Bif NakedInterview by Jillian Mitchell // June 02 2010
Remember to honor and be gentle with yourself and know in your heart The Universe is always showing us our Path. Stay open. Be centered. Feel beautiful. Rest and recover. Find a quiet moment and marvel at this existence. Hug yourself. Eat a banana. More water. Food is medicine. Hugs are medicine. Rest is medicine. Quietness is medicine. Love yourself. Know yourself. Be proud of yourself. For everything you have been, are, and will become. Keep your eyes on The Prize. You are ready.
No red carpet needed. This queen prefers her yoga mat. You’ll notice that there’s a cool new sensuality about her. One, that if I was to put my finger on it, could suggest the stillgot-it shock-rock diva has stumbled upon the ying to her yang. From her bee-stung lips to her armored, iron-clad pipes, the lovely Miss Naked radiates pure love energy on the rocks with a bad girl twist. And, it’s downright contagious! You may recall that on occasion we feature those non drumming types (Billy Sheehan March 2009) this month we inject a little vocality into our lineup. Stage front: the singer/songwriter. We can all learn a thing or two from the brazen songstress from Canada. After all, royalties don’t come from double strokes and paradiddles.
In everyday work and play, do you prefer “Bif” or “Beth”? How did your Bif Naked persona come about?
Bif Naked was a nickname I have had since the eighth grade. I answer to both because they sound the same.
Rock singer, writer, poet, motivational speaker, comic cartoonist, actress and wife: What other hats does Bif Naked wear? How have you managed to balance it all?
I think people who are involved in the arts or the performing arts tend to be into all and any creative endeavors. I have a lot of fun with different things I do. I like it all.
You’re in phenomenal shape. What do you do to maintain your physique?
You are very kind! (laughs) I enjoy weightlifting and yoga the most. I don’t go running or anything like that. I probably should, though. Rumor has it you are a dedicated vegan. Any advice for people who are just getting their feet wet? I have been a vegan for over fifteen years. I have not eaten many cooked foods, and apparently that is called a “Raw Food Diet”. I was not trying to make a social or political statement or join a fad diet, it was just spiritually how I wanted to appreciate the food I ate. I still have very specific spiritual beliefs that I attribute to the act of eating. I am grateful to the land and to farmers. I am very aware that it is a gift from the planet to my gob!
There seems to be a calmer and more Zen Bif these days. On your blog you speak about the Pranayama technique. Can you elaborate?
Pranayama is basically control of the breath, control of vital energy, and regulation of the breathing rhythm. Prana means “breath” and Yama means “restraint or control” in Sanskrit. Pranayama is practiced to deepen one’s yoga, enhance the flow of life-force through the body, and calm the wandering mind. My mind wanders a lot, so it definitely helps me stay focused and worry-free.
Your music is truly original stuff. Share with us some of your influences.
All of my role models, when I was young and just starting out as a vocalist, were men in punk bands or thrash metal bands. (laughs) To this day I would have to say Jon Josef (CroMags) and the band Shelter were huge influences because of their Hare Krishna devotion. They were the first Krishna punks I was exposed to. I played shows with D.O.A., and Joey Shithead was a great influence. Chi Pig from S.N.F.U. was my biggest, most adored influence. And, later, HR from Bad Brains. How I ever started singing like a girl was simply God’s humor!
Give us some insight on the new album, The Promise. What can fans expect? The album, The Promise, was the first record I had ever made with my friend, Jason Darr (from Neurosonic). He produced the record and it definitely has a different feel than my previous work. His guitar playing is much heavier, and he remains the only producer to get me to scream so long I lost my voice for a whole month! Then again, it could have been that I was very sick making it. I was in chemotherapy for cancer for that entire year. I had a surgical port, a bald head, and yellow skin.
Describe the writing process. What comes first: lyrics or music?
Every song is different. Sometimes the lyrics dictate the vibe of the music written around the words, and sometimes the riff will just evolve and I write words that simply belong. It is never the same, which is very cool! I love words the most and I truly enjoy wordwriting more than music-writing.
One of your songs that really strikes a chord with me, pardon the pun, is “I Love Myself Today.” What events inspired that song?
I wrote that song with Desmond Child (Google him), and it was a dream come true to work with him. Not just that he wrote hit songs for and with Ricky Martin, Joan Jett, etc., but he was such an interesting and kind human being. I absolutely adored him. And he has dogs—my favorite!
You also dabble in guitar and bass, ever tried drums?
I am a terrible bass player. I am even worse at guitar. (laughs) I am very good at congas, bongos, and tabla.
