Interview with Teri Gender Bender from Le Butcherettes: Rock ‘n’ Roll Gone Mad
Le Butcherettes is a garage-punk trio from Guadalajara, Mexico, composed of bassist Jamie Aaron, drummer Chris Common, and led by the intense Teresa Suárez (a.k.a. Teri Gender Bender). Formed in 2007, Teri became known for her explosive and gory performances. Their stage shows can be quite elaborate and violent. Whether she’s dancing with a real pig head, splashing fake blood on stage, or wearing a gore-ish apron covered in fake blood, Teri’s frantic stage presence comes out as a explosive outburst and an eccentric way of making a statement about the role of women in society.
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of The Mars Volta produced their three full-length albums. Their latest album “A Raw Youth” features guest appearances from John Frusciante and Iggy Pop.
Even if no fake blood was splattered in Berlin, Teri still sang her heart out – like a window into her aching soul. We spoke to the Mexican gore Goddess and asked her a few questions about her thirst for blood, the place of women in Mexico, and coping with her father’s death.
Lola Who: When did you know that you wanted to make music?
Teri: I don’t precisely recall the day or year that I became aware that I wanted to make music but it was definitely at an early age – when I came to terms and started to accept that I was born a machine; empty and absorbing whatever was around my family and me. My father would constantly play Mozart on the speakers causing chaos in the family because it was too loud and the neighbors would complain. He wouldn’t care. My mother would turn blue from remorse. I was in love. My father was not a machine but a mere animal who loved music.
You sing with power, passion, but also with angst and frustration. How did you develop your stage presence and aesthetics?
Teri: Thank you! I don’t know how I developed it! I honestly feel like it’s not developed. Sometimes, embarrassingly enough, I feel like it regresses. It comes from the hunger of wanting to evolve into another kind of being… Of wanting another chance to be reborn. Being on a platform that allows you to be a musical being – whether it’s a room, a studio, an acoustic guitar, a stage, etc – helps you transform yourself, and very often, it helps you channel that little piece of shit that is locked inside of you, that you have held on to for too long. That dark space inside of you has so much to say… It can be too much for certain people sometimes. I’m an intense person and it’s hard to tone myself down. Trying to punish myself in normal social settings by looking down to the floor… But then everything calms down when you admit your defeat and try to be a better person.
Lola Who: How did you end up incorporating blood in your shows and what is the significance of blood for you?
Teri: Blood is a life-giving fluid which upon its sight brings immediate thoughts of a violent death. Life stripped away. Stolen. Slaughtered like a lifeless animal. Girls and women to this day are being kidnapped, raped, sold, buried alive, shot, stoned, mutilated… Blood reminds me not to be ignorant and to remain focused. Red reminds me that the focus shouldn’t always be so obviously violent. Red is a colour that is not sorry for being angry, and at the same time, it understands what it’s like to be in love with such great passion. If Red were an entity or a type of character, it would be the leader of all colours.
Many artists have used meat or theatrical blood baths in their shows, photos, etc. Lady Gaga wore a meat dress. When I was touring in Mexico, I was carrying a suitcase full of meat for the stage… Me and my friends have often been harassed while walking on the street, and we have often been told that we are meat. So it’s like a comical reference to a sad and culturally shocking experience for women to encounter. Before I moved back to Mexico, I lived in Denver. There, women suffer in a different manner; it is more hidden, more discreet, and teachers tend to turn a blind eye. But in Mexico, it’s out in the open and they don’t know how hurtful it is. The ones that do though, those are the evil ones.
Lola Who: Can you tell us a bit more about your alter ego, Teri Gender Bender and how that plays in your artistic development?
Teri: We all have a little animal inside of us that is hurting and unstoppable. Through art, I’m able to discover the different palates that I’m capable of expressing without fear. On good days, with fear. Fear is humbling. But it should never stop you growing.
Lola Who: You’re originally from Guadalajara Mexico. How was your music received by the Mexican public?
Teri: At the beginning, there would be a lot of mockery and alienation from the public, but I guess that happens to everyone who starts from zero. That doesn’t mean that it goes away, you just come to terms with it and somehow learn to connect with the negative and the positive energy that is exchanged between the audience, God and all the musicians on stage.
Lola Who: You are now based in LA. Do you feel that was a necessary move for you to truly express and explore yourself artistically?
Teri: Not exactly. Right now I’m based in El Paso, and it’s here that I truly started to evolve and express myself musically. In Los Angeles, I did learn a lot from many people but they also learned from me. We are machines constantly taking and giving, with different backgrounds and ages. Admitting your inner insecurities can be painful, so I think it’s easier to be self-involved. For example, an ex-manager at the time told me that it would be better not to mention that I was from Mexico right before an interview.
Lola Who: In a video you made for Crave On Stage, you say; “It’s a song about falling in love, and being rejected, and it hurts but life goes on. So this (song) is to you, man who broke my heart. You destroyed me.” Clearly, you’re at the top of your game. Is it accurate to say that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, just like the title of your song?
Teri: “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger” has always been my motto – because that is in essence the motto of my father and my mother. I miss my dad so much… I love him so much that, in a way, his death is the most beautiful realest moment to ever happen to me. I felt like a true human being. Maybe we are born to mourn our loved ones. What a true honor, don’t you think!? I recently loved someone I loved so much. And it kills me… but again it is an honor to mourn their death.
Lola Who: Your father passed away when you were a little girl. How did you cope with that loss and did music help your mourning process?
Teri: Oh man. The instant that I found out that my father had passed away, that second of that instant was the most alive I have ever felt. The sharpest pain like an airplane entering inside of you. I came to admit my own defeat as a human being many times, but I could never for the life of me accept his. I really think playing music helped me achieve something enlightening. But then again, there are moments when you are by yourself and all of a sudden you freeze and before you know it you’ve been in a cave for a week straight without having gone outside.
Lola Who: You did a lot of collaborations in your two previous albums: Iggy Pop, Shirley Manson, John Frusciante… How was it like to work with such renowned musicians?
Teri: Amazing. I am so happy. THEY – and by THEY I mean everyone I work with and that I have worked with – made me proud of myself. If it weren’t for all the people that I have come across in life, I would still be locked in my room. That is the hardest part. To get out of bed and then out the door.
Lola Who: You’ve often described yourself as a feminist. What does being a feminist means to you and how do you express that in your art and also in your daily life?
Teri: Having a good sense of humor and being able to laugh at yourself and apply it to the music. Too much anger and screams can’t be credible… In life there is everything; good and evil. And honestly I have to say that lately, I have not been able to identify with the mainstream concept of feminism. I just don’t buy it. The essence is not there. Being a feminist… you are not born one. One has to work hard for this. You have to read a lot about the subject. I don’t know…. I think nowadays I consider myself a “sexist” because the way feminism in “white America” is too polished.
Lola Who: What is store for the rest of 2016, and can we one day expect a full album in Spanish?
Teri: A festival in Mexico called Festival Sayulita and some upcoming tours in the USA, Europe, Australia, Asia. Some tours will be with one of my favorite bands ; At The Drive In. My other band Bosnian Rainbows has finished recording a full spanish album… we still need to see when we will release it.