L.A. rockers BITCH were one of the earliest Metal Blade groups from the 1980's. The quartet,led by lead singer Betsy, combined a raucous live show (with Betsy dressed in S&M gear) with hard hitting, headbanging tunes and released four albums plus one solo effort under the name "Betsy". Next to vocalist Betsy, the band included David Carruth (guitar), Ron Cordy (bass) and Robby Settles (drums). Today, BITCH is unfortunately only a good memory, since the band disbanded in 1990. However, their sound has stood the test of time and all their original recordings have now been reissued on CD for a limited time by Metal Blade. Reason enough to go through memory lane with one of the very first ladies in the Heavy Metal: Betsy of BITCH. METAL MAIDENS had a nice chat with Betsy over the telephone and talked about her past, present and future plans. Our thanks go out to Metal Blade / Michael Trengert for making this all possible and in the first place to Betsy, who kindly took the time to speak to us.
How did you get involved into the music scene before you actually formed BITCH?
Betsy: "Music has always been an important part of my life. As I grew up, I listened to bands like UFO, KISS, THE RUNAWAYS and CHEAP TRICK, to name but a few. They really inspired me and it was only a short time before I formed my first, yet unprofessional band. I even sang in a ska band. We were called THE BOXING BOYS. It didn't last long tho', 'cause firstly I hate boxing and secondly I'm not a boy..! Then I met up with the guys from BITCH...."
You were once called Rob Halford's little sister (former JUDAS PRIEST singer). Did you know that and who are your musical favourites?
Betsy: "Ha, I haven't heard that one before, but it's a nice compliment! My absolute hero is ALICE COOPER; He's the ultimate rock'n' roll character to me. I have his face tatooed on my arm. Further my musical taste goes way back to the 80's with bands like JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN, SCORPIONS, LOVERBOY and ANGEL."
How did you get signed to Metal Blade records?
Betsy: "Our guitarplayer David Carruth was a friend of Brian's (Brian Slagel, boss of MB records - MM), because David was and still is a music collector and he had a huge collection of vinyl and he was really into imports. Brian Slagel had this record store, called 'Ozz' and when David found out about it, he started buying all his imports and picture discs - all the hard-to-find European stuff - and that's how he met Brian. It was right around the time when Brian was starting his label, Metal Blade records."
In '82 you released your first EP "Damnation Alley" and shortly afterwards your first full length album "Be My Slave" got released. Tell us something about that.
Betsy: "Well, "Damnation Alley" was Metal Blade's very first release ever of any band. It was a sort of self-financed EP with the help of Brian and it had five songs on it. I still listen to it sometimes. I like it and I think the songs are kinda cute. After that, we followed it up with "Be My Slave", which is when we started to take on the leather and studds, the Heavy Metal type image. "Be My Slave" was definately not one of my fave albums musically, but I thought that it kinda got the image across and people would dig on the bondage and S+M kind of thing."
How did you put together your shows for the "Be My Slave" tour? You were very famous for your S+M acts on stage.
Betsy: "We used to have all kinds of paraphernalia on stage, like a big tape board that had nails on it and I'd hung my whip and my riding crop and the hand cuffs. Then I'd do this thing where I'd bring this slave out on stage (he came out of a box, like a chest) and I would do an act with him on stage, sort of humiliate the hell out of him. It definately gave the audience something to watch next to the music, that's for sure! But we had fun with that image and it definately got people's attention."
Why did it take you four years to record the "Bitch Is Back" album in '87?
Betsy: "We got hung up with some management for awhile, that we couldn't get away from contractually. Nothing was really happening for us and by the time we realized that, it took us a while to break with them."
On the thanks list of this album, you mention a lady with the name Tipper Gore and the PMRC for keeping your name in the press. How did you react on her actions then and how do you feel about it now?
Betsy: "We just got a huge kick out of it. It was really great all this free promotion! You'd see her on the front of the L.A. Times newspaper holding up our album for her cause. This was a prime example of what exactly they thought was offensive. So, she just took our album with her everywhere she went: to progressional hearings, on TV talk shows and posing for pictures holding up our album. Not everybody's gonna like everything, but at least it got us some press and attention. We still have some footage of it on video and watch it once in awhile."
Why did you record the ELTON JOHN cover "The Bitch Is Back"?>br> Betsy:"It's a good song and it was perfect, because of the fact that we hadn't put out anything in so long. People kinda wondered where we were at that time, too so it was rather appropriate."
In the same year, you recorded the TUBES cover "Don't Touch Me There" with Joey Vera and LIZZY BORDEN for LIZZY's mini album "Terror Rising". Tell us about it and what was it like working with them.
Betsy:"We were all buddies and we were on the same record label. LIZZY is kind of a character, like I am for BITCH. We thought it would be fun to get together and do that song and just camp it up a little bit. It was cool - I enjoyed it very much!"
