Vulgar and vulnerable, strong, seductive, and smart as a whip, Bif Naked’s Lava/Atlantic debut, “I BIFICUS,” is an infectious, eclectic blend of raucous power pop hooks, emotive and revealing lyricism, and old-skool punk attitude. The album, like Bif herself, is unflinching in its confrontational honesty. Tracks such as “Moment of Weakness” or the chilling “Chotee” find Bif dealing with religion, lust, love, and sex. “I BIFICUS” proves Bif Naked to be a remarkably talented artist with an intense songwriting voice and rock n’ roll charisma to burn. The love child of two private school teenagers, Bif was born in New Delhi, India in 1971. She was adopted by American missionaries who moved her to Minneapolis, and Lexington, Kentucky, ultimately winding up in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was there that young Bif began to dream of stardom. She enrolled at University of Winnipeg as a theater major and soon joined Jungle Milk, a local troupe who performed, among other things, oddball covers of Ofra Haza and Grandmaster Flash tunes. “They said, ‘Do you want to come down?,'” she recalls with a laugh. “I thought, ‘What the hell. They’re good-looking.'” Bif married Jungle Milk’s drummer, who was also a member of another local combo, Gorilla Gorilla, but the union lasted a little more than ten minutes. “Even when I was standing there at the altar, I knew I was making a mistake,” reflects Bif. “For some reason, I ended up going through with it, but the marriage was seriously over before it even began.” When Gorilla Gorilla’s singer quit on the eve of a major gig supporting Canadian punk heroes, DOA, Bif was enlisted to take over vocal duties. She adopted the nom de rock of Bif Naked, deeming it “provocative, sexy and very punk rock.” As frontwoman for Gorilla, Gorilla, Bif was a natural. “I thought, this is what I was put on earth to do,” she remembers. Nevertheless, the wildness and decadence of life on the road took its toll on young Bif.
“The first tour I did, I had alcohol poisoning like four times,” she says. “We toured and toured and toured – and I just kept abusing myself.” Though it all, Gorilla Gorilla stayed intact and eventually relocated to Vancouver.
“I just couldn’t quit the band, despite all the bad stuff,” Bif says. “I was determined to learn professionalism and be able to work in that kind of difficult situation. I was convinced I needed the lesson.”
Bif made her bones with Gorilla Gorilla, but soon felt the need to express herself in a more aggressive fashion. She quit the band and hitched her wagon to the high-energy punk combo, Chrome Dog.
“When I was with Gorilla Gorilla, I was really interested in being feminine,” Bif says. “Like, I would wear a new dress for every show. But it just became kind of limiting sonically. Music was changing. With Chrome Dog, I wanted to be a real hard-ass.
“I started to find this growl within me,” she goes on. “I would wear the baggiest tee shirts I could find, skater shorts, no makeup. I was as non-feminine as I could be. I was tired of getting flak for being a girl singer.”
With Chrome Dog, Bif was able to prove that she could compete with the hardcore punkboys at their own game. The band toured constantly, covering Canada and the West Coast, including showcases in L.A. at places like Club Lingerie and the Coconut Teazer. Ultimately, though, the relationship between Bif and the band was creatively doomed.
“There were a lot of boundaries and limitations put on my lyric-writing,” she says. “I couldn’t write anything that had to do with being a girl in any way.”
In 1994 it was time to move on once again. Bif briefly entered into a collaboration with another band, Dying To Be Violent, though like Chrome Dog, they put restrictions on Bif’s songwriting.
“It was just limiting again,” she remembers. “If I wanted to write a song about my period, I wasn’t allowed! Ultimately I just became incorrigible about it.”
After splitting with DTBV, Bif finally went solo. She put out an indie EP, “FOUR SONGS AND A POEM” (1994), followed that same year by her self-titled debut album.
On “BIF NAKED,” Bif was finally able to freely write lyrics which reflected her own incredible life experiences. The immediacy and honesty of her songs, not to mention her idiosyncratic inked-and-pierced persona, made her an instant icon to young women worldwide. But even with the voluminous acclaim strewn towards the album, the label which released it soon went under.
In 1995, Bif bought back the “BIF NAKED” masters, which she reissued on her own label, dubbed Her Royal Majesty’s Records (which also issued Bif’s 1996 spoken word outing, “OKENSPAY ORDWAY 1 or THINGS I FORGOT TO TELL MOMMY”). Another major event in Bif’s life occurred in 1995. After years of rock n’ roll self-abuse, Bif made the commitment to go straight edge, the punkrock lifestyle that eschews drugs, drink, meat, and promiscuous carnal activities.
“It was after yet another bad relationship with a boy,” she explains, “knowing full well that my judgment was always impaired and I was making stupid decisions. Because of my addictive personality, I couldn’t just go on the wagon. It had to be a lifestyle change.
It had to be something that was almost a religion. I swore I wouldn’t get into another destructive relationship, I quit drinking and quit smoking cigarettes and eating red meat. I also felt that I suddenly had a social responsibility, because the kids that were coming to my gigs were really young.
I realized that I couldn’t be a fucking asshole in public any more! With each passing year my convictions have grown stronger and I’ve never looked back.”
(That said, Bif does veer from the strict straight edge orthodoxy in that she refuses – REFUSES! – to give up sex.)
Her change in lifestyle only served to increase the power and the passion of Bif’s live performances. A dynamic and irrepressible presence both on-and-off-stage, Bif and her band have rocked clubs and theaters across North America, as well as such exotic locales as Berlin, Paris, London, Milan, Barcelona, Madrid, Stockholm, and Helsinki.
In the Summer of 1997, she hosted “Bif Naked’s Rap Punk Pop Invitational” with SNFU, Raggadeath, and Face The Pain. The package tour hit 18 Canadian cities, blowing the roofs off every step of the way. Among her many accomplishments as a live act, Bif is most proud of being the only girl performing on the main stage at Edgefest, Canada’s annual gathering of the alterna-tribe (other main stage acts included Green Day, Foo Fighters and Creed).
Which, at long last, brings us to “I BIFICUS.” Produced by Glenn Rosenstein, Peter Karroll, John Webster, and Oliver Leiber, “I BIFICUS” sees Bif creating a hardcore-infused modern rock n’ roll sound on tracks like the swirling sonics of “Spaceman” or the powerfully autobiographical “Chotee.” In addition, the album includes “Only A Girl” and “Lucky,” a pair of tracks originally penned for her first self-titled album.
“There are songs about love,” Bif says, “songs about loss and betrayal and elation. It’s all the possible emotions set to music.”
Now, with “I BIFICUS,” Bif Naked is set to bring that whirlpool of feelings to America via her passionate punk-pop and ballistic live performances (including a stint on 1999’s Lilith Fair, plus tours with the Cult and Kid Rock). It’s been a long, strange journey, but Bif is more than happy with where her career path has led.
“To this day I think, ‘Man, if I am lucky enough to get ten people out to my show, I’m totally excited,'” she enthuses. “My mom likes my records, and you know what? When your folks are proud of you for what you did, everything else is gravy!”
Copyright Atlantic Records, 2001