Exclusive Interview: Carla And Heidi From Butcher Babies
With heavy metal and horror-inspired theatrics fascinating crowds worldwide, Butcher Babies has emerged as one of the biggest draws on the Sunset Strip in their hometown of Los Angeles. The band wrapped up 2012 by signing a record deal with Century Media Records and kicked off 2013 by hitting the road on a North American tour with shock-rock icon Marilyn Manson.
Fronted by Carla Harvey and Heidi Shepherd – named two of the year’s ‘Hottest Women in Hard Rock’ by Revolver Magazine – Butcher Babies has brought their show worldwide wowing UK fans at last year’s Download Festival, as support for Anthrax in Cardiff, and as direct support for Otep in America.
Butcher Babies’ track “Axe Wound” is currently in rotation on Sirius XM Liquid Metal, and their short movie/video for the track “Mr. Slowdeath” can be seen below. The band – vocalists Harvey and Shepherd, guitarist Henry Flury, bassist Jason Klein and drummer Chris Warner – is currently working on their full-length debut, slated for a worldwide release in Summer 2013.
I caught up with Carla and Heidi a few hours before their set opening for Marilyn Manson at Bogart’s in Cincinnati. We talked about the progression and evolution of the band, things they look to for inspiration, and why it’s perfectly OK to be a misfit.
During our interview last February you decided that 2012 was going to be the year you made a lot of things happen for the band and you weren’t lying. It’s almost like you had a crystal ball into the band’s future.
Carla: We definitely felt that way and this year will continue with that way of thinking.
Heidi: It would be interesting to hear what we talked about then and see how much of it happened.
I remember asking where the band was at on your list of priorities for the year and you both said it was your only priority.
Carla: It has to be.
Heidi: It still is!
Carla: If you want to take the band to the next level it has to be your number one priority.
Last night was the first night of the tour with Marilyn Manson. How was it?
Heidi: It was amazing!
Carla: They spelled our name wrong on the marquee! We drove up and I was so excited. I took a picture of it right away and tweeted it and then I noticed they spelled it “Butcher Baibes.” Who the hell is that?
Heidi: What a great way to start off a tour! It was amazing. The Eagles Ballroom holds 4300 and it was full. We walked out and it was a sea of people. It was so incredible.
That’s another thing you predicted. Almost a year ago you said you really wanted to go on tour with Manson and here we are.
Heidi: Shhhhh! It’s our secret.
Carla: I’m beginning to think we have some kind of secret powers!
Heidi: There’s another tour coming up this summer that we can’t talk about yet but I think we manifested that last year, too. We’ve definitely had some dreams come true this year.
So much has really happened for you guys since last year. The EP is out. The video for “Mr. Slowdeath,” tons of rotation on satellite radio.
Carla: We’re really excited for our full-length album through Century Media. As soon as we get back home we’re writing. We’ve been in the studio every single day writing. We’re playing a couple of new songs during our set. When we get back home we’re right back into the studio. We’re like little kids now we’re so excited.
Heidi: To have it released through a label is going to be so awesome for us, especially a label we all looked up to. Century Media has always been like family to us. For them to take us on board and give us such high hopes and good support is really great.
You had accomplished a lot without a label: the EP, videos, comic books, merchandising. Your look wasn’t just born overnight, either.
Heidi: It took years. It really did. It wasn’t something we just thought up overnight. It took a lot of planning and a lot of money.
Carla: We needed a label to take us to that next level. We’re very proud of what we did on our own but it was time to give the reins to someone else. We’re very hands on. We run everything but we need that machine behind us as well.
Did they sign you based on your previous accomplishments or did you have new music ready for them?
Heidi: They’ve heard a lot. Not the newest stuff that we’re playing because they haven’t seen that set yet. They’ve heard pretty much everything we’d written before we signed. It was cool and a great compliment from them. They said they knew how much we had grown over the past year and they could only imagine what we could accomplish this year.
What kind of things influenced the new songs?
Heidi: Kinda the same stuff as before, just a little more elaborate. We’ve really come together as a group. We’ve evolved a lot but still kinda stayed the same. Our influences are all over the place.
Carla: That’s what makes our band special. We all come from different backgrounds. I love old thrash metal and punk rock. Our bass player Jason loves death metal. Heidi loves nu-metal. Henry loves prog-metal and very experimental metal. All of our ideas come together to form this Butcher Babies metal!
Heidi: You can’t really put a genre on it.
I think you’ve made your own. You’ve been called “Slut Metal.”
Heidi: People gave us that title but we didn’t take offense to it. That’s just something that defines you as a female and embracing it.
