If you haven’t seen the Butcher Babies live, then you haven’t truly experienced the innate incisiveness of the fairer sex in heavy metal. And what makes the band a must-see is not just the blatant hostility, carnality and potency that the two frontwomen (former Playboy TV personalities, radio DJs, comicon goddesses, you name it) Carla Harvey and Heidi Shepherd provide. It’s how the metal mistresses interact with the rest of the talented band (bassist Jason Klein, drummer Chris Warner and guitarist Henry Flury) on stage as well.
Although hot as hell, talented and extremely knowledgeable about heavy metal and hard rock, Harvey and Shepherd understand that no matter what, they will be judged on the way they look—which is pretty hard to miss, given the electrical tape-bedecked nipples and blood spattered bodies. The key is using their looks to a certain advantage until their musical talent—a mix of thrash, punk and hardcore that throws back to early Pantera and Motorhead days—is recognized.
And, since this interview was conducted, the Butcher Babies won in that regard: They were signed to Century Media Records.
The Butcher Babies certainly aren’t the raunchiest of the female rock groups, nor are they opening up new territory. But what they certainly do own up to is building a presence for women in heavy metal, getting the goddamn word out that sexy bitches have every right to be loud and proud about their sexuality, aggressiveness and (to put it more aptly) their own charming vulgar display of power. In fact, one of the ways these lovely ladies were first noticed in the metal scene was when a video of the two performing Pantera’s “Fucking Hostile” from Vulgar Display of Power went viral.
Boxx Magazine contributor Lauren Wise sat down with Harvey and Shepherd during a recent tour stop to talk about being losers in high school, dealing with intimidated guys, the concept behind “slut rock” and writing their new album.
The interview was conducted at Joe’s Grotto in Phoenix, Arizona on the kick off of the Butcher Babies’ “Hush Little Baby” tour.
Lauren Wise: I’m so excited to see you guys! Poppin’ my Butcher Babies’ cherry tonight.
Carla and Heidi both cheer.
Carla Harvey: Well, the last time we were at Joe’s Grotto, moshing wasn’t allowed and you couldn’t start a pit. But apparently, that ban is lifted tonight! Last time we didn’t know that there was that rule, so we were all bummed that no one was moshing around (laughter). And at least now we know.
LW: So I’m curious as to how you guys originated. Did you meet as Playboy TV personalities?
Carla Harvey: We actually worked at Playboy at completely different times. I joined a cover band that Heidi was already a part of, and we met, became instant BFFs, left that band and decided that we wanted to start a band of our own. I don’t think that we had ever met other girls like us before; we were just very drawn together. We wanted our new project to be way more metal than what we were in. You know, punk is fun, but I think that metal is a natural progression from punk. So we did that.
Heidi Shepherd: Yeah, it was really funny because in that old band we had to kick a girl out for drug use so we were looking for another girl. We had so many auditions for chicks to take her spot. All these auditions and then Carla pulls up in a purple Corvette, wearing these fringe boots, flicking her hair and we’re like, ‘you’re in!’ But no really, we were instant best friends. We would go over music, write together and finally it was a natural thing to break off and start our own project.
LW: What were your favorite bands that first influenced you to get into music?
CH: My original favorite band of all time is Guns N Roses. They were huge when I was growing up. And when I saw Slash and found out he was half-black, like me, I was like, ‘Wow I can do heavy metal too.’ They were the first hard rock band I really liked, then my tastes just became heavier.
HS: I grew up more along the lines of Korn, Limp Bizkit Slipknot, Marilyn Manson…I was always really drawn to Marilyn Manson. There was something that was really creepy but also a lot of talent there. I’m drawn to things that scare me for some reason. But Slipknot was always a big favorite of mine. I didn’t even get to see them live until about four years ago, and it honestly was one of the best experiences of my life. I’ve seen them twice since then, and every single time I’m just so inspired. I just want to go home, lock myself in my room and just write. They obviously offer up a lot of influences for me, but in general I grew up with a lot of nu metal.
LW: Slipknot is amazing live.
CH: What’s funny about hearing Heidi talk about our favorite bands, all the bands we’ve mentioned whether it’s Guns N Roses or Korn or Slipknot have really strong stage personas. And both Heidi and I have obviously adapted, so it’s something we really bring to our performances.
LW: When I was researching you guys, I found it really surprising that so many male rock writers are negative about the Butcher Babies, stating that your stage presence (nudity, etc.) draws away from the musical talent, or that you’re trying to cover up the fact that, they feel, you have none. I was shocked because, well, what’s better than hot chicks and metal?
