Metal Chick of the Month – Heidi Shepherd & Carla Harvey

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Ladies and Gentlemen, children of all ages… Step right up and get your tickets to the greatest show on earth!

Love them or hate them, we all must admit that the two female metallers chosen to celebrate the third anniversary of The Headbanging Moose have a strong influence on contemporary Heavy Metal due to their unique (and aggressive) attitude, which obviously includes their sexy looks and fiery and chaotic music. They deal with their sexuality more naturally than we prepare a simple orange juice, and although some people might consider their work futile or even too obscene, let’s not forget that heavy music is above all things a form of art where artists can freely express their thoughts, ideals and beliefs through their compositions and, in many cases like for example in Black Metal, through their image. Besides, their music is a billion times better than anything Lady Gaga does, a woman who calls herself a true metal fan but in reality keeps playing second-class meaningless pop stuff. With that said, let’s raise our horns to frontwomen Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey, the dynamic duo responsible for the amusing blend of violence and rebelliousness bred by American Metalcore/Groove Metal band Butcher Babies.

Before we talk about each “butcher baby” in more details, let me provide you a short and sweet overview of this Alternative Metal band from Los Angeles, California in case you have never heard of them in your life. Formed in 2010, Butcher Babies probably have one of the most solid lineups in the history of heavy music despite being just a few years old. Apart from Heidi and Carla, the band is also made up by guitarist Henry Flury, bassist Jason Klein and drummer Chris Warner, all still playing together since the band’s inception and, based on how healthy their relationship is, that’s the way things are going to be for many years to come. The name of the band came from the song Butcher Baby by American Punk Rock band Plasmatics, spearheaded by the iconic singer, songwriter and actress Wendy O. Williams. Both Heidi and Carla acknowledge how important Wendy O. Williams was (and still is) for the increasing acceptance of women in heavy music, which is one of the reasons why they wear such eccentric attire during their live performances including wearing nothing but black tape over their nipples (albeit they’ve ditched it in recent years).

Despite their short period of existence so far, the band has already released the single Blonde Girls All Look The Same in 2011, the EP Butcher Babies in 2012, their first full-length album Goliath in 2013, another EP entitled Uncovered in 2014 and finally their most recent full-length album, Take It Like a Man, in 2015. You can have lots of fun with their music and sexiness in songs such as They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!, Igniter, Magnolia Blvd, Mr. Slowdeath, Dead Man Walking, I Smell a Massacre, Gravemaker and The Butcher, or you can simply enjoy their entire 40-minute performance at the always superb Graspop Metal Meeting in Dessel, Belguim in 2015. There are also tons of cool interviews with Heidi and Carla on YouTube, such as backstage interviews at Knotfest in 2014 and at Rockstar Mayhem Tour in 2013; their explanation for abandoning the nipple tape and covering up; a nice interview for Metal Hammer at Soundwave 2015 where they talk about hugging koala bears, fighting kangaroos and their adventures in Australia; an interview to German channel BunchTV in 2011 still with the nipple tapes; and a very relaxed interview to FeMetalTV in 2015.

HEIDI SHEPHERD

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Enough said already, now it’s all about the girls. Let’s begin with the sometimes blonde, sometimes red-headed hurricane Heidi Shepherd, the woman accountable for the high-pitched screams and growls for Butcher Babies. Born on April 17, 1985 in Utah, United States, Heidi is more than “just” a metal singer, being also a radio DJ, actress and casting director best known for the 2008 thriller Animals and the TV series MANswers, as well as minor parts and uncredited appearances in different shows such as My Name Is Earl, Ghots Whisperer and CSI: NY.

Heidi, who by the way is the oldest of 6 kids, grew up in Provo, Utah, the third largest city in the state and located around 43 miles south of Salt Lake City, where she attended Provo High School, graduating in 2003. Still in high school, believe it or not Heidi was an accomplished track and field athlete, even traveling to Russia to participate in the Junior Olympics. She also graduated from Southern Utah University, where once again she showcased all her athleticism participating in competitions such as high jump and long jump. Also, as a girl raised in the Mormon religion, Heidi has a very interesting view of the concept of Heaven and Hell, stating those are things the human being made up to make ourselves feel comfortable about the afterlife, something to give people a purpose and life goals.

