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Thanks to Queen B For the Pic
A Blast Called Bif

Interview Magazine DEC 99

Born in New Delhi, raised by missionaries -- meet the singer whose history is as wild as her sound.

Interview by Dudley Saunders

With her pitch-black Cleopatra coiffure and heavy-lashed poster-child eyes, Bif Naked would be a dead ringer for 50s Icon Betty Page, if only Page had gone on to be a tattooed rock and roller instead of a trailer park born-again Christian. Born in a mental hospital to an unwed teenager in New Delhi, India, Naked was adopted by Methodist missionaries, who kept her moving through such disparate places as Lexington, KY., Minneapolis, and Winnipeg, inadvertently preparing her for what would be nearly ten years on the road as a developing rock star.

What really sets Naked apart from the mass of music hopefuls is not her history so much as her uncanny lack of internal censor: On her major-label debut, I Bificus (Atlantic), Naked's unabashed confessionalism has just enough blurted-out antipoetry to save it from the preciousness too much musical autobiography falls into. On her break-out MTV hit "Moment of Weakness," Naked shouts lines like, "I'm sick with the Beijing flu, and you chose then not to come home," coming off like an outraged teenager too upset to notice how self-involved she sounds. Weaned on a lifetime of punk, Naked's intent seems to be to offer up the uncensored workings of a young person's head, before the thoughts become more reasonable, or the emotions less raw.

Dudley Saunders: You don't seem to shy away from many subjects.

Bif Naked: I've written about being raped, my parents' divorce, necking with girls, doing it with boys, terminating a pregnancy, my own divorce. I've written a song about my bicycle, too. It's all the same to me. I just don't believe in hiding anything. Life's too short. I used to sing this song about sexual assault to open the show. And I used to get people yelling at me to shut up and get off the stage, or to shut up and show them my tits instead. It was almost like self-punishment, but I kept doing it. I didn't care.

DS: That kind of attitude has given Tori Amos a lot of fans.

BN: I do get really heartfelt letters from some of my fans who can relate to it. It reminds me of what Madonna meant to me when I was fourteen years old: She was not afraid of anything, man.

DS: A lot of people will be surprised to hear someone as punk-identified as you talking about Madonna.

BN: I've never claimed to be a punk rocker in my life. I've never been to a Dead Kennedy's show. I've never had a Mohawk. Maybe because we played with punk bands and I always listened to punk bands, we got labeled as a punk band.

DS: But there is a lot of punk in your music.

BN: Yeah, but there are other things too. My favorite CD in the world is a devotional Sibaba CD by Felix Maria Wascheck. It's the most beautiful music I've ever heard in my life. I listen to it every day, ten times a day. That, and Badmotorfinger by Soundgarden and Control by Janet Jackson, and True Blue, my favorite Madonna album of all time. I always loved Madonna and Judas Priest; the first concert I ever attended was Iron Maiden and Twisted Sister. Dee Snider spit on me and my little sister. We thought that was the coolest thing that ever happened. Then we went home and put on my Madonna record. I've always been like this.

DS: But you've also changed a lot. For instance, you didn't use to be a straight-edge fitness freak, did you?

BN: Oh no. I guess I was influenced by this bodybuilder I dated who was Mr. Manitoba. I was underage then, and I wanted to impress him and in the process I got interested in fitness. Now I read book like the Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. I love it. But I still drank and did drugs on those early tours, and I was losing my voice all the time. I even got alcohol poisoning. I was trying to keep up with the guys, and I did have a great time. But I also made bad decisions when I drank whether it was to do drugs or to have sex with someone. Impaired judgment was no friend of mine.

DS: Is that how you ended up with the abortion song, "Chotee"?

BN: That happened during my marriage. I got talked into terminating my pregnancy by my husband, which I resented even though now I realize it was the right thing to do. In fact, the only time I've been nervous about a song was when I had to sing "Chotee" in front of him. Then it turned out he didn't even get it: He thought the baby in the song was him. After that, I was never nervous about singing it again.

DS: Are you a romantic?

BN: Hopelessly. I've been in love so many times. I've been engaged a few times. But I don't regret any of them. Not the hitters, not the drug addicts not even the football players. I learned something from each of them, and I look forward to falling in love again. It's an exciting, wonderful, beautiful part of being human. And to do it more than once! We recover; we survive every heartbreak. And if we don't, then we're hanging onto the past.

DS: That sounds almost Buddhist.

BN: It does? I'm not really a Buddhist; I have read a lot of Buddhism though, and I like some of the philosophy. I was too young to remember India when we lived there. My father just moved back to India, though. I can't wait to go visit him there.

DS: Are you going to do an Alanis Morissette?

BN: Oh, God! I'm gonna have to make sure I write my next record before I got back. Indian music is way too fashionable right now!