A Conversation with Bif Naked

This is the original transcript of the interview, only minor editing has been applied for readability. This has been the basis for articles but has never been published in the original form.

Wortraub: So, how is the promotion bandwagon. Are you tired?
Bif:
Yes, Vancouver is like ten hours back and this morning at the photo shoot I was so tired. In Vancouver when I am just being a dog mom it is ok to be jetlagged. I have my two little poodle hounds, which are white haired and hypo-allergenic because I have allergies. When I am at home, I wake up at 4.30 naturally.

Wortraub: What are you doing at 4.30 in the morning?
Bif:
I make coffee, I get up, have a shower. I make my hemp protein shake with my banana. I feed my baby dogs, go to the dog park. I put them in the car and then we go to the gym and I work out.

Wortraub: Now, one of my questions is already answered. I was wondering how you fit everything that you do into your day.
Bif:
I wake up early.

Wortraub: When do you go to bed then?
Bif:
Nine. My friends are all annoyed with me. If I am home, they want to overcompensate: Oh, you are home, ok, let’s go to sushi this night, and Thai food next night. I am like: dude, you got to make it at five o’clock. You have to, because I go to bed after eight.

Wortraub: Are you a workaholic?
Bif:
No, but I think, I recently learned that part of emotional survival, like if you have ever been heartbroken, or anything like this … you stay very, very thrifty. Or you stay very busy. I have always been this way. I am busy every minute at home. Even if I am not working.

Wortraub: Why? Are you not good at relaxing?
Bif:
No, I am not. … I don’t know.

Wortraub: Did you ever try it?
Bif:
No, I can’t imagine. People think: do you watch movies? And I go never. And they go why? Who has got two fucking hours of free time in the day.

Wortraub: But you like to read?
Bif:
I love books. I have probably three thousand books.

Wortraub: So you do have free hours to read a book?
Bif:
I always fall asleep. I have so many books. I don’t read fiction books. I have books on vegan nutrition, I have books on body building, I have books on Buddhism, I have five or six different versions of the Koran in every language. I collect the works of Irving Layton, this Canadian poet. I never read fiction, I read books on yoga, books on the Vedic scriptures, and books on Hare Krishna. I enjoy it. The only magazines I read are the economist. I love the economist. Where I live everything is biased, all of the news is biased. All of our news and media coverage comes from the United States. Everything is biased. I don’t own a television. I never have and I think, I never will. So, where I get my news … I don’t like newspapers, it makes my fingers messy. So, the economist I find, is the best news. Unbiased, a lot of different world reports on different things. Always interesting.

Wortraub: Do you use the internet?
Bif:
Everybody always tell me that: go on the web. My manager is forcing me to use a computer. But it is like … I am so stupid with computers. I can’t even cut and paste things. I can’t make a word … Riley (her manager) always tells me … I go: (*funny voice, Mickey Mouse style*) Riley, I tried doing this thing and the computer deleted it. She goes: you have to use a word document and then cut and paste it. …*she shakes her head* no, no, no … Follow me, I will walk you through it *again* no, no, no … no, no, no, I cannot.

Wortraub: So, you do not like the modern stuff and you read mostly about old topics. That means your mental environment is ancient?
Bif:
I guess so. I never thought … yes, maybe it is.

Wortraub: Well, you said that everything you do is with a hardcore ethic and I was wondering what that influence means?
Bif:
Definitely … hardcore meaning one hundred percent. Not meaning Mohawks and safety pins …

Wortraub: No, I meant the DIY mentality, you have your own label…
Bif:
I always had to do my own artworks, dye my own hair, cut my own hair with the sowing scissors. Make the dog food everyday.

