BIF NAKED - Anything But A Let Down
January 16, 2006, 13 years ago
For the record, this interview wasn’t part of the regular BW&BK; agenda. In actual fact it was inspired by a roundtable session last August in Toronto when some of the BW&BK; family got together for dinner, drinks and discussion. At one point during the evening conversation turned to Canada’s own Bif Naked and the quality of her latest album, Superbeautifulmonster, due to the huge promotional push she was receiving (read: posters bloody well everywhere). Whether or not certain members of the staff will admit to having given Bif’s work the thumbs up is debatable – it’s worth noting fellow scribe Aaron Small had the balls to put her on his Brave Picks list for 2005 – but there’s no question Superbeautifulmonster does have a certain charm. We’re not talking about Bif’s version of Metallica’s ‘Nothing Else Matters’ or the tattooed babydoll cover shot, either. And, as it turns out, Ms. Naked is a lot more metal than people think.
Case in point with regards to her touring experience. Anything but a play-it-safe wallflower, Bif has hit the road in the past with the likes of Ministry and Life Of Agony and lived to tell the tale. Certainly not the tourmates one would expect of a so-called pop-rock artist.“I toured with Life Of Agony for their Ugly record and it was great,” says Bif. “I’m a huge fan, and I still to this day think Keith Caputo has one of the greatest voices of all time. For such a small guy he’s got this booming, wonderful voice. As a kid growing up in the ‘80s, Powerslave was the first tour I saw by Iron Maiden and Twisted Sister was opening. Dee Snider spit on my younger sister and myself – I think we were 12 and 13 at the time – so years later, to cover Twisted Sister (‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’) for the Ready To Rumble soundtrack I thought I was gonna die because it felt like everything came full circle.”
Fair enough, but this begs the question: is she really a metal fan?“I’m a big metal fan. I love Throwdown, the new Mastodon is great, and I’m really into the new Lamb Of God and the Slipknot live album. I’d have to say that Lamb Of God is my favourite band on the planet. It’s funny because my drummer and bass player (Scotty McCargar and Scott Cooke respectively) work with Devin Townsend, so we’re big fans and friends of his bands. I think I’ll always be a metal girl even though my music doesn’t sound like it. I’m a metal chick who’s been able to carve out a living in North American recording culture, and I’ve been really fortunate and very lucky to be able to tour and play festivals like the Rock Im Park and Rock Am Ring with some of these heavier bands.”
While Superbeautifulmonster will never be mistaken for a metal album, it does have a much darker and in some cases heavier feel than Bif’s previous efforts.“Coming off the success of I Bificus (’98), the process of making the Purge album (2001) was a lot different,” Bif reveals. “There were a lot of different pressures, I was in a different place, there was personal life bullshit going on, and I finally got pissed off enough that the songs we were writing for Superbeautifulmonster were a lot heavier. Stuff like ‘The Question Song’ and ‘Ladybug Waltz’, for my younger teenage fans they’re a little dark, but at the same time I’m thrilled. I think it’s the place I’m in right now. I don’t really give a fuck what the grown-ups think, and I’m having a great time writing some angry songs. It’s so much fun to play this stuff live, and obviously the music is a lot heavier live compared to the recorded versions.”
Judging by the postive feedback she gets from both sides of the fence, Bif is actually in the position of being able to cater to both the pop rock and metal crowds.“Absolutely, and I’ve always been in that position, right from the first record. I was with A&M; and the radio department was perfectly happy to pass on it because they said ‘There’s no way this girl will get played on the radio.’ And, to a point maybe they were right because radio in 1994 was a little different from what it is today. In the States radio is all about Nickelback and Theory Of A Deadman; it’s very rare they’ll play stuff like Hatebreed, and I certainly wouldn’t be included in any of their playlists. Ultimately, I’ve always relied on touring. That’s how I’ve been able to create and sustain fans over the years. It’s just so much fun, it really is.”
