Interview: Heidi Shepherd & Carla Harvey Of Butcher Babies by Janie McManamon
Our West Coast Contributor, Janie McManamon covered the Ultimate Jam Night in Los Angeles which paid tribute to Lemmy recently and was able to sit down and talk with Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey of the band Butcher Babies about their influences, music and of course, Lemmy. The Butcher Babies will be in Cleveland at House Of Blues on March 3rd with Cradle Of Filth.
HOLLYWOOD, Ca. — The season two opener of Ultimate Jam Night paid tribute to Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister of Motörhead, but it was the Butcher Babies’ frontwomen Heidi Shepherd, Carla Harvey, and guitarist Henry Flury who had fans nodding and looking at each other with appreciation.
Ultimate Jam Night brings musicians both small and large, and their fans, into one unique setting at Lucky Strike Live to enjoy rock ‘n’ roll. The “organized jam,” in the words of Lucky Strike’s marketing coordinator and veteran guest musician Barry Pointer, was the brainchild of Quiet Riot bassist Chuck Wright, who came to Pointer with the concept.
“He had this crazy idea; we were looking for something crazy to do, and so we said, ‘Why not? Let’s try it,'” Pointer said. “And here we are, a week away from being a year into it.”
The idea of using what was originally a bowling lounge as a venue for live collaboration sounds odd, but any doubt is easily replaced by understanding the lounge-slash-venue off of Hollywood and Highland and around the corner from the TCL Chinese Theatre. Embedded in the side streets of the tourist-condensed outdoor mall, Lucky Strike Live has managed to make its name known even before Ultimate Jam Night’s introduction.
The venue made its debut in 2003 as one of the first bowling lounges in the country. In 2014, the lounge underwent renovations, allowing live music in and solidifying its uniqueness in L.A. nightlife.
“It’s a live music venue. We do DJ stuff, we just happen to have twelve lanes for bowling if somebody wants to do that,” Pointer said.
It brings the Rock ‘n’ Bowl to mind from New Orleans, and makes for a separate experience from other venues. It embodies what Pointer described as a “sexy-rock-and-roll, kind of dark, vintage, a little bit of steampunk, industrial” vibe, a fitting place for a mass gathering of rock ‘n’ roll musicians and fans.
Even more fitting is the sense of community that Pointer and Wright hope to promote by hosting more than 700 guest musicians (and counting). There are no breaks for the duo, as they planned over a short holiday break who to invite next. For this particular night cleverly named “The Jam Awakens,” the 48th installment of the series, the venue was geared up to host Robby Krieger from The Doors and Mikkey Dee from Motörhead. The big names in rock that join Ultimate Jam Night operate through a figurative “revolving door,” as Pointer notes, all depending on band members’ schedules – but big names aren’t the only people who join the night’s ever-growing list of players.
“Occasionally we’ll put up like a local spotlight; we’ll get a local band in that gets up and plays a song or two,” Pointer said. “Sometimes there’ll be a surprise performance by a band that’s not from L.A. that has a show the next night or the next couple nights that’ll showcase here.
“The formula is if Chuck [Wright] or somebody doesn’t know who you are as a player, you send some video links, you send some performance links, and it’s okay, then you get added to the night.”
Ultimate Jam Night also provides a huge opportunity for aspiring musicians. The night facilitates collaboration with household names, which facilitates cooperation and community, allowing small names to expand their networks and image. These kinds of opportunities are few and far between.
“It’s become this scene where people are meeting up; they’re hooking up,” Pointer said. “They’re working together outside of here after meeting here for the first time. They’re recording together, writing together, joining a band together, projects, you name it. Our techs, our guitar techs, our drum techs are getting gigs. Our guitar tech tonight is going out on the road with KISS in a couple of weeks. It’s really like this weekly live, classified showcase kind of thing, you know? And that’s what we want it to be.
“We want producers who are looking for artists, managers who are looking for artists, labels that are looking for artists to know that this is a place to come, because you will see the marquis name, but you will also see the guy that stands on his left and plays guitar for that marquis name. You also find a studio musician, somebody that you’ve never even heard of.”
The camaraderie of the rock family community is tangible.
“One thing that’s built in this night – it’s built this massive community, a community that, as people will say, has kind of been nonexistent in L.A. for a while,” Pointer said.
In the true sense of community, “The Jam Awakens” brought an audience together to appreciate recently lost musicians, including David Bowie, Lemmy, and Scott Weiland. With so many tragic losses in the industry, it was refreshing to see people come together to celebrate their lives instead of mourn their deaths. Harvey, Shepherd and Flury contributed heavily to that celebration. Don’t let their larger-than-life stage presence fool you, though, Harvey and Shepherd are as down to earth as can be. (I was fortunate enough to catch up with the frontwomen after their set.)
Harvey took the stage first with Motörhead drummer Mikkey Dee to perform “Ace of Spades,” and shocked and impressed the once unmoving crowd to pump fists and sing along. Harvey was the perfect choice to pay homage to late Motörhead founder and frontman, Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, and who better to join her than Motörhead’s own Mikkey Dee on the drums?
Harvey added her own twist to the classic with her guttural, growling vocals, and in authentic Butcher Babies style, circular headbanging between verses. A longtime fan of Motörhead, Harvey brought relentless energy to her cover, and never stopped to take a breath. Her only pauses were enthusiastic grins to audience members. It was akin to seeing a torch passing.