In regards to her passion for music and how it helped her become a better person, our unrestrained vocalist said music was basically the only thing she could relate to in her childhood, having as her personal heroes distinct names such as Slipknot, Wendy O. Williams, Gwen Stefani and Joan Jett, most of them being females that defy the male dominance in music as you can see. However, it’s Slipknot, a top to bottom male band, who had the strongest influence on her vocal style and stage performance, saying when she saw a picture of them for the first time (she was around 12 or 13 only) it really scared her but intrigued her at the same time. Once a girl who developed an intense fear of the dark, Heidi learned to embrace fear and use it in her creative process through the years, something we can definitely connect to what Slipknot aim with their unique approach.

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If you think she’s a party girl who doesn’t sleep at all and drinks every alcoholic beverage in sight, you’re absolutely wrong. Well, of course she always has her share of fun, but Heidi mentioned already in different interviews that if she doesn’t get enough sleep every night her live performances suffer a truly negative impact. On top of that, Heidi said that despite loving whiskey she can’t drink it on the road anymore, as the effect of the alcohol hurts her vocal chords, so she saves it for when she gets back home. If you’re a singer I’m sure you can relate to that, because you can be tired and drunk and still play a guitar, for example, but the impact alcohol can have on your vocals can be devastating without any doubt.

Lastly, as a lover of horror flicks and a believer of supernatural and paranormal forces, which in my opinion is an excellent source of inspiration for the type of music played by Butcher Babies, Heidi mentioned that among her favorite recent movies we can find titles like the new Evil Dead, V/H/S and V/H/S/2, You’re Next and The Purge, all pretty decent films with interesting storylines, don’t you think? And who knows, maybe it’s time for a slasher movie with a main female character named “Heidi the Butcher”, who not only chops and dismembers her victims, but does that screaming like a maniac while listening to some vicious heavy music. Or maybe it should be a sanguinary duo of Heidi and Carla? Read the rest of this essay and take your own conclusions.

Heidi Shepherd’s Official Facebook page
Heidi Shepherd’s Official Twitter
Heidi Shepherd’s Official Instagram

“There’s no reason why girls can’t get up there and rock just as hard as, if not harder than, the boys. And I’m so happy to say that I’m seeing a movement.” – Heidi Shepherd

CARLA HARVEY

carla01Of course Butcher Babies wouldn’t be complete without the charisma of the daredevil vocalist, author and actress Carla Harvey. Born on October 4, 1976 in Detroit, Michigan, United States, Carla is what we can call a very successful “experiment” as she is of Ethiopian, Finnish, Irish and Italian background, and her contribution to Butcher Babies comes in the form of hellish growls deeper than the screams by Heidi, endless energy on stage and some of the weirdest faces you can think of. Put differently, when Carla is performing with the band, she becomes a true female demon like Lilith, for example.

Carla attended Glenn Levey Middle School in Southfield, Michigan, before going to Mercy High School (an all-girl private Catholic school) and Harrison High School, both in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Her first job in Hollywood was as an Entertainment Reporter for the Playboy Channel, also taking part in several movies such as Frankenstein vs. the Creature from Blood Cove (2005), Happy in the Valley (2009) and Dry Run (2010), and other TV shows like Root of All Evil, Sex Chronicles and, just like her partner Heidi, MANswers. In addition, she took a break from the entertainment world to earn a degree in Mortuary Science from Cypress College in California, and worked as an embalmer and funeral director before forming Butcher Babies.

Our raven-haired (with some blue nuances) brawler said she’s been into music since she was a little kid, playing instruments like guitar and bass but always knowing she was born to be a singer. Her first appearance in a band happened when she was around 17 years old, but it wasn’t until Butcher Babies were born that she reached true stardom. Among her main influences, we can find kick-ass names like Slayer and Slipknot, with Slash and Jimi Hendrix being her personal heroes especially due to their roots. As a biracial girl growing in Detroit, seeing musicians that were also of African-American descent playing the music she loved was essential for her to keep pursuing her dreams and overcoming the odds imposed by society on her. Another huge influence on her vocal style and onstage performance in the one and only Phil Anselmo, the iconic frontman from Pantera and Down, who she has admired since she was a kid, highlighting how humble and easy-going he is as a person after finally being able to meet him on the road.

