Butcher Babies made their first Milwaukee appearance last Friday night Jan. 18 at The Rave as the opening band for Marilyn Manson's 2013 North American tour. The band consists of Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey on vocals, Jason Klein on bass, Chris Warner on drums and Henry Flury on guitar. Carla and Heidi were kind enough to take a few minutes to talk to me before the show so we could discuss the amazing year that 2013 is shaping up to be for the band.
John Schulze: Thanks for taking some time to talk with me, welcome to Milwaukee. Have you played here before ?
Carla Harvey: No, never, it's our first time in Milwaukee, so we're excited to be here.
JS: It's a long way from home.
CH: It is, it took us two and a half days of straight driving to get here, so we gotta do a little calisthenics before we hit the stage tonight, a little jumping jacks, toe touches.
JS: You had to really work for it to get here.
Heidi Shepherd: It works, I have a lot of family here and so a lot of them are able to come see the show, which I'm pretty excited about.
JS: It must be some sort of crazy cosmic alignment, you're playing in Milwaukee 32 years to the day that Wendy O Williams of The Plasmatics was wrongfully arrested on obscenity charges by Milwaukee Police for simulating sex acts on a sledgehammer during a performance at The Palms nightclub just a few blocks from where we're currently at.
HS: I had no idea, that's incredible. I knew she was arrested here.
CH: But what I'm getting from that, are we gonna top that tonight ? What can we do to top that tonight ?
HS: That incredible, I had no idea. Obviously she's a huge influence on us, we'll try to ring her name.
JS: There are some obvious parallels and influences that Butcher Babies draw from Williams and her legendary career of shock rock. Can you tell me what it means to you that pioneers like Williams had to sacrifice so much for their art and what sort of obstacles still stand in the way for performers such as Butcher Babies ?
HS: It's great because Wendy O Williams was one of the first females in heavy metal and to really go all out. She just didn't care what anybody said, she was in in for what she wanted to do. I'm sure it caused a lot of flak for her being a female so out there. It really paved the way for females such as ourselves to do what we want to do. She's not the only one, there's been a lot of females in metal or rock that have had to overcome a lot of trials, just for the plain fact of being a female. It's great for us to be able to honor those women.
CH: Not even just as a feminist view, or any of that, I think that Wendy O Williams was a work of art onstage.
CH: Her whole show was art. I think that she paved the way, not just for women, but for men and anyone who wanted to bring more to their show than just getting up there and holding onto a guitar, or whatever. It's definitely something I feel an audience deserves, a whole complete show.
HS: Wendy O Williams, Alice Cooper, they brought the show element back to shows. That's really cool, and that's what we try to do.
JS: I'm not sure anyone since her has chainsawed guitars onstage.
CH: And blown up cars ! Doing all that fun stuff !
JS: This is the first night of the tour with Marilyn Manson. How's your stage show this tour going to differ from, say, an 18 or 21 and older show you might play in an LA club ? Have you had to tone down your performance for the all ages environment ?
CH: We won't be toning down our performance, but there's less room for us to move around obviously because our stuff is in front of Manson's stuff, so there won't be too much room for us to move around. I don't think that we've ever toned down our performance for any crowd.
HS: Basically the band started out probably not an all ages band, but we've evolved over the past two years to an all ages band. There's nothing that we would have needed to tone down over the past year and a half, two years. We're definitely a family friendly band ! (both Heidi and Carla laugh and say family friendly band in unison)
CH: I will say that even when we may not have been considered family friendly, we had kids in the audience whose parents brought them, wearing our Butcher Babies shirts. For people whose parents get it…
HS: They love us.
CH: They see it as art and see us as kind of teaching women it's okay to be yourselves, you don't have to be what everyone else wants you to be.
JS: They show them the value behind the performance.
HS: Absolutely, so no we're definitely not toning down anything, if anything we're amped up. We're amped up for the show. We've put a lot of things into it that you'll see.
JS: You have a brand new record deal with Century Media and you have some really excellent label mates like In This Moment. Your full length debut is said to be due out this summer. Are you headed straight to the studio after this tour and how is the songwriting process coming along for you right now ?
