of their precious children idolizing "black ganstas," even if they're just white and black suburban posers wearing the clothing and trying to keep up with the new lingo.
I keep thinking the culture will do a 180 and come back to some underground rock'n'roll music, because I don't mean to come across as a bitter white dude, but having your own clothing line and watch line is not fuckin' cool. It's not radical or cool to own a watch company. Showing off and bragging that you have the same watch as some neo-yuppie asshole is the farthest thing from cool. I understand the desire to flaunt material things if you've come from a background of being poor and having few opportunities [flashback: I suddenly saw all bling-obsessed rappers as Vegas Elvis, without any leftover traces of boyhood charm or knee-buckling talent, just a whole culture of preening sell-outs - where selling out is the GOAL - with a loud and gaudy sense of style. -ed], really, more power to you. In Atlanta, we have the McMansions: Stapled-together mansions for the new upper-middle class. They're only slightly more entertaining than the crackers they replaced.
I'm interested to see where this goes. If I were a kid again, I might get into hip hop for a while, but not for long, because where's the rebellion at, where's the danger at? When it's underground, sure, but when your favorite singers have clothing lines and are millionaires, it's...
(laughs) I think rebel music will return to rock and roll, like it did with grunge, because it was the opposite of glam. Or maybe a brand new thing will come along. I just hope it's something more substantial than hip hop, a culture based on taking every opportunity to make a dollar. Some hip hop musicians do it for the passion of the music, but the temptation of dangling corporate money is just too great. Someone might want to stay true to the music, but the offer of $150,000 for one day's work to be in a commercial is too tempting. And rap brags about that, and calls anyone else suckers.
If you're playing real rock and roll now, you're doing it for the love of rock'n'roll, not the money, because there's no money in it. But I like to think that the 20 year old who comes see us play will take it and turn it into the next thing, something we never thought of. If we can be a building block of the next thing, that'd be great.
When you mentioned you spent more time on this record as a recording, I realized you were understanding words like "posterity" and "legacy." When you make yer first real record, shit, yer just glad just to be recording on someone else's dime.
Nashville Pussy is way different than Nine Pound Hammer. We had no doubt when we recorded Nashville Pussy that the record was going to be a big deal.
How long were you in Nine Pound Hammer before you started Nashville Pussy?
Nine Pound Hammer started in like '85. That was our first band. It lasted until about '93 or '94. I started Nashville Pussy within seconds of that disintegrating with the drummer - the original drummer - and my wife. Nine Pound Hammer got back together a few years ago, and we put out Kentucky Breakdown, which was really fun to do, and is a really, really good album. When you're a fan of a band and they break up because they have some Behind the Music hatred of each other, you just wish they'd get over it and get back together, because how hard is it, really, ya know? A lot of people didn't care what kind of squabbles we might've had with each other, they wanted more simple tunes about fried chicken and taters. When we got back together, everyone had other jobs, and we weren't trying to be rockstars or anything. It's more of a hobby band, and that way we can all be really into it for the fun of it.
One thing about your legacy, by the way: I don't think you have any say in the legacy you leave. I look at this: One of the biggest songs over the last couple years in movies and commercials and sporting events is "Lust for Life" by Iggy Pop. I've heard it in a commercial for a family cruise vacation! When that record came out in my neighborhood in Kentucky, you didn't hear that song, except in my house. Ramones' songs are played in Yankee stadium. Those songs were not hits when they came out, and songs that were hits, you can't even find in print anymore.
A lot of those things happen because of who's in power. Some older dude putting a teen movie together will throw in a Cars song on during a key moment, cuz that's who all the other mop-top teen posterboy whiners wish they could write like. The "hot new bands" get the lead-up scenes, but the big moments are reserved for the big boys.
Both Nashville Pussy and Nine Pound Hammer have been in movies and video games, because the people putting them together heard us and we stuck with them. The guy who did the last Tony Hawk video game wanted a Nine Pound Hammer song. He didn't even know I was in Nashville Pussy. He'd heard "Run, Fat Boy, Run" on a cassette at a party, and it stuck with him. Years later, he's a music coordinator, and he has the power to use cool stuff, and not the usual shitty stuff.
The corporate money has always been there, but the tie-ins are everywhere now, and they're right out in the open. Nashville Pussy has obviously had more commercial success than Nine Pound Hammer has, but Nashville Pussy was my revenge on the world for Nine Pound Hammer not getting huge.