Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Talking with the Best Broad in the Business - Rachel May of Broadzilla

There is nothing cooler to me than a bad ass woman in a rock band. It’s fun to watch a female take over the stage and demand the attention of the crowd. I have always preferred female singers and have considered myself a riot girl at heart. I grew up listening to Hole, L7, Sleater Kinney, The Lunachicks, and 7 Year Bitch. Locally, I loved watching Candace from Walls of Jericho and the ladies of Broadzilla. I looked up to them and respected what they were doing.

I remember seeing Broadzilla for the first time at Warped Tour when I was in my teens and literally wishing I could be them when I grew up. They were so cool, so well dressed, and better musicians then most of the men that I knew. Who knew that one day I would meet Rachel May from Broadzilla and become fast friends with her? She reached out to me a little over a year ago to write about the first year of Hip In Detroit and when we got on the phone I was geeking out. It was such an honor to have her interviewing me. When I heard the announcement that Broadzilla would be playing a show this Friday at The Magic Bag, I knew I had to turn the tables and take a shot at interviewing her.

Rachel May is Detroit music. She has worked in this industry, played countless shows, written about music, supported music, attended shows, and been an all around musical guru for as long as I can remember. Her list of credentials includes 16 years writing about the night life in Detroit for the Free Press, being an annual judge at the Rockstarz Karaoke Challenge, playing guitar for Maxine Petrucci Band, singing for Banned From H.E.L.L. a Dio-Era Black Sabbath Tribute band, and doing back up vocal work for everyone from Rapper Backstab the Kingpin to original Fleetwood Mac guitarist Jeremy Spencer. She has also been part of one of the longest running bands in Detroit and has had quite a bit of success on a local and national level. She has won tons of awards, including 9 DMAs, and helped countless bands get their name out there. She has established herself as a positive force to be reckoned with.

Unfortunately Broadzilla doesn't play as much as they used to, but when they do you do not want to miss the show. This Friday they are playing with an all female Motley Crue cover band called Girls Girls Girls. It will be a night filled with guitar riffs and good looking women, two things I can get behind. The doors for the show are at 8 p.m. and tickets are available through ticketweb.com for only $12 in advance. They will also be available at the door, if it doesn't sell out.

Check out what Rachel has to say about the last 20 years she’s spent in the music game and the new radio show she is hosting on Tap Radio Detroit. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us Ms. May, it was truly an honor to pick your wonderful brain.

HID- How old were you when you joined your first band and what was the band’s name?
Rachel May- "Well, I came from a musical family and my dad wouldn't let me join a band until I graduated. He wanted me to finish school first and he was fully aware of the debauchery that comes with the territory. So about 2 days after my graduation (I wasted no time), I joined an all-female rock band called Phallus. That was a stepping stone for me. Not long after, I parted ways and went on to front the all-female metal band Rapunzel, which is the band I played my first live show with. It was at the old Blondies nightclub in Detroit. Good times. Good memories!"

HID- Who are your 3 biggest musical influences (all time)?
Rachel May- "First and foremost I’d have to say the late, great, Ronnie James Dio. In my opinion, he’s the greatest heavy metal singer of all time. Hands down. For riffage, I’d go with Black Sabbath. When I was first learning to play the guitar (which came after being just a singer) I would play along to Sabbath riffs – there was something about them that I was able to connect with and pick up quickly. I listened to a lot of Black Sabbath during that period. My third one I’d have to call it a tie between L7, Hole and the Lunachicks. I listened to all three religiously around the time I first formed Broadzilla."

HID- What is the scariest part about getting on stage in front of people?
Rachel May- "Hoping I don’t fall down. I used to wear a lot of platform boots in the early Broadzilla days and I’d always worry about being able to rock out without falling down. I never wanted to get up there and just stand there so wearing the big boots was always a risk I was willing to take for the sake of putting on a cool rock show. (side note: I did fall in those boots once playing the Bottle Rocket in Toledo and it was embarrassing as all hell) These days, I get a little nervous when I know certain people are in the crowd, especially ripping guitar players because I’m always hoping my chops stack up."

HID- How do you prepare to get up on stage and perform?
Rachel May- "I don’t have a lot of rituals or warm up routines in my deck of cards, but the one thing that I’m certain I always do is that I end up pulling myself away from the crowd about 30 mins before show time. I find it to be distracting to my mental game when I’m out talking to people. So you’ll always see me dart backstage or to some reclusive space to prep myself mentally."

