Ruby was the collaboration of singer Lesley Rankine and Mark Walk. Rankine relocated from London to Seattle to collaborate with the producer in 1994. Their music styles expanded across the genres of electronic, trip hop, noise, industrial, and jazz, among others. The band released two studio albums and three remix albums from 1995 through 2001, and singles into 2002. The name for this group came about because Rankine and Walk both have maternal grandmothers named "Ruby".
Rankine (born April 11, 1965) began her music career as front woman to London garage psych band The Grizzelders, recording one Cassette only release called "Making It Real Gear", before forming noise band Silverfish, leaving the group after the release of their 1993 LP Organ Fan and then departing for Seattle. There she joined forces with producer Mark Walk to create an electronic album which echoed the downtempo styles, especially trip hop, more than their noise backgrounds. She had previously worked with Walk on material for industrial group Pigface. The result was the album Salt Peter, which was released in 1995, with a remix album, Revenge, The Sweetest Fruit, appearing in 1996. She also appeared on the Toronto-based Monster Voodoo Machine's Suffersystem album recorded in 1994 at Chicago Trax; this album would win a Juno Award. Following the release of Ruby's debut album and the supporting tour that ended in 1996, Rankine with Tom Jones recorded a cover of the song Kung Fu Fighting, and later recorded a one-minute version of Lerner and Loewe's "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" for a Samuel Bayer-directed Mountain Dew commercial in which she also appeared.
Rankine then moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. The stay would be only six months due to events including a rash of car-jackings and hold-ups in the surrounding areas, and culminating with the murder of a woman in the garden across from her. When Rankine learned the killer had deposited the victim's clothing in her garbage as they left the scene, she left New Orleans within five days for Seattle to start recording Ruby's second album with producer Mark Walk.
Most of Short-Staffed at the Gene Pool would be finished by August 1998 and nearly completed by Rankine in her native Scotland throughout 1999. Rankine would spend the year 2000 dealing with the old contracts with labels WORK and Creation, and setting things up with Wichita in the UK, with the band's final two albums out in 2001. For a short time Ruby continued to collaborate with former Creation label members Mark Bowen and Dick Green, but as of March 2008 no further recordings have been released. Rankine has since taken a break from recording, returning to her home country.
- Main article: Mark Walk
Walk had previously worked with Rankine on material for industrial group Pigface. As of March 2008, he resided in Los Angeles, USA, where in addition to collaborating on albums for both of the groups Skinny Puppy and ohGr, he has been writing and producing music for commercials as well as film.
Ruby's first album, Salt Peter, was released November 1, 1995. The album would produce three singles, all of which would chart in the UK. It was made almost entirely using computers and without a band. The album's songs have been described as being driven by loops of drums and repetitious guitar/bass riffs. Rankine explains the approach and reasoning:
Salt Peter's first single was "Paraffin", released on November 7, 1995. The compilation New Voices vol. 3 from Rolling Stone Magazine had this song as its second track. It was followed up with Ruby's best known song, "Tiny Meat", which was also released in 1995. It would be the only song by the band to chart in the United States, reaching #22 on the Modern Rock Tracks list. This song was also included in the compilation MTV Fresh 2. Another single, "Hoops" came out in early 1996. Later in that year the promotion-only single for the track "Swallow Baby" was put out for radio play. An up-to-then unreleased song called "This Is" was on the soundtrack to the film The Cable Guy in May 1996. The CD single for the song "Paraffin" included a remix called "Harpie Mix" which was also on the soundtrack to the 1997 movie The Beautician and the Beast. All of Salt Peter's singles had music videos made for them.
Her lyrics are almost frightening, with references to blood, meat, leeches and fire cropping up in numerous songs. Edgar Allan Poe at his darkest would be proud of Ruby's brooding verse.
—Troy Carpenter, nudeasthenews.com
In his review of Salt Peter, Troy Carpenter, co-director of nudeasthenews.com, considered the album promising but not ground-breaking musically, however "surprisingly original". Its music he considered "often less-than-stellar" but the lyrics were what caught his attention, and he sums the effort up by stating "Though Salt Peter leaves the aural palate dissatisfied, it brushes with greatness.
On April 8, 1996, a remix album called Revenge, The Sweetest Fruit: Salt Peter Remixed was released in the United States, followed by the UK version Stroking The Full Length on October 29, 1996. The third track from Stroking... is a "Ceasefire Remix" of the song "Flippin' tha Bird" and this version was part of the movie soundtrack to the 1997 film Nowhere. The Japan release of Stroking... was out on September 1, 1996, and came with an extra track the other remix albums of Salt Peter do not have. It was the "Mark Walk Mix" of the song "Tiny Meat."
Short-Staffed At The Gene Pool
During and after the tour in support of Salt Peter, the duo began early work on their next album; however several events would push its release well into 2001. Among these issues the largest were internal problems in the studio and the struggle then eventual folding of Ruby's label Creation Records in 1999, when the band (as with most of Creation's artists) was meshed into the parent label, Sony. Rankine described the situation and time frame in an interview from August 8, 2001, by Holly Day:
- "Q: Why was there such a big gap between your last record and this new one?
- A: Because of the people I was working with, really. I mean, the guy I had originally been working with didnt want to give me my record back, and held onto it for nearly a year and a half. And then when I eventually did get my record back, the American record label, Creation, folded, and I was sort of absorbed into Sony, since Creation was owned by Sony. So then I had to wait around for a year to get out of the Sony deal.
Q: How long ago was the record finished?
- A: My bit was finished all the way back in 1997. I didnt actually get my record back until June 1999, and shortly thereafter the label went down the pot. So Ive got quite a bit of new material to try out during this tour, all written while waiting for this new album to come out."