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Heavily influenced by horror movies such as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects (these two directed by another one of her idols, Rob Zombie), Carla is also passionate about writing, drawing and reading comic books since she was a kid, something that helped her cope with loneliness as an introverted child, and from that fusion of horror flicks, comics and Heavy Metal she became a “comic book mastermind” according to Hustler Magazine. Her first comic book, entitled Butcher Babies (illustrated by Anthony Winn from Deepcut Productions), was released at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2011, followed by her first full-length novel Death and Other Dances in 2014, and more recently the comic series Soul Sucka, the story about an African-American vampire, in 2015. Carla is always drawing “naked girls” and other stuff, and if you’re interested in taking a look at her work you can visit her Big Cartel page.

And finally, just like what was written about Heidi in terms of drinking and partying while on tour, Carla also said drinking lots of water and hot tea is what truly helps keep her vocal chords moist, together with the obvious and necessary amount of sleep per night. However, she mentioned she also enjoys drinking Jägermeister as it coats her throat rather than drying it out. Although I’m a beer guy, I’m an admirer of Jäger too and I understand perfectly what she’s trying to say about the effect of this exquisite German digestif on your throat. If your job requires you to cut off alcohol, all you have to do is improvise and find other alternatives. And it looks like being creative and always trying new stuff doesn’t scare our roaring metal babe at all.

Carla Harvey’s Official Facebook page
Carla Harvey’s Official Twitter
Carla Harvey’s Official Instagram

“I wish, some day people stop using the female fronted this, female fronted that, because it always takes the focus away from the band itself, because you know, we are all just Heavy Metal bands, we are all doing the same thing.” – Carla Harvey

Butcher Babies’ Official Facebook page
Butcher Babies’ Official Twitter
Butcher Babies’ Official Instagram

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Concert Review – Guns N’ Roses (Rogers Centre, Toronto, ON, 07/16/2016)

Do you know where you are? You’re in Toronto, baby! Wake up! Time to die!

OPENING ACT: Billy Talent

GNR_Toronto_2016I must confess I’ve never felt so happy in my life for missing an opening act like what happened this Saturday, when I “couldn’t” arrive on time at the Rogers Centre to watch Canadian Rock N’ Roll band BILLY TALENT opening for Guns N’ Roses on their sole Canadian concert from the colossal Guns N’ Roses: Not In This Lifetime… Tour. I had the unpleasantness of watching their lame and tiresome concert once back in 2011, when for a reason beyond my knowledge they played AFTER classic bands such as Exodus, Death Angel, Testament, Mastodon and, believe it or not, the almighty Slayer, and were obviously booed throughout their entire “performance”. Whoever had that brilliant idea of inserting such a hideous group among so many real metal bands might have been involved in the stupid decision of placing them as the opening act for Guns N’ Roses instead of the excellent Alice In Chains, the iconic The Cult or even the not-so-bad Lenny Kravitz, as it’s happening in every city Guns N’ Roses are playing except for Toronto. The only thing I know about their performance is that drummer Aaron Solowoniuk was replaced by Jordan Hastings (Alexisonfire), which doesn’t really mean anything at all for any regular fan of Guns N’ Roses. Their setlist is below, but why bother?

Setlist
Devil in a Midnight Mass
This Suffering
Louder Than the DJ
Rusted from the Rain
River Below
Surprise Surprise
Afraid of Heights
Devil on My Shoulder
Red Flag
Fallen Leaves
Try Honesty
Viking Death March

Band members
Benjamin Kowalewicz – lead vocals
Ian D’Sa – guitar, vocals
Jonathan Gallant – bass guitar, backing vocals
Jordan Hastings – drums, percussion

GUNS N’ ROSES

IMG_1542Who would imagine that after 20 years Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan would not only be reunited on stage, but still kicking fuckin’ ass as if they had never split up in the beginning of the 90’s? I’m pretty sure the entire crowd of over 50,000 gunners who were at the Rogers Centre this Saturday will agree with me that GUNS N’ ROSES were almost flawless during the whole concert, blasting their biggest classics from the 80’s and 90’s blended with some “newer” material from the controversial (but good) Chinese Democracy, their latest studio album. To be fair, after they played It’s So Easy, Mr. Brownstone, Chinese Democracy and Welcome to the Jungle, I was already satisfied enough to go home so good those songs were. Let’s say the only thing that didn’t make anyone happy were all those despicable scalpers trying to extort good people who just wanted to see one the best Hard Rock/Hair Metal band of all time playing. I truly hope very few people ended up getting their tickets from those scammers, and this is only going to end when absolutely NO ONE buys tickets from unauthorized people anymore, but you know how diehard fans are, right?

