Infected Rain and Heidi Shepherd – Emerging from Chaos

Sunday, 26th December 2021

With a successful fall US tour in the rearview, things haven’t ended for the pairing of Butcher Babies’ Heidi Shepherd and Infected Rain.  Just recently, a video was released for “The Realm of Chaos,” which comes from Infected Rain’s upcoming fifth album Ecdysis [out January 7, 2022 on Napalm Records – Preorder HERE].  We got a rare opportunity to chat with both Shepherd and Infected Rain’s Lena Scissorhands about the collaborative effort, their friendship, and even a look back at their fall tour.

Dead Rhetoric: Congrats on the video, how has the reaction been to it?  I know that both of you have been all over social media about it.

Heidi Shepherd: It seems like people are really excited.  This was actually a collaboration, or feature, that people have been requesting since like mid-2020 [laughs].  We’ve been good friends, we have done a lot together, and we are actually neighbors.  So we started posting pictures of us hanging out, since I had just moved in down the street from her and we thought it was so rad – now we needed a collaboration!  We had been kicking around the idea for a while, and I was so honored that they asked me to be a part of their album.

Lena Scissorhands: I think the results are absolutely amazing!  We are very happy with it.  In the first place, we do this because we love music and we love what we do.  The fact that what you do and love is also accepted and loved by someone else is absolutely amazing.  We feel very lucky to have our fans as accepting as they are, and loving us the way they are.  No matter what we come up with, they are always there for us.  I woke up this morning and I looked at all those views and was like, “Fuck yeah!  We are already at this number?  Amazing!”  Just because of the curiosity of people, who may not know one of the bands, or know either bands, they give it a try – thank you for giving us a try!  Like it or not, we appreciate you giving it a try.

Dead Rhetoric: Just to back up a little bit, you were both touring together this fall.  How do you feel it went?  Was there any pressure just based on the fact that this was one of the bigger fall tours and one of the first to hit the road with COVID – the idea of people looking at your shows to see if/how tours would actually go?

Shepherd: That was definitely an issue.  There were other bands out there, and every single band had different protocols of what they would expect and do day to day.  We decided to adapt the protocols that we thought was best for the tour.  I remember Carla [Harvey] saying that she didn’t want anyone to say anything like, “I told you so.”  That’s kind of the mentality: you are getting back to work too fast.  It’s like, “Motherfucker, I have been of work for two years – get out of here!”  We need to get back to work.  People are ready to go to shows.  This is our therapy, this is our job.  We needed to go to work.  I said, first of all if anyone tells you, “I told you so,” they are assholes and second of all, at least we are giving it a shot.  We were so lucky.  We had twenty-six people in our touring party.  There were no issues whatsoever and everyone was careful and respectful.  The fans were super respectful.

There was a lot of pressure in that it had been so long since we had all toured – would we remember how to do it?  Every city had different protocols, and sometimes it would change over night!  The fans wouldn’t know, we wouldn’t know, and sometimes we were blamed even though we didn’t know anything.  There was pressure in that sense.  But when it came down to it, we just went out there and we did what we do best.  We went on stage, we played, and everyone was getting back into it.  It was like learning to ride a bike again, sometimes you fall over but you get back up again.  I’m glad that we got to do this together as friends, because it was stressful and there were some mishaps here and there.  I think every band that’s touring right now is doing the same thing, but at least we went through it together.  I wouldn’t have wanted to go through it with anyone else.  It was awesome.

Dead Rhetoric: I was at Poughkeepsie, NY and the time before that I was worrying like, “Oh my God, is it going to be cancelled before the date?  Will they get quarantined?”

Shepherd: I know and that was a scary thing.  I know everyone is so shy about buying tickets to a show because so many are being cancelled or postponed last minute.  I understood that there would be a lot of walk-up or a lot of walk-out.  Every day was just different.

Scissorhands: Some cities didn’t care and they were sellouts.  Some cities had limitations about how many people that they would let in.  But no matter what, we had a lot of fun.  Either in front of 100 people, 50 people…I don’t think we every had 50 [laughs].  But there were smaller venues that had different rules and limitations so it turns in to [smaller crowds].

Shepherd: In NYC, which is a city that we typically sellout in, they only allowed 50%.  We were at the Grammercy Theater and we were like, “This looks really small!” But it’s not since they only allowed 50%, and it was almost sold out.  But it’s kind of a mindfuck as an artist.  I can’t look at this and think that people don’t want to be there.  It’s the fact that there are all of these different steps to get there.  It was a little bit odd, but every day you had to put on a happy face and say, “We got this!  We are in this together.  We are all having a good time.”  It was there first time in the States too.  So for us, we were really excited about that, and wanted to show them the best time possible.

