Carla Harvey of Butcher Babies dissects death and taps into the power of grief in The Electric Theater
As half of the heavy tandem of Butcher Babies, Carla Harvey has earned her stripes as one of rock music's most commanding front women. With a career spanning more than a decade, the vocalist has established a track record with a discography some three albums deep, with a fourth LP currently in the works.
In addition to her legions of fans the world over and a catalog of contributions to the culture of heavy music, Harvey has spent years working as a grief coach, particularly, as an end of life specialist. Assuming the very specialized role of helping people navigate significant loss, Harvey's skill set is truly unique, and one that is necessary for people when they are most vulnerable.
Serving as the nexus of the conversation, Harvey's visit to the Electric Theater with clown naturally kicks off with an in-depth discussion regarding death. For clown, the concept of death is something that has not only fascinated him from a very young age, it is also something that has permeated throughout his career as an artist. While it's a reality that everyone endures universally, the variation in how people deal with it is what makes for such a compelling discussion.
The hour-long video conversation not only delves into common denominator of death but more importantly the power of grief. Harvey explains how people can apply practical means of transforming significant loss into meaningful ways of achieving closure and ultimately turning pain into something productive. The exchange reaches a uniquely broad audience in a way that treats weighty subject matter with compassion and a real sense of humanity.
Stream the video installment of clown's Electric Theater below.
1:06 - The utility of Zoom: Communication just becomes so much more impactful when you can see someone's face, even if it is through Zoom. Carla Harvey shared that she does grief counseling and even though it has to be socially distanced, Zoom really has become a way to share the intimacy needed for that kind of therapy in a safe, Covid-conscious way.
1:39 - clown shares his apprehension with new technology like Zoom though he confides that there is a bit of motivation in him to overcome that fear and hesitation.
2:49 - Fixated on the idea of death, clown confided that it's something that has resonated with him from a very early age. It has permeated in his art and remains something that piques his curiosity. Given that Harvey works as a grief counselor and an end of life specialist, he wanted to get her take on the notion of death.
5:30 - Harvey detailed her parochial school background and shared that, like clown, she also has long been fascinated with death. Revisiting some of her earliest experiences with death including watch a dog pass after being hit, and the tragic passing of her grandfather, Harvey's curiosity about death was nurtured by her inquisitive disposition. She wasn't afraid of death and much as she wanted to understand it.
8:52 - Conflicted, Harvey discussed how her skepticism of heaven and hell prompted her to want to better understand the finality of death so that she didn't need to rely on the notion of heaven as a coping mechanism.
10:22 -Exploring the concept of nurturing and reward, clown asked if anyone noticed Harvey's unique inclination and if anyone encouraged her to pursue that curiosity. Harvey explained that her way of thinking was at odds with the kind of indoctrination that part of her upbringing. Asking the tough questions during Monday night catechism class resulted in Harvey having to sit in the hall and that kind of disconnect only strengthen her independent mindset.
11:45 - Carla recalls how her family really tried to convince her to rethink going to mortuary school to try and shield her from the grim reality that she would face in that environment.
12:49 - Carla's curiosity about death was really rooted in her fascination with all stages of life. She would go onto share that even the concept of aging was interesting to her. Living with her grandmother for an extended time, she saw the transformation that comes with time and that really reaffirmed that interest. It wasn't morbid, it was just a fascination with life in every stage.
15:34 - Harvey would assert that children should be talked to about death in clear terms. Using arbitrary statements like "grandma has gone to heaven" isn't conducive to finding closure and getting to a place of healing.
19:27 - clown brings up a very important reality in that he feels like people are so disconnected from the reality of dying and it's the only thing that all of us with universally do. It's out one commonality.
20:50 - Harvey shared that part of the reason people seem so apprehensive and ill-equipped in dealing with death is because of how aging and end of life is handled, especially in the last 50-60 years. The elderly are relegated to nursing homes and long term car facilities instead of finishing their lives around those that matter most. It's a very sterile process and one that is devoid of the empathy and compassion that would help make death a most more transitional event, rather than a tragic one.
24:32 - clown recalls his first experience with death as a fourth grader. Among the things that stuck with him the most was how he saw that it effected his father emotionally and in paying his respects he kissed the departed and couldn't forget how cold the body was. It was a sensation that he's never been able to shake.
28:04 - As people get older they become more cognizant of the inevitability of death. That can certainly take you to a dark place mentality or it can prompt you to live life to the fullest and make the most of the time you have while you have it. Working in death care, this is a perspective that Harvey has come to value.
30:35 - Expressing his gratitude and admiration for people that work in hospice, clown shard that his mother passed away from Alzheimer's and dementia while in long term care. He shared a story of how he went visit her one day and saw a worker sitting on a five gallon bucket and manicuring the toes of the elderly. It was a show of care and compassion that really resonated with clown and has stuck with him ever since.
34:53 - Reiterating the importance of human touch and interaction, Harvey explains how that intimacy is something that can really be transformative to people and it's something that people, particularly the elderly, often times go without.
36:00 - clown shared how he's been fortunate enough to see how other cultures deal with death and agreed that New Orleans does it right. Death is a celebration complete with music and spectacle.
36:42 - End of life is a big conversation to have with your significant other. clown shared that both he and his wife have had those important discussions and though they are tough to have, it's important to be able to prepare for the inevitable rather than have to react to it.
40:06 - Following the death of his father, clown shared how the practical details like which kind of box to cremate the body in seem like minor details until it comes time to make the decisions. Revisiting the story of his father's passing, he gave a first hand account how those details might seem minor, but they matter when it comes time to act.
45:22 - Carla goes onto explain that there really are no rules with how to experience grief. What she encourages is that people take in all the emotions that come with it and use the anger that often is associated with grief to be productive - relish that anger and use it as a tool for copping, healing. Practical applications like journaling are great, realistic ways to transform that anger into something productive.
46:58 - The concept of journaling as a means to work through anger and grief draws parallels to being a musician and songwriting. Carla shares that putting pen to paper as a means of emotional therapy is something she has don all her life.
48:20 - Carla Harvey gets everyone up to speed on what is happening with Butcher Babies as the band has been debuting new music each month and recently broadcast their first ever live streaming concert. She explains that the band had to decide whether to move forward or not with releasing new material despite not being able to tour it live and decided that it was important to maintain a connection with the fans and not sit on music simply because they couldn't tour it.
52:39 - When it comes to life post pandemic, clown and Carla talked about how the industry will experience a bit of a reset. Outside of the business of music however, clown discussed how things like wearing a mask are no big deal and that he will probably wear one moving forward for good given the health and sanitary benefits of keeping one on.
55:28 - Carla recalled her tenure working for Revolver and an interview she was conducting with clown during a tour back in 2012. She recalled how gracious he was and how that memory has stuck with her since.
58:34 - "I love fear but I don't like being scared. I like fear because I know I can overcome it." - clown