What do you look for in a drummer—in the studio and on tour?
I have never met a drummer I didn’t like and every drummer has his own finesse. It really is such an incredible talent. Drums are my favorite.
How important are drums in the songwriting process?
I write songs with acoustic guitars and singin’. Or just singin’. That’s how it has always happened for me as a solo artist. But when I was in bands, we wrote together—four in a room—and everyone contributed to the greater good of the song. Everyone got writing credit equally. It was the punkrock way. It was ethical and all about loyalty, not songwriting shares, or whatever. Now I have managers, so I don’t have to think about stuff like that, but I like the organic, D.I.Y. way I started out as a musician. Old school based on trust and righteousness.
You made it to Rock Band (with the song “Sick”). Congrats! How has this experience been?
I am so lucky. I am very grateful for all the cool things that happen in my life. I love Rock Band!
What was the “ah ha” moment when you realized you were meant to pursue music as a career?
I am still waiting for an “ah ha” moment because it is all I’ve ever done. My ability to enjoy the process and enjoy the ride through any adversity has been part of my heart since we were little kids. It is how I roll. (laughs) I love people. Everybody. The fact that I get to go out there and sing for my supper is made cool by the fact that I meet so many awesome people. Love it.
Give our readers a few tips on how one can survive the music biz.
The one rule is never take yourself too seriously. Be easy on yourself. Try your best everyday. Get up the next and try your best again. It is all we can do! Just relax. It is great to play music for people. So enjoy it all.
When you think Bif Naked, you think tattoos. What’s the running total at?
I have about 46, I think. I have lots of lofty ideas for more tattoos but I do not want to “connect the dots,” so to speak. I don’t want to lose the separation between each tattoo, as they were done at different times—most of them done in different years. First tattoo: 18 years old. Twenty years later I still want more! But I am not the type to get a tatty just to get it. Each tattoo has significance to me. Each one is representative of something important in my life at the time that I got it.
How’s married life treating a rock diva like yourself?
My husband, Ian Walker, is a ray of sunshine masquerading as a human being. He is awesome.
You spent a large part of your adolescence in Winnipeg, MB. Did growing up on the prairies influence your career choice?
I can’t say if that is true, but I know a lot of extremely creative talented people are from Winnipeg and The Royal Winnipeg Ballet is there. Just bring back The Jets and watch how creative everyone gets! The Unwanted were from Winnipeg. Guy Maddin is from Winnipeg. C’mon! Such a beautiful city.
Growing up, did you dream of becoming a singer?
Growing up I wanted to be a ballerina! I was in ballet lessons from age 3. I even did dance recitals at our grade eight assembly. Then I discovered drama class and finally was cast in a school musical. That’s how I discovered singing. But I still want to be a ballerina.
As a breast cancer survivor, you conquered a major life challenge and embraced the experience by dedicating your time as a spokesperson. How has this experience changed your outlook on life?
I will always be conquering a life battle with cancer. My family and I were hugely impacted by cancer. People I met and went through treatment with lost jobs, family, and hope. And they found hope, faith, better bonds with their families, etc. Cancer touches the whole family, and my life is better because I have a big mouth and have had opportunities to speak on behalf of other cancer patients. I wish I could be a nurse in the chemo ward, but because I am touring, alas, I can’t. I can do speaking and commercials and meet patients and feel blessed by the whole thing. There is just so much to say.
If you could host a tea party with any five people—alive or dead—who would be invited and why?
I would invite Benazir Bhutto, the first woman leader of a Muslim state and human rights activist. I would invite Eddie Murphy, my all-time-favorite comedian. I would invite my mom, who lives in Winnipeg. She is my best friend. I would invite Krishna Das, my favorite kirtan singer and a nice person. I would invite Don Rickles—my God!
Bif, at the end of the day, what is your most memorable accomplishment?
At the end of the day, my most memorable accomplishment is consuming approximately three Fuji apples, all organic, slowly and mindfully, going over the events of that day, knowing I did the best I could, feeling happy for my bedtime snack and the roof over my head, and the rock ‘n’ roll life I have made for myself. Every single day I do this. And every day I am grateful.
Visit Bif online: http://www.bifnaked.com/
Photos by: Tim Harmon Photography
About the Author
As a professional vocalist (and self-professed grammar nerd), Jill brings a fresh perspective to The Black Page. In addition to earning a B.A. in music, creative writing and English, Jill has also studied vocals with Philadelphia-based vocal coach Owen Brown, known for his work with Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion, and Wyclef Jean. Jill makes up the other half of world soul group The Mitchells, alongside Black Page creator, Sean Mitchell.
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