Remember the old saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover?” Now keep reading. Maine Music News had everyone from Butcher Babies for our interview backstage at the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival July 17th. This band is doing something right. How do we know? Well, they have been the center of controversy while being embraced by fans for their message and their music. It must be their hard work ethic and their intelligent conversation – critics hate that, but fans get it.
Here is a cheat sheet to keep everyone straight:
Heidi Shepherd- VOX
Carla Harvey- VOX
Henry Flury- GUITAR
Jason Klein- BASS
Chris Warner- DRUMS
MMN – For our readers that are just learning about Butcher Babies, please tell us a little bit about yourselves as there is more to Butcher Babies than what meets the eye.
CH – We are a metal band out of Los Angeles with two female lead singers and three pretty rad guys in the back.
CW – We all are music lovers, just as any other band is. We all started the project because we all want to play music. We were all friends before. This is what we are doing together, and we are very blessed to be on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival this year.
MMN – Your debut album Goliath was just released last week. How is that being received?
CH – It has had an amazing reception. We just found out today that it hit number 1 for the new artists Heatseeker chart and debuted at 107 on the Billboard charts so that is pretty rad. We sold a lot in the first week of its release. Even more so than that, we are proud of it. We spent six weeks in pre-production and recording to make an album that gives us goose bumps every time we hear it. We all come from different musical backgrounds. I love old school stuff like Slayer, old Metallica, I love Pantera. Chris here, loves Marilyn Manson. Heidi, my co-vocalist loves nu-metal. Henry, our guitar player, loves Meshuggah, and Jason, our bass player, loves death metal. So we managed to put all the different kinds of metal that we love into this album. It is so organic, and it sounds so good. We are getting tweets and Facebook messages all day long from our fans telling us how great it is. So besides what the critics say, what matters most, is that we are proud of it and our fans are loving it.
MMN – One of the things that we noticed is that you are not just a couple of pretty faces. You have a great vocal ability to move from the metal vocals to really singing. You have a really nice voice. However, what was the importance to sing in a metal band?
CH – Thank you. I grew up in Detroit. I was a half-black kid growing up in Detroit. I lived in a neighborhood where it was frowned upon for liking metal and rock and roll. I had to really stay true to what I believed in and what I wanted to represent. I have never changed, I have always loved metal. So when I started playing in a band, I always played rock, always played heavy metal. That is just how I am and what I love. Sure, maybe Heidi and I could have a pop band and maybe we could be rich and famous already, however, we are metal kids. We love metal, and that is what we want to do.
MMN – Can you talk a little bit about where you get your lyrical inspirations? Is there a story or a message that you are trying to tell on Goliath?
CH – Goliath is basically a concept album based on the breakdown in the American family, the breakdown in society. We all have had our Goliath that we have battled in our lives. During the process of battling your Goliath you have to make sure you don’t become Goliath yourself in return and hurt others. We all have had an opportunity to become Goliath, and we have taken a different path. Maybe we have gotten out our anger or whatever we felt through our music instead.
The first song on the album, “I Smell a Massacre,” Heidi and I wrote after the Sandy Hook incident as a response to it and a response to other incidents like that. It is a wakeup call to parents. They blame a lot of what happens in society on gun control and stuff like that where really that kind of thing starts in the home. Parents should be the first ones to notice when there is something going on with their child. If you don’t notice that your kid is turning into a psychopath then you are not spending enough time with your child, and you are not paying enough attention. People need to open their eyes. It is hard these days due to the mass number of broken homes. People are working two and three jobs to support their families, and they don’t have the time to pay attention to their children. That has to change. We have to start paying attention to what is going on in our own homes.
Some of the other songs on the album are about denials about our relationships. “Grim Sleeper” is about a serial killer. Heidi and I have been fascinated by serial killers. That song is really cool because the Grim Sleeper was a serial killer from Los Angeles and was unique due to being African-American. Usually serial killers are crazy white guys. We wrote that song from two perspectives – one from the killer and the other from the victim. There are two different parts, and you can hear it when Heidi and I are singing it together, especially in the bridge where there is a battle between these two individuals. It is pretty unique.
We write about the things that scare us, whether they are external or internal. We all come from different places in the States. We have different backgrounds, and we have all had to fight a lot of demons. Our album is honest, and we let everything out on it.
MMN – You have this very powerful message. Are the fans getting your message?
