Interview with Jill Janus (Huntress) on 11 jan 2014 at AB, Brussels. Napalm Records.
AB has a capacity of 2000 people: how do you feel playing in smaller venues, now that you are getting used to playing in front of bigger audiences at bigger festivals? Is tonight 'the less important job' or will you still be doing your utmost?
If it's 2000 people or if it's 15 people, we still bring the same heat. You know, we love playing small venues. For us, 2000 is still a large capacity because we're such a new band. We've had a lot of great opportunities playing festivals with thousands of people, but being on tour with Lamb of God, it's pretty remarkable: they sell out all of these venues. So it's guaranteed, it's going to be a great night and it's going to be a real fun night. The crowd is always really enthousiastic.
Huntress will be playing at Graspop Metal Meeting in Dessel too this summer. Are you looking forward to playing there with bands like Black Sabbath, Volbeat, Soundgarden, ...? Oh! To be placed on a bill with bands of that calibre, bands that have heavily influenced Huntress, in particular Black Sabbath ...! Our lead guitarist Blake Meahl has a chest tattoo of Black Sabbath, 'the demon', so yeah, we're really excited about playing with Black Sabbath, and like I said, it's such an honour to be in the same building with these bands, for a band that's only been together for 3 years, it's quite remarkable for us.
Doyoustilldiscovernewbandsfromtimetotime,thatknockyouoffyourfeet,playingatfestivals? Always! That's part of the fun of doing festivals, it' meeting so many new people and discovering bands you've never heard of before, especially being an American band coming over to Europe, and even the UK. You get to really get a different perspective. And also the way the crowd reacts! Everyone's different everywhere you go, and so you learn as you go. That's a big part of Huntress, it's vital to our existence, that we always remember to learn and to know that the hard work will never end. So at festivals it's a whole new perspective.
What was your latest discovery, of such a band that knocked you off your feet? Lamb of God! We've been fans of Lamb of God for many many years, but I had never seen them live. It was a dream for us to play with Lamb of God. Until we were watching them night after night did I really get to fully feel the power that they bring. They're one of the best live bands I have ever seen in my life. And I did not know that, but I've been a fan of Lamb of God for ten years or more. And they were one of the bands that were on my visualisation list to play with. So Lamb of God is absolutely, I think one of the best metal bands in the world, and it's been amazing to watch them night after night from backstage.
Let's talk about the albums ...You said you wanted to to 3 albums with Huntress in 3 years, representing The Maiden, The Mother and The Crone. Are those 3 stages you feel the band actually goes through, or are those three ladies just part of your fantasy? It's a little bit of both. Predominantly, when I say that, I mean the faces of the band. This is how I feel the band is growing. Being Pagan, the maiden, the mother and the crone are the three faces of the goddess, and for me it's a spiritual journey. So, the first album, Spell Eater, was in the maiden phase. It was our very first album. You can hear a youthful, ferocious attack on that record. Coming into Starbound Beast, it's the mother phase. We're a little bit more thoughtful. You can hear that the musicianship is raised, that we're better performers and that we're better musicians. And the songwriting is also better. And then now we're going into the crone phase and that's the one I think I'm probably the most exited about, because the crone is old and horny and evil and brutal, so I'm going to have a lot of fun working on this next record.
What would be the consequences of the crone taking over, on the music? That is yet to be determined. We're writing it now, and a big part of that comes from the compositions which the boys typically bring me. I work very close to Blake Meahl, our lead guitarist, and what we do is: we go back and forth with imagery and I give them lyrics and content, and the overal image of what I foresee for this record. And that also translates into the artwork with our artist Vance Kelly. I receive messages, I fall into trances ... it's a very interesting process that I go through and it's already occurring. For me it's definitely a bit spooky, and the boys just go along with it. So luckily, so far so good.
With one year between the releases of the albums, it means you have to perform tracks of the 'mother' album to promote it on tour, and at the same time write songs for the 'crone' album. Can you easily switch between these personalities? At this point it's very organic. There's no break between my performing and Jill Janus off stage. Everything is very organic and natural, so it's a very natural progression, even in the songwriting. So if there is various aspects, you're not going to see it as thematic. It's not going to be kitchy or forced. Everything you see is very natural, it's the very natural progression of Huntress. What you're getting is completely authentic.
On'StarboundBeast',Lemmywroteaveryromanticsongforyou: 'Iwanttofuckyouto Death'.Canweexpectaguestsongwriteronthethirdalbumaswell? You never know. I didn't expect Lemmy to co-write a song for our album Starbound Beast. He's a friend, I asked him if he would, and before I knew it, he had a song for me which is called 'I wanna fuck you to death', and it IS the most romantic thing a boy has ever done to me. To me, it's a lovesong. We just don't know, I'll just have to wait and see what the universe brings to me.
'Threethingtofearathomearefire,thievesandghosts'.Whyghosts? Is that the one thing you're afraid of? I'm not afraid of anything, but that line in particular was given to me by an old wizzard. He is also a receiver like myself, and I was going through the process of writing Starbound Beast, when he came to me with a piece of paper, and he handed me those lyrics 'three things to fear at home are fire, thieves and ghosts'. For some odd reason I knew I had to place that within the song. And he is a very strange old wizzard! Blake can attest, he's very odd (laughs!). That did directly come from, what I believe with all my being, is a true warlock.
