Wednesday, October 7, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW - Killing Joke: Pylon

The greatest band in the world just got better.

When the original four members of the mighty Killing Joke reconvened in 2007 following the passing of long-serving bassist Paul Raven, they immediately rekindled the same spark that ignited the trio of eternally vital albums (1980's self-titled masterpiece, 1981's What's THIS For...! and 1982's Revelations) they produced before the departure of bassist (and future producer extraordinaire) Martin “Youth” Glover ushered in years of fairly regular personnel changes. Although Killing Joke later served as a temporary home to some of the world's most adventurous musicians (powerhouse drummer Martin Atkins, Detroit multi-instrumentalist Troy Gregory and some guy named Dave Grohl immediately come to mind), the combination of Youth, singer/keyboardist Jaz Coleman, guitarist Geordie Walker and drummer Big Paul Ferguson delivers sounds that are truly without peer.

When they are at their best, these four men create music that is meant to be felt – a primitive burst of energy and catharsis that continues to enthrall after more than 35 years. Not only does Pylon prove that this veteran act is still sonically relevant, but the record stands alongside – and often exceeds – the finest moments in the band's decades-spanning discography. Simply put, this is the best album by the original four since their first.

While most of the bands in the 30-40 age range are clearly running on fumes at this point ( or – even worse – hitting the geriatric circuit with only the founding triangle player in tow), Killing Joke have given the world a new album that doesn't let up for a second. Every minute of this thing is molten, anchored by the strongest Youth/Big Paul rhythmic interplay captured on disc since Revelations. Still one of the most innovative human beings to ever pick up a guitar, Walker is the greatest hero of Pylon, delivering perhaps his most evocative performances since the days of Thatcher. (Just listen to the guy's playing on “Dawn Of The Hive,” the Night Time-tinged “New Cold War,” the 2:23 point in “Euphoria” and the could've-been-on-the-1980-album “Autonomous Zone” and “Delete.” The master.) And after giving his toms scant attention on the band's previous two albums (2010's Absolute Dissent and 2012's MMXII), Ferguson finally brings back the classic Killing Joke tribal beat on a number of tracks including “New Jerusalem,” perhaps his most arresting work on record since Fire Dances.

Of course, Killing Joke's greatest power has always been their ability to balance menace with melody. When not delivering his typical cigar-drenched vitriol, Coleman does a fair amount of actual Brighter Than A Thousand Suns-level singing on Pylon, particularly on the soaring “Big Buzz” (which sounds an awful lot like a smoothed-out version of one of the demo songs Geordie had up on Myspace circa 2008) and the closing “Into The Unknown” (a track that will surely appeal to fans of 1986's “Wintergardens”). Naturally, there is also plenty of guttural nastiness to be found here, especially when the Black Jester dons his conspiracy theorist cap on the blistering “I Am The Virus.”

Like any classic album, Pylon grows in strength with each passing listen. With its release, the reformed original Killing Joke have now made as many albums as they did during their initial '79-'82 run. I hope they continue. Even after all this time, this incomparable band still sounds like they're just getting started.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

INTERVIEW: Clearing the Static: Huntress' Jill Janus on Surviving Schizophrenia

Photo courtesy of Napalm Records

Imagine fronting one of the most esteemed and successful new Metal bands around while fighting the ongoing urge to take your own life.

This is the struggle in the heart of Huntress frontwoman Jill Janus. While the past six years have seen the California band gain an international following, Janus has experienced a life fraught with a variety of psychological issues including schizophrenia. At one point, Janus' mental disorders led her to become a topless DJ named “Penelope Tuesdae” and pose nude in the April 2004 issue of Playboy. Even as Huntress' career took off, the Opera singer-turned-Metal priestess still struggled to overcome her inner turmoil. The process of recording the band's recently released third album, Static, saw her overcome various hospitalizations and suicide attempts. Not surprisingly, the album's deeply personal lyrics detail the personal Hell she went through to simply stay alive during the album's creation. 

