In terms of modern electronic rock The Birthday Massacre are at the forefront of the genre. With metallic guitars clashing against sharp industrial sounds, the band have carved out a strong reputation the world over for exciting live shows and solid, hard-hitting recorded material. Now, with the release of their fourth album ‘Pins And Needles‘, the five-piece are evolving once more and are about to set-off on a tour of the UK which will see them stop off in Preston, Manchester and Sheffield alongside other great cities. Vocalist Chibi talks us through Canada, touring and the new album.
“It’s great to be back out with the guys and getting into that day-to-day family routine”
S] Firstly; you’ve got a new album coming out. Is that still exciting for you? Or is the release almost an afterthought of the creative process?
C] The release becomes the focus. It is sort of a step-by-step thing: when you’re writing, finishing the record becomes the focus. Then, playing the songs live. Then the focus. Then the tour. It’s always a goal-by-goal system – there’s always a next step to look towards.
S] …And have there been any last minute doubts or ‘I don’t like that, can we bin that bit and do something else instead’ moments as the release date has drawn near?
C] Always. We’re perfectionists. That’s why having a deadline is very important – we’d probably still be tweaking and re-doing things. It’s hard to be objective about your own music. And, you get too close to it – after you’ve spent hours and hours and weeks working on one song, it’s difficult to step back from it and look at it. You don’t have fresh ears anymore.
S] What was literally the final piece of the album to be completed?
C] From my perspective, the last thing I heard that was added was the guitar solo in the outro of ‘Midnight‘. That was the final piece for me.
S] We don’t exactly live in an earthquake zone, but we had a mild one a couple of years ago, and we recall waking up thinking there was an artillery barrage in progress, before deciding it must be next door’s tumble dryer. Were you actually in Toronto for the Earthquake? What were you doing at the time, and what were your first thoughts?
C] I didn’t notice it – I had the flu that morning, I’d left work early, and I slept through it on my couch. A few friends felt it though. They’re very rare in Toronto. I was in Los Angeles once for an earthquake though – and I had no idea what it was. My first reaction was that I was having some sort of weird seizure, but then when the cabinets were rattling. I thought maybe a large truck had driven by. My first instinct was not that it was an earthquake, even though California is renowned for its earthquakes.
S] A Canadian friend told me that the earthquake was the most interesting thing to ever happen in Toronto. What would you say to that – apart from ‘you haven’t been to one of our gigs, obviously’?
C] Haha! I don`t know about that. Toronto has more interesting things going on than an earthquake. If it was that interesting, then I`m bummed out that I slept through it. A few months ago we (Canada) hosted the G20 Summit – the city got all wrapped up in controversy over that. I`d say that whole experience was more interesting than an earthquake. I live downtown, and the entire downtown was crazy.
S] Do events which the band experiences tend to trigger a rush to update online? The Birthday Massacre is a band that firmly embraces new media. How much time and effort goes into that? How much time after gigs, if any is spent huddled around a laptop checking for comments?
C] I like to update before shows, events and tours, to let people know when and where we are playing and what`s coming up. Then afterwards, I will upload photos from a tour, and I always spend time after a tour looking at video clips to see how things sounded and looked. I don`t like reading comments for the most part. I never do it. There is so much positive stuff, but a lot of negative stuff as well. It used to get under my skin. I am open to creative criticism, feedback on the music and the shows…but because I am a female, comments get made about my appearance, which I think is insane and does not happen to male performers. So I just don`t bother reading comments anymore. It is irrelevant, depressing and an unfortunate part of being a female in this industry.
S] Are you affected by what people write about you online? Do you feel that bands have enough of an online presence these days? Do you feel that being more accessible to your fan-base affects your music?
C] Nowadays fans expect a lot of interaction, because the social networking sites provide the opportunity to give minute-by-minute updates on all the details of every second of your life. Some bands definitely participate more than others in this – updating just the most intimate and irrelevant details. Others choose not to at all. I think it is a fine balance. You want to keep some level of mystique to the band, but you also want to be somewhat accessible. I also don`t like to spend too much time on the internet – it really is a time waster. You get all sucked in.
S] As regards your personal style and look: Is that something that you ‘discovered’ prior to the band, is it a product of the band or has it developed with the band?
C] A bit of both. I mean, I`ve dressed ‘differently’ and dyed my hair black since I was in school, but it is something that we’ve developed with the band. We want to look cohesive onstage and with our image. But we’ve never gotten a new member who has to change their look to join us in any significant way. Everyone just sort of comes ‘as is’, already interested in this sort of style. Being in the band allows us to take it a bit further, and we love to be creative with stage looks and have fun with the style.
S] When did you become comfortable and settled with the contents of your own wardrobes?
C] I started wearing black and dying my hair when I was a teenager. I went through that awkward early adolescence where I had a horrible perm, I had acid-washed jeans, parrot earrings and Paula Abdul hi-top sneakers. Then I dyed my hair black when I was 15, inspired by Concrete Blonde. I was never popular as a kid, and dressing like that sort of concreted it – but I never cared about being ‘cool’. I thought they were all idiots.