When it comes to the fans at the metal end of the pool, it’s fair to say that some people like Bif but simply won’t admit it. Then you have folks like Death Angel bassist Dennis Pepa who, during a BW&BK; interview in February 2004, offered high praise for the lady’s work. Several times. Things like this or seeing drummer Randy Black (Primal Fear/ex-Annihilator) credited on I Bificus for playing the whole album are certainly enough to pique people’s curiosity.“Yeah, and that’s great,” laughs Bif, offering other examples of her high distortion following. “We played a show in New York last month and we were very lucky. The guys from Sick Of It All came down, which was a real shot in the arm. Hank (Williams III) and the guys from Superjoint Ritual have been great supporters of mine. I get a lot of flak from my buddies around here (Vancouver) saying ‘Aw, if you didn’t have a set of tits they wouldn’t be your fans.’ It’s like, I don’t really care if that’s true or not. I’m a fan of those bands anyway.”
Bif also has to deal with comparisons to, oddly enough, Peter Steele of Type-O Negative fame.“Isn’t that funny? I guess some people are intimidated by me. They see a girl with tattoos and assume I have two Rotweilers, and in fact I have two fluffy white dogs (laughs). What I’ve often found, especially in the U.S., when I’m doing publicity photos and whatnot all the stylists try to dress me like a goth. It’s like, ‘What do you mean you like pink? You have tattoos…’ (laughs). Hey, I’m still a girl.”
For the future, Bif hopes to release a live album at some point (although a bootleg is currently circulating) and is toying with the idea of covering a true classic metal tune. There’s also a chance she’ll work with one of metal’s finest if everything fall into place.“I sure hope to release a live album,” she says, “although I’ve had fans come up to me at gigs recently in Ontario telling me that they really like my live record that they bought at the store. It’s like, ‘Oh, really?’ I can’t find it, but apparently there is one bootleg in existence. As for a cover, we used to do Pantera’s ‘Walk’ years ago where I would have to sing it and totally beat it up. It was so funny. It would be like (girlish voice) ‘Re…spect…Walk…’ with a snapping of the fingers and all that. It was a riot and a great time. So, who knows? We’ll definitely be pulling out some stuff because we’re fans of everything.”
“I want to write some stuff with Devin Townsend this year,” Bif continues. “I think it would be really cool because he’s a brilliant guy. I want to do it and we discussed it one day when they (Strapping Young Lad) were on tour with Superjoint. I’d actually gone down to talk to Hank about coming in to sing on ‘Henry’, and he couldn’t do it because they were so busy, but in light of that I’ve had several conversations with Devin and I think he’s incredible. He’s phenomenal. I’d love to write with him. It would be a lot of fucking fun.”
For the record, Townsend confirmed that the idea of working with Bif is at least on the table, although when and if it happens remains to be seen. “You never know, one day perhaps,” he says. “She's cool."
Cool, and tougher than most people given she’s a hard working performer forced to contend with a heart aneurysm. A startling revelation to say the least.“Yeah, I was born with a heart condition,” Bif confirms. “It’s ultimately a hole that’s formed in my heart, and because I was born in India they didn’t find it. I could have had some corrective surgery done but the problem my parents had was that the statistics for survival weren’t that great when it came to that particular procedure. We opted not to do it and take our chances. Life expectancy for that type of thing is usually about four decades, but I’m a pretty healthy kid so if I live to 40, fucking excellent. I’ve had a great time; I have so much fun all the time. If I live longer, yay. When you know your number’s up you don’t waste time. I’ve always had this and I just don’t think about it. It’s like, ‘Aw shit, oh well…’ It’s actually great because when the guys are sitting around smoking a lot of ganja, I’m not gonna run from the room worrying about getting cancer. It kinda makes me happy in a way because I don’t really worry about stuff. I go to the tanning bed; I don’t give a fuck (laughs). It’s great.”
For more information on Bif Naked go to herroyalmajestyrecords.com.