CH – I think they are. Goliath just came out and hopefully they will read the lyrics and listen. Hopefully they will read interviews like this. That is part of the reason why we stopped doing the tape on our breasts. People did not get why we were doing it. We did not do that with the intention to be sexy. It was an ode to Wendy O. Williams and what she did for women in music. Heidi and I were in a punk band before and punk has a very “fuck you” attitude and a very “I am going to do what I want and I don’t care what anyone thinks” attitude. We took that attitude with us into the metal world. We don’t think America was ready for that expression, I don’t know why, however I would rather have people listen to our music and hear our message than be scared off by a pair of tits with electrical tape on them.
MMN – So you decided to back down that image?
CH – We wanted to evolve as a band. Our music evolved a lot, and we wanted to evolve with it. It was time.
MMN – A lot of artists are going independent. Did you think about producing and releasing Goliath independently? How will having a label work for you and your fans?
CH – We did. We accomplished a lot without a label. We were on our own for about three years, and we worked our butts off. We did a lot of cool stuff on our own however there comes a time that if you want to take it to the next level, you need to sign with a label. We decided to sign with Century Media who had been courting us for about a year. We were eyeballing them, and they were eyeballing us. It was the right time, and it was a good decision. We would not have made such an amazing album without their help.
The label had a huge advantage due to us working so hard on our own and how far we had gotten. It helped make us desirable to record labels. I think it also gave us a little bit of power in choosing the label we would go to and what our stipulations would be. The important thing is so many bands get so excited about being signed and they will sign away everything. We knew we could not do that. We realized we had something special and did not want to do that. We want to be able to keep doing it, and if you sign away all of your rights to everything, then you can’t. You end up not making any money at all and you are not doing anything and you are stuck. We are with Century Media, and they are like family and are very supportive of us.
Heidi, Henry and Jason joined the interview at this point
HS – Another great thing about being a hard working band and being desirable for other labels is it gave us a bit of creative freedom after we were signed. They saw that we worked hard and that we knew what we were doing and the progress that we had made without them. They let us do what we needed to do in order to create the album and create the sound that we wanted to have. I think that was huge. Not very many bands get that freedom.
MMN – Some artists have described their stage persona’s as liberating – a chance to really step out of themselves. Let’s talk about your stage personas. Where did each of you come up with your image? How similar is your stage image to your actual personality?
CH – We all definitely have our own stage personas. I love comic books so I feel mine is very comic book like. I also think that when I am up on stage, I feel like I did when I was thirteen when I was listening to Slayer in my room. I think that is what I embody when I am up on stage.
HS – I think it is very natural. Obviously it is an outlet for us to really express ourselves. This is our art, and a lot of people have different ways of expressing their art. For us, we are so lucky that we have this avenue to do it when we get on stage. I don’t think that we could perform any other way. We are putting everything we have out there. I think every single person in this band feels incredibly lucky. But I think it just happens, a lot of things in this band are just fate, it just happens. You learn and you grow as time moves along. One thing that we have been able to do is hone in on our on stage characters and it is more of an alter-ego, something that we feel on the inside that we are able to show on the outside now.
MMN – Heidi can you talk about the black stripe on your eyes? It feels really tribal to me.
HS – It came from a comic book character or super hero thing. It was just something we did a couple of times back in the day, even in an old band we did it before, and it stuck. For me, when I am sitting in front of the mirror putting on this eye bar, I think for all of us, when we are putting on our make-up, we are becoming those characters that we are on stage. We know it is “go” time – here comes that big line on my face – that’s when it comes out and it’s “go” time. We are ready to rumble.
MMN – Can you talk about how you got the opening spot for Marilyn Manson and what was it like being out on tour with Marilyn?
CH – That was great. That gave us so much exposure to a completely different crowd. Our first tour was with Otep, which was awesome. She has a very niche crowd. Manson, everybody loves Manson. We got to play in front of a very wide audience.
HS – The timing could not have been more perfect with that tour, as a lot of press and people are wondering what we are about. Can these two girls in metal really do this? Is this something that is real or is it a gimmick? Are they just pretty faces? It was a perfect opportunity to go and prove ourselves to a large audience. Not just to the audience, but to the people that had no idea who we are and the critics and the people that read the reviews. I think this tour is doing the exact same thing. We are pretty new in the sense of playing as a national act vs being a local California act. At this point, it is necessary for us to step out, and it is exciting to have to prove ourselves. We work really well under that sort of pressure. Not only that, we welcome it. We have everything to prove and really nothing to lose.
MMN – Thank you guys very much for your time. Good luck on the rest of the tour and good luck with the new album release.
BB – Thank you guys, we appreciate it.