HS: Before we left for tour, for the past couple of months, we've been in the studio together almost every day writing and writing and writing, and we've definitely come up with a lot of great stuff that we're excited for everyone to hear. We'll be playing a couple of new songs tonight and when we get back we'll finish up a little bit of the writing process. We're gonna finish up a little bit on the road, too, but when we get back we're headed straight into the studio for production.
JS: Any themes that you want to talk about that seem to be standing out for the album so far ?
HS: What we've always written about are the kinds of things that scare us, you know your nightmares. Something you might have a nightmare about.
CH: Feeling like a misfit. Basically we all grew up kind of misfits, and we like to write and talk about the things that scared us or made us outcasts or that were kind of hard things to get past in our lives.
HS: We have a couple songs about serial killers. Like specific serial killers, not just in general.
CH: I think maybe we might be inspired to write one tonight because we're sitting in an RV looking out at the Ambassador Hotel where Jeffrey Dahmer killed and ate a bunch of people. So we'll manage to write something today on the bus.
JS: You're in the city that made Dahmer famous.
HS: Yeah, that's true ! (laughs)
CH: So Basically the album will have a lot of reflection on us as people, things we've been through in our lives. You think you know, but you don't know ! (We all laugh together as Carla blurts this out)
JS: Probably the worst thing any band can do these days is play it safe, not taking any real risks. What are some of the biggest risks Butcher Babies have taken and what are some of the goals and rewards you hope to achieve in 2013 and beyond ?
CH: I mean I think it's obvious the risks that we've taken. When we started off we truly didn't really care what anybody thought. We wanted to be in a metal band, and we wanted to do it together. Obviously we used to perform with tape on our nipples. People thought we were ridiculous and crazy, and we didn't care. We kept doing what we loved. That's the reason that we're here.
HS: People looked at us basically like, 'Oh they just need attention,' blah, blah, blah. But it was really an ode to Wendy O Williams, as we have discussed before. But I think that was a huge risk, not only with families, but other people in your prior life may think of you.
JS: It takes a lot of guts.
HS: It does. We just didn't care, we knew what we wanted to do. And as Carla said, we wanted to do it together. I think as a band, our entire band has taken a lot of risk. These boys, when they first started playing with us, who knows what their families would have thought, or girlfriends or wives.
CH: They're like, why the Hell are you gonna be in a band with these two broads that are going up there banging their heads around like idiots. I'm sure their friends thought that, but we've evolved into this tight group that is actually doing some pretty amazing things together. All because we've believed in ourselves. I think whenever you believe in yourself it's kind of taking a risk not giving in to what everyone else wants you to be. That's the way we've always been our whole lives.
HS: It's been interesting because every single one of us have given up jobs, relationships…
HS: Everything, any sort of lifestyle that we used to have, we've scaled it down to fit in the band. I feel like that's what really happens when you're pursuing your dreams. I feel thankful for that. I feel thankful that I have the opportunity to do this. Those risks or those things I gave up, they don't even seem like a blink of an eye.
JS: Scaling down, it makes you focus...
HS: Oh absolutely. We're a very focused band, every single one of us is one hundred percent focused. It's great to work with other people who understand what you want to do.
CH: It doesn't work out of people are half-assed anything. We've had half-assed people playing with us before we met the guys who are in the band now. You really just have to breathe it every second of the day if it's gonna be a success. I think that because all of us have done that. Butcher Babies is the first thing on our mind everyday. That's why we're on this Marilyn Manson tour, it's huge for us.
Butcher Babies went on to play a powerful and aggressive set to warm up the Milwaukee crowd for Manson, and they made good on playing some new songs as well as fan favorites such as "Mr. Slowdeath" and "Axe Wound." You can pick up their EP as well as other merchandise at their official website and catch them opening up for Marilyn Manson in a city near you. for more information about John Schulze Photography please visit https://www.facebook.com/JohnSchulzePhoto or https://www.johnschulze.com/