Just as Huntress reached the finish line with Static, Janus was diagnosed with uterine cancer and underwent a hysterectomy. With Static finally completed and awaiting release, Janus revealed all in the August/September issue of Revolver, offering insight into her long-running struggles for the first time. Of course, these revelation left many Huntress fans wondering how the trauma surrounding the band's singer would ultimately impact what they were about to hear on Static. Fortunately, the obstacles that Janus and her bandmates faced only served to intensify their output. Fiery from start to finish, Static is not just the latest album from one of the most powerful bands on the scene today - it is a statement on strength and survival under horrific circumstances. Instead of hiding her battles from the public eye, Janus uses Static to air her journey and stand before the world as nakedly honest as possible. That, dear reader, is fucking Metal.

I recently had the pleasure of connecting with Jill for a frank discussion on the making of Static, the response she received to the Revolver piece and the current state of her mental and physical health. Jill is an extraordinary person, and I wish her peace and strength as she moves her life forward. 

The release of Static follows some very intense revelations from your personal life. Its rare to have someone in the industry be so honest about the things you've opened up about. What kind of feedback have you received from friends, family and fans since words got out about the Revolver interview?

Honesty is something I’ve preached for years. No matter how brutal the truth is, I prefer to have it out there rather than people weaving lies about my life. I’m no stranger to sensationalism, but so far, I’ve received only amazing support from fans and the Metal community.

One of the most admirable things about what you have revealed about yourself is the fact that you are succeeding in a very difficult profession despite having these obstacles. How have your bandmates in Huntress been able to not only understand these issues, but help you through them?

The things I’ve achieved with Huntress, under these very difficult circumstances, would not be possible without the support from my bandmates. When I first began touring in 2012, I was terrified that my band would implode because of my odd behavior. It nearly did fall apart with relentless touring and my drama. But the opportunities kept coming, and I had to learn how to control myself, which I still struggle with. It’s always a challenge, but the vision keeps me going.

On a lighter note, your PledgeMusic video was brilliant. How important is humor to what Huntress does?

There has been so much darkness in my life that the only way to stay alive is with humility. I’m very serious about my career, yet I never take the small stuff to heart. I see the big picture and I want longevity. Huntress likes fun; we’re all having a blast when things are running smoothly. Humor is vital to my existence. I’m not politically correct, which I catch fire for sometimes, but I just do not give a fuck what others think of me.

Considering that you are a trained Opera singer, why does singing heavier music with Huntress appeal to you as a career choice?

I’m a very versatile vocalist and I love expanding my abilities. Growing up with bipolar disorder came with violent and aggressive behavior. I spent years fighting with directors and actors, always wanting to run my own show. I was a nightmare, quite the little diva with a massive ego because I had a rare four-octave range by the age of 13. I’m a coloratura soprano. Metal was so appealing to me because the aggression and interesting compositions made my brain calm. Black metal is the most soothing music to me. Metal saved my life. 

Of all the songs on the album, why was “Static” the one that ultimately became the album title?

'Static' was the first song idea. I wrote it in a rest stop bathroom on tour. All three Huntress albums start with an “S,” which I had planned since signing with Napalm Records. The triple S. It all ties in with numerology and reveals instructions to the Stargate. 'Static' represents the world being controlled by a monster who exists within electricity. Eating up brains, turning you into a Zombie of the Noise, thriving off mediocrity. Kinda like the state of humanity today.

Which song on the album was the most cathartic for you to write? Which track was the most difficult to create in terms of expressing what you wanted to with your lyrics?

'Mania' was probably the most cathartic. It’s inspired by my intense bipolar mania, which nearly killed the band. This particular disorder has affected [guitarist] Blake Meahl the most. He’s the closest to me and has pulled me out of the deepest, darkness caves of my insanity. I wrote it for him, really.

It's clear that music has helped you overcome some of the issues you experience in your private life. What are some other ways you are able to find peace when things become difficult?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a great tool, getting me out of potentially bad situations before they start. I’m also medicated. Some people try to avoid meds, but I have no other choice. I will be on psychiatric medication for the rest of my life. Luckily, it’s finally stabilized me after 20 years of trying.

What advice would you offer someone – especially a younger listener – who might be facing or acknowledging his or her own mental issues for the first time?

I’m not one to give advice; I’m still figuring it out! But one thing that is vital to my existence is sobriety. I am a raging lunatic if I drink or abuse substances. I have come close to being arrested, and drinking has caused me to be placed on 5150 holds in county psych wards. However, I’m not a purist because I do smoke marijuana to ease acute anxiety and drink the occasional shot of  Jägermeister, the only liquor I will ever enjoy again. Huntress is partnered with Jäger Music for a reason. It’s not only a great sponsorship; I find a shot of Jäger medicinal after a show. I found out what works for me, but I know many people with duel diagnoses like alcoholism and mental illness, and the only thing that works is strict sobriety. 

