Celebrity Skin: My Ruin

Published: 09 December, 2011 - Featured in Skin Deep 206, December, 2011

My Ruin has seen it all… and a lot of it in 2010. Over the span of a single year, the Los Angeles-based duo went from sailing the high seas to treading dark, murky waters, trapped in an unforeseen label dispute, only to emerge with a vengeance, stronger than ever before.

For those who haven’t been keeping up with their music news, My Ruin – comprised of vocalist, Tairrie B Murphy, and multi-instrumentalist, Mick Murphy, (yup, they’re married) – signed a two-album deal in 2010, released their sixth album, Ghosts and Good Stories, then the walls came crashing in as their label’s empty promises began to crumble. The album release was delayed, the band’s tour was cancelled, and a legal battle ensued. But frustration and anger soon turned into music, and before they expected it, My Ruin were recording a new album in the snowy mountains of Tennessee.   

“With A Southern Revelation being our seventh album, we’ve come a long way,” says Tairrie B coming off a show at the famed Whisky A Go-Go on Sunset Boulevard, settling in to talk about My Ruin’s latest release, which just so happens to be available as a free digital download.

“There is a huge sense of pride we both feel inside to know that we have survived many trials and tribulations in an industry that is notorious for chewing up and spitting out bands,” she continues. “We feel blessed to still have the desire, fire and passion that inspires us to create and make music that is honest and relevant without compromising who we are as artists. We’ve been through a great deal of bullshit, band members and business dealings, that would have most likely destroyed us if we did not have each other to stay focused and keep ourselves sane.”

Together – in the band and in life – for over a decade, the twosome’s ability to remain focused and feed off each other in the studio, with Tairrie tackling lyrics and Mick handling the music side of things, has remained untouched by time. Which may be why the Murphy’s have kept up their unconventional rock/ metal dynamic, opting to remain a duo rather than seek out more members.

“At the end of the day, it’s less stress, time and energy to just keep it between us and teach it to whoever is touring with us at the time of release, because we never really know who is going to be around for the next album or tour,” says the frontwoman.

A Southern Revelation is just that, a revelation. It has been labeled as My Ruin’s most focused, honest album to date, perhaps because catastrophe somehow always seems to breed light.

“We were not really prepared to jump right back into making a new album so soon after we had finished recording our last one. However, we found ourselves writing again only a few months after delivering Ghosts and Good Stories in July 2010 because of the label-instigated shit-storm we had to deal with that forced us to cancel our confirmed European tour, which was scheduled for September/October to promote its release,” explains Tairrie.

“Making A Southern Revelation was a reckoning. It allowed us to mourn the death of our last album the only way we knew how at the time. We left Los Angeles and we kept things quiet and very much under wraps while we were recording for three weeks in Tennessee.”

Snow and harsh weather conditions have been known to breed a devil-may-care attitude (take it from a Canadian), which made me wonder if recording in Joel Stooksbury’s Soundtrack Black Studio in the hills of East Tennessee had anything to do with the album’s sound.

“I think the snowy, cold atmosphere of our surroundings had a heavy impact on me as a lyricist. And being back in Mick’s hometown surrounded by family and longtime friends, brought an amazing energy and positive light to what was a very dark and negative situation,” says Tairrie.

“It wasn’t so much a devil-may-care attitude for us, it was more of a slaying of the beast, bloodletting mentality with a middle finger. It definitely felt like an exorcism and the purging of a demon.”

And just as the album was My Ruin’s cathartic expression, Tairrie B’s reason for sitting down in Ric Clayton’s tattoo chair for the first time 17 years ago was part of a journey to liberation.

“I was in an unhealthy relationship with someone for many years who had tattoos, but hated the idea of women with them,” starts Tairrie. “I never really thought about getting one because it wasn’t my thing and I couldn’t imagine myself with one at the time. It wasn’t until we broke up and I decided to finally leave him that the urge suddenly came over me… I think it was about doing something for me on a deep level to mark the change in my life and close that door.”

Getting the word ‘Babydoll’ on the back of her neck, the tattoo was about more than just some pretty lettering. “I feel like I tattooed a delicate word on my skin with my blood and ink as a rite of passage. It helped to give me the strength to walk away from the brutality of the relationship and move forward in my life.”

Today, nine tattoos adorn Tairrie, each a carefully thought out, representation of her. “I have never inked something on my body without a significant meaning behind it,” she says. “Although my first tattoo was decided on the same night it was done, it represented something very real to me; it wasn’t just a random word.”

Case in point: the two large-scale pieces on her arms, courtesy of Jason McCaffey. “My right arm is the image of a Virgin Mary with the words ‘Omnia Vinat Amor’ in script above her head and a banner that reads the word ‘Truth’. My left arm is the image of a woman burning on a cross draped in a ‘Nothing is Sacred’ banner in a broken heart with the words ‘Mi Ruina Por Vida’.”

Marco Cerretelli and Mike Ski also delivered some handy work, with Cerretelli helping to darken her arm tattoos. “Originally they were done with bright colors, but over the years my tattoos always felt a bit too vibrant and loud on my skin,” says Tairrie.

One of her most recognizable works is, without a doubt, her ‘Blasphemous Girl’ forearm tattoo, also the title of one of the first My Ruin songs from over a decade ago and the name of her one-of-a-kind jewellery and clothing line. As you may have guessed, the story behind the ink is extremely personal.

“In late 2006 I was in a serious car accident in which a steel metal rod came through my left arm, and nearly tore it off completely right under the tattoo on my upper arm,” recounts Tairrie. “It cut me to the bone and all the way around from my elbow to my wrist. After many surgeries and a skin graft, I was left with a pretty intense scar and a feeling of unbalance. I decided to ink my right forearm to even myself out. I’m sure that will sound strange to some people, but it made sense to me.” But although she enjoys sharing the stories of her past, don’t expect Tairrie to let you in on everything. “I speak very openly about my lyrics, but when it comes to my tattoos I think it’s important to keep the stories behind certain tattoos to myself, because a girl needs to have a few good secrets!”

Over the years, hundreds of My Ruin fan tattoos have been spotted – “it’s a huge compliment and testament to the dedication and love for our band that many of our fans share” – but time has also spawned unwelcome copycats.

“Our culture teaches us to consume, copy, covet and crave what everyone else has and does; many people fall into this trap and way of thinking,” says Tairrie. “This is why it has always bothered me to see people with my same tattoos, especially when they meet me and show me their ink and try to pawn it off as their own original idea of art which is ‘inspired’ – as they usually put it – by me. When, in reality, it is actually a straight rip-off of my exact tattoo. I find it very weird and it has happened a lot. Why a tattoo artist would agree to replicate someone else’s personal art down to its very essence, goes against everything I would think a true artist should stand for.”

Tairrie B on offering a free album…

This is our way to take our power and integrity back as underground DIY artists. We did it to bypass all the bullshit and to get our record straight to the people who are into what we do. This is our gift to fans and all we ask is that they download it directly from us to get the best quality recording rather than on some random torrent site.

Tairrie B on the business side of things…

I often feel I am on call 24/7 when it comes to our business, especially when we have a new album or tour coming up. We do a great deal of our business in the UK and the eight-hour time difference can be a killer. Being in a band is not always as glamorous as people may think it is from the photos they see in magazines. There is a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes.

Tairrie B on whether she’d get a spouse tattoo…

I have to be honest and say that I wouldn’t. Although I adore my husband, I would never get a tattoo that represented anyone but myself. I would rather design a matching piece of jewellery with him.


Text: Barbara Pavone; Photography: My Ruin