Wortraub: Well, there is hardcore D.C. style in you. But that stuff is political and aggressive. Your music is not though…
Bif:
Well, my spoken-words stuff is socio-political. I guess, social commentary definitely comes out in the spoken word. I am pretty outspoken about … the problem where I live, in Canada, is that the government stopped all the funding for a lot of the mentally ill housing and stuff like that. Ultimately, all the homeless people in Canada have been turned away from mental hospitals. You know, these people are fucked to begin with. They are sick and there is no one to care of them. And now, they are homeless as well. In Vancouver, where I live, we have the highest percentage in North America of HIV. Because the drug use is so rampant. And you know, in Canada another problem is with the aboriginals … ultimately hundreds of years ago the white people came and instead of killing all of the native peoples like America did, they put them all in reserves up in the north, in the arctic. They gave them cards, which makes everything tax free. You don’t have to pay taxes, on alcohol and cigarettes. Which in my country are taxed, like almost 50 percent. The aboriginals don’t have to pay taxes, so it is much cheaper for them to be drunk. But they have to pay more money because they live in remote communities to ship milk and orange juice. Beer is cheaper than milk. On the reserves it is terrible. The education there is terrible, the housing is terrible.

Wortraub: Why do you not incorporate these things in your songs?
Bif:
Because songwriting is a totally different entity for me. Songwriting is an art to me and it is where I get a lot of my emotional releases out. As sad as it is, I am always getting heartbroken. I am so gullible, it never works out. It’s just like: oh, come on. And always by the time a boy comes around that is kind or polite, you know. That’s it. He is the one. I am going to get married, I am so in love. Thank god. Oh, maybe I’ll have a baby, oh this man … than something of course … generation x something always fucks up, the one or the other person, and then I am devastated, can’t believe it, shocked … songwriting comes out.

Wortraub: Is there so much opportunity for falling in love?
Bif:
Never. I am always working, always traveling and never meet boys. I have never dated a musician before, except for when I was very young, my first band. I fell in love with the guy, we got married within one month. Woo.

Wortraub: Are you easily enthused then?
Bif:
Of course. Everything is one hundred percent. So I never dated anyone. I never had normal dating. You know, I never went on dates with people. It was either you meet someone, you talk a little bit, you correspond because you travel a lot and the next thing you know, you are in love. And that’s it. He is the only person. Blinders on. There is no dating. I have never been in all the years I have been on tour … I only had sex on the road once in my life.

Wortraub: Which fits into the straight edge mentality…
Bif:
Depends on who you talk to. Straight edge to some is abstinence. There are so many pockets of straight edge. Germany for example. First time I came here I had already been a straight edger. I found, that a lot of the straight edge kids that I talked to here, they would not wear leather shoes. No nothing, no leather. And they were like: you have Nike shoes, made of leather. You are not a straight edger. And I thought: what the fuck? Okay, I am not a straight edger, I just copy. But in America … even though I am a vegan, that’s how I am. Even if I was a drinking, cigarette smoking fool, I would still be a vegan. You know what I mean. It is just separate for me. A dietary choice. But a lot of straight edgers in America, they still eat fish or they eat chicken.

Wortraub: Was there a special occasion for saying: „I want to become straight edge“?
Bif:
Definitely. Because a lot of my friends were straight edge for a long time. And there was a girl named Gayle Greenwood who was in Belly, this band from years ago, then she was in L7 and then now she is in a band called Benny Sizzler. And Gayle, she is several years older than, but she has been straight edge her whole life, her entire life she has never touched alcohol or a cigarette. I said: straight edge? You sound Muslim. You know, it is like unbelievable how it is. And she was the coolest chick I knew. She would stay at the party all night but never drink or smoke. She rocked harder than any girl I ever saw. I don’t think most girls can rock at all. I have very little respect for rock chicks in up and coming bands in Canada. Most of them are very promiscuous. So I get upset with them. I say: you are giving rock girls a bad name because all you are in it for is to fuck the band you open for. You’ll never be a good rocker if that is your only goal. But Gayle was always different, she was such an inspiration to me. I decided to … it was not like I was running around like a drunken fool but I could never really tolerate alcohol. One teaspoon of beer and I was drunk out of my mind, always. Cheap date – most popular girl in high school. But it never worked for me. I got alcohol poison all the time and it just never worked. I made very bad decisions always. Like anyone does. You know, your judgment is impaired. And you know, I decided I am not going to drink anymore. And …why just stop there? I am going to embrace the entire theology of straight edge. My friend Gayle is straight edge and I look up to her. I want that for myself. I want it to be a social comment, you know, be an example. … and by now, there are a lot of up and coming straight edge bands, like Throw Down from L.A.. They are so phenomenal. They are awesome. Southern California thrash metal.

