January so far has been brilliant when it came to gigs at my local venues. Amon Amarth was the one that stood out to me as I wanted to see them live so desperately since their set at Download 13. When I found Huntress were playing also, I was just as thrilled, if not more. They played Ministers Bar in Stoke a while back, and I am glad to see their return. Here, I interviewing the extremely talented Jill Janus, anyone with a brain in the metal community will know she is the singer from Huntress as soon as that name is said. We spent a solid 12 minutes talking about wonderful things. Also, buy their albums, I can't leave Starbound Beast alone.
MRD: When you stepped in for Johan for Amon Amarth, how did that feel to you?
It was really about how we saved the show, I talked to the boys and yknow there's a real community within the metal world where you've got each others back, so intially “How do we save the show?”, “How do we do this?”, so I talked to the guys and they wanted to do an instrumental set, have some banter inbetween (the songs) and bring up a couple of fans to sing. And then I left the dressing room and I thought to myself “well, you know I could get murdered tonight by a bunch of angry Amon Amarth fans!” So fuck it, showbiz!
So how did the fans react, it must have been positive?
Yeah, I mean when I first went out they opened with 2 songs and I think they were a bit confused and they didn't see Johan. And after that I came out and said “Hey guys, sorry. Sweden's at war, so they called their best warrior in” and they were like “Nooooooo!” but I was like “It's alright, the show is going to go on!” At first they were a little aprehensive, but as soon as they got rolling again they really embraced it and then I got to sing Guardians of Asgard and they lost their shit, it was great.
Are you planning anymore material with Huntress?
Of course, I mean were recording the record right now, we have taken a tiny break from recording and heading back, so we are using this (the tour) as a test board for all of our songs. We have had 45 minute sets and we are doing 4 new songs during that set, and they have been really well received and the fact that the new songs have had a bigger reaction than the old ones.
Yes! It's positive.
What's so different from the new songs compared to the old songs?
Well, it's the natural progression of Huntress. The new songs are a little bit more organic, and they're a little bit catchier.
Do you like catchy songs?
Oh yeah, I love catchy! The project I envision is that I want to reach out to fans, I want to reach out to a lot more metal fans. I have a side project...
What is the side project?
I don't really wanna talk about it yet, but lets just say it's a bit more black metal.
Is it Scandinavian influenced?
I never even talk about it, it's so new, I just do it in between writing for Huntress. Huntress is pretty much a none stop job, there's touring and writing and recording for Huntress, but I'm just starting to tap in this new thing I want to do. Huntress is the main goal, as Huntress gets larger I feel like I still want to hold onto the roots of underground.
Do you prefer smaller gigs to larger gigs?
Yknow, it varies. We have very little stage room here so the stage is very intimate, but I prefer a little bit more stage room. What's brilliant is that Amon Amarth are bringing amazing shows to smaller audiences, and some people don't get that opportunity to see them, so I like smaller venues because you do get to interact with the fans and be closer to them. Larger festivals varies, but I am just really happy to be on this journey and have all these awesome opportunities coming to us.
When was the first time you got noticed in the UK?
We started getting press right before our first album came out, fortunately people were interesting in us and we got press in 2012, even in 2011 when we dropped out first album so people have always been interested and curious and we did our first national tour with Lamb of God last year at this time. That was amazing, yeah.
Were they one of the best bands you have been with?
Yknow, Lamb of God were really supportive with us and that was pivotal being another step up and ascending into metal, so Lamb of God are just monsters. I think our best bill have been Amon Amarth. I think the fans and everyone that's surrounding us has just been supportive, I'm not saying the other bands haven't been supportive of us, I just feel like we're very good. It's really great, we've been doing really well with Amon Amarth and I have felt really comfortable on this tour, as we know we are figuring shit out more. We've been on tour more, and were growing up and it's cool.
How long did it take for you to organise Huntress at the start?
I've been trying to put together this band since I was in high school, my Pagan beliefs the name Huntress comes from the Goddess of the hunt so I grew up around nature and I have always wanted to do something like this and 2006 is when I trademarked the name and then I started searching for musicians so it took me really about a decade to get this together and get it all set and done. By 2009, with a 3 year span I was able to find a band called Professor and I kind of forced them to join forces with me.
So after a decade it shows how you are committed because it's a really long time.
It is because I was DJing at the time and I was making money that was going into my musical projects and it was all rock n roll based and it progressed into metal. This is what I was born to do, there was never any other purpose for me but to be a vocalist.
When did you find out that you can sing?
From the time I could fucking talk you haven't stopped. I've always had a voice, from a very early age I was able to stay on pitch and that was noticed. When I was 8 years old I started doing professional theatre, and when I was 13 I was in full blown opera lessons and I was developing a voice when I was a teen and my vocal coach said “You've got a 4 octave vocal range!” so then we expanded on that and then started doing soprano parts for opera and that just turned into winning a scholarship to school in Manhattan and then I met some gay boys and started doing Night Life, DJing and working the whole cabaret and the whole burlesque movement in new York and Manhattan and that kind of led me into a strange realm of night life and it gave me a chance to meet more people and gain more visibility for Huntress. It has been planned out, I've seen everything and it's all falling into place just as I imagined.
That's really interesting, I couldn't picture opera, even though you are operatic, it's just the fact you went through all that and created something brilliant like Huntress. It's great listening to the roots of a band, because sometimes you hear unexpected things.
Yknow opera and classical training was the foundation of my classical screams and I wouldn't be able to sustain what I do night after night, I wouldn't have a voice talking to you unless I had that training unless something is important like someone ever asks me “How do you do this?” with the variants of your vocal ability where you have a clean vocal approach and going into vibrato and your screams and you're back and down, it really begins with that training and I encourage people to do that, to get that classical training as it is the foundation of screams.
Would you ever teach people to sing like that, or manage bands like that?
When I was in high school I used to teach people lessons I started to do it at an early age teaching vocals that was classical and musical based, so I had done that to a very small scale. My vocal coach is Melissa Cross, and she has a DVD out which many people do and it's called “The Zen of Screaming” and so I started seeing her in person, so I am not in anyway or willing to arrange that, I mean Huntress is absolutely number 1 I have no time for anything else. You have to abandon other ambitions if you really want to achieve your goals so at this point no, not at all.
What is the next for Huntress after Amon Amarth and your next album?
We've already written and recording one album a year for the first 3 years of being a band and that was my vision. So, obviously we're going to be touring touring touring this year in support of the new album when it comes out in he summer, and then after that we go back to record the album. I don't want to push the boys into recording an album a year, it nearly broke the band up for fucks sake. I'm going to cool it with them, not much, maybe six months more haha!
You nearly broke up? Was there too much pressure?
Yknow, it's hard to make money when you're touring non stop we don't make money, all the money that we make goes back into the band so it's really hard for anyone to be touring non stop, writing and recording, and we have a month back at home. I moved everything into storage, I sold my car, I sold my apartment, I'm kind of a hobo at this point. The other guys aren't willing to do that as much as me and Blake, and his brother Tyler from Holy Grail is now playing drums for us, it's really difficult to commit to something where you're not making money and it can wear on you like “I can't do this anymore” and it's a lifetime commitment.
Do you feel exhausted after the month break?
It's very hard for me to sleep, I'm wired in a very different way. I am so slender to my metabolism is insane, burning constantly I always want to work constantly because I feel creative, I sleep about 5-6 hours a night maybe on a good night, I have a lot of energy, so I have got to remember to relax.