Musical Discoveries: How are you Bif?
Bif Naked: I'm great, thanks!
Superbeautifulmonster seems to have a heavier sound than Purge, and it is a lot more focused as well. Would you agree?
I just hope it's an evolution really. For me personally, I just try every time to be a better singer and a better songwriter. I want to make records that are representative of where I'm at at that point emotionally.
It's artist subjective really. I was going through an incredibly trying time in my personal life and I was really kinda f**cked up as a result. I think that a lot of that was captured on this record. The album was whittled down from almost 75 songs, so there was a lot of writing and catharsis going on. (laughs) Much to my chagrin we couldn't put all of the songs on the record!
Since you had so many songs, would you say that the album was intentionally built around a certain style as far as which song you chose for the record?
Oh, I didn't pick'em honey. I can't even be involved in that process. I ultimately record all the songs that I want to record and then I walk.
Now there's something that you don't hear an artists say very often.
I just can't do it. I can't make the decisions. There are SO many songs that I want to be on my records that I can't be objective about it. I've never been involved in that for any of my records. It's the same when it comes to selecting a single. I could give a f**k about it. I'm just happy if ANY song gets on the radio. I'm grateful. I would just flip a coin to choose the single if it were up to me. I'm just not involved in the process. I'm satisfied with the results and the songs that they did pick though. If I would have picked all the songs the record would have sounded like a Dimmu Borgir album or something! (laughter) That just wouldn't do you know?
When you write songs then you treat each individual song for what it is, rather than how it fits into the album scheme.
Exactly. That has, in the past, especially on my first record been very problematic for me. A&M was ready to distribute my first record but they couldn't figure out what they f**k to do with it. There was a rap song and a metal song and a punk rock song and they just didn't know what to do with it. Overall though I've been very fortunate. Because I did do that in the beginning and because my fans are so supportive I've been able to do any kind of song I want. I just like all kinds of music. We wrote a country song here in Niagara Falls this morning. I love to write. I am involved in a lot of the arts but this is my favorite artistic medium to work in.
So when your albums are being put together, do you still feel that there are basic ideas you want to convey with it?
Oh yeah. There are definitely certain songs that I '"champion." For example the song "Henry" on the new record. No one wanted that on the record except for me. It doesn't really fit with anything else and I don't have a baby, but there is one in the song. I just really liked the metaphor of standing on the porch of a trailer home. It's the whole metaphor. I love the imagery but it's the perfect example of a song that doesn't fit. That's one of the few times where I did kind of muscle my opinion in there. Obviously I would have relented because I'm a doormat, polite to a fault. (laughs)
I did push for that though as well as the gospel choir that ends the record. I wanted the heaviness and the timelessness of the gospel choir on there. It's so heartfelt. I call it a mountain song.
I am involved a lot in the artwork for the records though. I do all my own styling for the photographs. I say and I pick what I wear. I am involved in every aspect of my artwork, that's very important to me. This time I just went into my closet and basically got out some underwear. I decided that I could do whatever I wanted. I'm 35 years old. I also decided that I wanted the big picture in the middle of the booklet. I remember seeing Toni Braxton's album and it had a fold out. I thought how cool that was and I didn't even realize that you could do that! (laughs)
You know, her 12-year old fans can rip that out and put it up on their wall and I think that's really cool. And I want to draw my cartoons in the booklet and I want to do my own lettering. Those kinds of things I won't budge on.
I was surprised to see the album cover because when we talked as Purge was coming out you had some reservations about the “underwear” photo in the booklet. I saw this and figured that you must have gotten comfortable with the idea.
(laughs) Absolutely. You know my new album cover just got banned from an ad campaign that was going out to high schools. First off that is not a bra, it's an Indian dancing costume top. It fits with the Indian theme of the artwork. Even the cartoons contain some Hindi writing. The U.S. School board of Trustees or whoever decides these things decided that the photo was not provocative and the body art was not a problem.