Your past as “Penelope Tuesdae” has been covered quite a bit in the music press in recent years – with some of it being rather condescending and sexist. How do you respond to those Metal fans who might negatively judge this era of your life and pass Huntress over as a result?

I don’t respond to them ever! I keep my goals away from trolls. Sensationalism has always followed me. I chose to share very personal struggles when we completed the third album, Static. I have calculated my moves since the beginning of Huntress, all of the albums leading to the absolute truth. Penelope Tuesdae became another identity - not a persona, an identity that replaced me for years living in New York City. She made choices I never would have, the most brutal is coming out of a manic state to discover I had breast implants. I don’t remember the surgery, payment, nothing that had happened a month earlier. I did have friends looking after me; I call them 'keepers' who remember details, but I’m uncontrollable when I want something. My family took me home; I spent time in Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, NY. I was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder [DID] and schizoaffective disorder, which developed into schizophrenia. I’m an uncommon success story; I’ve survived with no health insurance for most of my life in the worst possible mental states. But music has always brought me back to sanity, even if it’s fleeting.

As a result of your recent Revolver interview, it is possible that fans will be paying greater attention to your lyrics than ever before. Ultimately, what is the message or vibe that you most want listeners to walk away with after listening to Static and experiencing your words?

Every album in the Huntress Trilogy, the first three albums on Napalm Records, represent three phases of the Triple Goddess – Maiden, Mother, Crone. I waited until the Crone phase, representing wisdom and death, to unleash all these very personal things. I was possessed by this nasty, evil cunt who was a version of the Crone; I had violent, terrible mood swings and hallucinations writing Static. I was hospitalized at least three times during the process and attempted suicide twice. Blake literally saved my life. Then, on the final day of recording vocals, the Crone left my body, but within my womb she left her disease. I was diagnosed with Stage 1 uterine cancer during the recording of Static; the lyrics hold so much of my anguish. I was often crying in the vocal booth. It was brutal. I delayed surgery and had a hysterectomy on June 29. I’m now cancer-free. The vultures can wait.

*Some portions of the above interview were edited for clarity. 

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Official Huntress Website

Huntress at Napalm Records

Huntress on Facebook 


Inside My Record Collection: Part 3

A lot of friends have asked me to do music-related videos on YouTube, especially regarding my personal music collection. Here is the third in a series where I go through some items of personal significance in my collection. (PS: Sorry, this was filmed were the others in this series. Oh well, a lesson learned for the future.) Discussed in Part 3 of this video: GITANE DEMONE, CHRISTIAN DEATH, THE SLAVES, A FISTFUL OF ROCK 'N' ROLL VOL. 4.


Inside My Record Collection: Part 2

A lot of friends have asked me to do music-related videos on YouTube, especially regarding my personal music collection. Here is the second in a series where I go through some items of personal significance in my collection. (PS: Sorry, this was filmed were the others in this series. Oh well, a lesson learned for the future.) Discussed in Part 2 of this video:  MISFITS, 100 FLOWERS, SUPER HEROINES, SACCHARINE TRUST, POMPEII 99.


Inside My Record Collection: Part 1

A lot of friends have asked me to do music-related videos on YouTube, especially regarding my personal music collection. Here is the first in a series where I go through some items of personal significance in my collection. (PS: Sorry, this was filmed were the others in this series. Oh well, a lesson learned for the future.) Discussed in Part 1 of this video: Y KANT TORI READ, PIL, WARZONE, CIRCUS MORT and SAMHAIN.


FEATURE - Heaven's in Here: Remembering TIN MACHINE

What the fuck's up? Is somebody going to talk to us?”

When Tin Machine bassist Tony Fox Sales uttered these words in front of 300 befuddled journalists in a room in Paris in the spring of 1989, he intended to break the ice at one of the most uncomfortable press conferences in music history. Tony – along with his drummer brother, Hunt, relatively unknown guitar alchemist Reeves Gabrels and a singer/second guitarist who just happened to be music megastar David Bowie – had arrived in front of the media in attendance to promote the band's eponymous debut album. But instead of receiving immediate and enthusiastic interest, the foursome faced five minutes of silence before Tony's words kicked the crowd out of its collective stupor. Although none of the band members knew it at the time, this scene perfectly summed up Tin Machine's entire existence.

