By Bob Gourley | Originally published in 1995
If there’s one thing that Lesley Rankine wants to make perfectly clear it is that she is NOT Ruby. Sure, she’s the only one pictured on the “Salt Peter” album cover and she is the one out doing live shows to support it. But Ruby is still very much a duo, comprised of former Silverfish vocalist Rankine and WELT’s Mark Walk.
Rankine and Walk met in Chicago a few years ago and went on to work together in Pigface. In Pigface, Rankine says that they “discovered in like five minutes” that their “interests were far more to do with art and creative expectations than the others.”
Before long, Silverfish and run its course, freeing Rankine to pursue a new project.
“We were together for 5 years,” she says about Silverfish. “I think I joined the band in October 1988, and I was friends with Fuzz the guitarist and he had seen me in a band I was in before and knew I wasn’t doing anything. I basically stayed in it for 5 years, until December of 1993. I think I’m pretty much a loner and I was kind of fooling myself that I could do that for Any length of time, be with other people.”
Rankine then went to Los Angeles to work with Walk, who at the time was involved with Skinny Puppy. Pleased with the results, the duo went to Walk’s Seattle studio to record “Salt Peter.”
Rankine says that she doesn’t really see Walk as a producer, but rather as “a musician first with a great technical knowledge.” Rankine says that had she not worked with Walk, her current music would be very different.
“He has far more of a technical knowledge than me and a much more diverse knowledge of songwriting,” she says. “He’s been doing it a lot longer that me, and basically my experience in songwriting was Silverfish. So if I had done it on my own it would have had elements of what ended up on the album but my knowledge was limited. It would probably have been closer to Silverfish.”
Rather than being loud and noisy like Silverfish, the music of Ruby is warm and highly melodic, while still maintaining an experimental edge. Rankine says that two of her favorite vocalists are Ella Fitzgerald and Aretha Franklin, and Ruby allows her to finally show that she can sing like that.
“I knew that I wanted to do something much more melodic and soulful and have sort of what are perceived as traditionally feminine aspects to it,” she says. “I wanted a sense of beauty and sensuality. But I also wanted it to have some kind of sinister undertone and be frightening and intense in some way.”
Currently in the midst of a short showcase tour, Ruby will return to America later in the spring for a full tour. Rankine says that she is “really enjoying” doing live shows, as she hasn’t toured in three years. Rankine is aware that Ruby will probably be embraced by a more mainstream audience than Silverfish was, but she’s not worried about public perception.
“I know there’s going to be a lot of people listening to this LP that just don’t get it,” she says. “But they’ll like the tunes and have heard it on the radio so many times that they’ll buy it. That comes with the territory and I’d rather have more people listening to Ruby than Whitney Houston. You have to do just what you want to do personally, your personal expression. And then whatever happens after that, it just gods will. I don’t care, that’s not my problem. All I can do is an honest expression of where I’m at artistically, and how it’s perceived by other people is not my problem.”
This article originally appeared in a much different incarnation of Chaos Control, which made extensive use of hypertext and non-linear writing. Presented below are fragments which originally included as hypertext.
Rankine got involved with Pigface after Silverfish opened for their first American tour. When Pigface was in London, Rankine was hanging out with them in the studio and Martin Atkins asked her to sing on a track they were working on. This would become “Hips, Tits, Lips, Power,” which according to Rankine is a “total ripoff of a Silverfish song.”
“I would like to say how that song came about, because that’s pissing me off,” she explains .”Silverfish’s single “Pig Squeal,” with the line “hips, tits, lips, power” had just come out. Me and Mary Byker were screwing around at the beginning of the track going “hips, tits, lips, power.” Martin then took that recording to Mark, who had never heard Silverfish before and didn’t know anything about it, and he took that line, which he thought was the coolest line in the whole song, and made a song based around that. Martin Atkins knew all about that, and he called the song “Hips, Tits, Lips, Power,” and he’s since ripped off Silverfish’s T-shirts as well. Where it used to say Silverfish it now says Pigface. I’m not friends with Martin Atkins anymore.”