Scissorhands: Did you feel any difference, being in the audience?  Did you feel the artists performed differently?  I know we don’t usually ask the questions but it’s really important to us.  We really care about how you all feel in the audience just as much.

Dead Rhetoric: No, no, not at all.  I only went to a few concerts this year, but yours was my favorite one.  I feel like everyone just hit it out of the park.  In Poughkeepsie, there are usually smaller crowds to begin with.  So I was unfazed by the amount of people there.  Everyone seemed excited.  It was a really nice time, and you could tell that all the bands were happy to be back out.

Shepherd: We’re glad you had a nice time, that’s really important to us!

Dead Rhetoric: I saw one of the online hangouts yesterday, and I have to ask: you did a workout for a portion of the hangout.  What inspired you do to it that way?

Shepherd: I think just doing something different.  It’s important.  Something that has always been prevalent in the rock and metal world is that, “Sex, drugs, and alcohol – yeah!”  But nowadays, it really is more, “Gym, sweat, and protein shakes [laughter].”  Especially in our group of friends, that’s really how it is.  We don’t drink before go out on stage.

Scissorhands: We have that in common actually.  We are both very athletic.  We don’t do that professionally, we just do it for our own love for sports and our body and mind.  It’s amazing to do it together.  We exercised together a bunch on tour, and even before the tour we would even go to the same gym together.  It was such a genuine and normal thing to do for us.

Shepherd: Yeah, and I think showing the metal community that it is a part of us is kind of important.  One thing that we both really love to do is show that we are different.  People look at us and people are like, “Oh man, I wonder what they do in their free-time? It’s probably crazy!”  But it’s like, I have Angry Birds and gym appointments [laughs].  So to show those things that are a part of things inside us, and hear our banter back and forth, it’s a genuine look inside our real lives.  It’s something that we really enjoy doing, and enjoy doing together.

Dead Rhetoric: In that, I also heard that the video had been done in two different locations.  What were some of the challenges in doing that?

Scissorhands: Filming it in different locations, the main challenges were to match everything.  Even though it just looks like a dark room, it isn’t that easy to match.  We needed a spacious, dark room with a proper lighting.  Plus we had to go out and find the same exact sand that the boys used filming their parts.  It was a specific, heavier type of sand and the granules are very different.  We were running around all of the construction stores trying to find a specific sand.  It’s out of marble or something.

Shepherd: It was sand that doesn’t stick to you.  They spent a whole day looking for that sand!

Scissorhands: I have videos on my phone that I sent to the boys of fooling around in Home Depot like it was Disneyland.  It was a lot of fun!

Shepherd: They did a really great job of putting it together and making it mesh.

Dead Rhetoric: Yeah, if I hadn’t caught the hangout, I honestly would have known it was done in two locations.

Scissorhands: Perfect!  Job well done!

Shepherd: When we first watched it, it was an afterthought.  I never would have guessed.

Scissorhands: There was something very slightly in the background, almost impossible to see that had to be removed throughout the production for the room to look entirely dark.  Where we fimed, there were lights but they were turned off.  But you could see them and they were creating a shape.  In the pictures we took while filming, you can see them.  Vidick [Ozhog], my guitar player, had to manually remove that from every single frame.  You know how tedious that is?  There are so many frames in a second of video.  I was looking through the pictures today, it’s insane.  It looks like a little black room with nothing but a light, but it wasn’t.

Shepherd: Wow, I didn’t even know that.  That’s really hard to do.  They all did an incredible job in editing those out.

Scissorhands: It was very much in the back, there but not there.  But he said, “No.  I can see them, I’m going to remove them.”  It took him forever.  He’s a perfectionist.

Dead Rhetoric: I wanted to talk about Ecdysis a bit.  How do  you feel it compares to your continued evolution as Infected Rain?

Scissorhands: I don’t like to really compare them because it’s almost like a new era, or step, with every album.  Not just this one.  Between every single album, there’s a minimum of two years.  In those two years, there’s so much going on.  We grow as people and musicians, and you gain experience from touring.  There’s a lot happening.  However, this album is unique because of the time we are living in.  It was influenced by this great depression that we are all living in, including the song “The Realm of Chaos,” both lyrically and musically.  Another difference between this album and the others is my boys changed instruments.  Specifically the guitar player and bass player.  We didn’t change the tuning, but if you are playing a different instrument in the same tuning, you sound different.  I think that the sound that we have now is thanks to that.

