Few performers are more infectious and confronting than Le Butcherettes frontwoman, Teri Gender Bender (real name, Teresa Suarez, for those wondering). Having started the band to challenge the treatment of women in Mexico, performances often consist of pigs’ heads, raw meat and blood used theatrically to a backdrop of blistering grunge and garage rock. A long-time collaborator with At The Drive In guitarist and The Mars Volta “director” Omar Rodriguez Lopez (with whom she shares the stage with side projects, Crystal Fairy & Bosnian Rainbows), Teri will be bringing the spectacle of Le Butcherettes down under in support of the upcoming At The Drive In dates, as well as a slot at Wollongong’s Yours & Owls Festival. I recently took some time to touch base with Terri to discuss how she manages her projects, as well as the source of her frustration and anger.
Hi Teri! Where am I catching you right now?
Right now, I’m in El Paso, Texas. It’s about 105 degrees and theirs no air con, but I’m saying that as a brag because I’m detoxing and sweating all the angst out.
Oh, lovely. The number of projects you’re in now is huge and they all seem to happen at once at the same moment. Where does your head need to be to produce Le Butcherettes material with all of that going on?
It can be anywhere. I’ve learnt that you must adapt constantly. I mean that in both an artistic and a social setting you just suddenly adapt. I can sometimes be a bullshitter, so if I’m shitty and have to meet my mother in an hour, I can somehow adapt my mood and change it and be happier just for her. For me with writing it’s also about that, changing your mood so that it can be something different. That question makes me think “Why am I doing these things?” It’s kind of a psychopathic thing to do! Music helps me with the venting, which is helpful.
Obviously, all those projects have so many different moods and tones. Do you find you are able to control what you are writing for each one or is there bleed over?
It’s been a bit of a challenge but within my comfort zones. What I mean is that most of these songs that are being used for Crystal Fairies and Bosnian Rainbows, they all came from old demos that intentionally were supposed to be for Le Butcherettes stuff. It started with Omar, because he produced the first three Butcherettes records, and I gave him a shit-tonne of demos and so he took the time to look through all of them, and then he gave me a tangible vision. He would just say “Ok, you’ve got so many songs but they are all different styles. How about these songs could be for another project and these songs you could use for something else again – who knows? However, these are Butcherettes songs, and you should definitely hold onto them.” He wasn’t condescending at all, he was just giving his two cents on it all. Then when we went into the studio for Crystal Fairies, I would put down some old demos that I had memorised. I guess that I haven’t really been given the opportunity yet to be a producer and direct what goes where. I guess what I’m hinting at is that with more time I would love to be in the producer’s role and help write other people’s music and collaborate more.
Sweet! And I was keen to ask about collaborations. On the last record, there was heaps of work done with Iggy Pop, and in the past, you’ve also worked with the likes of Garbage, among others. Who are some other artists that you dream of working with for future records?
Oh, there is this great artist from Chile who is called Mon Laferte. She is a goddess in the flesh. She’s the kind of artist who can compose her own music, do a solo show with just her acoustic guitar in front of thousands of people and she does it wonderfully, and she has this courage and essence. I don’t know if I could sing on one of her songs or if she could sing on one of mine… I think it would be kind of blasphemy if I sang for hers. I want her to have it just as she deserves it. I’ll take anything from her – even if she does a little ‘ooo’ on a song. She’s going to be an icon. When we’re older and in our 80’s, we’ll see her as a legend. So, I’m obsessed with her right now, I would love to work with her. She’s only like 34 and she’s done all these different styles of music as well. She’s been in a black metal band right through to folk music. A rare talent.
Because of the amount you’ve worked with other people, do you feel confident in just approaching some of the bigger names of alternative music and asking them if they would be interested in working with you?
I’m quite the opposite. I never want to cross any boundaries. I’m super shy and I would never want to bother anyone. I’ve always considered myself a bother, ever since I was little. I think that feeling came from this one experience when I was five, and there was a bathroom in the classroom and I was still in potty training so I didn’t know how to clean myself. My mum had me that spoiled, so already I was depending on people to clean my ass -this is just an example so the readers can understand. I remember being like “I don’t know how to clean myself. Oh my God, I’m officially a bother.” I stuck my head out and asked my teacher to come over, and she came over – a complete stranger – and I had to ask her to help me clean myself. I carried that with me for a long time. In terms of how that relates to your question, I would never want to hit anyone up just asking for stuff. I want to make everything organic and fluid. I was so pissed off at myself, that I learnt how to do the skill right away because I hated having to ask for help.
Well, does that attitude ring true for writing and collaborating? As in, do you find that after working with someone you pick up similar new skills quickly?
I think that it applies artistically. I don’t really consider myself a musician. When I’m in a room or a studio with keys and guitars and little toys I will eventually find my way around my lack of playing and make something out of it. But I like to just experiment and have fun with it.
PC: Monica Lozano. Le Butcherettes will be supporting the mighty At The Drive In at all Australian dates this September. Details below:
Thursday, 28th September – Festival Hall, Melbourne
Friday, 29th September – Hordern Pavilion, Sydney
Saturday 30th September/Sunday 1st October – Yours & Owls, Wollongong
Monday, 2nd October – Eatons Hill Hotel, Brisbane