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Life Gets Better- Carla Harvey Coates Talks About Her Book

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Following a dream of becoming a musician has become a long fascination for many people. It has become a classic story of one moving to Hollywood to pursue their passion of becoming a rockstar, and often not ending well.

Long before she became a Butcher Babies member, co-frontwoman Carla Harvey loved to read and books were another passion of hers. She put that into her book, Death & Other Dances, sharing stories of her pre-band life and the obstacles she endured and led her into her current life.

It is but at the same time it was something I wanted to do. I’m a big fan of literature. I was a chubby, buck toothed kid who spent a lot of my time by myself, reading books and listening to heavy metal. It was just natural that I’d want to write my own book one day. I just had to find what I wanted to write about,” she said.

I’m a big fan of authors like [Charles] Bukowski and Henry Rollins that takes elements from their own lives and write stories like that. Especially Bukowski, who uses an alias in his books – he doesn’t use his real name. That’s what I wanted to do with mine.”

I didn’t want to write a memoire because I don’t like the word, and it comes across wrong…people expect you to write a book about your experiences as a musician, and it’s not that at all,” she added.


Some of these stories inspired the songwriting on
Goliath (Century Media), Harvey’s band the Butcher Babies’ debut album. While she did not go into detail over which songs were inspired by what event, her book instead paints a vivid image of her life in detail.

Of course, all of our songs, especially on Goliath,” she said. “It’s our debut album so all of our thoughts and feelings that we’ve had collectively between me and Heidi [Shepherd] over the years went into that. Even parts of my book were written down in my journal before I completely wrote the book had been featured in songs. Heidi and I both have kept a notebook full of stuff that we’ve written our whole lives and we pull from those when we write our songs. A lot of the emotions that I felt writing this book are also used in the songs we write.”

She made it clear that this book is not about her time in the band and instead leans more towards her time prior to then.

I didn’t want to put in any Butcher Babies stuff. I wanted it to be about stuff I had done before. I didn’t want it to be a memoire about a girl in a band,” she said.

Instead Death & Other Dances covers her pre-band life including her time as a stripper, and later going to Mortuary College and becoming a mortician and hospice volunteer. She used this as a starting point as her inspiration towards writing her book. “Basically I started writing after I was a hospice volunteer and I saw a correlation between my patients in hospice and my clients at a strip club when I was a stripper. That correlation was simply in both careers I was dealing with people who were very alienated and sometimes holding someone’s hand, giving them a hug and allowing them to talk about themselves or what’s going on in their lives, makes a huge difference in their attitude in their lives.”

So I thought it was a pretty powerful thing, that correlation between the careers so I expanded on it and started writing this book. I initially was going to write about other people, but then I thought about it and realized that the things that I had been helping other people with my whole life, was the problems I had been dealing with and not attending to. So it became more about me than I thought it would. So it became a cathartic experience writing it down on paper.”

Despite the things she wrote about in her book, music was always something she did throughout that time. Harvey originally moved to Los Angeles to pursue music but got sidetracked with obstacles that she shared in her book.

No I played music for the first couple of years I was in LA,” she said, explaining the timeline of when music was and was not happening in her life. “I played in bands all through high school and when I first moved to LA. Then I got involved in drugs so I didn’t put the effort into a band. Then I was working with Playboy for a couple of years. So I didn’t have time. After I left Playboy, I went to mortuary school and I didn’t have any time then. Then it became the right time again. I saw an ad for a cover band and I joined it and the rest is history.”

I always wrote stuff on my own. I play a little guitar and a little bass. I thought that part of my life was over. I’m glad I didn’t give up on it because it was literally just beginning,” she added.

Even though the stories in her book happened prior to the band’s formation, Harvey’s bandmates had previously heard many of these stories before. “I’ve known Heidi [Shepherd, Butcher Babies co-vocalist] for eight years now we started working together. She knows all of my deepest and darkest secrets. I’ve known Henry [Flury, guitarist] for ten years. These are my good friends. They know what I’ve been through and I know what they’ve been through. We all encourage each other all the time.”

Writing the book was not the hardest part for her, but reliving what she went through and organizing her thoughts was the challenging part: “It really wasn’t hard, as far as people reading it. I think the hardest part was actually digging in myself and allowing myself to write down on paper that I had been afraid to acknowledge. But that was for myself and not for people to read. But I got it all out. There were times when I looked it over again and I thought to myself ‘oh my gosh…I wouldn’t want people to read this.’ Then the end of the day I decided that I would leave it alone and not touch it any more. It would take away from it because people can see honesty, and when you’re honest they enjoy it more, even if people don’t agree with everything that you’ve done or everything that you say. They appreciate honesty.”

I guess looking back it was more like I had forgotten about some things I had been through. Wow why did I do that? That was fucking stupid. Why did I let myself get manipulated by that person? Why did I let that person into my life? I emphasized that I’m still here. I’m surprised that I’m alive sometimes. I’m really lucky that in this point in my life I’m able to live my dream after everything I’ve been through. So through all the things you go through in your life, it makes you who you are, makes you stronger, blah blah blah and all that. It may sound cheesy but it’s important for kids to know that. No matter what you’re going through, your life will get better, if you stay on the right path. I really hate it when I hear kids or young adults in their 20s say they want to kill themselves, thinking their lives are that fucking horrible they want to oust themselves. Life always gets better.”

 

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While her story sadly is a common story for many people who succumb to the pressures of so called failure of not making it or battling personal demons, Harvey avoided becoming a Hollywood cliché and found a positive way out to lead her into where she is today. She wanted to share her story and always finds time to help those in need of hearing their dilemmas in life.

You have to change your life at the right time. I did do a lot of drugs and I was very open about that because I want people to know that it may not ruin right now but maybe a year or three years from now, it will ruin your life if you keep doing that. There’s no benefit. I don’t care if you think you’re more creative or hotter or cooler when you’re doing drugs. For me, it was a way of self-medicating a lot of issues I had since I was a kid. Once I was able to come to terms with those things and write about it and how to heal myself…and going to mortuary school and embalming people like toddlers, grandmothers and 14 year old girls, I realized how short life is and wasting my time shoving drugs up my nose when I could be following my dreams and doing what I came to Hollywood to do, which is being a musician.”

To buy Death & Other Dances, go to:

www.carlaharvey.bigcartel.com

 

REI NISHIMOTO