The third important thing was the way that we recorded it.  In the evolution of Infected Rain, the first album was recorded entirely in a recording studio.  When I say fully, I mean every single musician.  The second album was kind of the same, but it was in a different place with the same producer.  For the third and fourth album, we recorded guitars fully at home, because the technology is evolving every single day.  Nowadays, you don’t need all that much in order to record from home.  Now with drums and vocals, it is more tedious and unique because of the room you have to be in and the sound itself.  Vocalists are normally in a booth, with the sound engineer in a completely different room.  You hear him from the headphones and you work together collaboratively.  Both 86 and Endorphin were recorded half in the recording studio and half home.  It was very different from the first two albums.  For this album, we did everything at home.  Every single thing.  It was still produced by the same person, we love him and he’s been with us from the start.  He happens to be our drummer’s brother.  It was an accident, and we started working with him before we had this drummer.  He’s just incredibly talented and well known for being a sound engineer in my country, which is very small so there aren’t many people that do that job.  But he happens to love metal and he’s a super amazing person.

The whole recording process was insanely different, and that’s what makes this album sound different.  We did it ourselves, so we did not have a deadline so we weren’t pressured by the label or anyone else.  Our label has never actually done that to us, which I love.  We’ve been working with them since the beginning of 2019 and so far they have been extremely accepting and supportive of our style – the way we want to look, the way that we want to sound – I love that about our label.

That’s really all I can say about the album.  Other than that, it’s just a more mature version of you.  It’s a more experienced version of you.  Everybody works very hard – not just my band, but her band, and all of the bands on the planet.  It’s very rare in the metal industry to find bands that sit and scratch their ass and no nothing [laughter].

Shepherd: That’s true.  One thing I like to look at with albums is that it is a snapshot of time.  An album that was recorded in 2012, that is what you were going for in 2012.  The stories you wrote about and the emotions are from then.  Especially when it’s a first album, it’s the culmination of all of those feelings up until then.  I love listening back to my albums, and remembering what I was going through.  It’s cool because it’s like a diary for us.  So listening to Infected Rain’s new album, to me, it’s like a more mature album.  I also know the stories behind the album and the lyrics, and you can sense the passion about it.  I think after having your entire career ripped away for a while, it brings that passion back and you can totally hear that in the new album of theirs.

Scissorhands: Heidi was one of the first ones to hear the album – songs that weren’t even fully ready in the beginning.

Dead Rhetoric: Considering what you were saying about metal, what’s something that you both really like about the genre, and what’s something that you hope would change as we move forward?

Shepherd: One thing that I see moving forward right now, and I have hoped for since I think it’s in transition right now, is that I see the inclusiveness really opening up.  It used to be a place for just straight metalheads.  Meaning that metal is all that they listen to.  I am seeing that inclusivity opening up so much more – people are coming in from the rap world, the pop world, and you look at the front row and you see that guy in the front row with his metal vest, and you see the girl who looks like she walked off the runway, and then you see kids.  There are all walks of life, and it should be that way.

Scissorhands: We all listen to music and we want to be free to say, “I like Michael Jackson!”  I love Michael Jackson, I love Queen, I love Lady Gaga.  These are all different genres from what I do.  But at the same time, I love Meshuggah, Gojira, Lamb of God, or even Led Zeppelin if I want to go further back into history.  It’s like c’mon guys – those things can definitely live together and I definitely agree with Heidi.  It’s all about art and emotion, and that’s the reason I still love metal.  I think metal is one of the most, not the only one, but one of the most to the point and raw about every single emotion.  You can sing about butterflies and sunshine, or you can sing about death and darkness.  It doesn’t matter because it only matters that it is genuine and comes from the heart.  You can feel it.  You really can.  I remember being a child and not understanding the lyrics, but still understanding that alternative music speaks to me.

Shepherd: I remember hearing Cannibal Corpse’s “Fucked with a Knife” and I was like ‘this song rips!’ but oh, it was called “Fucked with a Knife” but I love the raw emotion that metal brings out in you.  I had always hoped that it would bleed into bringing in fans from other genres, and it really is right now.  I love that.  I love that the frat kids can come, the metal kids, the freaks, the geeks, the nerds, the popular kids.  It doesn’t matter!  I think that’s so beautiful!  It’s really taking a turn right now.

Scissorhands: Even with musicians too.  One of my favorite bands is Hacktivist, and they are rapping to these super djenty riffs and more bands should do that.  It’s amazing!  It’s such a combination!

Dead Rhetoric: I agree, even within the last five years, there has been an explosion of bands coming in that are not playing the same old thing and it’s amazing.

Scissorhands: I can actually tell you as well, I can feel the difference that in the beginning that it was more difficult.  We have electronic songs on every album.  I have songs where I have zero singing and it’s okay.  It’s accepted and it’s loved, and it should be more like that.  There should be no rules.  Don’t put anyone in a box.

Dead Rhetoric: To wrap up, what plans do the two of you have for next year?

Scissorhands: Just a lot of touring.  Specifically, we are trying to play some areas that we have never been to.  We are trying, so we will see what the world says.

Shepherd: Both of us are planning to be gone all year, so we are trying to soak up the time together that we can.  2022 is looking mighty fine so far.  We are looking forward to it.

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