BITCH – Girl Gone Bad
Metal Forces, Issue 23 (1987)
I was going to title this interview “The Devil in Miss W…”, but remembered Betsy once ticking me off for using her surname in a fanzine article some years ago and, besides, there certainly isn’t anything demonic or satanic about the lovely Betsy, she’s just a bitch that’s all.
A Bitch interview has been on the cards for some time and I was determined that I was going to be the one who did it! So within hours of the new album hitting the import racks over here in the UK I was on the phone to Metal Blade demanding to speak to the one and only Betsy, lead vocalist with LA’s raunchiest band Bitch, and to get the details on the utterly brilliant The Bitch Is Back (the band’s third release) and enquire just why it’s taken so long for Queen Betsy and her band to return?
“Well, that seems to be the question of the hour,” rasps Betsy – the result of punishing her vocal chords by smoking before rehearsing, and she’s payin’ for it now! “We got involved with a misleading management company and then wasted two years trying to get away. They were trying to get us into a direction where we didn’t want to go, do the type of songs we certainly didn’t want to play, and it’s taken us all this time to sort things out.”
Most people, including me, feared that you might have split the band or even changed the line-up completely? “No, the only thing that has changed is that our bass player on the last album, Be My Slave. Mark Anthony Webb left the band because he suffered a nervous breakdown – which was sad, because he’s a really nice guy – so we brought in Ron Cordy who used to be in LA’s Overkill. But this was, like, three years ago and the line-up is still together with David Carruth on guitar and Robby Settles on drums.”
The Bitch Is Back is a fuckin’ great album and is certainly more accessible than the band’s previous output (the Be My Slave album in 1983 and the infamous Damnation Alley mini-LP from 1982. Remember the titillating cover?!). Bitch seem to have matured their sound rather than, uh, wimped out. “Yeah, that’s the idea,” replies Betsy. “We kept telling people that we are not selling out. I think we’ve gone for a more sophisticated appeal. Be My Slave was a very rushed album and on the heels of the whole S&M trip. I think our image got in the way of the music back then because there were some good ideas but they didn’t come through on the album.”
As the main focal point of the band, doesn’t that make the guys feel left out? I’ve always considered them to be highly underrated musicians. “I don’t think they feel left out, especially because the new album has music that really stands out. The whole concept behind the band was the bitch of a lead singer and that’s the plan. Even though I’m the focal point, I don’t think the guys get missed.”
When you contacted Metal Forces last year you informed us that you’ve now dropped all the leather and bondage gear and got more into rhinestones. “Yeah, that’s the way I look these days. I’m a different kind of Bitch now! The Bitch is now more into money and fame (I can just picture Betsy in a Cabaret spoof with rhinestone coat and top hat!). There’s only so many songs you can write about bondage and whips, and I think we’ve covered ’em all. I’m not a bondage Bitch anymore, all the whips and chains have gone into the big toy chest in the attic. Actually, our look is much more straightforward these days. There were actually quite a few people who wrote us letters who don’t know there’s a band behind all of this. I was in a band yet these people thought I was an S&M queen who could come over and beat the shit out of ’em!
“For the new show I might bring out the whip for a revival of ‘Leatherbound’ and ‘Live For The Whip’, but it’s not the main concept of the show. We used to have a line full of handcuffs and stuff that used to be a backdrop and utilized by us throughout the show, but that’s all gone and we’re more kick-ass. My character is much stronger now because I’m not leaning on all the whips and stuff to make a point.”
You said that magic word ‘character’. How did you come up with the Bitch anyway? Betsy laughs: “Well I’ve always been a bitch!! I think there’s some degree of bitchiness in every woman!”
The S&M connotations are gone for the new record but there’s still loads of sleaze on there, particularly ‘Skullcrusher’ which shows no signs of subtlety! “I’ve always been obsessed with sex – but I’m not alone. C’mon, I can’t be too nice! Ha! Ha! Did you hear that little gulp at the end of ‘Skullcrusher’?! There’s loads of things I can sing about and still put my character across.”