Another phrase you brought to the forefront of the Butcher Babies vocabulary is “cunt punch.”
Heidi: Here’s the funny thing about that. Carla and I will dance around like complete dorks. We’ll have a lot of fun. On our last tour with Otep we’d stand in the back and dance and punch each other. We called it cunt punching.
Carla: Who doesn’t like a good cunt punch?! It should be a new mosh pit move! I can see all these crazy kids doing karate kids and cunt punching at the same time.
I’ve always loved the fact that you’re both funny and dirty minded – not because you’re trying to be – that’s just who you are!
Heidi: That’s the absolute truth! I don’t think we could fake it.
Carla: Our tour manager gets on the bus yesterday and hears us talking and says, “Carla, that’s the most vile, disgusting thing I’ve ever heard someone say in my entire life!” I really can’t repeat what I said because it was really gross. That’s how we are and it never lets up.
Heidi: It’s because we’re such great friends. We’re kinda like one of the dudes. They boys do not hold back in front of us at all. Jason will make the most disgusting jokes I’ve ever heard in my life and we’ll sit here laughing our butts off. That’s who we are and we’re not going to hide it. It’s fun.
But then you put on the war paint and hit the stage and it’s full on Butcher Babies mode.
Heidi: Our Butcher Babies characters are alter egos we all have inside of us. We’re privileged enough to be able to get them out – in a good way.
Carla, I think it’s interesting that you’re a mortician. You eventually want to own your own funeral home, right?
Carla: I would love to. Obviously I’m an entertainer. I actually turned down a job working as an embalmer at the biggest mortuary in California, Forest Lawn. The same day I got a call to do a new hosting job. I had to ask myself what I really wanted to do. Right now it’s entertainment. I love being on stage. I’ll go back to that eventually because I think I have a gift. I’ve been given this very empathetic way of dealing with people and I think if you have that gift you need to use it. It’s definitely a calling to work in that industry. I’d love to do it again but right now the band takes up all of my time.
Heidi: It’s great because we have careers from before that we can always go back to. Later on in life I’m excited to go back to morning radio. I want to do that so bad again but now is the time for the band.
Heidi, could you work in a funeral home?
Heidi: Oh fuck no! Fuck no. I’m woozy with our fake blood.
I would have an interest in that career to maybe help answer questions I have about how and why we are alive, answer questions about life and death. Then there is another part that’s all about helping people.
Carla: I didn’t realize how much of the latter half of what you said would be true, though. I’ve always had a very intense fear of death. I started getting into that business because I was curious. At first I only wanted to work with the bodies, only be an embalmer. I didn’t want to be involved in the funerals. Then I started working with families and I realized how much it means to them to be there for them when they need it the most. I loved it. I feel like it’s truly giving back in a very special way.
Does your interest in that line of work help inspire lyrics or do you consider some things off limits?
Carla: We definitely talk about death and serial killers. I don’t think anything is off limits in our songs.
Heidi: The only thing that’s off limits is that “baby back” bullshit.
Carla: Baby back ribs? No, we don’t talk about baby back ribs in our songs.
Heidi: No, I mean like “Baby, ooooohhhh baby.” We don’t hold back when it comes to our writing. Nothing is really a touchy subject. If it is a touchy subject then that’s all the better.
Carla: People want you to connect with them. When I was a kid it was important for me to know that somebody that wrote those lyrics felt the same way I did at some point and time. It made me feel like I wasn’t so alone out there.
Heidi: I’ve had ex-boyfriends before – yes, a couple of them.
Heidi: I’ve had boyfriends that told me I did things just to shock people. It’s just in my nature. I don’t know why.
Wait, I’ve never known a female to do something just to be shocking. You’ve gotta be shitting me.
Carla: Especially not when she’s on her period or something. I don’t know any girls like that.
Heidi: We want to have a show. We’re not just going to play music for you. I’d be bored doing that and I’d be bored watching it. I’m gonna get up there and go balls to the wall – yes, balls to the wall – and have a good time. If I’m not doing that I wouldn’t be enjoying it.
And the evolution of the band’s live show no longer features nipple tape. I bet you even saw the fan reaction change after you hit the stage – they didn’t care what you were wearing once they got caught up in the music.
Carla: That’s the great thing. They don’t even notice anymore.
Heidi: It started a long time ago. As soon as the band really started to become a unit people started to not even give a fuck what we looked like or what we were wearing. They were beating the shit out of each other. We’ve been getting the exact same, if not better, response.
That was a tribute to Wendy O. Williams. I don’t think she did it to show off her boobs exactly. It was more about “fuck you” than anything else.