You talk a lot about your spiritual side. Do you feel in some way related to The Priestess of Delphi, whom you wrote a song about, because of the way you receive information and tranform it into lyrics with hidden messages? Absolutely! I do feel very connected to the oracle of Delphi and her story is so fascinating! She would sit upon the throne and from beneath her, from the cracks in the rocks, would come these fumes that would cause her to hallucinate and have these visions. So to me, in a way, I can relate to that. It's a different process, I'm not hallucinating on fumes although I would love to, -bring it on!- . But yeah, this transcendential attachment to other realms, I absolutely can connect with.
I'm curious ...Since I believe that in the Cosmos everything is in balance, you probably have a very down to earth side to outbalance the spiritual part of you? What would be that down to earth side of Jill?
I'm a Virgo, an earth sign, so we'll start with that. I am very much a child of Earth. The way that I look at grounding myself is having four bandmates around me that keep me in line. When I first started touring with huntress, I nearly lost my mind. It's like my radio frequency was tuned way to high, and I had to learn to shed a lot of my feminine qualities, I had to really unsex myself and almost become masculine in various ways. The way I stay down to earth, combined with my behaviour and my self control, is realizing that none of the outside noise matters. I don't listen to reviews, whether they be positive or negative, because if I start believing my own hype, that's when the monster comes. So I'm very protective of things I read and see and place myself into. I live a very sheltered interesting existence with my band, I'm very self-aware, I'm aware of what's going on in the outside world, but I'm very particular about which energy I expose myself to. Most of all the Ego. I really have to keep myself unchecked, because like I said ... You know, if you have fans adoring you and night after night you meet somebody and they're crying and they're telling you things that, you know, would feed your ego ... I can't take that into consideration, just like I can't take into consideration any bad reviews Huntress would get, or any personal attacks on myself. I wouldn't say I wear blinders, because I'm again, very self-aware and aware of what's going on, but I stay very centered and very grounded and I have my band to thank for that, and my family.
You say you are here to live your purpose, not to change the world. What IS your purpose? Is it metal, or is metal just part of it?
My purpose is to be a vocalist, without a doubt, and particulary metal. I've been a singer since I could talk, since I was a child. My mother said I was singing before I could speak. So I always knew, my purpose was going to be the voice. I was born with a gift, I was born with a very big range and I can use multiple voices, and before that I was working in various mediums of the voice. But until I fully embraced metal, I never felt like I belonged on this planet. As soon as I stepped foot into metal, as soon as we were signed to Napalm Records, and as soon as we released our debut album, that is when I really felt at home. I felt at home in metal, and I've been welcomed. There's not been any adversary to me being part of the metal scene. We've been supported by many bands that have given us opportunities, like Lamb of God, like Dragon Force who took us on tour in 2012, Lamb of God in North-America and now here in the UK and Europe. We have many people that have been doing this for a long time, that see something within Huntress, that they want to help. That's even the case with Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead and so many others that have been supportive. That to me, shows me that I do belong here and that I'm not going anywhere. And it's going to take me a long time to prove myself to many people, but the hard work never ends and I'm going to earn it.
Do you think you'll ever be singing opera again? I've done the opera prior to Huntress. That will never bleed into metal. I'm not a fan of any operettic metal or easy listening metal: I'm NOT a fan. And I don't ever want that to bleed into metal. But perhaps someday, I'll do an operettic recital for fun if I ever have time, but I don't have any other focus right now except for heavy metal and Huntress. Any classical training is now the foundation for my screams.
What's left: some 'one-versus-another' questions, because they're kind of trendy ^^:weed versus alcohol Weed!!!!! Blake (the tourmanager) agrees! The woods versus the big town Absolutely the woods. I would give up the city for the woods any day. Cats versus dogs Being a witch, a cat of course is familiar, however I would choose dogs over cats. Dog have this personality that I get really attached to. Cats are more aloof, and they're more -I would say- cunty. Cats are bitches. Dogs are cool.
I saw you with a small dog on your lap somewhere during an interview on the internet! Yes. I am a protector of animals, I support animal rescue, and I'm very involved in all aspects of protection of the animals, whether it's animal rescue, protecting wildlife or wildlife conservation. It doesn't mean that I'm anti-hunting, because there is a purpose for hunting as well, and I grew up in a farm family where my father would hunt and bring home food for us. But I feel that there is a very strong spiritual connection to animals and to all of nature, and this is something you should respect. And if you are going to take another animal's life, you respect that life and you give thanks for being able to receive that as food. I was raised that way. So I believe in protecting animals, and there is a very humane way of treating them. For me, I love animals more than humans. If I could, I would move into the woods, and live with animals. An old witch that eats mushrooms and hangs out with fairies all day. This to me is a dream come true. I'll be the old crone living in the woods.
Thank you Jill, for this interview. We'll be looking forward to the third album and for now we're just going to enjoy the show later tonight. See you there :-)