Anyway, getting back to what really matters, the (official) price paid for the tickets was definitely worth every penny. The whole band was in such perfect sync it’s hard to point any issues with their concert, and except for minor changes I would personally make to their setlist (which might have been already perfect for many) everything else went beyond my expectations. The “least famous” members of the band (Frank Ferrer on drums and Melissa Reese on keyboards, or whatever she was doing on stage) did their job, provinding the necessary support for the other guys to shine. Keyboardist Dizzy Reed (don’t ask me why they have three keyboardists, including Axl) and guitarist Richard Fortus proved why they’ve been with Axl for such a long time, probably even more time than Slash and Duff themselves, especially Richard who was spot-on with his riffs and solos to the point he wasn’t overshadowed at all by the one and only Slash. Quite the contrary, they make an amazing guitar duo together. However, no matter how much I praise those musicians, we know everyone was at the Rogers Centre to see the “heart”, the “soul” and the “blood” of Guns N’ Roses.

Starting with the “blood”, known as bassist Duff McKagan, he couldn’t be more physical and dedicated to the music he plays. Wearing a Lemmy T-shirt and having a Prince sticker on his bass guitar (a nice tribute to two unique musicians, with only the black star by David Bowie “missing”), Duff was on fire with his rumbling bass lines and awesome backing vocals. And when he was the lead singer, like in their cover version for Attitude, by the Misfits, he showed all his love for Punk Rock and how charismatic he is.

IMG_1541Axl Rose, who will always be the “heart” of Guns N’ Roses, surprised even the most skeptical fan with an absolutely incredible performance on vocals, singing each and every song as if he was the same Axl from Appetite for Destruction and Use Your Illusion. What he did on my favorite Guns N’ Roses songs of all time, the superb Estranged, You Could Be Mine and Civil War (how can the lyrics for this song still be so meaningful after more than 20 years?), was a thing of beauty. He kept running around the stage, danced a lot, wore some almost-classic outfits from the 80’s and smiled to the fans all the time, and by seeing that I finally realized his troubled years might be dead and gone for good. When they played the beautiful ballad This I Love, the touching Sorry and the fun Better, songs where Axl is truly needed as they had zero contribution from Slash or Duff when composed, we could witness a focused and passionate artist that has found peace and is now on the right path to reconquer the world of music. Even when Axl talked about their small incident at the border, when the police found a gun with them, he didn’t get angry or anything like that, simply mentioning it was a funny moment and that “it wasn’t his gun”.

Lastly, what can I say about the “soul” of the band, the unparalleled Slash? That guy is getting better and better as time goes by, delivering his unique riffs and even more unique solos for the total delight of every fan of the band. His guitar duet with Richard Fortus, his beyond stunnig solo in November Rain and his classic riffs and solos in Sweet Child O’ Mine led many fans to an amazing state of ecstasy, a sensation many had to hold for decades to feel again. Let’s just hope Slash remains with Guns N’ Roses for many years to come, because that’s the place where he truly belongs in music. Well, as everything must come to an end, after the masterpieces Nightrain, Patience and Paradise City, together with a cover version for The Seeker, by The Who (which could have been easily replaced by another classic like “Think About You”, “Used To Love Her”, “Don’t Cry” or “Yesterdays”, or even by “Madagascar”), it was time for Axl, Slash, Duff & Co. to say goodbye to the awesome Toronto crowd after almost three hours of concert and get ready for the next city. No one knows if they’re coming back to Canada soon, but based on the reaction of the fans and the smile on the faces of each band member when the show was over, I doubt it will take another 20 years for us to see those guys in action again.

