The Butcher Babies are a walking heavy metal dichotomy: a crushing juxtaposition of beauty and brutality. Front women Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey head bang pretty and pretty mean. First adopting the salacious stage presence of Rochester native, and late, great singer for the Plasmatics, Wendy O. Williams -- complete with electrical tape across their nipples and a monstrous vocal shriek and a thrash attack -- The Butcher Babies even took its name from a Plasmatic's song. The overall sound is brutal but still manages to skate the harmonious and melodic razor. City shot a few questions at Shepherd about the sexy-gory ratio, saving her voice, and being beautiful in the beautifully ugly world of heavy f***ing metal. Here's what she said.
City: How do you keep from losing your voice?
Heidi Shepherd: I've been known to sleep a lot. It's a difficult thing to stay healthy on the road when sharing a bus with nine other people. The key for me is sleep. Our voices are a muscle just like anything else in our bodies, so the more you work them out, the better they work for an elongated amount of time.
In order to be taken seriously, do you feel you have to work harder as attractive women?
I've never been considered "attractive" throughout my entire life. So now, when I'm referred to as an "attractive woman," it feels awkward. It seems as though the metal community thinks that all women in metal are supposed to look a certain way. I guess I don't fit directly into their mold, but that doesn't bother me. Having to work harder to prove my talent has obviously made me work harder at my talent. Performing every night with the intensity and emotion of proving myself to those in doubt. But at the same time, I'm living my dream and I have worked my ass off to get where I am today and no one can take that away from me. Slowly but surely, people are realizing that looks can only take you so far. We've been around for six years. Having "attractive" women in a band doesn't provide longevity in a band.
What are some pre-conceived notions about the band?
People seem to think that we were put together by a management team or label or some crap like that. However, Carla and I have been working together for nine years in a couple of bands and we created this with an exact vision in mind. As soon as we found the perfect musicians with the same vision to join, we got into a studio and started writing. It's been the same five members for the entire existence of the band. We all sit in a room and write our own music. Everyone has a say in every aspect.
What would you say your ratio is of sexy and gory?
Well, I wouldn't say we are either of those things. Our show is all out raw energy and metal. There's nothing sexy about what we do. For a brief 6 months at the beginning of our career we sported the attire influenced by Wendy O. Williams -- the first female in metal. People perceived that as being "sexy," but that wasn't the case in any right. It was a message to the mainstream, cookie cutter music business. Constantly telling us what to look like, how to act, how to sound, what to be, etc. It was a giant "F.U." to the music industry. The name of the band also comes from a Wendy O. and the Plasmatics song. We started as somewhat of an ode to the first lady of metal.
How hard is it to capture your live intensity in the studio?
In recording our newest album, our producer Logan Mader, worked really fast. Which in turn captured a lot of the raw energy we have become known for. A lot of the time, we were afraid that maybe it was moving too fast, but he knew exactly what he was doing. Sometimes as a musician you think that doing these takes over and over again will benefit your performance, when in actuality it deadens it quite a bit.
How do you make your metal your own?
We have a very unique sound because we all have a hand in the writing. Seeing as all five of us have different metal backgrounds and influences, you can hear a little bit of each of us within the songs. I'm a nu-metal kid, Carla is into early thrash metal, Jason is influenced by death metal, Chris is a hardcore metal fan, and Henry is more into the experimental metal. With all of those combined, we really strike a different sound.
I'm influenced by a slew of different artists, however Slipknot seems to constantly be the stand out band for me. Between the vocals, musicianship, performance, etc., they are the full package.
What bands out there today do you dig?
As for new bands, I'm really into King 810. I find their music so raw and brutal. Another band that I can't stop listening to is The Agony Scene.
What's next for Butcher Babies?
We will be finishing up this run with GWAR then trolling around the Midwest for a string of headliner shows with Nekrogoblicon as support. Around Halloween time, we will be meeting up with Amaranthe to round out our year of touring. There is a lot in store for early next year as well. I can't wait to keep having a blast and traveling the world with my best friends.
Punk-metal icon Wendy O. Williams will be inducted into the Rochester Music Hall of Fame on Sunday. Plasmatics guitarist Wes Beech and Rod Swenson, the band's creator and Williams' life partner, talk about the legacy of the singer.