Last week, I was thrilled to meet Bif Naked, the Juno Award-winning rocker, writer and breast cancer survivor.
The Vancouverite was in town for a Stampede gig at Loungeburger. Seeing as she’s going to be our guest speaker at the Wings of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation fundraiser on October 19 at the Hyatt, which I’ve written about before here, we met up at Hotel Arts for a chat.
Bif is wonderful — so well-spoken, funny and friendly. I felt like I’d known her for years. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve loved her songs for years, particularly I Love Myself Today, which I often crank to full blast when I’m working out.
We talked about everything from the price of organic veggies at Calgary stores and where she could get her nails done (I suggested Urban Venus) to dating and relationships, as she separated from her husband earlier this year.
I also asked her the following five questions. Read on for her answers, which I’ve condensed slightly:
You often speak about your experience battling breast cancer. What drives you to speak out?
I enjoy it so much. It’s really what I’d rather be doing than performing — working with like-minded people in advocacy work.
Like most survivors, certainly any of whom are gregarious or motivated or social, it’s a natural progression to evolve into advocacy work, especially for someone like me who’s had the opportunity to be in front of people. I’ve been empowered by my experience with breast cancer, and meeting with patients and their families is something I love to do. If I could live in the waiting room, I would.
I read that you’re recording your first acoustic album and producing for the first time, too. What can you tell us about it? And when will it be out?
This is for Doug and I — my guitar player for 10 years. It’s a chance to re-imagine our songs, and there are four new songs on the record. To record the songs acoustically is like revisiting them, because that’s how they were written.
In the meantime, we also made a house record. With my failing marriage, I was so lonely and confused that we started playing joke songs in the studio. It was so much fun and so funny. All of my songs are typically about heartache and longing, so this was a real challenge. It was such a complete opposite of all the Bif Naked records. Our record album people were thrilled about it, so that’s coming out next year, and it’s called The Jakarta Project. It’s very dirty and funny.
So, I’m not sure about timing. My hope is that the acoustic album comes out first.
How do you stay in amazing shape?
Well, unbeknownst to me, I was anorexic for about a decade. We’d to go Europe and they’d give the band beer and dumplings, which I didn’t eat. I’d end up eating popcorn on the bus and wound up eating just that for five years. We got back and my digestive system was so messed up that all I could eat was bananas and dates for two years. Eventually, I discovered a lot of like-minded people who were doing it deliberately — raw foodists. I learned a lot and adjusted my nutrition.
Then, during chemotherapy, all I wanted was yam rolls. And I didn’t want six of them, I wanted 36 of them. I put on 30 pounds in three weeks, between chemo one and two. Most of it was because I was just eating and the body was adjusting. I’ve never really lost that weight. But, when I look back, I looked sickly before.
Now, I eat whatever I want but I’m really into cucumbers, zucchini and apples. I’m more flexible, and I eat a lot.
Also, I haven’t drank since I was about 22. I wasn’t good at it. I get loud, I laugh too much and I end up waking up married and in Italy.
I’m into yoga and weight training, which just maintains my fitness level and is important for bone density. I used to do 30 minutes of cardio every day, without fail, plus concerts and yoga and strength training. Now, I wake up and see how I feel every day.
When we head to Vancouver, what are the must-dos/sees/eats?
OrganicLives is a raw food restaurant by a Calgary man, Preet Marwaha. It’s the most innovative, lovely and healing raw food in the universe.
The Naam is my favourite restaurant in the country. I go in there and they know my order. It was all I could eat when I wasn’t feeling it with chemo. It’s the best vegetarian restaurant in the country.
And YYoga, which has about four locations, is where I take my classes.
Last but not least, do you wear toques?
I love toques. I love saying “toques.” I just sent two Vancouver Canucks toques to my best friend in Rhode Island. She loves them, too.
As a snowboarder, I have a collection of toques. Actually, as soon as I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I got a toque that says, “Fuck Cancer.”
She’s fantastic, non?
If you’d like tickets to the lunch she’ll be headlining in October, head to the Wings of Hope site. (Tickets are almost sold out!)
Thanks for the great meeting, Bif. Can’t wait to catch up in October and to hear your talk!