The album Short-Staffed At The Gene Pool would be the result, released on April 23, 2001, in the UK, and a day later in the US. It was on new labels for the group, Wichita Recordings and Thirsty Ear Recordings. The album produced three singles; "Grace" (released March 20, 2001), "Beefheart" (July 31, 2001), and "Lamplight" (released in 2002), all of which had music videos made for them. Ruby's last album to date (as of March 2008) was Altered and Proud, the Short Staffed Remixes, which came out on July 17, 2001. Neither the studio album Short staffed..., the remix album Altered and Proud..., or any of their singles would chart in the United States.
Of the duo only Rankine went on the road; Walk did not participate in performing the live shows. With Rankine on vocals the touring band consisted of Chris Taplin on bass/guitar, Gavin Fawcett on drums, Sharon Dougherty on keyboard/guitar (replaced by Regina Chellew mid tour). Ruby performed at the Pukkelpop music festival, the Reading Festival, and Lollapalooza during 1996, in support of the album Salt Peter.
Ruby's North American tour supporting Short-Staffed At The Gene Pool started off with a huge hitch: lost effects equipment for a group that uses only effects to perform their music live. Rankine relates the story in the same 2001 interview:
- "Q: So I heard something happened to your luggage?
- A: Yes, its awful! The skycart didnt put a tag on one piece. There were 15 pieces of luggage that were sent with us to L.A., but only 14 actually got here. The one that didnt get the tag is apparently still flying around out there somewhere, or tied up at a different airport or something. The airline says we have no real recourse, that were somehow just as responsible for the missing piece as they are. Its ironic, because that one missing piece contained all our effects units, all of our keyboards and connecting MIDI cables and power cables, and basically everything we needed to run every instrument for the tour. If they had lost any other piece of luggage we could have still pulled the tour off. If wed lost one guitar, wed still have another, and same with the double-basswe have an electric thatd work just as well. But because that one piece of luggage got lost, this tour almost didnt happen.
- "Q: Will you be able to replace all that stuff?
- A: Yeah, we eventually had to go buy everything we needed. We had to run around to Guitar Center and Radio Shack and some other place and buy all new stuff, so now Im up to my eyeballs in debt. The equipment is all insured, so eventually well get the money backbut still, not the greatest way to start our tour. If the equipment hadnt been insured, I would have just turned around and gone home."
- Main article: Ruby discography
|September 16, 1995||"Paraffin"||UK Singles||United Kingdom||81|
|February 24, 1996||"Tiny Meat"||UK Singles||United Kingdom||96|
|May, 1996||"Tiny Meat"||Billboard Modern Rock Tracks||USA||22|
|June 8, 1996||"Hoops"||UK Singles||United Kingdom||102|
|May 11, 1996||Salt Peter||Billboard Heatseekers Albums||USA||14|
|April 20, 1996||Salt Peter||UK Artist Albums||United Kingdom||96|
- [Ruby (band) at All Music Guide Allmusic Ruby Overview]. www.allmusic.com. Retrieved on 2008-03-24.
- Salt Peter by Ruby (Rock) - Epinions. www.epinions.com. Retrieved on 2008-03-30.
- Ruby. www.vh1.com. Retrieved on 2008-03-18.
- [Ruby (band) at All Music Guide Lesley Rankine Overview]. www.allmusic.com. Retrieved on 2008-04-07.
- 5.0 5.1 5.2 Ruby Biography. www.sing365.com. Retrieved on 2008-03-29.
- Thank Heaven for Little Girls!. www.asian-sirens.com. Retrieved on 2009-02-26.
- Mark Walk/IMDb. www.imdb.com. Retrieved on 2008-03-31.
- Salt Peter/Album Track Listing/MTV. www.mtv.com. Retrieved on 2008-03-24.
- 9.0 9.1 9.2 Nude as the News:Ruby:Salt Peter. www.nudeasthenews.com. Retrieved on 2009-08-04.
- Paraffin/Album Track Listing/MTV. www.mtv.com. Retrieved on 2008-03-24.
- New Voices vol. 3. www.rateyourmusic.com. Retrieved on 2008-03-25.
- Tiny Meat (CD1). www.rateyourmusic.com. Retrieved on 2008-04-10.
- Salt Peter Remixed EP/Album Track Listing/MTV. www.mtv.com. Retrieved on 2008-03-24.
- Stroking the Full Length/Album Track Listing/MTV. www.mtv.com. Retrieved on 2008-03-24.
- 15.0 15.1 Music News section called Rubys Blues. www.pulsetc.com. Retrieved on 2008-03-26.
- Short-Staffed at the Gene Pool by Ruby. rateyourmusic.com. Retrieved on 2008-03-22.
- Altered & Proud: The Short-Staffed Remixes by Ruby. "rateyourmusic.com". Retrieved on 2008-03-22.
- "Section 3 - Ruby "Stroking the Full Length". "www.section3.com". Retrieved on 2008-03-30.
- 19.0 19.1 19.2 UK singles chart history - Ruby. http://www.zobbel.de/. Retrieved on 2008-04-26.
- [[[:Template:BillboardURLbyName]] Artist Chart History - Ruby - Singles]. www.billboard.com. Retrieved on 2008-03-24.
- Artist Chart History - Ruby - Albums. www.billboard.com. Retrieved on 2008-03-24.
- UK artist album chart history - Ruby. http://www.zobbel.de/. Retrieved on 2008-04-26.
- Official artist website (archived)
- Lesley Rankine Discography
- Ruby's page on Wichita website (archived)
- New York Times article from 2/26/1996 describing Rankine's on-stage performance