The problem was the "satanic swirls" behind the photograph. Those are from a Buddhist text that I had, those swirls. Buddhist not satanic! They also cited the look in my eye as satanic. (laughter) I find this hysterical! It's insane. If they would have felt that the photo was provocative I would have accepted that and sent a different photo for them, of course. Again, everything is suggestive. So I just want everyone to know that the cover is not provocative it's satanic! (laughs)
There is a photograph inside as well that I have on like a green bra and pink frilly underwear. We shot that at skid row in Vancouver. This is the place with the highest per capita HIV rate in North America. It's the most destitute, terrible, drug addicted neighborhood for IV drug use in North America. There are a lot of things in the photos that people don't think about or look for. I think that the artwork and the fashion is really important to the whole thing.
Obviously the first single is "Let Down" we noticed that you didn't write it. It sounds so personal though.
Yeah. I have always used co-writers. I love to write but I can't play the guitar that well. I collaborated with Kevin Kaddish on four or five 5 songs for this album, a lot of which didn't make my record because of space issues. I love writing with Kevin, he's such a talented person. That said, Kevin is a songwriter and he has his own songs. I loved his song "Let Down" so much and I wanted to record it. So we did record it and it was one of the 75 songs. I tried hard to sing my best on it and I like a lot of things about that performance and I'm really proud of it.
Since I step away from the selection process for the most part that song got picked. I was overjoyed because I love that song! Metallica also made the cut. I worked with Dave Fortman on that one, who had just come off his Grammy win for Evanescence. He made me sound like fairy princess. It was really difficult but I did it. Needless to say those 2 songs made the album. Then Kevin's song gets picked for the single! I'm really happy about it though. I hope I can make a lot of money for him and his wife in royalties because he's a great guy and a great songwriter.
Once you know that a song like this is going to be part of your set for a longtime, as singles are, do you have to find a way to relate it to yourself so that you can make it personal every night?
No, not at all. I believe every word of that song except the part where I say my mother's a bitch. My mother's the sweetest thing! She's a saint! She's a missionary, really. (laughter) I had to call her and tell her that when they play that song on the radio in Winnipeg that Kevin wrote it, not me. She said it was okay. I wanted her to know that every night when I sing that song I am honoring my friend and not calling her a name because I love her. That was the only thing though.
I also have heard that you were diagnosed with a heart aneurism. How has that changed things for you?
Yes sir I was. I have a four decade life expectancy. I can't worry about it, I don't have time to. My parents and I talked about it because there was a surgery option available to me at the time. We chose to not take the option because 68% of the people die on the operating table. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Any of us can. I'm not gonna worry about being a ticking time bomb and my parents aren't gonna worry about it.
I talk to my parents once a week and we tell each other that we love each other and at the end of the day I can die happy. My parents saw me on The Tonight Show in 1999, I got to make my first CD in 1994, I have been in love in my life, I have raised my two dogs for the last eight years to the best of my ability, they are like my children. If my heart kills me tomorrow, I can die happy. I'm a Buddhist so death is the same as birth to me so I have never really stressed about it.
I have recently started to notice things that inhibit my ability to exercise and that pisses me off. It doesn't make me scared because I'm going to die or anything, it just irritates me. I'm finding that that kind of disability is increasing every year. Ultimately that's all though. I have more fun now because there is part of me that feels like I have to. In the end I think it was good for me really. I'm a predestinest and I don't believe that God is going to kill me until my work is done. That's why recording 75 songs is great for everyone, it gives them three posthumous releases from me! (laughs)
I hope to God that I die onstage like Country Dick Montana. That would be awesome. I would love it if my fans were with me at the time of my death. I would die doing what I love.
Now that everything is said and done with Superbeautifulmontser, is there a song or a moment that you can step back and say that it perfectly describes where you are at in your evolution as a an artist?
You know what? I think it's "After A While." The lyrics are just so self-deprecating, and it's not that I'm that way all the time, I just think that that song really sums it up for me this year. I did feel like a bare-knuckle fighter fightin' the good fight and I do sometimes just want to sleep. The lyrics get changed a little live. The tag line becomes "I wish I was Dead" because it's cathartic.
I don't wish I was dead but when I wrote it I did. It's just a connection that you have with your audience when you sing lyrics that are really vulnerable. I can't get enough of that feeling. We all feel alienated in the world sometimes and I feel like my fans are the only ones that really get me. That connection makes me feel really happy and really accepted, like I'm not alone in the world.
Thanks so much for your time. It's always wonderful to talk with you. Do you have any particular parting thoughts for our readers?
Not really. Just thank you and thank you to our fans. We'd love to see you out at the show for some rock and roll!