The Butcher Babies are preparing for the release of their second album Take It Like A Man and are tuning up for their national tour with Gwar and Battlecross. Co-frontwoman Heidi Shepherd took some time to talk with Shockwave about the upcoming tour, the writing and emotions that went into the new record, and a look back at what influenced her journey into the metal world.
Shockwave Magazine: How’s everything going?
Heidi Shepherd: Good, I’m getting ready to go to rehearsal, getting ready for the tour so we’re in the studio all day, everyday, getting things going.
The tour that you’re getting ready to embark on is leading up to the release of your new record. Who are you touring with?
We’re out with Gwar and Battlecross. We’re so pumped. It’s Gwar’s thirty-year anniversary so it’s going to be really fun.
Do you have any previous history with either Gwar or Battlecross?
Gwar no, but Battlecross we just did the Mayhem Festival with in 2013 so we know those guys, great guys. I’m so excited to tour with them again. They’re so much fun.
How long is the tour?
This one is until September 18th, I believe, and we’ll be out until the end of the year.
As mentioned before, you have the new record coming out, Take It Like A Man. Talk a little bit about that. How was the recording and everything?
This album for us, we had a goal going into it. We wanted to make it heavier and thrashier then the last one, and we definitely succeed with it. After years of touring we know what our fan base likes, and our older music before Goliath is our thrashier stuff, and the crowds react to that stuff so much better than the melodic, beautiful stuff we had on Goliath. So we wanted to give our fan base their favorite and it’s really our favorite too, to play the thrashier music, so we definitely accomplished that with the album.
The one thing I realized in the recording of the first album, Goliath, is it’s an outlet for me and it’s basically therapy (laughs.) A couple times on this album I touched on emotions and experiences I hadn’t cracked for years, and things that I never really wanted to talk about but over time I knew I needed to for my own well-being, so there’s a lot of emotion on this album. There’s a lot of feeling. It’s very raw and very honest, and I’m proud to turn some negative experiences into positives through music, and you’ll be able to hear that through the entire album.
When it comes to writing an album, is that something you mostly do with Carla (Harvey, vocals) or is it a group effort with Henry (Flury, guitarist,) Jason (Klein, bassist,) and Chris (Warner, drummer?)
It’s a full group effort. We sit in our little studio and we write together. Carla and I have input in drums, bass, guitar, and the boys have a lot of input in lyrics. It’s a big group effort. It’s always been that way. We want everyone to feel invested in the band and feel their voices are heard through our music. It’s always been important for us for everyone to be a part of the writing process.
The one thing I’ve noticed, especially over the last few times I’ve seen you live, is that you guys as a band seem incredibly tight, like a real family. I know that the whole bands and family thing sounds a little cliche but you seem to give so much respect and love to each other. The boys don’t have to feel that they’re in the back with you and Carla up front. You seem to intertwine really well.
You know, I thank you for mentioning that. That’s something that’s very important, that it’s not just “The Heidi and Carla Show.” We are a band and we do have a lot of respect for each other. We’ve had the same five members the whole time, from day one. It’s so important to show that mutual respect and in that way that’s what keeps bands together. There’s one thing that will always tear bands to shreds and that’s disrespect for people’s creativity and disrespect for people’s feelings.
Where did the name for the album come from?
Take It Like A Man is more of a term-base then a gender-base thing. It’s a very personal title. For Carla and I both, at very young ages, we had to go through things and learn to take it like a man.
There’s a song on the album called “Dead Man Walking” that talks about the exact moment where I had to learn to take it like a man. I grew up with a lot of child abuse, and this is one of the songs where I suppressed those memories and I never wanted to talk about it but I needed to. At such a young age, I had to learn how to fight, I had to learn to fight for my life, I had to learn to fight for myself, fight for what I believed in. So, that’s where the term comes from for Take It Like A Man and those feelings for us evolved into our adulthood. We still feel like we and everyone should have to fight, and it’s more of a term of endearment where you have to lace up your boots and go in full force, and it really describes our lives leading up to this point.
In “Dead Man Walking” the lyrics are, “Where were you when I learned to take it like a man? Where were you when I learned to stand?” To us it’s a more of a term for us becoming the people we are and not even just the women we are but the people we are.
It seems that you were able to accomplish everything you set out for with this record. Overall, are you happy with the final product and what the fans are going to get very soon? (Album release date is August 21st.)