“It's fascinating what happened,” recalls Tony years later. “[The journalists] didn't know what to say, and they didn't know how to interview us. There were so many questions that could have been asked, but it was always the same stuff. It was like, 'Why do you want to be in a group?' There was so much that could have been asked of a guy who was as talented and well known as David.”

To be fair, the writers and other tastemakers had a lot to take in when the band walked through the door. What was David Bowie, easily one of the most successful Rock artists in history, doing making raw, experimental noise best suited for a dirty dive on the Bowery when he could very easily play immortal hits at the Garden? Did the formation of Tin Machine mark the end of David Bowie's career as a solo act? Why did he – a star who nurtured the early careers of Luther Vandross, Stevie Ray Vaughan and David Sanborn and clearly had his pick of any A-list player he wanted – start a band with a no-name six stringer from Boston and a rhythm section whose best-known moments were more than a decade old?

In order to understand how much of an incendiary curveball Tin Machine really was in 1989, you need to consider where Bowie was in his career at the time. Although the '70s maverick succeeded in reinventing himself as a bona fide Reagan-era Pop star with 1983's Let's Dance, the ensuing years saw Bowie's creative endeavors yield uninspired results. While it has its moments (the still-solid “Day In Day Out,” for starters), 1987's Never Let Me Down is largely seen as the singer's nadir. (For example, Rolling Stone infamously called the album “a bit of a mess.”)

“David had gone through a whole period where instead of being in league with Eno and Fripp and people like that, he had fallen in with Tina Turner, Rod Stewart and Phil Collins after Let's Dance,” offers Gabrels, who first met Bowie during the Glass Spider Tour in support of Never Let Me Down. “There's a fine line between Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel, but it's a very clear one.”

By 1989, the 42-year-old Bowie was looking to recharge his excitement for making music. But what could possibly be next for a man who had already transitioned through multiple personas on stage and on record? That question was answered that spring, when he took his name off the marquee completely and became just one of four members of a band. David Bowie wasn't the star of Tin Machine's first album; he was the singer and second guitarist. Nothing more, nothing less.

“It wasn’t a David Bowie record, okay?” offers Hunt Sales. “The Tin Machine thing was a band. We’d go to work every day; we’d go to the studio and write and record. At the end of each day, we’d sit back to listen to what we had. As it unfolded, everyone was more surprised, and on the next day more surprised than the day before.”

Appropriately enough, Tin Machine began only hours after the final date of Bowie's Glass Spider jaunt. At 2am during the tour's wrap party in Los Angeles, Tony - who had known the singer since the mid '70s – felt an urge to stop by and say hello.

“[David] was sitting there by himself, and I walked up to him,” he remembers. “I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years. He said, 'I was just thinking of you. I was just thinking about getting a band together... and here you are.' I said, 'So, let's do it! Should I call the drummer?” He said, 'Yeah, you better call the drummer.' A week later, we were in Switzerland cutting the album.”

According to Tony, Bowie's mission for Tin Machine was simple: “The very first thing out of David's mouth to me was, 'Let's ruin Rock 'n' Roll.'”

More Surfer Rosa than Scary Monsters, Tin Machine's debut is a noisy, often dark and always exhilarating listen driven by the quartet's love of then-underground American Alternative Rock acts. (Tin Machine covered The Pixies' “Debaser” live, while Gabrels' vibrator-as-plectrum wailings were reminiscent of the guitar cries of early Swans.) Bowie curses, Gabrels shrieks away and the Sales Bros. crash through the proceedings with the same street-level intensity the duo brought to Iggy Pop's “Lust For Life.” (Even relatively conventional tracks like the Bluesy opener “Heaven's In Here” were mixed far too heavy for American commercial in those days.) Tin Machine was not an album; it was an assault.

“I haven't really seen or read lyrics to other songs that were quite as targeted as what we had for that first album,” offers Tony. “We were talking about drug, sex addition – all kinds of addiction. Deep, injured stuff. We were touching on things that people didn't want to talk about... It went over a lot of people's heads. I felt we were reflecting what was really going on, but most people would rather be anesthetized.”