Carla: We were never trying to be sexual on stage. We both have backgrounds with Playboy but we’re not trying to be Playboy models up there. We’re still up there, fuck you – this is what we’re gonna do. If you don’t like it don’t watch it.
Heidi: This touches on the “slut metal” thing, too. It’s about us embracing the females we are today and loving it.
Carla: We realized people would make derogatory comments without even hearing our music. The fans that come to the shows get it. People would say derogatory things without even listening because they were put off by what we were wearing. Part of you wants to be like “fuck you” but we really want our art to get out there. That’s more important to us.
I think a lot of what you do is empowering to women.
Heidi: I think we can definitely touch on that regardless of what we wear. We can empower women or people in general to do what they want. Female empowerment is obviously where it started but it can be about anybody that has a dream and a goal they really want to go for. It’s never too late. We’re not 21 year old girls. We wish we were! We’ve had different careers, different paths in life. I got married once. We’ve done different things. We thought every time that was the end all, be all. It’s never too late to follow your dreams. That’s something that both of us really stand for.
Heidi, I know you came from a very strict, religious family. Carla, you had to deal with a lot of racism growing up. Do you use those things to motivate you and your careers now?
Heidi: I was sheltered and a misfit. I wasn’t your typical Mormon girl. I wasn’t into it. I lived in Provo, Utah. It was 99.9% Mormon kids. I did not fit it – from the music I listened to, the way I dressed, the way I talked. I tried but it just didn’t happen.
Carla: I grew up in Detroit which is still a very racially segregated place. Being bi-racial, I had a very hard time with other people who were black telling me I couldn’t listen to rock n’ roll. I was selling out. White people would say ridiculous things to me, not realizing I was black. I followed my heart. I’m not going to let the color of my skin dictate what I listen to or what I’m going to be.
Heidi: We may have been misfits then and we may be misfits now. Female. Metal. It doesn’t really matter.
Carla: We had a guy in Florida come up to our merchandise booth. He had in his hand a comic book I wrote, two of our shirts and a poster. He said, “Thank god I finally got my cousin off that nigger music by taking him to your show tonight.” What a friggin idiot! He just bought a shit-ton of merch from a black girl! Surprise, surprise! It’s so ridiculous. Misfit kids make the best fucking adults. Who the hell wants to peak in middle school or high school? I’m so happy that we get to be who we are now. I’m not a cool kid now but I’m trying really hard! I’d like to go back in time and tell myself – all frizzy-haired, chubby with braces – look dude: You’re gonna be one of the hottest chicks in metal and it’s gonna be awesome! Tell all these people to fuck off!
Heidi: You know younger girls feel that way now.
Carla: They do. The write Heidi and I all the time asking for advice. It’s really cool that young girls are reaching out to us.
That’s where the real connection happens.
Carla: Absolutely. It’s like working at the mortuary. I’m actually helping people. When somebody young writes to me and asks for advice – this kid asked me how to deal with his sister’s death – it touches me so much. That means so much to me. When we were younger we didn’t have the means to communicate with people we were fans of. It’s really cool to connect with people on that level.
So you’re out with Manson for a couple of months. Do you bring any special music to listen to while you’re out on the road? Heidi, I’ve got to give you a hard time because you let it slip before that you like the Backstreet Boys.
Heidi: No! That was my first concert. Do I still like them? Did I tell you about the side project I want to do? One of my best friends, Anita Strauss – one of Revolver’s Hottest Chicks In Hard Rock, one of the best guitarists I’ve ever heard – and a couple of other girls want to do a project that would be death metal Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls! We’re gonna do it! We grew up with that.
You’re more fired up talking about the Backstreet Boys than anything else you’ve talked about so far!
Carla: Do you see how excited she gets when she talks about the Spice Girls?
Heidi: (heavy breathing, moaning)
Carla: I’m a little embarrassed over here. And she makes fun of me for liking Iron Maiden!
Heidi: I don’t remember making fun of you for that. I think I made fun of you for being in love with Axl Rose.
Carla: Dude, I still am! I’ll take fat Axl, skinny Axl – I don’t give a fuck!
Heidi: You can so have that!
Carla: I’ll take him on a platter with a fucking apple in his mouth. What a mental image…
Um, with that I think my job here is done! What would you like to say to the fans to wrap things up?
Carla: Thanks for supporting us the past few years. We’ve had fans that drove for hours to see us. That means so much to us. To be such a new band and have such rabid fans is really exciting.
Heidi: Stick to your dreams and be who you are. If more people could do that there would be a lot more happy people in the world.