Interview with Butcher Babies Vocalists
Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey
By: Gary Flinn
Thanks to some last minute efforts, I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with the Butcher Babies vocalists, Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey before their show at the Masquerade. First impressions are everything and I have to say, from my personal experience on this particular Tuesday in Atlanta, my first impression of both of these ladies was very favorable. As we were standing outside the Masquerade with a small crowd of maybe 30 fans that had already formed a line 3 hours before show time, I saw Heidi and Carla come out of their tour bus and walk directly over to the line. Greetings and some hugs were exchanged with the fans and then they asked everyone to gather together so they could get a picture. Several shots with Heidi and Carla’s phones later, the group parted as the ladies expressed their gratitude to everyone for showing up early. My interview time came and I stepped up into the bus to get a glimpse of the Butcher Babies deadly duo.
You would have thought we were old acquaintances. After cordial greetings and introductions, Heidi patted the bench seat next to her for me to have a seat. A few seconds into the interview, Carla got up from her seat and sat down on the floor in front of me. I have to say it was a very welcoming feeling. These were two genuine ladies who happened to be in one of the hottest bands in the world of metal. As I sat listening to their answers to my questions, I couldn’t help but realize that they were very “real” people and that they genuinely love what they do.
HHM: I know you both have a history together prior to Butcher Babies. How did the rest of the band come together?
Heidi: Well, the L.A. music scene is actually very tiny, so when Carla and I decided we wanted to start something original and heavy we kind of put our feelers out to other people and people didn’t think that we were serious. They were like “you guys want to do metal? Yeah right.” Finally we found different people from different bands and we were like “Hey, we are really going to do this. Let’s just jam out and play some music”. And it was a friend of a friend, of a friend. We actually stole Jason and Chris from Carla’s ex-boyfriend’s band. The second we got in the room together, we knew it was magic and it’s been the five of us ever since. It’s crazy, in the big sea of musicians in Los Angeles that we all found each other. It’s pretty cool.
HHM: Who would you say has had the greatest influence on you musically?
Carla: Gosh, we all have different influences. Separately, as individuals, I think we can all agree that Slipknot has had a huge influence on us as musicians.
Heidi: We were just listening to that.
Carla: Yeah, we were just listening to the new release. Individually, as far as metal singing, I would have to say I was totally influenced by Phil Anselmo. He’s probably my favorite metal singer of all time.
Heidi: As she said, Slipknot’s been my thing. I’m a New Metal kid, so that was my biggest influence, but Korn and Limp Bizkit too. I know it’s very cliché to say those as New Metal, but really when I was a kid, I was a very angry kid and I would sit in my room and put on my headphones and turn on my Discman with a Korn album or the Limp Bizkit disc and I would hold a note pad and jot down different words in the songs that stood out to me and I would have this big collage of just words and that was my therapy. So that really influenced me as a musician as well. That is the music that stood out to me. That is the music that helped me through times in my life and that is the music I wanted to play for other people to hopefully do the same thing that it did for me. But we all come from different musical backgrounds. Jason is a death metal kid. Chris is more of that hardcore, East Coast kind of scene and Henry, our guitarist is more of that “mathy” Metal like Messuggah, Periphery, and Animals as Leaders. When you put it all together we’re just one big metal band. (Laughs) That’s all you could say.
HHM: Goliath was released in 2013 and you guys have been tearing it up this year with near constant touring and the release last month of Uncovered. What do you have planned for 2015?
Carla: The whole year has almost been planned out already. We can’t talk about everything just yet, but when we get home we’ll finish recording album number 2, which we are really excited about working with Logan Mader. We are just so pumped about it. That doesn’t come out until early summer, so that’s why we did Uncovered. We wanted to give our fans a little appetizer before then and also spice up our set a little bit with some new stuff before the new album comes out.
Heidi: We are really excited about the new album. We’ve been writing on all of our off dates. As you can see we have a studio setup over here (on the tour bus). Any off date we have, we’ve rented a rehearsal space or we have gone to someone’s house that we know and take over the area and write.
HHM: Yeah, I saw you guys had taken over a few venues after your shows and were doing work there. That’s pretty cool.
Carla: I was telling Heidi before you guys came in that a melody we were working on yesterday has been stuck in my head all morning, so that is a good sign.
Heidi: It’s really special for us to have our music stuck in our heads. It means we are on the right track.
Carla: After we record, we go back on the road with Black Label Society and Hatebreed.
HHM: We are actually planning to go to the show in Charlotte since the tour isn’t coming to Atlanta.
HHM: No shooting photo’s, no interviews
Carla: Just having a good time!!
HHM: For sure
HHM: With all the touring you have been doing since the release of Goliath, have you learned anything on previous tours that you are doing a little differently this time around as a headliner?
Heidi: I think any time anyone tours for an extensive amount of time you learn from people you’ve toured with about what to do and what not to do. I think one thing that we have definitely learned as a band is to be “normal people”. One thing we have learned from Zakk Wylde is that he is just a normal guy that has been blessed to play music and do what he loves. He treats everyone with respect. 100% pure respect and that is one thing that we have definitely taken from him is that regardless of how big or small anybody is that everyone is just like me. We all have dreams. We all shit in the morning. Sorry (laughs). You know what I mean. We are all just people who are lucky enough to be up here because we’ve worked our asses off, but we are also lucky enough to be up here doing what we love.
Carla: Especially now days, the music industry is a lot harder than it was 10, 15 or even 20 years ago. You really rely on your fans to keep you relevant and that is why we always treat them with such respect, as well as the other musicians that we tour with that are coming up. When we went out on our first tour, it was a very bad experience. The artist we went out with treated us horribly and we definitely learned that was the wrong way to be to people who are coming up.