Wortraub: Speaking of which … your music style is far less heavy than what you listen to. Why is that?
Bif:
I also listen to Turkish or Indian music day and night. I don’t play guitar, at least not very well. And so I have always, coming up from bands, over the years we always did our song writing in rehearsal, in a jam spot. It was always in a round, they were always four people writing their own part of the song. And I was always the words person and the singing person. And I am still that way, and I still prefer to write with my guitar player Doug sitting in the room. Let’s write a song today. You know, it’s always collaboration. I love collaborating with people and as a result I the vocalist, the lyricist am at the mercy of who I am writing with.

Wortraub: But it is your decision, it is your name on the record, it is your band.
Bif:
Yeah, I know. But this record is whittled down from 75 songs. The rest is probably for posthumous releases, that’s what I figure. I mean, I cannot help thinking about it. I have an aneurysm in my heart that they found two years ago and I have a blood disorder and I think that my manager is probably plotting to save all these songs for when I kick the bucket but I think, that … for example, on this record I wrote with this guy Jimmy Allen who was in Puddle of Mudd. So the songs that I wrote with Jimmy … we wrote five songs, all of which I love with all my heart … only two made the record, that were suitable for the record.

Wortraub: Who got to decide?
Bif:
The producers and the label and myself. It is a group decision because it is a team effort. And the record … even though it is my art that I pour into it. Ultimately this is still something … I am not going to sit there and be defiant and say: I know the best idea for how it should be. I have always looked to the people I work with. What is their opinion? I want to know what the label thinks, I do. It has been a really good process, as a result. I have always had a lot of respect for every ones opinion and I always want to keep their ideas in mind when I am making a record. And I have a side project with Doug – which is complete death metal. I don’t sing, I play the bass and stand there in a Mexican wrestling mask and my bikini top playing the bass. And that is my job. And I don’t play the bass very well. They call me „bam bam“ because I just play the whole notes. There is two bass players, Cookie and me, and Doug and Scottie. That is an outlet for sure. Who knows if that CD will ever see the light of day. But I don’t care. Because for what I do … I understand my position and my opportunity. We could have made let down a faster song with screaming vocals. But then it might not get a chance to be heard. I defer to the opinions of my producers because I am not a producer. Even though it has been difficult at times for me to except the changes they would make to a song, I defer to their opinions. I respect their opinion for that. Like „Spaceman“ is a song on „I Bificus“ and it is a perfect example of a producer stepping in. „Spaceman“ was a ballad and it was an acoustic guitar song about wanting to be rescued from your life. It was very heartfelt, sad and meaningful song. And Glen Rosenstein – who I love dearly, but this day I did not love him – came in and said: „Spaceman“ – we are going to speed it up and put all these computer sounds and keyboards and synthesizers on it … I sat there and my mind kept spinning and spinning, I said: yeah, that is a good idea (*strained voice*) excuse me for one minute, I need to use the ladies room. And I went into the ladies room and I cried and cried and cried. Then I dried my tears and went out into the studio and said: ok, let’s try it. And I sang it and I liked it better. That’s when I realized, he was right. And I am glad I did not sit there and be immature. You know, or be egotistical, the thing I have always felt. I don’t believe in having an ego when it comes to songwriting or anything like that. When it comes to painting, which I do a lot, I have a big ego. I won’t sell my paintings. And I have like three hundred canvasses in my apartment which are like 8 feet by 5 feet. All cartoon paintings of dogs. They are probably all fucking terrible but I won’t sell them. I have never shown them to anybody. But in my artwork there is cartoons of little dogs and me. I just feel like … it is just something I do for fun. I am not any good at it, particularly. But it makes me feel like I must have an ego about it, because I am very stubborn when it comes to visual media based art, but I am not stubborn when it comes to song.