For the bassist, joining forces with Bowie (and Hunt, for that matter) for the Tin Machine project was an opportunity to settle some unfinished business with the former Thin White Duke. In 1977, the Sales Brothers (already established in the industry as a go-to rhythm section thanks to their work on Todd Rundgren's early solo releases and the Iggy Pop/James Williamson album, Kill City) joined Iggy Pop's touring band, which at the time featured Bowie on keyboards.

“Iggy had run into Bowie, and Bowie wanted to work with him, so he moved to Berlin,” Tony explains. “A couple of months later, we got a call from Iggy saying he had played the Kill City album for David, and David wanted to know who those two black guys were [singing]. Iggy said, 'That's the Sales Brothers.' David said, 'You've got to get them over here right now.'

The three musicians hit it off immediately.

As Tony says, “At soundchecks, David, Hunt and I would fool around with different pieces of music that were actually finished. That was the beginning of Tin Machine. It was sort of Jazzy, Bluesy. None of us were young kids [at that point]. We pulled all of our resources together.”

The Iggy Pop era was an exciting time for Tony and Hunt. The sons of legendary entertainer Soupy Sales, they began their music career in the mid '60s with the teen novelty act Tony And The Tigers. After scoring a variety of TV appearances and a minor hit with “Summer Time (Is The Best Time For Making Love),” the pair moved on to explore the more mature side of music. After recording two albums with Rundgren (and after Hunt's stint in the group Paris with former Fleetwood Mac guitarist/singer Bob Welch and original Jethro Tull bassist Glenn Cornick), they worked with Pop at the suggestion of Tony's buddy, former Stooges guitarist Williamson. In addition to proving to be a great combination personality-wise, the Pop/Bowie/Sales Brothers lineup clicked sonically. The album that resulted from the union, 1977's extraordinary Lust For Life (which Tony says was cut and mixed in Berlin “in about two weeks”), remains one of the strongest titles in Pop's catalog.

Of course, this was the '70s, and the revelry felt among the musicians behind Lust For Life was regularly fueled by liberal amounts of cocaine. The indulgence got finally spun out of control one night in 1979, when a drugged-out Tony was involved in a near-fatal car accident that left him in a coma for several months.

“I was pronounced dead, with a stick shift in my chest,” he shared in 2005. “When I came out of the coma, I was told I was going to die. It changed things a lot for me... certainly with my working with anybody for a long time. David came to see me and asked me when I'd be able to be on the road! I said, 'Well, look at me, man!' I weighed like 80 pounds or something.”

After a lengthy recovery, Tony resurfaced circa 1984 as a member of Chequered Past, a short-lived supergroup with Steve Jones (Sex Pistols), Michael Des Barre (Silverhead) and former Blondie members Clem Burke and Nigel Harrison. While the band's lone self-titled album came and went with little fanfare (and, as Tony puts it, “everybody got sick of working with each other”), Bowie's career hit its highest commercial peak. An increasingly weary Tony walked away from the business in favor of a life in carpentry, never giving music more than a passing thought until he crossed paths with Bowie again years later.

The formation of Tin Machine was also meaningful for Tony's kid brother.

“We had three people in that band who were singers; we had people who had made lots of records,” says Hunt, whose other work at the time included producing and playing drums for the California band Tender Fury. “Between my brother, David and me, we had people who had been working since the ’60s, making records for a long time. So when you put all that together, you’re gonna come up with something.”

The fourth piece of the puzzle, Gabrels, was already in place and collaborating with Bowie on fresh ideas by the time the Sales Brothers entered the picture. Unsurprisingly, Hunt and Tony immediately left an impression on him.

“The Sales Brothers reminded me that at least 50 percent of Rock 'n' Roll is below the belt,” he says. “It's not about execution; it's about the feel of it.”

All these years later, Gabrels' willingness to embrace the esoteric continues to be of interest to Tin Machine's timekeeper.

“I’ve worked with a lot of different guitar players and I’ve seen a lot of different guitar players, and I’d say that Reeves has always strived to do something with truth in it,” Hunt observes. “It’s all been done before, so what are you going to bring to the table to put a little bit of a twist or spin on it? I feel that he has done that. He’s trying to do something a little bit different.”