S] I’ve been straying away from your music a little here. So for the new album – what did you want it to say?
C] It’s the next progression in our songwriting. We’ve grown as musicians, as performers, and we’ve been through experiences that have changed our perspectives as people and as participants in this industry.
S] Can you run us through your creative process? How do you put tracks together, and who does what?
C] Rainbow and Mike write all the music, with OE contributing to parts as well. Once the music is finished, I come into the process to begin lyric-writing.
S] Your pairing with G20 Summit: Was it somewhat inevitable? How did it come about, and how well, if at all did you know Dave prior to this album?
C] Dave produced ‘Walking With Strangers‘, so we went into this album with a good friendship and working relationship. He helped us mix ‘Pins And Needles‘, with Rainbow and Mike producing this time around.
S] The track order of the new album is interesting. How did you settle on that?
C] A lot of thought goes into the track order. Each song has to complement the next, moving at a good flow throughout. You don’t want to put a bunch of slow songs in a row, for example, and put everyone to sleep. It’s got to have a good dynamic. The same process goes into putting together a setlist for live shows.
S] Musically: How do you feel that you’ve grown and what are the new elements that you feel that you’ve bought to the album?
C] On our last record, a lot of different sounds were put together. On this record, there was a conscious effort to use consistent sounds and create a unified sound track-to-track throughout the record.
S] What’s each of your favourite tracks on the album? Do you all have fairly diverse tastes as regards your own music, or do you all love the same tracks?
C] I’m sure we do all have a different favourite – for me, it is always changing. Right now I really love listening to ‘Pale‘ because of the really pretty vocal harmonies. It really comes down to playing the songs live. I’ll have a different favourite song each week on a tour.
S] How many tracks either didn’t make the album or have started to creatively congeal since finalising ‘Pins and Needles’? Are you likely to head back into the studio any time soon, or are you looking to take a break from recording for a while?
C] There are three or four tracks that didn’t make the final cut, and we’ll continue to work on them for eventual releases. I think we’re all pretty happy to be finished with the recording process for a while – we hadn’t toured in about a year so we could finish the record, and now we’re happy to be back on the road.
S] And the tour: How’s that going for you? What are your most memorable moments so far?
C] Getting to play some of the new songs has been a lot of fun for us. It’s always great to see the crowd reaction to new material, and it’s fun for us to have something new to perform. Also, because we haven’t toured in a while, it’s been great seeing some familiar faces at the shows. I’m honestly just happy to be back performing – playing shows is a lot of fun. It’s great to be back out with the guys and getting into that day-to-day family routine on the bus.
S] How do you feel about your local music scene, and where in the world do you see a culture of live music that really impresses you?
C] Toronto is a difficult place to be a musician. There are tons of bands, and not very much support from the city’s official music magazines. I have often been surprised by the lack of support for us from Canadian press – we’ve given up trying to get onto the Canadian music channel or into publications. We’ve received incredible support from Europe, UK, USA, even Australia. Our Canadian fans support us passionately, and we appreciate it so much. As proud as we are to be Canadian, it is difficult being a Canadian alternative band. We’ve achieved so many amazing things internationally, but Canadian press has always ignored us despite those achievements, and despite our high ranking on Canadian music websites. It’s confusing and has always disappointed us.
S] Which venue or venues do you most enjoy playing? Why?
C] It depends. There are never any guarantees. You can have a great show at a certain venue, and the next time you come back it will be terrible. I would say that the hallmark of a good venue is a good sound system and staff who actually care about who is playing. So many people don`t care, so many venues are filthy and unkempt with a ruined sound system. It`s a real challenge to have a good show under those circumstances.
S] Are there any proverbial notches on your belts that you…I won’t say ‘aim for’ necessarily, but that you’d love to achieve? Is there a venue that you still dream of playing, someone you’d like to meet or support (or headline over!), a place on your wall yearning for some platinum discs, a spot reserved in the garage for your first Maserati, or anything like that?
C] I would like to find some way to just thank and pay back the people who have supported us, both emotionally and financially. Our families, who have put up with a lot from our `struggling musician` stuff for years, and our manager, who has shouldered a lot of weight and made so many sacrifices. If I got a bunch of money, I wouldn’t go out and buy a fancy car. I’d buy my parents a nice house.
S] Who would each of you most like to discover was a big fan of The Birthday Massacre?
C] Any number of our own personal heroes. People who have influenced us, you know, bands we like and admire. It is so incredible when someone who has influenced you, someone you look up to, enjoys what you have created.
S] One last question for all of you – what would rock your world the most? The piece of news that would excite you more than anything else. Aliens landing at the Rogers Centre, world peace, free unlimited pizza for everyone – that kind of thing?
C] That free pizza thing sounds good right now. Probably because I haven’t had lunch yet. But I guess, I have to pick ‘world peace’, or else I’ll look like a total jerk.
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