Wortraub: On the record you do seem quite strong and stubborn minded. There are two songs which actually promote the idea of the bad ass female.
Bif:
That’s a fantasy. „I Want“ is a song I wrote with Jimmy Allen. That song was very fun to write. The first song on the record „Abandonment“ I also wrote with Jimmy. The first song we ever wrote together and we wrote it within 15 minutes of meeting. It is a really important song to me. I wanted it first on the record. The is the only time I became kind of stubborn with order of the songs. I wanted that one first and „After A While“ had to be the last song because it is lyrically so self-deprecating. Artistically it was just important to me to have that even note, the tone to end on. I wanted „Henry“ on the record. A lot of people did not agree with me about „Henry“. They did not think it was appropriate for the record. They did not think the song fit in with the rest of the record. I liked it so much, I wanted that song on the record. Same with „Nothing Else Matters“. It is a cover song, ultimately. Metallica is one of my favorite bands in the world. „Nothing Else Matters“ is probably my favorite Metallica-Song of all times. Even though „Master Of Puppets“ is a great record. „And Justice For All …“ is a great record. I like „Sad But True“. I’d love to sing that song. I love James vocals so much. Where he enunciates his words when he sings. Everything about him as a vocalist is fantastic. But also Phil Anselmo. I think that „Cowboys From Hell“ is a great record. I was a Metal kid growing up in the Midwest of Canada, in Winnipeque. There is nothing. 40 below in winter. But that is not all … I have Janet Jackson’s first record on vinyl still: „Control“. „It takes two“ came out and it changed my life. What is that sound? Wow. That’s hip hop. You know that was the birth of hip hop ultimately. 1988 it was changing for that genre in the United States. I was a very impressionable age. So it was one night I listened to DRI then the next night we were listening to … I don’t know. That is something I think is very specific to out generation of music fans. Because everything was so available and it was ok to like everything. Like with Jane’s Addiction it was the birth of alternative music. Because it was alternative to everything else. And then I moved to Vancouver, which was two hours north of Seattle. There was Mother Love Bone, there was Mudvayne, obviously Soundgarden. „Badmotorfinger“ to this day is one of my top five favorite records of all time. I saw Nirvana play their first gigs. As a result I can listen to all kinds of music. I can listen to Indian music for a week, go to the Headbanger’s Ball tour the next week, and the go in the studio and record my nice little rock ballads.

Wortraub: You have done Lillith Fair with politically outspoken singer / songwriters. What is your take on these issues?
Bif:
I play „Rock For Choice“ in Vancouver each year.