Naturally, creating “something a little bit different” led Tin Machine to impress as many people as they confused. Tony says that Trent Reznor (who later toured with Bowie in the '90s) once told him that Tin Machine was his favorite band, while the group's amped-up take on John Lennon's “Working Class Hero” got the official thumbs up from Yoko Ono. (Tony says that after she heard the track during a visit to the studio, she turned to the band and said, “If John did Punk, it would sound like this.”)

Despite receiving considerable praise from their peers, Tin Machine never truly captured the imagination of the general public – including the vast majority of Bowie's stadium-filling '80s audience.

“We made music that we thought was going to hang with people we liked at the time, which was Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr. and especially The Pixies,” offered Gabrels in 2000. “If you look at their album sales, I don't think any of those bands have sold over 250,000 copies in America. The first Tin Machine record came out at a time when unless you were selling at least six million copies, your album was a failure. Plus, we took Michael Jackson money for a Pixies album, which is only going to piss people off.

“In the English and European press, everybody was saying, 'The commercial failure of Tin Machine,'” he adds. “I couldn't give a shit. If it's an artistic success and a commercial failure, I'm fine with that. I wanted the statement more than I wanted the money.”

Was Tin Machine simply too weird for mainstream audiences in 1989? Was Bowie's career too Pop-centric at the close of that decade to allow for the same kind of freewheeling twists and turns he took in the '70s? Regardless of how some listeners might answer these questions, a quarter-century of hindsight leaves Tony Sales incredibly proud of what the band created.

“It really did work,” he insists. “It worked on stage, and it worked on record. Of the hundreds of interviews we did, people just wouldn't accept it. They just didn't know how to accept David as a person and not as some kind of icon or image.”

Despite Tin Machine often being viewed as a square peg in a round hole, Hunt looks back at the magic generated by this special combination of friends and musicians with great fondness.

“I enjoyed playing with Reeves, and I enjoyed playing with my brother and David,” he shares. “We all get along; we all really loved each other.”

Above all, Tony believes that the first Tin Machine album allowed his old friend the chance to regain the spark that originally ignited his long and celebrated career.

“Tin Machine raised David's consciousness,” he says. “It gave him permission to be a person again rather than the image. I don't think he was lost, but it gave him permission to come back down to Earth. I think it's even reflected in the music that he did after that. He personalized a lot of his material after that, instead of being a character.”

“I think in the back of David's mind, his hope was that we would dispel any future expectations, and have fun doing it,” adds Gabrels. “And we did.”

Author's Note: The above feature is a small sample of a much larger in-progress chapter on Tin Machine's first album that will be featured in my upcoming book, Albums that (Should've) Changed the World. The quotes from the Sales Bros. were taken from exclusive interviews I conducted with them in 2005; Gabrels' quotes are taken from an interview I conducted with him in 2000. Watch this website for news and updates on the Albums that (Should've) Changed the World project.   


Sunday, September 6, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW - Tairrie B: Vintage Curses

Tairrie B, motherfucker. Remember me?

Tairrie B has never done things the “right” way.

In 1987, the 22-year-old landed a gig singing in Bardeux, a Dance Pop duo that scored a Billboard hit right out of the gate with the track “Three Time Lover.” This kind of shot at fame would have been a dream come true for most young performers, but Tairrie saw things differently. Instead of playing it safe and building a life in the Pop world, Tairrie – very blonde and very white – opted instead to enter the world of Hardcore Rap. Hooking up with the notorious Eazy-E (and signing with his Comptown Records imprint), Tairrie released 1990's blistering The Power Of A Woman.

Issued during an era of gun-waving machismo, The Power Of A Woman remains one of the genre's truly incendiary feminist statements, an album tough as nails and bursting with confidence. At a time when other Hardcore Rap videos showcased the grittiness of the streets (and often portrayed women as little more than ornaments), Tairrie's classic video for “Murder She Wrote” embraced film noir, presenting her as a gangster moll and a female mafia boss in complete control of her environment. And the contradictions didn't end there: Although released by a label operated by one of the most controversial artists of his time, The Power Of A Woman was commercial enough to appeal to a more mainstream audience, as Tairrie's appearance on The Party Machine with Nia Peeples demonstrated.

Tairrie ended The Power Of A Woman with “Ruthless Bitch,” a brutal diss track that spent nearly nine minutes taking down everyone from her former Bardeux partner Stacy “Acacia” Smith to Dr. Dre. (As anyone who has followed Tairrie's Facebook page and numerous mainstream media sources in recent times knows, her notorious relationship with Dre – including the Rap mogul's much-discussed assault against her at a Grammys afterparty in 1990 – has been making considerable headlines lately. This and many other topics will be explored in a multi-part interview with Tairrie on this site in the very near future.)

