Interview with Jill Janus of Huntress

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Interview by Jason Guest

Hi Jill. Thanks for taking time out for this interview. First off, can you tell us what, when putting Huntress together, were you looking for in terms of musicians and musicianship?

What I wanted most was a band that is authentic. No gimmicks, no scene jumpers or trends. I wanted the real deal, true to the roots of heavy metal. It took years to find my boys, but we all want to raise our level of musicianship, always challenging ourselves to be better. And we all despise the glorification of mediocrity.

When did the writing for Spell Eater begin? Was it before or after the band was put together?

None of the demos I wrote prior to forming Huntress made it on the record. All songs were written within the band, we all contribute to the music, I’m the only one who writes lyrics and vocal melodies. The boys just step back and let me get weird.

What’s the writing process for the band? Do you write individually, as a unit, or jam tracks out in the studio?

I have visions. I tell the boys about themes or titles and they work alone, then bring compositions to rehearsal. We all work through ideas together and never fight. If something is bothering us, we just smoke a bowl and everything’s cool again.

Is there a theme or concept that underpins the album? Can you tell us about it?

It’s not a concept album, but the theme stitches spells, reincarnation, murder, revenge and witchcraft together. Each song has a string tied to my wet red heart.

The Eight of Swords is a reference to the Tarot. What role does the occult play in Huntress, both musically and as a band?

I have always been devoted to witchcraft, my family is eccentric and has encouraged my Pagan ways since childhood. It makes sense my debut album would be a little tribute to spells. The imagery is dark and beautiful. Witchcraft guides all aspects of my life.

You’ve said that with Spell Eater you want to transport the listener to another realm, we create our own reality and want you to experience that. Can you elaborate on that?

I have always created my own reality, I visualized Huntress and it’s now my only purpose. These are the ways of the witch. Those who seek the secrets will understand. I want to see your eyes and touch your hands. I exist and I finally belong on this planet.

Melody appears to be central to Spell Eater and Huntress sound. How important is melody to realizing this transportation?

Melody unlocks the gates. The sirens sing upon sharp rocks, they lure you to an ecstasy filled death. Listen to “Sleep and Death” in a dark room. The lyrics? More will be revealed.

Can you tell us about the artwork, the symbolism, and how it relates to the music?

You see the ultimate cover babe, the old forest crone. She is the true Huntress. It captures the beauty and brutality of Huntress, my love of witchcraft, numerology and alchemy.

Who’s the artist? How did you choose to work with them? And how much direction did you give them?

Vance Kelly is the artist for Spell Eater, he’s our art warlock! We met him through our label, Napalm Records. He was so patient with my odd requests and really captured the beauty and brutality of Huntress.

Why do you think metal in particular has such strong ties to the occult?

I believe it runs deep into music theory and the chords commonly used in heavy metal. The tritone, nicknamed the Diabolus in Musica, was regarded as an unstable interval and rejected as a consonance by most theorists. Even prohibited centuries ago. Black Sabbath called upon the flatted-fifth interval, also known as the Devil’s Fifth. I say they are responsible for the occult ties and the very first heavy metal band.

There are many argue that everything in metal has been done before and that most if not all bands today are a regurgitation of the characteristics of the genre and there is little room for originality. How is Huntress different?

We aren’t here to change the world, we simply want to stay true to the roots of heavy metal. We’ll always challenge ourselves, I constantly reach farther with the Voice, to be unique and vicious. I do what I do. We’re different because we have integrity and refuse to compromise our vision.

You’ve been compared to Judas Priest and King Diamond. Are there any bands that have been a significant influence on Huntress’s sound?

We all have independent influences, but we don’t attempt to emulate artists. It must feel natural, always. We dig black metal and death metal and thrash. You’ll hear some NWOBHM in there. It must be true.

How did your relationship with Napalm Records arise? Why did you choose to work with them? Were there any other labels that showed any interest?

We released “Eight of Swords” as an unsigned band. That video caused a frenzy. We had several labels pushing to sign us, but Napalm won us over because they understood our vision. They’ve been wonderful.

The press (online and print) are making big deal of Huntress being female-fronted. Do you think that being the focal point of the band will overshadow the band’s music?

I like the challenge of winning people over. We’re so new to the metal world, there will be many preconceptions. In time, more will be revealed. The choices I make now may shift and change when it feels natural to me. I use sorcery to draw you closer to the flame, then burn you alive. I have the Voice. I don’t fear shadows.

The best vocalist, best guitarist, best bassist, best drummer, best band, best live band, etc. lists are usually full of men. The main feature where women feature is usually the hottest/sexiest female in metal list. Do you think that women in metal are still heavily outnumbered by males has anything to do with gender binaries, industry sexism, or the male gaze (“Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.” ― John Berger)?

I don’t think of these things. I prefer to be sexless, vocally. I work very hard on my approach, my entire life is ruled by the Voice. Social issues like this have no place on my path. The only thing that matters is my purpose. People will always want to label and categorize. I really don’t care, I wail.

Because of how women are viewed and represented in metal, do you think that in having a female singer who embraces nature and nudity as part of her religion puts your music risk being overlooked?

Again, I don’t care. I truly believe I was born to sing heavy metal. There is nothing that can stop me. I will claim my crown.

How does Huntress seek to challenge these stigmas and stereotypes? And how do you think audiences will respond to the challenges you make?

I’d like to destroy the stigma female musicians have imposed upon modern music, all I can do is exist, nothing more. Example: easy listening metal can fuck off. There are few women I respect. Dreaming Dead is a killer metal band fronted by Elizabeth Schall. She shreds lead guitar and wails like Chuck Schuldiner. She’s a pal and I truly admire her talent.

Will you be touring the UK in support of the album?

We’re aiming for a UK tour this Fall!

What can fans expect from a Huntress show?

To leave in a trance.

As the album is yet to be released, it’s early days, but do you have any ideas or material in waiting for your next album?

I do indeed! But right now, we must focus only on Spell Eater.

Again, thanks for taking time out for this interview. Do you any closing words for our readers?

A little quote from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. This echoes through my head often. “Come, you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me from the crown to the toe topful of direst cruelty!”

www.huntresskills.com

Photographs courtesy of Ben Gibbs

Thanks to Andy Turner of Napalm Records for organising this interview.

Click here to read Jason’s review of Spell Eater