I’m thrilled. I’m more excited about this album than any of our previous installments. Goliath was great but there was a lot I wanted to change on it afterwards. I think everyone feels that way about their first album; you’re still growing, you still have a lot to say, you’re still figuring out how to say it and there’s a lot I would go back and change performance-wise. With this album, I listen to it and I love it. I love it, and to me it’s something that I enjoy. I’m so proud of this album and I can’t wait for people to hear what we’ve been cooking. There’s so much diversity in it. It’s not just a heavy album, it’s also a very emotional album. There’s one song on it that’s 100% melodic and beautiful and then there’s the heaviest song we could ever think of (laughs.) So, it’s very diverse and I really love everything about it, I really do. There’s something for everyone on it.
When it comes to performing, whether it’s for someone seeing you for the first time or seeing you multiple times, what do you want to put across from the stage to the fans and how do you like them feeling after a show?
I want them to feel like they’ve just experience the best party they’ve even been to (laughs.) Our music is very serious, but when we get on stage it’s supposed to be a big, energetic party. I want people to walk away not caring about where the person next to them came from, what race they are. I want people to feel like they are a part of something that’s bigger than just us humans in the pit together. I want them to feel like they were the show as well, and I think that we do accomplish that for the most part. I want people to have the best night of their lives.
One of the things I’ve noticed at your shows and always liked and respected about your band is you’re so quick to come off stage and meet people. You don’t hang in the back and make people wonder if maybe you’ll come out or maybe you won’t. I went to a show recently for someone I really liked, and the last time I saw them they did the same thing where after the show they came to the merch booth and met people and signed and took pictures. Fast forward three years later and when I saw them again it was now a $150 meet and greet.
Oh my God! That’s ridiculous. We do VIP packages but we’ll always do a meet and greet after the show. I want to meet the people who are there. I want to meet the people who spent their hard earned money and spent their time coming to see us. I want to meet the people who are giving me my career. I want to meet those people. We do VIP packages where we get together and play Butcher Bingo (laughs.) We play games and they get a special shirt, a special laminate, things like that, but that doesn’t explode the end-of-the-show meet and greet. I feel like that’s very important for bands. It’s so important to be right there with the people that are allowing you to have your career. So, for me I don’t understand the whole “spend good money just to shake my hand” thing. That’s ridiculous and doesn’t make any sense.
Getting back on to the new record because I definitely want to put that out to people. What feelings are you looking to tap in people?
Thank you. It’s different every song but I think mostly I want people to feel “something.” There’s a lot of music out there right now that’s just so uninspiring and just so bare. You can bob your head to it sure, but when it comes to the lyrical content I want people to know that they understand me and that I understand them, and I think that is one of the biggest and best things about metal. The music is so emotional and so honest, and that’s what you lean to as a kid. I felt I had a voice through the bands that I was listening to. They understood all the things that I was going through, and I knew that through their music. So that’s definitely something I want to accomplish with this album and albums to come.
I’d love to talk a little bit about you: what are your influences, what got you into music, and your early loves?
I grew up in a very musical family but I wasn’t allowed to listen to heavy music by any means. It’s interesting because I grew up listening to everything my parents listened to and everything that was on the radio that I could wrap my head around, but it wasn’t until I heard Korn on the radio that I felt that passion that I feel for metal music. I actually had to sneak away from my family to even listen to that music. It’s a funny story. I grew up as an athlete and I would tell my parents that I was going running, and I’d go to the skate park and hang out with all the metal kids. I borrowed a friend’s Korn album, and I would go home and sit in my closet and listen to it. My mom found it in my closet one time and broke it in front of my face. She called it devil music and you know, all that crap. We laugh about it to this day because it was great payback to my mom, me being in a metal band. For me, it was something I had to really fight for, to listen to that kind of music.
Korn and Slipknot was one that really stuck with me and still does. I love Slipknot. I think they were the ground-breaking moment for me. I saw a kid at the skate park wearing a Slipknot shirt and I was probably like 12, I don’t remember exactly how old, and it kind of scared me because of their masks. I was like, “Who was that?” and I needed to know. I needed to know what that was, and what they sounded like, and I loved it. I’m still influenced by things that scare me but that was the first defining moment where I was like, “Wow, that’s fucking creepy! I need to know what it is!” Those were my influences growing up and still I love Slipknot, I love Korn, I love all that Nu-Metal crap (laughs.)
I also really appreciate the classic metal. I’ve seen Judas Priest a couple times on stage and just the energy they have is just incredible, and I’m obviously very influenced by that type of energy. Gwen Stefani was another one. Gwen Stefani’s energy on stage, even though the music is very different then what I do, but her energy on stage is what captivated me. She’s an amazing performer so for me that was another influence.
Heidi, I want to let you get on to practice and get everything ready for tour but thank you so much for talking to me and putting something together for your fans to get excited about.
Thanks so much. I really appreciate it, and thanks for taking your time.