The following year 1988, you changed the band's name into BETSY and your sound got more commercial. Why did you do that?
Betsy:"Because we wanted to show people we could do mainstream stuff as well and still stay heavy. We thought it might afford us a bit more commercial success, which really didn't make much of a difference, so that's why we went back to the name BITCH. BITCH really was the band, our whole image, our identity and everything and BETSY was just an experiment."
What's your opinion about the "Betsy" album?
Betsy: "I thought that album had the best songs on it. I can listen to it all the way through without skipping something, that I don't wanna hear. I like the production on it and our producer really did a great job! I listen to it all the time and I think it's a good album."
Do you feel more comfortable being Betsy Weiss today or as the frontwoman of BITCH?
Betsy: "I feel comfortable doing both, 'cause I do them both so well. There's definately a difference between them, because you have to draw a line at some point. That's part of being a good performer: it's being able to turn into something completely and totally different, when you hit the stage."
Was the song "Walls Of Love" ('90; on the compilation CD "A Rose By Any Other Name") a preview for a brandnew BITCH album, which was never released?
Betsy: "That song was just something we did in the meantime, until we decided to put out an album of all new stuff. That was about the time things started falling apart for BITCH, so obviously that never happened."
Is there any more unreleased material to be expected on CD in the near future of BITCH?
Betsy: "Not really. If you ever hear from us again, it'll be completely different and all new stuff, which would be fun. I'd really like to do that."
What happened to your very devoted band members David Carruth, Ron Cordy and Robby Settles?
Betsy: "OK - David Carruth, I live with. We've been a couple for over sixteen years now. He's got a band together, called NORMAN. They're like a PANTERA meets NINE INCH NAILS, early JUDAS PRIEST influenced band and pretty grungy. He's one of the two guitar players in that band, actually. My drummer Robby married my sister Jane and they have a family. They have three girls and he's not doing anything musically at all. He has sold his drum set and all and really out of the business. Ron Cordy is doing tatooing and airbrushing at his studio in Hollywood. Every time I see him, he's got something different going on musically. He's still around and we're in touch once in a while."
And what have you been doing all these years after BITCH?
Betsy: "Not much (she laughs). I've been doing some studio work and I've been helping people out with vocals on things and that kind of stuff. I still sing and I still sing well and I still look good. I've kept myself in shape, so there may be hope for me."
So, you're still involved into the music scene?
Betsy: "Yeah, but nothing major. But I do miss it and I still hang out quite a bit in the music scene and I am still in the public's eye, as far as that goes. There's really not that much of a scene out there anymore, which is pretty sad."
Do you have any real plans of making a come back?
Betsy: "I have the desire, but no real firm plans right now. I don't know how I wanna do it or when I wanna do it, or who I wanna do it with, I just know I wanna do it and that I love singing and performing and being on stage and I just miss it! So much, I feel like everything else I do in my life is a lie, when that's really what I wanna do. We'll see what happens. The fact that people haven't forgotten about the band or me is a great feeling and that gives me more opportunity to make a come back and I feel confident about it."
Your efforts certainly have opened doors for bands such as L7, BABES IN TOYLAND, etc. as being one of the very first ladies in the heavy metal. How do you feel about those bands?
Betsy: "I must confess, I'm not familiar with them and I'm still in love with the old stuff and I don't like the new stuff very much. I miss the feeling and the energy in the music. A lot of it is very negative and dark."
Do you listen to other rock ladies?
Betsy:"I like SHERYL CROW, Ann Wilson of HEART has a beautiful voice and I think ALANIS MORISSETTE is good. I appreciate a good female voice."
Is there any live footage of BITCH available, next to the clips of "Leatherbound" and "Be My Slave"?
Betsy: "We videotaped nearly every single show that we ever did live. We have like a BITCH compilation tape that we put together, that we're thinking about doing something with - pretty hysterical.."
Is there anything you'd like to achieve, you haven't done before?
Betsy: "Yeah of course- complete and total success in music would be nice. I really miss it a lot, but I will be back!"
Do you have any messages for our readers?
"Thanks for thinking about me and thanks for your support. I hope to be back! It's just a matter of someone giving me a break or not."
Let's hope, we'll hear from Betsy and BITCH soon! It's been too long...HEAVY METAL rules!!!!
Interview by: Rita van Poorten/courtesy of Metal Maidens, March 1997.
[Added June 2003]:
BITCH, featuring Betsy Weiss, will play a one-time only gig at the Bang Your Head Festival in Ballingen, Germany. Don't miss it!!!
DAMNATION ALLEY (Metal Blade '82 - EP)
BE MY SLAVE (Metal Blade '83)
THE BITCH IS BACK (Metal Blade '87)
BE MY SLAVE/DAMNATION ALLEY (Metal Blade '89)
A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME (Metal Blade '89)