And the Bitch has just appeared on another character’s latest release, Lizzy Borden’s Terror Rising EP, doing a great duet with the man on a killer rendition of The Tubes classic ‘Don’t Touch Me There’, that could easily be mistaken for a Rocky Horror Show out-take. “We thought it’d be a good idea to team up and a good selling point; Lizzy and the Bitch. Actually, there’s a different version of it on the tape version, which is hilarious. You’ve gotta hear it!”
Well, I haven’t missed out on anything by the Bitch yet (even recordings released prior to Bitch’s formation, but forget I said that. Box Boyz!), and something came into my possession last year, exactly 12 months ago in actual fact, that gave me hope that Bitch would be back. A demo tape of four songs found its way into my hands and I thought the material was excellent. However, only two of those new songs can be found on The Bitch Is Back (‘Hot & Heavy’, the original title track, and ‘Storm Raging Up’). What’s happened to ‘Let’s Go’ and ‘Throw Me In’? “Well, ‘Throw Me In’ was actually recorded for the album but we only decided to use nine songs. It might be used as a single B-side. ‘Let’s Go’ was mixed in with the bad experiences. That’s the kind of stuff our managers wanted us to do. Anyway, we’ve got three albums worth of material to play with.”
‘Hot & Heavy’ is the only track on the album that reminds me of the old Bitch sound, probably due to David’s Motörhead sound! “Yeah, that’s an old, old song of ours, but we’ve given it more balls.”
The track that most surprised me was the title track, the cover of the Elton John song. It could be a hit single if it’s promoted. “That’s what we’re thinking too. It just seemed to be a really good idea to do that song because it just fitted our return, because we’ve been away for some time. Did you know that my dad (Stanley Weiss) plays saxophone on it?” Yeah, when is your mother going to make an appearance?! “Oh, my mother is already involved with Bitch because she’s currently our unofficial manager. This band is a real family affair because my sister is married to Robby Settles.”
The Bitch Is Back also sees a return to the Metal Blade family. Of course, all Bitch releases have been through Metal Blade in the past (bar a split single with Hellion on Mystic, and a contribution to the LA Steel compilation LP on New Renaissance), but I understood that the band would surface on a major label. Not so, as Betsy describes. “The period of time we were away was actually a blessing in disguise. When we were with Metal Blade at the start it wasn’t the company that it is now, because it’s expanded beyond belief. Brian Slagel (Metal Blade’s boss) was always interested in us and since we weren’t being besieged by major labels we went back with him and Metal Blade. These days a company like Metal Blade can be much better than being with a major because they’ve got much more time for you.”
Fortunately, the album will be getting released in Europe. Unfortunately, this is being done by Dutch based Roadrunner who, in my opinion don’t really give a shit about the bands on their label so long as sales bring in the money. If I hadn’t gone direct to Metal Blade for a Bitch interview, I would still be waiting for Betsy to call me. If I were Brian Slagel I would seriously look into the way his bands are being promoted in Europe.
Speaking of which, a visit to Europe by Bitch has been on the cards for some considerable time. When will they be here? “Eventually is about as definite as I can give you! There wasn’t the funds available last time we planned it, but we’ve entered a new phase in our career and thinking on a much more professional level. Actually, we haven’t played a show in three years! We’ve been rehearsing like mad and make our return at a big show at The Roxy in LA on April 30th.”
That promises to be some show, particularly ’cos Betsy is looking so much more beautiful these days. Have you seen the album cover? “You could say I’m improving with age. There’s much more of a wider appeal to me these days,” she replies bitchily. “I’m lookin’ good and singin’ good. Ha! Ha! That album cover is actually a version of what we really wanted. The concept was much more elaborate than what you see, but it just couldn’t be put together. It’s like the Bitch being recreated, like she’s coming back like a genie from Aladdin’s lamp. It’s pretty ethereal, huh?”
You bet! The Bitch is most definitely back and mischief will be done! Count me in on it!
Interview taken from Metal Forces, Issue 23 (1987)
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