“I grew up listening to Motörhead – it was a huge inspiration,” Harvey said, “When I was a kid growing up in the Midwest (Detroit), it’s like you look at these rock stars and the way that they dress and the way that they behave, chain-smoking, Jack Daniels drinking, and it’s just this lifestyle that’s completely foreign to you, and it’s very romantic, you know?
“And that’s the whole reason that I moved to L.A., because of people like Lemmy, who when I moved to L.A. you could see Lemmy every night at The Rainbow, sitting by the video game machine and drinking Jack Daniels and it was just like I said, it was this very romantic thing for me, because I was in love with rock ‘n’ roll and in love with the whole imagery of it.
“There’s not many people that we have left. We have very few true rock stars left, I think Marilyn Manson’s one that we have left, but Lemmy was a true rock star that inspired many people, and it’s really sad he left us.”
“Looking back, you can always respect what [Motörhead] did for the metal community and for bands in the future and now,” Shepherd said. “You can respect the fact that they gave you a voice, they gave you a reason to get out there and express yourself, and I think any musician in the rock ‘n’ roll industry can be grateful for that.”
Shepherd and Flury then joined Harvey on stage to bring back a cover Butcher Babies performed in their earlier days — Pantera’s “Fucking Hostile.” The three hadn’t touched the song in about five years, but performed it as if they’d been rehearsing all day,
“[Carla] called me and was like, ‘Do you wanna do it how we used to?’ And we both sat for a second and remembered how we used to do it, and I thought it went over really well!” Shepherd said. “We couldn’t hear anything through the monitors, but, I trusted her, she trusted me. We’ve built this bond. We’ve been working together for eight or nine years now, so, we’ve built this bond where I can trust that she does it right and she can trust that I do it right.”
Harvey departed the stage after the Pantera cover, and Shepherd took over as the sole vocalist to cover “Bodies” by Drowning Pool. Shepherd is a relentless ball of energy, headbanging while singing and jumping barefoot all over the stage – and she never misses a beat. Jam Night host Paulie Z even remarked after she finished, shouting into the microphone, “How did that voice come out of that?!” He asked. He pointed to Shepherd, who flexed and smacked her arm muscles before leaving the stage.
“I have a funny story, actually,” she said. “In ‘Fucking Hostile’ and ‘Bodies’ by Drowning Pool tonight, the bass player and I, years and years ago used to not get along at all. We were enemies. And it wasn’t until about a year ago that we actually became good friends. And we have respect for each other through the work that it takes to be in this industry.
“He and I both talked before the show and said we never thought in a million years we would ever be sharing the exact same stage at the exact same time as each other, but to be honest, that was a huge accomplishment for me and a really, really neat feeling for me to play with someone whom I’ve known for a very, very long time, but also gained a new respect from and for.
“It’s almost like a new way of burying the hatchet. You play together; you create this energy; you build something amazing.
“I thought that that was a really cool thing for us, and we also brought our guitar player, Henry, and I loved being able to get him up there and share this with him as well. As Carla said, it’s been the same members of our band for the entire time that we’ve been together, so we like to share every single moment we have of any sort of all-star, shining moment of our band, because they deserve the world.”
Ultimate Jam Night doesn’t skip over instrumentalists names at all. For some people, guest guitarists, bassist, drummers, etc. may be the most exciting part of the night.
“You know, the thing about this place too is that it’s not really our fan base here,” Harvey said, “I mean, it’s a very classic rock crowd, but, they dig what we do, and I 100 percent believe that, after hearing us, they’ll go and look us up, and I think that’s a great way to reach a new fan base, and it’s fun!”
Harvey also talked about the experience of performing with a different group of people than she is used to.
“I think that Heidi and I, we just, we go out and do what we do no matter who we’re playing with,” she said. “Obviously, we’re very comfortable with our band, we love our bandmates. We’ve had the same members for the last six years that we’ve been a band and it’s very comfortable, so you know, it’s a little out of our element sometimes to go and play with new people but it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s fun to collaborate and do new stuff.”
Their appreciation and respect for Ultimate Jam Night is significant.
“A lot of people, they don’t really understand that this really is a community, and when we all get together, we’re very powerful. We’re very powerful. And without certain members of the community, we would fail. Every member of the community is needed and wanted and anyone who comes into the community just wanting to be there is accepted,” Shepherd said.
“And that’s what I find extremely beautiful about [Ultimate Jam Night] especially. It doesn’t matter where you came from, it doesn’t matter what you did earlier today. Everyone here – they came out to rock tonight. They came out to rock to classic, perfect music that will give them a release for the rest of the week. And that is an incredible thing to be a part of.
“I feel very honored to be invited to do this. I feel very honored. We’ll definitely be back. We’ll be on tour for a while but we’ll definitely be back.”
Her words make clear that this is a place for all of us, all for different reasons. This is a place for opportunity, for hanging out, for rocking out, and for enjoying yourself, whether you are on stage, in the audience or simply trying to knock down some bowling pins.
Butcher Babies are heading out on tour with Cradle of Filth, and will be returning to Los Angeles Wednesday, February 17, at 6:00 P.M. at the Mayan Theater. For more tour dates and information, visit this website. Lucky Strike Live is located in Hollywood and Highland at 6801, Hollywood Boulevard. You can reach the venue at (323)-467-7776 or visit their website. Ultimate Jam Night is every Wednesday from 8:00 P.M. to 1:00 A.M. For information about guest musicians and performers, follow the Facebook page here.