HID- What are your top three musical accomplishments?
Rachel May- "First would be keeping Broadzilla going for 18 years. That hasn't been an easy feat but it was/is a labor of love. There aren't a lot of bands that can endure that kind of longevity in this business and I’m proud that we've managed to keep it going. Second would be making it over to tour the UK. As an aspiring musician, that’s something you dream of and when it happens, it’s a pretty rewarding feeling. I remember the first time we landed in London and we were standing at the bus stop waiting to catch a bus into town. I took a deep breath of that London air and I looked at the girls and I said, “We did it!” Third would be getting some of the national publicity that we were able to snag. I remember doing the interview for Guitar Magazine and I couldn't sleep that night. We played that night at the Underground in Camden Town London, (the chicks from Girlschool showed up to see us, too – which was pretty cool), I did the interview before we played and all night I couldn't stop thinking that it was highly likely that we’d end up in the mag. I laid in bed at the Columbia Hotel in central London that night, my adrenaline was going so hard, I could not get to sleep thinking about that."

HID- What did it feel like to win a Detroit Music Award?
Rachel May- "You know, the awards take a lot of flak from us musicians. We criticize the voting procedure, the band selection, etc. but at the end of the day, getting acknowledged by your peers is pretty rewarding. And making the phone call to the parents about the win makes you feel pretty special, too."

HID- Where do you keep your 6 music awards?
Rachel May- "It’s 9 if we’re keeping track. ;) I used to have them on display in the rehearsal space, but I've recently moved them to a more prominent location in the house: on top of the cabinet that stores my extensive vinyl collection."

HID- How many years did you spend in a van traveling and touring?
Rachel May- "Many. I’d have to say of our 18 years as a band, probably 12 or more were spent touring in a van and later an RV and then back to a van. I've slept on floors, couches, picnic tables and tents. I’ve showered in strange houses and camp sites and I've survived on gas station food."

HID- How many of the 50 states have you been to?
Rachel May- "You’re really going to make me work at this, aren't you? Lol. I've personally been to more states than we've played, but a good guess would be about 20. We did a lot of repeats throughout the Midwest. Those were always the most profitable and made the most sense for us. There were a few times we toured the southern route, a few times we did the west coast run and a few times we bounced all over depending on the various routing we were given."

HID- What's the worst thing that ever happened to you on tour?
Rachel May- "Well, like most touring bands, traveling mishaps are the worst. We’ve had blown tires, broken trailers, bad alternators and we once blew an engine on a Midwest tour. We were near Dayton, Ohio and the van died. Thankfully we had a buddy that came to our rescue. We had our van towed to his house near Dayton and then rented a U-Haul to finish the tour. We ended up junking the van and the only U-Haul we could find on such short notice, only had two seats up front. So we pulled the captain’s chairs out of the van and we put the gear and the two chairs (and two people) in the back of the U-Haul and closed the door. It was the middle of winter, there was no heat or light back there. The funny thing was watching the faces of the people at the rest stops when we’d hop out and open up that big sliding door in the back and out came two band members. There’s also been several incidents of indecent exposure that we’ve seen while driving. One guy had it out while driving his car in the middle of a traffic jam in downtown Chicago."

HID- Broadzilla was started in 1996, did you think that you would be doing this 20 years later?
Rachel May- "At the beginning, I don’t know if I thought much more beyond the basement but as things started to grow and take off for us, I figured we’d do it as long as we were still having fun and as long as the opportunities kept rolling in. We’ve slowed the roll a lot in the last few years, we don’t tour very much, just the occasional weekend warrior stint, but we’ve managed to keep the band going at a pace that’s comfortable for all of us. We’re still writing new music and a new album is LOOOOOONG overdue, but everything happens for a reason and when the time is right, I’m sure we’ll put that out."

HID- How has Broadzilla been able to maintain itself and keep going as a band while so many other groups play for a year or two and drop of the face of the earth? What do you think is the key to staying together and continuing to play?
Rachel May- "Communication and Growth. We’ve had a few incidents along the way, but nothing that a good heart-to-heart couldn’t solve. As long as everyone knows their role/responsibility to the band, we’re good. Growth is also important. You can never stop learning and working to improve your craft. The industry keeps changing and you have to absorb as much of that as you can and change/adapt with it."

HID- Tell us about your new radio program on Tap Detroit. What is it about and when can we hear it?
Rachel May- "I’m pretty stoked about that. I made my debut as co-host of Hard Edge Radio last week (Feb. 20). The show is centered around hard rock and metal and features a mix of local and national stuff. Each week we’ll talk about bands in the news, we’ll interview a national band, and we’ll have a local band drop by the studio. It’s a great way for us to promote what’s happening locally, cool shows, new music, etc. I see it as an extension of what I do at the Free Press with local music. It’s another outlet to push the local scene forward. We’re on every Thursday from 8-10 p.m. on tapdetroit.com. Having grown up with a dad in the music business, I've been a part of the local scene for many, many years. It’s always been a passion of mine to cultivate that – to help promote the music that’s being made here. Detroit is a unique city. It’s a city with a blue collar work ethic and it’s oozing with talent. Now I’ll have two outlets to help put local music at the center of it all."


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