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Interview with Betsy Bitch, Bitch – July 2011

Bitch have just released a new package on Metal Blade records consisting of their first EP – Damnation alley, first album – Be My slave (both of which have been re-mastered), along with a previously unreleased track and a DVD containing video of the band in concert both in the 80’s and their recent performance at the “Keep it true” festival in Germany.

Planetmosh spoke to Betsy Bitch, lead singer of Bitch to ask her a few questions..

 

Planetmosh: Why choose “Be my slave” and “Damnation alley” (the first album and first EP) for this release rather than for instance “Be my slave” and “The bitch is back” (the first two albums) ?

Betsy: It was Metal Blade’s choice to re-release Damnation alley/Be my slave.

 

Planetmosh: Are there any plans for any of your other records to be re-mastered and re-released ?

Betsy: Not at this time.

 

Planetmosh: Are there any plans to record an album of new material – if so, when is it likely to be released?

Betsy: The musicians I am currently working with in bitch and I have been focusing on live performances as of late, but we’ve been discussing getting together on some song ideas that some of the guys have in mind for Bitch material.

 

Planetmosh: In the mid 1980’s your album “Be my slave” was singled out by the PMRC as one example of the explicit content in music.  What effect did the PMRC campaign have on the band and your career?

Betsy: Tipper gore and the PMRC gave Bitch some of our best publicity to date.  She would take our album everywhere with her to speak on behalf of her cause.  We even got exposure on the televised hearings on CNN.  One of the speakers read an excerpt from our song “Gimme a kiss”, a tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek tune about rough sex.  It was hilarious to hear that conservative congressman read our filthy lyrics aloud, along with that of the Mentors, Wasp, Twisted Sister, etc.  Classic!

 

Planetmosh: Were you disappointed or relieved to not make the PMRC’s infamous “filthy fifteen” list of 15 songs that they felt should be banned due to their lyrics and/or subject matter?

Betsy: Not at all – we were just happy to get the free, and nationwide, publicity.

 

Planetmosh: What effect if any, do you think the “Parental Advisory – Explicit lyrics” labels have had after the PMRC forced their introduction – do they protect children or just make those albums more desirable to them?

Betsy: I had heard from many of the record buying public back them that it only enticed them to want to buy the album more.  And those warning stickers did not prohibit those who wanted to purchase the albums from doing so.  It’s not like you had to have an adult with you to buy one or anything.

 

Planetmosh: You recently played dates in Holland, Belgium and Germany, which I believe was the bands first ever European tour.  Are there any plans for more live dates in general, and the UK in particular?

Betsy: Actually, Bitch had previously played in Europe, at Germany’s Bang your head festival in 2003 with the original core line-up of myself, David Carruth on guitar, Robby settles on drums, and at the time, Johnny Zell was our bassist.  The recent European tour had been with my new line-up, Steve Gaines and Dan Oliverio on guitars, Angelo Espino on bass, and rob Alaniz on drums.  The shows went extremely well and we had an amazing time over there.

We are currently in the process of looking at getting on the bill for some upcoming European festivals, but as of now, nothing is confirmed.  Go to betsybitch.com for upcoming shows, news etc.

 

Planetmosh: Your current line-up is effectively “Anger as art” plus yourself on vocals.  How did this come about?

Betsy: After the bang your head festival, guitarist, David Carruth decided he didn’t wish to continue with bitch, and we always had a revolving door of bass players anyway, so we didn¹t have a current one at that time.  My drummer Robby settles and I reformed bitch with Steve Gaines of Abattoir on bass, and Steve Kara and jay dean on guitars.  We played a handful of gigs and started work on writing songs and recording a new release.  After the drum tracks were finished, Robby was diagnosed with leukaemia.  He battled it for about a year and passed away a short time after a bone marrow transplant in late may of 2010.  He was also my brother-in-law, so it was a very hard time for all of us, including my family.  The recording got put on hold and I wasn’t sure what my plan of action was going to be in terms of continuing with the band. After Robby passed, my current bassist, Steve Gaines, had formed his own band, Anger As Art, wherein he was playing lead guitar and singing lead.  He was well aware of the fact that there was still major interest in Bitch from fans and promoters, especially in Europe.  So he offered to book some shows for bitch, with Anger As Art as Bitch. So not only did they play the shows in Europe as bitch, they also opened every show except for the festival as anger as art. So they worked twice as hard as I did.  I’m in awe of how capably and professionally they handled the double-duty.

 

Planetmosh: Is it true that Metallica and Slayer both played as support bands at Bitch headlining shows?

Betsy: Yes, both bands opened for us at different times.  Metallica at a club in san Francisco called the stone when Dave Mustaine was still their guitar player, and slayer opened for us at a few southern California shows.  Bitch played with Ratt and Metallica at Billy Barty’s disco roller rink in Fullerton, California.  The stage was in the middle of this huge roller rink and there were people roller-skating all around us as we were banging out our heavy metal music.  That was one of the more memorable gigs.  Brain Slagel (founder of Metal Blade records) booked that one.