“They have no kind of point to them, you know,” she adds. “That’s why Mark and I recognized this kind of attitude toward music in each other that the other member of Pigface didn’t have. I think that Pigface has far more to do with quantity than quality, and that’s Martin Atkin’s philosophy. Bang it out, tour it to death, he doesn’t understand the concept of a phenomenon, and artistic phenomenon. He could have done something really profound with that whole idea. He didn’t have this idea of bringing in loads of different people, that was done in Ministry. That’s where he ripped off that idea. He could have made something very special out of it, I mean any musical project is only as good as the people involved. He used a lot of talentless fucks, in my opinion. There’s a lot of really talentless people who’ve been involved in that. It could have been a very special thing, but I don’t think it’s very cool. There have been people who’ve worked in it who are very talented, but there have been a lot who are not very talented at all. ”
On live performance:
Since you did make extensive use of computer editing in the studio, were you thinking at all about how the music would adapt to live performance?
RANKINE: “No, when you make and album you have to be completely involved in that time and space that you’re making it in. Anything that happens, if you want to take it out live then you work out that problem later. you don’t have to use the same sounds or the same kind of production of sounds live as you do on the record. It is a completely different kettle of fish.”
Were any songs particularly difficult to start doing live?
RANKINE: “There were a couple of songs. “Carondelet” was very difficult at first, we didn’t think it was going to work. We were trying to make too much of it; it was basically a song that completely hangs on the vocals. Some of them we’ve had to rework while we¹ve been on tour, but it all seems to have come together alright. It’s important to keep working on them on tour keep screwing around with them, to see how they evolve and keep us interested. ”
On working in the studio:
“Salt Peter” was recorded entirely on computers, but it still has a warm, organic feel. What was your approach to making it?<p>
RANKINE:</b> “We didn’t sequence anything. There was nothing sequenced or programmed per say, it was like we recorded onto a computer instead of a tape machine. Everything was played, all the different parts, and we didn’t tidy up any messy bits, really. It was just the same as any other album that would be played live into a tape machine.”<p><b>
Did the technology have any impact at all on the way you wrote?
RANKINE: “It’s more to do with editing. The computer with ProTools that we used was most of the time used as an editing tool. We recorded on it straight down, linear live recordings. But then the editing aspect is brilliant. It doesn’t make you work faster, it just makes you far more anal and far more experimental. You can grab that tiny little snippet of sound and change it and put the stereo out of synch and just screw around with it much more than you can do on a tape machine. That’s the way the Beatles recorded their albums, with massive tape editing. We don’t need to do that anymore, we don¹t want gabs of extra tape lying around the studio. So was just do it on the computer.”
Did you have any concrete ideas of how you wanted the album to sound, or was the way it turned out the result of experimentation in the studio?
RANKINE: “When you go in to make an album, I don’t think anything should be concrete. I had a lot of elements and ideas, and so did Mark, and we spent as much time talking about the album and philosophizing about it what it’s supposed to represent to us as we did actually making it. A lot of it was experimenting and screwing around with sounds, although there were definitely some elements that I wanted to include in it, like the low, soft, crunchy that give it a lot of atmosphere and a sort of sense of humanity and a certain spaciousness and a great dependence on melody and music written around the vocals.”
Does the editing power present a danger of overdoing it?
RANKINE:”You can totally go up your own ass, but eventually it comes time when the record company phones up and screams at you or you run out of money and that’s when you stop. If you have far too much money and you’re kind of stupid and you don’t know your own limitations or you don’t know when something’s finished then you could go on working on one album for the rest of your life. But what’s the point?”
On not recording as “Lesley Rankine”
Will Rankine ever do a solo project?
“Lesley is not a very rock and roll name, for a start, and I ‘m just not really interested in going out on my own for a number reasons.” she explains. “I wanted this to become a sort of umbrella of a project name. If I was doing something under the name Lesley Rankine, it would be definitely just me, or I would farm it out to somebody else to mix it and that’s it. I wouldn’t do so much to promote it, I probably wouldn’t take it on tour. It would be a very private, very small thing.”See all interviews →