Butcher Babies Slice up Mayhem Fest, post-album release

Posted on November 11, 2013


Butcher Babies slice up Mayhem Fest, post-album release

Butcher Babies (Photo Provided)
Butcher Babies (Photo Provided)

By Rachael Mattice

Shock rock is not a new, or even controversial, style in heavy music. Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson and the Genitorturers were pioneers. Wendy O. Williams of the American punk band the Plasmatics was one of the first women to scandalize audiences with near nudity and dangerous theatrics that included chain-sawing guitars and blowing up equipment.

Williams’ alarming, yet marvelous, courage influenced Carla Harvey and Heidi Shepherd, who borrowed her approach and founded a Los Angeles band, the Butcher Babies, named for one of the Plasmatics’ songs.

Butcher Babies did not give off a great first impression with fake blood splattered on themselves, black gunk running down their faces, an indefinable sound and screaming women who headbanged off the front of the stage with only black tape covering their chests.

If you look at comments on the Butcher Babies’ YouTube videos, such as “Mr. Slowdeath,” even in the past 24 hours, a lot of listeners aren’t perceiving the chest exposure as empowerment, but rather as tasteless and a gimmick to sell albums.

In defense of Harvey and Shepherd, two of the sexiest women to come into the realm of heavy metal, exceptional attractiveness can hold a dichotomous burden that can help and destroy.

The struggle for the Butcher Babies didn’t stop at the female vocalists’ appearances. The band’s music was new and unorganized, chaotic and hard to put a finger on. From elements of death, experimental, thrash and nu metal, the guys – guitarist Henry Flury, bassist Jason Klein and drummer Chris Warner – needed to tame their compositions and give themselves more of a voice in the band.

Perhaps after being fed up with judgment, the Butcher Babies focused on expansion successfully and wrangled their instrumentals, ditched the painful-to-peel-off nipple tape and blood, composed songs with thought-driven lyrics and practiced their growling vocals.

The Butcher Babies released their first full-length album “Goliath” on July 9 via Century Media Records. It features the chillingly morbid yet aggressively brilliant “I Smell A Massacre,” written after the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting, and “Magnolia Blvd.”

Their tinkered album with art that appeared to reference the horror movie “The Omen” helped maneuver the Butcher Babies onto the must-see metal festival of the summer – Rockstar Energy Drink’s Mayhem Festival at Klipsch Music Center – rowdying up some of the most vicious mosh pits of the entire festival, according to reviews of the tour thus far.

Earlier, Harvey, Klein, Flury and Shepherd discussed their work.

Question: You originally started with a brutal shock rock appeal. When did the fascination with horror start? Are you a fan of horror movies and books?

Answer: (Heidi) All of us are big fans of horror, but we only have a few songs now that are horror based. We also write about songs about subjects that scare us and personal things, like navigating through life and growing up. We did start out as a horror-based band and wrote a lot of things about nightmares.

(Carla) “I Smell a Massacre” we wrote about the Sandy Hook school massacres after it happened. Our songs are not just about classic horror but all different kinds of political and social issues.

(Heidi) The costumes with the blood and nipple tape and dripping eye makeup is something we started out with as an ode to Wendy O. Williams of the Plasmatics. She was a huge influence, and it’s because she was so dominating and powerful as a female and kept that personality up and demanded respect. But you grow and evolve, and we haven’t been wearing the tape in years. It actually started to just hurt after a while (laughs).

Q: You have your own comic book, correct? Since Carla was into comic books early on, did she draw it?

A: (Carla) Well, I didn’t draw the comics. I wrote it. I went to art school and always loved comic books. The artist that did ours came to us, but we’ve worked with him on different projects.

We loved his work with Stripperella and thought it would be really cool to collaborate and come up with a Butcher Babies comic. Metal fans and comic book fans are kind of the same sort of people. Both are a misfit crowd and live vicariously through the comics and metal music, and I felt it was a perfect fit. It was a pleasure for me to write it.

I think our work at the time, even with nipple tape, called for it as well. It was a misconception at the time and wanted to focus on the superhero look instead of the slutty appeal.

Q: Tell me a little more about your lives before the Butcher Babies. What were you doing and what lead you to this band?

A: (Jason) I was a diesel mechanic for 10 years, so I was a grease monkey. (Henry) I’m a designer, so I was doing geographic web design

(Heidi) Carla and I were in a band before the Butcher Babies, and I’ve been in the entertainment business since I was 11. I did commercials, TV and I was a morning radio DJ. That is kind of how I found my way to Los Angeles.

I grew up a track athlete and a cheerleader and cheered for an NBA team and did track in the Junior Olympics. Music has always been my love but was put on the back burner until this started.

Q: Wait, you were an NBA cheerleader? A: (Heidi) Yeah, for the Utah Jazz.

(Carla) I moved to L.A. to play music but then I got sidetracked and became a TV host for the Playboy channel, and then I went to school to be a mortician and was licensed and doing that for a while. Then, we all got too busy with the band and just do this now.

Q: What made you decide to give up the nipple tape and the other theatrics? What can we expect to see with your set for Mayhem?

A: We really just wanted to bulk up on the music. All the fake blood was interesting when we started; it was an evolution, moving on and doing something different. We try and keep a theme in our attire, so we will be revealing something different with that for Mayhem.

Q: This is your first full-length album after your EP. What are you most proud of?

A: (Carla) I think all of us upped our game, and we really brought a whole different element to the Butcher

Babies. We added more harmonies, I’m doing more screaming than I have before.
From our lyrical content to our vocal melodies between Heidi and I, I think we’ve gone through the roof.

(Henry) I think we focused our sound on this album. We really defined who we are as a band. We experimented in the past with different styles and hone in on what we want to do. This album is a really good collection of everyone’s influences.

Q: I have a few random, fun questions. Is it safe to say since you are in a band called Butcher Babies you are all meat eaters?

A: (Laughs) Yes! Definitely, we love a good steak.

Q: Who are some of your favorite female-fronted bands?

A: (All) Vixen, The Runaways, In this Moment, B-52s, No Doubt

(Carla) I have never been really influenced by women, I have always liked male vocals. However, there are really talented women out there. Females in metal have really stepped it up.

It’s great to see women doing creative things in general. I have so many female friends that only care about what their boyfriends are doing, so it’s great to see women come into their own whether as writers, musicians, comic book artists or athletes.

Q: So what’s next after Mayhem?

A: We can’t talk about it yet. We have a couple of things like festivals and tours, but nothing we can leak.

To flash back to Mayhem 2012 and to see coverage of this year’s festival, visit http://www.jconline.com/Mayhem_Festival.

Mattice is a producer and music journalist for the Journal & Courier. She can be reached on Twitter @RachaelM_JC.

Posted in: 2013