With such a powerful debut release setting the stage for a fruitful career, Tairrie went back to the studio and began laying down tracks for a second album, Single White Female. But in true Tairrie B fashion, she decided to go in a new direction. Scrapping the album and her career as a rapper in the process, she dyed her hair black and formed Manhole (later renamed Tura Satana), a brilliant act that blended Rap and Metal over the course of two albums that are worth seeking out. Before those following Tairrie could catch their breath, she had gone from working with the N.W.A. camp to doing a Cro-Mags cover with Machine Head.

When Tura Satana called it a day in the late '90s, Tairrie continued following her Metal muse with her next group, My Ruin. The band's second album, 2000's essential A Prayer Under Pressure of Violent Anguish, marked the debut of guitarist Mick Murphy, who later married Tairrie and has served as her musical collaborator ever since. In addition to maintaining My Ruin's heavy touring and recording schedule, Tairrie spent the past several years building a successful online company (Blasphemous Girl Designs) and indulging in intriguing musical side projects like The LVRS. By all appearances, her life as a rapper was in rear-view mirror.  

Of course, this is Tairrie B we're talking about here, so the only thing we should expect after the last 25 years is the unexpected. Tairrie's return to her roots began in 2010, when she and Mick released a cover of the 1994 Dr. Dre/Ice Cube track “Natural Born Killlaz” under the name Death Work Professionals. Fast-forward to 2015, and the Ruthless Bitch is back in back in full Rap mode. But does this mean that Vintage Curses is a full-on return to what she gave us on The Power Of A Woman? Well, yes and no. Yes, Tairrie is back to delivering rhymes with the same lethal energy she brought to the table in 1990, but it would be foolish to think we'd be experiencing the same person who graced video screens a quarter-century ago. The Tairrie B of today is a dark-haired, tattooed wicked witch with a Gothic flair, a deepened voice and a sharper attack than ever before. Forget Compton – this Tairrie B comes straight outta your darkest visions and nightmares. Considering that Tairrie is 50 and decades away from her days of a full-time rapper, it is reasonable that some fans of the genre would look at Vintage Curses with skeptical eyes. Fortunately, it takes only one listen to album opener “Beware The Crone” (which finds Tairrie using “crone” as a word of empowerment the same way she used “bitch” back in the day) to know that she is as outspoken and real as ever.

Not surprisingly, Vintage Curses is a decidedly dark affair. References to the Left Hand Path abound, while Tairrie's husky vocals add an air of menace to the macabre proceedings. Live drums (courtesy of Mick) give many of the songs an organic feel, while this Rap album favors samples of Pentagram over P-Funk. (The autobiographical “Spirit Queen” uses the Virginia Doom gods' 1973 track “Forever My Queen” as source material.) Although witchcraft and the Devil make regular appearances throughout the album, it is clear that the most intimidating element of the album is Tairrie herself – a take-no-bullshit woman who, as she says on “Spirit Queen,” is “a survivor in an industry that kills artists.” And Beelzebub? That poor guy doesn't stand a chance against her. (“I don't worship Satan/He worships me” she proclaims during “Devil May Care,” a song that drives the point home with samples from Cliff Richard's “Devil Woman.”)

On Vintage Curses, we get inside the mind of a deeply creative woman who is perhaps too Metal for old school Rap fans and too Rap for the Goth contingent. Of course, this kind of musical and aesthetic dilemma is exactly what has driven Tairrie's career from day one, and exactly what gives this album its heart and soul. (As she said on The Power Of A Woman's “Swingin' with 'T'” way back in 1990: “Rappin' comes from the mind/Not from the look.”) This is music made by someone with the confidence and strength to do whatever she wants without answering to anyone. The proclamations of her formidable might heard throughout Vintage Curses are not mere boasts – they are statements of fact.

With the first 25 years of Tairrie B's career proving to be one of the strangest and most fascinating narratives in music history, Vintage Curses sets the stage for future explorations from a truly independent spirit who never disappoints. The album is “Occult Rap” by a Metal singer, but it's also the most Punk Rock thing this writer has heard in years.

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