Wortraub: But you are given titles like „Hottest Female in Rock“ or „Sexiest Musician With Tattoos“. But you do have a song on your debut that criticizes being seen as a piece of meat. „The gross gross man“ …
Bif:
Because I am not in a bikini. If I am walking down the street in my sweat pants and some guy whistles or stares. That is an unwarranted, unsolicited stranger doing something. When I am doing a calendar photo shoot, that is me consciously doing my job. That is different. Plus, at the time I record „Gross, gross man“ I was twenty-three years old. I was fucking pissed off. I was coming to terms with being a sexual abuse survivor. I was breaking up with my husband. I was the angry white female. Of course at that time I felt you know, rather self-conscious about things. My best friend Denise is probably 5’1″ tall and 200 pounds. She has a different perspective on life than I do. She has always been treated differently than me. She doesn’t wear make-up, I always liked make-up. Two different perspectives. I found as I got older, I became comfortable. I started to relax. Not necessarily my attitude socially but I started to relax. Ultimately, I realized in this world, especially North America, everything is sexualized. Everything. Children are sexualized, it is disgusting. But it is the culture. They have this real hypocrisy, that consciousness that is very hypocritical especially in America. They are so puritanical, really, they are. But at the same time their rape rate is higher than any other country in the world. It is frightening. Their murder rate, their serial killers. They fear everyone else in the world. It is like, wow, you live in a real bubble. Because everyone else in the world fears you. And it is just part of their culture. Part of the media. Who came first: the chicken or the egg? I mean, I still struggle with it on a daily basis. There is a part of me that thinks how do I as a person … how can I shed some light on … what is the example I want to give? I don’t think there should be anything wrong with nudity because nudity and sexuality should have been two different things but they are not anymore. How can I empower young girls by example? Well, I can NOT get a tit job. I can be the only girl in the neighborhood, besides my best friend Denise … I can be the only girl in the entertainment business in my town, that did not get breast implants. And when a fourteen year old girl comes to my show. She says: oh Bif, can you sign my stomach, blah, blah, blah and we have a conversation. Than I can sit there and tell her: you can feel confident in the world, you can go out and be on the Jay Leno Show and you don’t have to be promiscuous, you don’t have to get breast implants and injure your body. You don’t have to do anything like that You just do what you want to, every day. And ultimately, that is still how I live my life. I am not the same girl, who gets upset when a construction worker whistles even though it is unwarranted. But now, when they whistle I can say: that is nice, nice that you whistle. Can you also donate money to the women’s center today. That way I feel, that at least it serves some good purpose. Find the good purpose in anything. I became comfortable in my own skin after all these years. And I hope in one way it happens to all of us as adults. That we just start getting comfortable: Fuck, I am just going to relax and be happy. That doesn’t mean relax your socio political ideology. Just kind of relax your reaction. You know, in Buddhism they teach you to learn to respond not to react. That is just about being mindful and to see how you can make it work for yourself and for your causes. If you are going to be on a soap box for a living you might as well have something integral to say.
Being voted „hottest this“ or „sexiest that“. I did not nominate myself. You hear that and you are like: okay. What can you do? You did not sign up for it. It just kind of happens.

Wortraub: You mentioned Buddhism. You have read a lot about religions and spirituality. Is Buddhism the closest to what you think?
Bif:
It is funny, because my father, who is a theologian and a dentist. He has studied all religions. And when we were children, we were raised in a house that was Christian and Hindu. He has always encouraged us to explore everything in life, especially spirituality and now as an adult, he accuses me of cherry picking. He says you only pick and choose what you like from every religion. And I say: Dad, as you know father the Sikhs for example believe that all paths lead to God. The Sikhs welcome everyone in their temples, always. It is different with the Catholics . If you are not Catholic, you cannot accept mass. It is different in a mosque. Women and men have different times to go. Even though when I went to Bangalore in India, to visit one of the nine living avatars in the world. Women and men have a separate line and entrance. At one time I would have just thought that was appalling. How could religion separate? But actually it is not the religion it is the culture that ultimately separates. But I find, like the Sikhs, I really believe, after having read every book I can, that all paths lead to God. In every religion, there is just a culturally modified core that is the same. Don’t steal, don’t cheat on your spouse. Some of it has a lot of dietary guidelines. Even in the Bible they had similar dietary guidelines. It is the same for every religion. I am a big fan of theology, I love reading about theology.

Wortraub: You just mentioned your father. „Let Down“ is about parents expectations and not being able to fulfill them, ever. Is that still a problem?
Bif:
Oh yeah. My father wishes I was a doctor. He wishes I went into medicine. My mother wishes I was a mother. And yes, I would like to be sitting here something like this (*makes a movement like a round belly*). A big baby belly. I haven’t found the right partner though. I don’t look though. My mother always says: wishing for the sun, you got to start with the ground. You can’t just go all the way. My friends say: Internet. The people I meet are either business, but mostly musicians and all are party boys. The other bands that I meet, they are almost always party boys. The boys I go out with, they have to be straight edge, that is so much more compatible. And they have to like dogs. I am a single mom of two dogs. You know, … oh I don’t know. …