 

Planetmosh: Metal blade are releasing the new CD/DVD package.  Damnation Alley was the second ever release and first proper album release by Metal Blade (their first release being a compilation).  How does it feel knowing you’re an important part of their history?

Betsy: I’m honoured to be a part of that scene – when metal was emerging fast and strong in L.A.  Yes, Damnation alley was MB’s first actual band release after metal massacre i and ii (which we were also featured on). I was excited to have the opportunity to record for an actual record label in a state of the art studio with a producer, and to have my band’s songs and image gain world-wide exposure. That period of the L.A. metal scene in the early 80’s was so memorable.  We had a blast playing with our label mates, Armored saint, slayer, Metallica, Lizzy Borden, etc.  We were all one big metal family and there was always a show going on at some cool club, no matter what day of the week it was.  The after-parties were legendary as well!

Metal blade has decided to re-master the combination damnation alley/be my slave release, along with a lot of great “extras”, such as a bitch t-shirt, footage of our recent Keep it true performance, footage of some of our shows from back in the 80’s, and bonus tracks that were recorded but didn’t make it onto the release.  I’ve listened to the re-mastered CD, which sounds amazing, and the DVD footage is quite entertaining – both the old and new performances.

 

Planetmosh: Bitch were the first female fronted metal band in the US to get a record deal.  At the time did you realise you were making history in that respect?

Betsy: We knew there was nobody out there doing what we were doing.  We were the first leather & studs metal band to feature a female front person and the first to use the S&M, whips and chains image.  I knew it was the start of something that was definitely going to get people’s attention visually, while at the same time, kicking their ass with the music. It was the combination of the music, the image, and the character of Betsy Bitch that got us noticed.

 

Planetmosh: What bands did you listen to when growing up that you feel influenced your music?

Betsy: Speaking for myself as a performer and lead singer of a rock band, Alice Cooper was my inspiration for becoming Betsy Bitch.  I fell in love with his character and his music when I was about 13 years old.  He was then – and will always be – my rock and roll hero.  As far as vocal inspiration, I feel there is no better rock and roll belter than Robin Zander, lead singer of Cheap Trick.  Although I adore Alice Cooper and Cheap Trick’s material, I can’t say they were really our musical influences as a band. The bands we listened to back then were Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motorhead, Scorpions, etc. All the hard & heavy stuff.

 

Planetmosh: What bands do you listen to these days?

Betsy: I’m still in love with old school bands.  I can’t even say there are any new bands that have emerged recently that I am impressed with.  I guess the newest would be Foo Fighters, and they’re not even that new.  For the most part I listen to classic rock and classic metal.

 

Planetmosh: Where did the idea come from to call yourselves Bitch?

Betsy: In 1980, I was looking for another more rock & roll oriented band to sing with, after the band I was currently in changed their style from new-wave/rock to ska.  Original bitch guitarist David Carruth, and drummer Robby Settles had just moved to California from Texas and were looking to start-up a hard rock/metal band.  They originally had in mind an all-male band called “Bitch”, but when they answered my ad, met with me and heard my vocals on previous recordings, they knew it was a perfect fit. What better name for heavy metal leather & studs heavy metal band with a strong, dominant female lead singer?

 

Planetmosh: You were known for sadomasochistic and bondage themes, particularly for wielding a whip on stage.  Where did the idea come from to use these themes?

Betsy: The image just sort of evolved after we started writing songs such as “live for the whip”, “Leatherbound” and “Be my slave”.  We figured, with the subject matter, that it would be a great gimmick for the band – the image just sort of evolved after we started writing songs such as “Live for the whip”, “Leatherbound” and “Be my slave”.

 

Planetmosh: Do you think your live shows and image (which was very controversial in the 80s) would be considered controversial these days or not at all shocking?

Betsy: I think it was a lot more taboo back then than it is now.  The name, the image, both were a lot more racy when we first started out.  Times have changed since then.

 

Planetmosh: Which current bands do you feel were influenced by Bitch?

Betsy: I can’t really say, but I would love to hear from the bands that are.  I can’t really assume any were – that would be rather presumptuous of me, but I would be honoured to know about them if that’s the case with any of you female fronted hard and heavy bands out there.

Let me close by saying that I’m realizing that our audience is still out there.  The fans still want to see and hear us and the journalists still want to know what’s going on with us, and I thank you all for that.  I will never take that for granted and thoroughly appreciate it. The bitch is most definitely back!

 

You can read the Planetmosh review of the new Bitch release here: https://www.planetmosh.com/2011/07/bitch-be-my-slave-damnation-alley-cddvd/

 


About Ant May

I spend half my life at gigs or festivals and the other half writing the reviews and editing photos, and somehow find time for a full time job too. Who needs sleep - I've got coffee.