Chibi (vocals) from The Birthday Massacre
It’s already a good tradition to make interviews with bands that will come to Ukraine. THE BIRTHDAY MASSACRE was not an exception from this rule. Big thanks to Chibi that she found some time to answer our questions. I think you will know many new things about the band…
Reflections Of Darkness [RoD]: Last year you were performing at Wave Gotik Treffen. What impressions did you get? Do you like playing on big festivals (like WGT) or you prefer performing in clubs in front of "your" audience?
Chibi: Yes, it was our first year playing WGT as a band and we were happy to do it. We hadn't been to Germany in a few years and it was nice to get back there. WGT has an amazing reputation and many of our friends have played it, so it was nice to finally be able to get out there and do it. Years ago I performed at WGT without the guys, and both times I've participated I was impressed by the amount of people who attend and how Leipzig transforms itself to accommodate all the fans who come out. Parks, campgrounds, hotels, cafes, just full of awesome people there for the festival. It's incredible. And yeah, playing festivals is definitely different from playing club stages. I wouldn't say I like one more than the other. Festival stages are huge, the crowds are huge, and yeah, not everyone knows you, so you have that pressure on you, almost as though you need to win people over, in a way. Which can be a good thing!
RoD: Can you relate any of your tracks from ‘Hide and Seek’ album to events that used to happen in your life?
Chibi: Lyrically, many of the songs from that record were inspired by a concept that had always fascinated me - what is hidden. Either within a person, or even within a city and your surroundings. The idea of a beautiful place that is calm and peaceful, a place you might like to go and relax, and the idea that something bad happened in that spot that you may not know about. Or that a person can appear to be one thing, but is quite another. I am very interested in true crime, in unsolved mysteries - and often I have travelled to the sites where horrible things have happened, in order to further understand or be able to immerse myself in the mystery or tragedy of it. And one thing I have noticed it just how beautiful some of the places are - parks, riversides, pretty houses on quiet streets. You'd never suspect that it was the scene of something violent and notorious. The contrast really strikes me. You can never truly know a place, or a person, and all the history that is within. It remains unseen.
RoD: A question to Chibi, not so long ago you took part in recording of an ARMY OF THE UNIVERSE track called ‘Until The End’. Please tell us about this experience. Why ARMY OF THE UNIVERSE and why this song?
Chibi: Albert approached me, and I was happy to do it. I like the music because it contains elements that have always appealed to me - it can be very dark, but at the same time inspiring and fun to listen to. He was able to get hold of me through Metropolis, and we went back and forth via email to discuss what he wanted and when it was going to work. I had to record it here in Toronto, and we did it all via email, basically. I haven't been able to meet them or hang out, but it was a pleasure to do the song.
RoD: A question touching the case on the May, 17th concert in Saint-Petersburg, when Rainbow ate a rose presented by a fan… what are your other preferences in food? What is your attitude towards vegetarianism and raw foods? ;)
Chibi: Ha, yes, I remember that! I wouldn't say Rainbow eats flowers often, but you know, maybe in his free time - who knows? Haha. In terms of eating, hmmm... I mean, I'm pretty sure all of us are at a point where we try to eat as healthy as we can, but you know, I eat pizza way too often. I should try to cut that back. I love cooking. I have a very small kitchen, but I maximize it. I love making soup - big meals where I can control what I put in it, and it'll last for days. Our drummer Rhim is vegetarian, he works hard to keep that going when we're on tour and there aren't always many healthy choices, let alone vegetarian choices. I've done a few raw food mini-cleanses over the years, Rainbow has done the master cleanse a few times (maybe it's all the rose petals). Cooking is it for me, though. I love food and cooking too much to be able to exclusively eat raw foods. I live right near a huge market neighbourhood in Toronto, so it is easy for me to get organic vegetables and higher-grade, hopefully more ethical meat products. I still love a big bag of cheeseburgers though. I just can't help it.
RoD: And as we mentioned concert incidents - which mad actions of your fans do you remember best of all? And what mad acts did you take?
Chibi: Over the years there have been just countless, countless things that have happened onstage, both on purpose and not. Last year I sprained my knee onstage and collapsed. In the UK a few years back, Rainbow sprained his onstage as well. At a show in Mexico, Owen was really sick and had to play with a barf-bucket beside his keyboard. We've played shows where the power has gone out, we played an outdoor festival in Europe in the middle of a terrifying lightning storm and insane downpour where we literally had to stop playing because it was dangerous. One of our first USA tours, the band before us accidentally broke a water main over the tiny stage, and so we had to play with this giant water barrel onstage with us. It took up more room than the rest of us did. There just have really been so many things happen. I could go on all afternoon.
