Welcome to the weird world of bands with an animal for a lead singer.
Caninus believe true metal singers walk on four legs and take a shit on your lawn without asking. The New York grindcore band has recorded three albums with dog singers because a pit bull's bark is more brutal than anything a puny human could muster. They're not the only ones who recognize the power of animal vocals either. There's death metal band Hatebeak, who are fronted by an African Grey Parrot named Waldo, as well as YouTube videos of metal monkeys, roosters, and cats.
Female duo Basil and Budgie acted as the frontmen (or frontdogs) of Caninus until the tragic passing of Basil due to a brain tumor in 2011, and the band is recording a new album in her honor. But the dogs aren't just barking for tummy rubs, their music has a message. The group are avid animal rights activists and promote veganism, adopt homeless pets, and protest pitbull misconceptions. Their song titles include "Bite The Hand That Breeds You," "Locking Jaws," and "Fuck The American Kennel Club."
The sweet deathbarks of Caninus will either send a shiver up your spine or tempt you into humping your neighbor's leg, and both of those are good things. I spoke to guitarist Belle Molotova about rumors that Susan Sarandon is a fan, their split EP with Hatebeak, Richard Christy of The Howard Stern Show joining the band, and if the dogs have ever performed live.
Noisey: How did the idea come about to use dogs as your vocalists?
Belle Molotov: We were all fans of grindcore and death metal bands, and we noticed one day that our dogs could growl with the best of them. We learned how to safely get them to growl and bark along to the music, and Caninus was born. We got a lot of backlash that we were actually recording the dogs fighting but that's bullshit. Hasn't anyone seen the Husky that can say "I love you?"
Do you find their voices more powerful than humans?
Hell yeah. They were born to do it, the intensity is there, and the dogs have an important message to get across. They can be just as uncooperative as human singers as well and can be total divas.
How did you get them pumped up to perform?
We do lots of calisthenics—we practice "give me paw," "rollover," "take a bow," and give them lots of treats. Then the rawhide comes out and the vocals just start flowing naturally.
Has the band ever played live?
There are rumors of live shows and we have been on a stage with the dogs during a live show. No one ever knows when we will play and it always has to be a surprise.
Do the dogs ever listen to the music? How do they respond?
The dogs always perk up when they hear the music and especially the vocals. It's better to see the reaction of other dogs listening to Caninus. It's like they get a look on their face like "I know what they're saying" and they get all riled up. There are some videos on YouTube of dogs listening to Caninus. Look them up.
Tell us about the concepts behind your songs.
Most of the songs concern issues that pitbulls face today. They are the most misunderstood and abused breed out there. The lyrics give the dogs' perspective on all that they face as pit bulls and as dogs. The dogs sit down and try to explain to us what they want us to say and we try our best to put it on paper.
You guys are vegans too, right?
Budgie and Basil were never vegans. They usually enjoyed a diet of Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance dog food or raw meat, fruits, and vegetables.
How was working with the parrot singer Waldo from Hatebeak?
The singer was a bit of a diva. He's really loud and likes to repeat things over and over again. But overall we got along and we think it was a great split.
What do you think of their vocalist?
His squawk is no match for our growl.
Why did you decide to end the band after Basil died in 2011?
Technically the band is still around. We've been working on a tribute album to Basil as Budgie is still alive and doing great even at 14 years old. She misses her sister and wants a fitting memorial to her. We have a couple songs written but it's been slow going lately due to Budgie's arthritis.
Your website says you've received approval from celebrities like Susan Sarandon?
She loves us—so does Bernadette Peters.
How did you meet drummer Richard Christy, from The Howard Stern Show?
He was a big fan so we asked Budgie and Basil if he could join the band and they said it was cool. Unfortunately Basil never had a chance to meet him in person, but Budgie hopes to meet him one day.
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