Setlist
Looney Tunes Theme (Intro)
The Equalizer (Harry Gregson-Williams song)
It’s So Easy
Mr. Brownstone
Chinese Democracy
Welcome to the Jungle
Double Talkin’ Jive
Estranged
Live and Let Die (Wings cover)
Rocket Queen
You Could Be Mine
Attitude (Misfits cover)
This I Love
Civil War
Coma
Speak Softly Love (The Godfather Love Theme)
Sweet Child O’ Mine
Sorry
Better
Out Ta Get Me
Slash & Richard Fortus Guitar Duet
November Rain
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan cover)
Nightrain

Encore:
Patience
The Seeker (The Who cover)
Paradise City

Band members
Axl Rose – lead vocals, piano, keyboards
Slash – lead guitar, backing vocals
Duff McKagan – bass guitar, backing vocals
Dizzy Reed – keyboards, piano, percussion, backing vocals
Richard Fortus – rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals
Melissa Reese – synthesizers, keyboards, programming
Frank Ferrer – drums

Attraction Review – Rock Legends Wax Museum (Niagara Falls, Canada)

This “Rock N’ Roll version” of Madame Tussauds is an excellent option for all headbangers visiting the Canadian side of the falls.

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dsc02909So you decided to visit Niagara Falls, either because you’re a tourist or to spend a weekend or a holiday there with your family. Not only that, you’re also a true metalhead. How about instead of the boring routine of seeing the falls/playing at the casino/eating at Boston Pizza/etc. you do something different and unique, something dedicated to your passion for Rock N’ Roll and Heavy Metal? If you like the idea, you’ll enjoy visiting the ROCK LEGENDS WAX MUSEUM at Niagara Falls, Ontario. Of course nothing there is going to be as perfect as the attractions you can see at the renowned Madame Tussauds,  but this is the only place where you can see Angus Young, Geddy Lee, Slipknot or Metallica, which are way better options than garbage such as the cast from Twilight or Katy Perry.

dsc02845Located at the top of Clifton Hill and Victoria Ave, the access to the museum is extremely easy, and just by passing in front of it you can already see some of their attractions: when I was there they had one of the guys from Slipknot on display, as well as Gene Simmons, Slash and Ozzy right at the entrance. However, you can only take pictures of those if you actually buy a ticket to the museum. If you choose to visit the museum, you’ll be able to see not only some Heavy Metal icons (located at the entertaining Heavy Metal Chamber), but also many important musicians from the early days of Rock N’ Roll like Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown and Freddie Mercury; more contemporary musicians like Kurt Cobain and Bono Vox; and even some Pop artists such as Madonna and Snoop Dogg (or however he’s called nowadays). All these attractions were sculpted by local Niagara Falls artist Pasquale Ramunno, who did a pretty good job in almost all cases in my opinion. One of my favorites, of course, is a giant Eddie based on the Killers album, but with some chains like the Eddie from the World Slavery Tour.

dsc02868As soon as your tour through the museum is over, you’ll find yourself inside their store, called Rockworld. I was quite impressed with their huge selection of shirts, hats, belts, action figures and even some baby clothes for the future headbangers of Canada. The prices are not bad, and everything seemed to be made of good quality material. You can buy a new AC/DC or Pantera T-shirt to give you good luck for your time at the casino right after the visit to the museum, how about that? And as I’m talking about money now, don’t forget to print their online coupon to get a $1 discount per person for the museum admission. If you’re a group of 5 friends, for example, you’re saving the money of a beer.

imag0596There are some legends missing from the museum, of course: Ronnie James Dio and Rob Halford are two examples (at least as far as I know), but their current collection of over 60 figures is pretty decent and, as I mentioned before, totally different from any other wax museum in the world. I doubt you’ll find an Eddie in any of the Madame Tussauds unless of course it’s Eddie Murphy, but that’s not what we’re looking for, right?

Opening hours
Their website doesn’t say anything about the opening hours of the museum or the store, but I know it stays open until late on weekends and holidays, just as any other attraction in the city. You can give them a call anytime, just in case you’re planning to visit the museum.

Contact info & location
Rock Legends Wax Museum
5020 Centre Street
Niagara Falls, Ontario L2G 3N7
(905) 354-6255
info@rocklegendswaxmuseum.com
http://www.rocklegendswaxmuseum.com/

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