The Birthday Massacre wrestles with “Imaginary Monsters” of many kinds

Posted on 05 December 2011 by Jonathan Williams

By Jonathan Williams

From its dark synth sounds and jagged guitars to its cute bunny logo and other whimsical imagery,  Toronto’s The Birthday Massacre exists in an innocently melancholy realm somewhere between childlike fantasy and harsher realities. Following last year’s Pins and Needles, the band recently released Imaginary Monsters, an EP that includes three new songs, as well as Pins and Needles remixes by Combichrist, Skold, Tweaker and others. After four headlining shows last week, the band is now on tour with Japanese rock band Dir En Grey through Dec. 20. Pixie-like front woman Chibi takes a moment to talk to Wrestling with Pop Culture about maintaining a cartoon-like outlook on life into adulthood.

Photo courtesy Reybee

The Birthday Massacre has always had a balance between childlike whimsy and more sinister fairy tale-like themes, both in look and sound. What is the inspiration for your visual and musical style?

When we were growing up, all of us were really into music as children. There’s obviously a lot of ’80s references, as well as some metal elements. When we got the band together, we were in college and you reach an age where you look back and sort of romanticize your childhood and who you were when you were a kid, before you knew the world was not as fun or cool as you maybe thought it was. All you had to do was play games and learn things and you were surrounded by encouragement and positivity. So it’s sort of that resolution between childhood and adulthood and trying to hold on to those elements back when you were a kid and felt that things were a little more magical, but also having to be an adult. Then you realize things aren’t always what you thought they were when you were a kid.

You did the entrance music for Katie Lee Burchill a few years ago for WWE. That’s another world that straddles the line between fantasy and reality.

Oh, yeah. Those characters are almost like cartoon characters themselves.

Right. How did the collaboration with WWE come about and how did you like doing it?

We didn’t actually write the song. There’s a songwriter for WWE who writes all the songs. But he really likes the band, so he got a hold of us and asked if I’d be interested in singing the song and I was totally into it. I really liked wrestling back in the day. I liked the Ultimate Warrior, the Undertaker, and I kind of knew the history of it and I was totally excited to do it. I went to Stamford, Connecticut, right to the headquarters, so I was pretty excited. And I think I impressed them all with my knowledge of the wrestlers. I haven’t watched it in years, but Bret “The Hitman” Hart? I was all into it when I was an early teenager, so I was really happy to take part in that. I didn’t even know who Katie Lea Burchill was. I don’t even think she’s with them anymore.

No, she’s with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling now and goes by the name Winter.

It’s so hard to keep track. I was happy to be part of it, honestly. I thought it was really fun. I totally got a kick out of doing it. I think the song turned out well, but the only problem was that she had several theme songs before that one, then she was gone so fast I was just like, “No!” But I’d be totally up for doing it again if they ever wanted me to. It was a great experience and I had a lot of fun with it.

Your recent EP Imaginary Monsters features a few new songs as well as remixes from last year’s Pins and Needles album. Were the new songs part of the same writing and recording session that resulted in Pins and Needles?

Absolutely. We had a bunch of songs for Pins and Needles that didn’t get done and with the time constraints we had to narrow it down to 12 songs. We were pretty disappointed because there were some really good ones that just weren’t at the state of completion they needed to be to make it in time for the record. That’s why the EP was really good. It was a good way to finish up those remaining three songs and clean the slate so when we begin writing another album we can start fresh.

A lot of the people who did remixes on Imaginary Monsters are people you’ve toured with or otherwise worked with previously. Does that make the remixing process easier?

Oh, it’s fun because they’re all friends. Dave Ogilvie has produced our last few albums and at this point it was just like asking friends. It makes it cool for us, too, because I’m excited to see what Andy [LaPlegua] from Combichrist’s take on this song is. And Kevvy Mental from Fake Shark – Real Zombie! is a really good friend at this point – we toured with him a few years ago – and he did vocals on his remix with Dave, so I was happy to hear him sing one of our songs.

Around this time last you you were touring with Black Veil Brides and Dommin. Now you’re on tour with Dir En Grey. All of those bands are a bit more rock and metal oriented than The Birthday Massacre, yet it still seems to work well. Why do you choose to tour with bands with slightly different dynamics?

It keeps the show interesting if every band brings something different to the table, which makes it a good show to watch and a good tour. It’s a good way to expose yourself to fans who might find something in your music that is also present in the band that they’re there for. So you’re not just playing for the same groups of people who would be into your stuff and know it anyway, but it’s a good way to expose yourself to a new audience and you have a more interesting live show.

Photo by Ester Segarra

You’re just a few days into this tour, but do you have any touring or recording plans for the near future?

We’re dropping off this tour right before Christmas, so we definitely look to head into the New Year doing another album. We’re going to try to have it done by the summer time, then I’m sure we’ll tour again. We just took a year off from touring because we were all kind of tired and burned out. It’s hard to keep writing and doing things if you’re touring. We’ve done a lot of touring, so it was good to take that year off. But it’s also nice to be back on the road now. I’m sure we’re going to keep touring into the New Year, but still try to focus on writing a new album, which is kind of a strange balance. We always say we’re going to write when we’re on the road, but it never happens.

What has the writing process been like so far, especially considering that you added new bassist Nate Manor from Wednesday 13 after Pins and Needles had been recorded?

The way that we work is everybody comes up with stuff and pitches ideas. I focus more on the lyric element and leave the music up to everyone else. There are six of us, so it’s kind of hard to have a balance. With Nate in the band now, he played bass on Imaginary Monsters, but Pins and Needles was out before he joined us. We’ve had a really solid core group for years, so when someone new comes in it’s interesting to see what they’re going to bring to the songwriting or any ideas they’re going to have. It’s worked out good with Nate so far.

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