Heidi: Then you totally have people like Black Label Society who treat you like family and that is an incredible feeling. We learned a lot during Mayhem Festival too and that is one thing, as a headliner, that we want to do is place it in other people’s minds to give down to other musicians as well as respect. You know; general respect for other musicians within this business. The boys in Anti-Mortem, it’s cool to have this experience with them and share it as friends rather than competition. We aren’t in competition with each other.
HHM: Let’s talk Uncovered for a few minutes. There are definitely some pretty interesting choices of songs on the album from the Osmond’s and ZZ Top to Suicidal Tendencies, and Napoleon XIV. How did you pick what songs you were going to cover?
Carla: We all chose one song that had influences on us as a child. We didn’t want to pick songs that the public would think we would do, like a metal song, or something typical. So we all really dug deep and thought about songs that, for whatever reason, had touched us. The song that I chose was They’re Coming to Take Me Away because it was a song that my step-dad always listened to in the car with me and listening to him sing along. I can still remember, he would be tapping his fingers on the steering wheel and singing along. I will never forget those moments, so I chose that one.
Heidi: I chose the Osmond’s Crazy Horses. As a kid from Provo, Utah, they were our hometown hero’s. I remember as a kid, babysitting my siblings and rummaging through my parents albums and 8 tracks and I came across this Osmond’s song and it was the heaviest thing that I had heard at that age. It stuck with me. That opening riff, it just stuck with me my entire life, so when it came down to choosing songs that was my first choice. We all had a lot of different choices. We had a big old list of stuff and we compiled it and narrowed it down until there were five and we each got to pick one song that really stood out to us. Each of the songs have a personal meaning to us.
HHM: What was the most interesting “also ran” that didn’t make it? You know; the song that came closest to making it on the album, but didn’t make it.
Carla: Gosh, that’s hard to say
Heidi: That didn’t make it? Well, we were back and forth with a couple of S.O.D. songs. There was Pussy Whipped, there was Monkey’s Rule. I really wanted to do Bigger Than the Devil, but Pussy Whipped came in first place with everyone. Agent Orange had a song.
Carla: 45 Grave was in the running. Evil, I have always loved that song, but you know, at the end of the day we looked at the songs and we picked the one’s we could deconstruct and really make our own too and the songs that we chose ended up being that, absolutely perfect.
Heidi: I can tell you one that almost didn’t make it that did make it was Beer Drinker’s and Hell Raisers. We had the hardest time making that a Butcher Babies song. Tearing it apart and putting it back together. Trying to stay semi-true to the original but also give it the Butcher Babies feel and make it metal; that was very difficult. So that song almost didn’t make it.
HHM: What is the biggest challenge you have had to overcome in your music career?
Carla: I think being taken seriously, for us, in the beginning was a hard one. People really wanted to put us in the “gimmick band” category because of a female vocalist, not just one, but two female vocalists. Of course when we first started off this band we were a tribute to Wendy O. Williams and we wore nipple tape.
Heidi: People didn’t understand that fact and it kind of just showed their lack of knowledge about music history. To be honest, rather than making us look bad, it made them look bad. They just didn’t get it, but as soon as people started to see what it really was, it took a turn. People started to see this as a band and that we were doing it for the love of the woman who paved the way for girls like us to be where we are today. I think Carla is right. That was the biggest hurdle at first.
Carla: Regardless of all these awful female parts, we made it.
Everyone: (Laughs) Yeah!!
HHM: Well, you probably just answered my next question, but I’ll ask it anyway. If you had the chance to perform with any musician living or dead for just one show, who would it be?
Heidi: Yeah, Wendy would be a really great one
HHM: I kind of figured that would be the answer
Heidi: Yeah. Wendy or Pantera
Carla: Yeah. Pantera. A Pantera reunion; that would be amazing.
Heidi: The original Pantera. Those are two things that will never happen but would be an incredible moment.
HHM: When all is said and done, how do you want Butcher Babies to be remembered?
Carla: You know what, to be remembered as strong female role models, or just strong role models in general would be an amazing thing. To help people, you know, a couple of girls twenty years from now, to start a band because they were inspired by what Heidi and I have done, what the whole band has done, would be incredible. We just want to inspire people, especially young people who have been told “no” to make their dreams come true at any cost.
HHM: Is there anything you’d like to add?
Heidi: Just thank you. I know Hellhound has been around for a while and thank you for the constant support and taking this journey with us. I can’t wait to see what the next 5 years brings. The past 5 years has been fun, I can’t wait to see what the next 5 will be like.
HHM: Me too ladies, me too.
In closing, I have to say my early impressions were solidified as I saw Butcher Babies take the stage. In all my years of concert going, I have never seen a band with so much crowd interaction. There was near constant hand shaking, hand holding, face to face eye contact, and sharing of everything that a metal show should be. It was readily apparent that Heidi and Carla were true believers in what they said during the interview. After the show, the band stayed for a meet and greet with every single fan. I honestly don’t think anyone left the Masquerade without at least one picture of themselves with the band. In fact, security had to tell them it was time to wrap things up well after the venue would have normally been empty. To their credit, the Babies stayed and made sure everyone in line got their photo with the band and a chance, however brief to speak with them. During the interview, Carla and Heidi had expressed that in the past, people had tried to brand them as a “gimmick band”. I for one, think many people in the music industry and people in general could take a lesson in life from these two ladies. For me, it was a privilege and an honor to be a part of this night and I look forward to seeing and hearing great things from this band in the future.
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- Butcher Babies release details of upcoming EP 'Uncovered'
- photos: Butcher Babies live in Hell at the Masquerade
- BUTCHER BABIES stream 'Goliath' - album out Tuesday
- photos: Shallow Side live at The Masquerade in Atlanta 7/10