RoD: Is THE BIRTHDAY MASSACRE a political band likes for example SKINNY PUPPY or FLA?
Chibi: Musically we try to not take things in a political direction, but for me, personally, yes. I'm very tuned in to what's going on worldwide. I think it's important to be. I go to rallies and protests for things I believe in. It's important for me to be active and get out there because I get very upset when I perceive there to be an injustice and if I don't actually go out and talk about it and do something, I stew and become furious. But as a band, it's important for us to keep things on the imaginative and creative side. Music for me has always been an escape - taking a break from stress and "real life".
RoD: How inspiring is the Canadian music scene to your work?
Chibi: The Canadian music scene - if you mean in terms of media support and opportunities - has not been helpful or inspiring to us in the least. The Canadian music scene in terms of fans and other bands is wonderful. We are friends with and play with a great many bands in Canada who are incredibly talented and who do well, all on their own merit and hard work. I think it is amazing that we can put on big shows, filled with talented bands, and get out amazing crowds for years and sell out big venues, and all without any help or support whatsoever from local media. That, to me, is inspiring - that we continue to achieve so much, and have built the career that we have, with essentially zero help from Toronto media. I love meeting Canadian fans, especially from the smaller towns. I grew up in a smaller Canadian city and I remember the struggle of having to find cool stuff to listen to, feeling a bit like an oddball within that stereotypical Canadian culture of the same big bands on the radio and TV. Not much has changed.
RoD: You made a big step forward in terms of sound and production. How influential is Dave Ogilvie as a producer?
Chibi: You need to work with a producer you respect, and trust, in terms of making decisions and suggestions about your songs. Dave has always worked with great bands, bands we like. He "gets" our music, he likes our music. That's basically what everything boils down to - you want to work with people who believe in your band, who like what you're doing. And we've worked with Dave a lot by this point, we trust him, and we also like him a lot!
RoD: Chibi, do you have any models/ idols in terms of singing or writing?
Chibi: There are a great many inspirations I have - my first inspiration in terms of writing has always been Johnette Napolitano. CONCRETE BLONDE was the first band I ever loved, and even though I don't write like her, I could only hope to capture the moodiness and longing and wryness that she manages to infuse in her songs. I think she's amazing. I also love her singing voice, though again, I sound nothing like her. I like singers who aren't trying to fit into any perfect little warbling box. I love Johnette because she sounds completely unique. I love Mike Patton because he sounds different on every recording, he takes risks. I also Courtney Love because she's just so totally herself and doesn't care about sounding perfect. I love Ann Wilson because she sings so powerfully. I love Chino Moreno because he can just creep under your skin.
RoD: How influential are other bands from the so called Goth-scene?
Chibi: The "Goth scene" seems, to me, to be a whole bunch of different types of music, with the similarity being that the visual style is similar. Industrial, electronic, pop, rock, dance, metal - variations on every style of music can really all fit under the "Goth" label. I think it is a good community. I don't know to what extent other "Goth" bands have influenced us. Growing up, I mean, yes, bands like NINE INCH NAIL, THE CURE, TYPE O NEGATIVE, those are bands we liked and listened to that you could classify as "Goth", right? I'd say those were influences.
RoD: There is so much depth in the songs of yours. Are you satisfied with being often labelled as a Goth pop band?
Chibi: The instant anything gets labelled, it immediately becomes unappealing to certain people. "Oh! They're a country band? Nope, I don't like country music." But at the same time, others will want to check you out based on that label. So it's a win-lose, always. You know, I think our band name does the same thing, "The Birthday Massacre". So many people have said they thought we'd be a heavy metal band or something and were surprised when they heard us. So I guess, like I said, labels have hurt us. But they've also benefited us. I'd rather be called a "Goth pop band" than a "crappy Goth band", so I'll take it.
RoD: What‘s with the new album? Please tell me about it. Is the work in progress?
Chibi: It is coming along, we have songs on the go. It's been pretty nuts around here in the last couple of months. We were working on a song for a friend, then we had tour, and then it was the Christmas holiday. As I'm writing this morning, tomorrow night is New Year's Eve, and so nothing is really going on in terms of work. It's impossible to be productive songwriting on tour or over holidays! So once New Years' is over with we'll crack down on it.
RoD: Which are the bands strategies in terms of songwriting? What comes first: lyrics or music?
Chibi: Music first, which then sets the tone for lyrics. I do have tons of lyric ideas written down - so it's almost like a drawing or painting. You do the outline and then look at your colours and see what colour you want to put where, and what new ideas you come up with as you go along. Hm, that may have been a pretentious metaphor, there. Ha. Sorry about that. I can tell you with confidence that we do the lyrics last, and so when we are rushing against our deadlines, it is always because we are working on lyrics and vocals so it looks like it is me who took forever, which is inaccurate!!!