HS: We have three other amazing musicians, and we all write together. They don’t write the music and hand it to us. We all write together collectively. We’re not just up there, like ‘hey, look at us!’ We are a real band playing metal music. Plus, we want it to be empowering for females. And so you know, take the looks away, and I hate saying that but it’s always said about us; take the two females away and even if you walked up and we were trannies and sounded the same way, the music isn’t that bad.
CS: We realize that not everyone’s going to get it and not everyone’s going to like it. We’re fine with that, too. All we ask is that people come to a show, check us out live and if you don’t like it, fine. Then I don’t like you! (Laughs)
HS: Yeah, I don’t expect everyone to like us.
LW: Yes, but you’re doing what you love to do and putting it out there.
CH: We started out as best friends who wanted to play music and travel the world together. So you know what; we win no matter what. (Laughs)
LW: So I know you guys coined the phrase “slut rock” and it seems it’s been used a lot interchangeably with the new “girl power” type of music. Those phrases go hand-in-hand; how do you feel about that?
HS: It’s interesting because that was something that was handed to us very early on, even in the band prior to this one. We don’t see it as something negative. Maybe not necessarily girl power, but we see it as taking the equality as a female. Whether or not you have boobs, hair; it doesn’t even matter, whatever it is, sometimes you’ll be labeled a slut. I’m proud of the things that make me a woman, and I’m not going to hide them. And that’s what we really stand for. For our entire lives…I grew up Mormon. I had to hide a lot of my life. I couldn’t even show my shoulders or wear tank tops. Like if I wore a tank top I was labeled a slut. I wanted to say ‘fuck you.’ Yeah, fine, call me a slut because I want to show my shoulders.
CH: We just aren’t afraid to hide the females that we are.
LW: So you recently told Revolver Magazine that you just now feel like the Butcher Babies are really touching base on what you have to offer. Can you elaborate on that?
CH: Yeah, I mean obviously when you start writing together you start to evolve as a band. And we are a young band. I think now Heidi and I are still finding our voices even more so. We’re taking it to the next level, which is what you would naturally do in a band; the guys too. We’re learning how to write better together and finding our groove as a band.
HS: I think mostly what we meant with that statement to Revolver is just the natural progression of evolution in a band. You can’t help that. Over the past couple of years we’ve written some great stuff, but the stuff we’re writing right now, we feel like we’re getting better and better and better.
CH: We’re a baby band. I mean, we’ve only been around for like three years now? So we’re still fairly new. And things happened so fast for us, we’ve traveled a lot and didn’t have time to write in the beginning. But now we do have more time to do that, so you know obviously it will be different.
LW: So you guys are currently writing for a new album?
HS: There will definitely be a full-length album at the beginning of next year. We’re actually playing a song tonight that we’ve never played live. We just finished writing it a couple days ago. So if we mess up the lyrics, sorry!
LW: Well if it’s new no one will know.
HS: Exactly! We’re really excited to show off our new stuff.
LW: You have a lot of side projects. Carla—you have a comic book. How did that come about?
CH: I went to art school actually, and I’ve loved comics since I was a kid. And you know, obviously our band is very visual. It’s a perfect mix to have a comic book and back story. It’s really fun and it’s been a blessing for me to be able to write about my band. And the fans seem to love it. Like I said before, metal bands are sort of a different part of society and so are comic book fans.
HS: We’re all the same! We’re all big dorks and we’re not afraid to say it. We’ll be the first to say, okay yeah, we’re nerds.
LW: Heidi, do you have any side projects going on?
HS: I was a radio DJ for a long time, and I have a radio show on Sundays called Rebel Radio. I also do commercial work; I’m a commercial actress. I’ve stepped away from commercial work for awhile though, just because we’ve been traveling so much and doing a lot of writing. So I haven’t been able to put myself back in the film world. But I’m okay with that; I’ve been doing film since I was 11-years-old—movies and TV. I love putting everything I have into the band right now as much as I can. For the first time in my life I really feel like this is where I want everything.
CH: I think that when you’re a creative person you have to keep creating, and it doesn’t necessarily have to take anything away from other projects or your main projects. The energy within your brain just has to go to use. But definitely our band is our baby. And luckily we can share it with our best friends.
LW: That’s badass. I’m a huge Pantera fan; will you guys please play Pantera tonight?
CH: Maybe we’ll play it just for you…
LW: Yes! I’ve seen videos of you doing “Fucking Hostile.”
HS: We actually took it out of the set for two years; we didn’t play it for a long time. We will definitely play it tonight. It’s slated in the set and we’ll keep it there.