RoD: When it comes to decisions on behalf of the band, are you bunch democrats or is there some kind of creative leader?
Chibi: There are six of us and so it is hard for all of us to agree on everything. Mike, Rainbow and I are essentially the "leaders" - we're the songwriters and we started the band, so it just makes sense. But I mean, this band is a family. No one is directly in charge, barking out commands. Everyone's voice is heard, and everyone needs to be happy for this thing to work. Me, Mike and Rainbow end up working so closely when we're writing the songs and recording the music that when we do finally get together with Rhim, Nate and Owen for rehearsals and tours and meetings it can be really refreshing and inspiring. I feel like Rainbow and Mike are my brothers - I know them so well and I love them so dearly, but I'm pretty sure we want to kill each other half the time as well.
RoD: On stage you look like a very tight crew. Are there any big fights when it comes songwriting, stage presence etc. ?
Chibi: No fights. I think we're pretty passive aggressive, and polite, with each other. We've sure had some big blowouts over the years, of course, but in terms of writing songs we try to be very respectful of each other's work when it comes to adding or changing or making suggestions. Being creative, writing songs, with people can make you very vulnerable because you put a lot of emotion into it, and so you expose part of yourself to the people you're working with. It's easy to feel stupid, or overlooked, or embarrassed when you're putting out ideas, melodies or phrases that mean a lot to you, that have been inspired by some emotion or memory. So we try to respect that when we're working together on stuff. And in terms of stage presence, no, no fights about that. We've always tried to look cohesive onstage and match each other - we've worn homemade boy scout uniforms, matching shirts, etc., etc. We got a bunch of sailor uniforms and Mike didn't like those, so we just didn't wear them outside of one photo shoot. Everyone's got to feel comfortable, but we also understand that it's important for us to look cohesive.
RoD: Do you all live next to each other in terms of rehearsing?
Chibi: Mike lives directly behind our rehearsal space building. Rainbow, Rhim and myself all live in town, but not as closely. Nate is from Los Angeles, but he spends most of his time in Toronto now as well. Owen lives in London, Ontario - it's maybe a two hour drive from Toronto. Usually when we have a tour coming up, we'll rehearse a lot in the weeks leading up to it.
RoD: Do you like touring in general and how important is Russia or Ukraine to you?
Chibi: We have toured a lot, and there have been times when I have loved it and times I have despised it. The last two or so years we have not been out as often, and that makes me like it, ha. I'm not as burned out on it as I was for a few years there. One of the things I have always loved about touring is getting to visit places I probably wouldn't otherwise have seen. And so, yes, visiting Russia this year was amazing. And getting to go back in 2014, as well as visiting Ukraine and Belarus for the first time - awesome. Looking forward to it very much, and also getting back to Germany on the same tour. It's just so cool that people know the band in these countries, that just blows my head off that we're even invited, that we can have this experience and play for these people. I remember Russia this past year, so far from home and the languages are so very different and here they are and we're all singing together. That's one of the touring experiences that never fails to just astound me.
RoD: Is there a different response from the crowd in these countries compare to other?
Chibi: I have always said that there really aren't differences country-to-country, it's always more city to city, and even then it isn't predictable! You can have a totally insane show with a crazy crowd, and the next time you go to that city, it may be a subdued and polite crowd. There really isn't any way to predict it at all. I think it depends on the club, the time, and even the weather, as weird as that sounds. Stuff that transcends location.
RoD: Are you aware of the political circumstances in the countries you will go with show?
Chibi: Yes, always. But once again - the music isn't there to make a political statement or contribute to anything negative or oppressive. We visit countries to play for fans of the music. We aren't there to have dinner with politicians. And the politicians aren't the ones who invited us. We're there to play music for people, and help them escape stress and negativity and just have some fun and enjoy the night.
RoD: Next year you will be playing in Ukraine, what do you know about this country and what are you expecting from this show?
Chibi: I have heard that people in the Ukraine are notorious for being extremely friendly, and also that you guys have good beaches :) I'm looking forward to learning more about it. And trying the food - that's something we always look forward to. Tour schedules can mean that we don't get to visit or do anything touristy in some of the places we visit, so sometimes, our only exposure to the culture can be the food :)
RoD: Few words / wishes to you fans in Ukraine.
Chibi: We look forward very much to visiting with you and we're excited to play! Thank you so much for your support, and we'll see you very soon!
Written by Viola Noir, Phlegpallium, Daria Szegeda (Ukrainian Gothic Portal). The Russian version of the article is available here.