They Put A Spell On you!

Hunting for some serious metal?? Don’t look any further and have a listen to “Spell Eater”, the debut album by California-based newcomers HUNTRESS. Jill Janus and her band mates provide you heavy metal like it was meant to be: hard, furious, vicious and ultra-loud. Their star is rising fast and they have already been confirmed for Sweden Rock 2013. Also, don’t forget to check out their great video for “Eight Of Swords”, which is the very first single taken from the album. Afterwards, you surely want to know everything about this band and we fill this need with the following interview we executed from front lady Jill Janus. Now don’t eat your last spell, before you’ve read it......

First of all, thank you very much for doing this interview. Let’s start to talk about your early roots. I read, that you started your career as an opera singer. How come and what made you decide to sing metal instead?
Jill: “My mother discovered that I had a unique voice as a child. There has never been another purpose for me. I’ve always known I’d be a singer. I’m a child of divorce, one of seven siblings and we didn’t have much money growing up. I think, she hoped I would save her somehow. Thrash was my first love at thirteen. I wanted to sing metal, ever since I heard SUICIDAL TENDENCIES. And now my classical training is the foundation for my screams.”

Did you have any singing lessons at all? I mean, you probably have to make sure that you ‘use’ your voice (four-octave range) the right way, which a teacher will be able to help you with.
Jill: “Absolutely. I’ve had a very disciplined life revolving around the voice. She rules me. My current vocal coach is Melissa Cross. Her lessons on “The Zen of Screaming” helped me to shed my classical inflections and maintain my screams night after night.”

When did HUNTRESS get in the picture and how did you team up with your current band members? And please introduce the band to us here…..
Jill: “I’d been searching for musicians on my level for years, almost a decade. I wouldn’t compromise on my vision. I met PROFESSOR, an underground metal band in Los Angeles in 2009 and played them a few demos I had written. They were down to shred with me as a trial, after that one practice. We joined forces and HUNTRESS was born. They bring the riffs, I wail.”

Are there any particular bands or artists, that we can see as the biggest influence for the sound of HUNTRESS?
Jill: “We love thrash, death and black metal. MERCYFUL FATE, DISSECTION, DEATH, JUDAS PRIEST, BLACK SABBATH.”

Why did you pick the name HUNTRESS for the band?
Jill: “HUNTRESS represents a deity I worship, Artemis – Goddess of the Hunt. I have worshipped her since childhood and feel a strong bond with nature, animals and Paganism. I’m a little witch, who loves heavy metal.”

Your first single, called “Back From The Dead To Kill” was released independently in 2007. How many copies were sold of it and what can you tell about these two songs? (I never managed to find it, but would love to hear it…).
Jill: “Back From The Dead To Kill” was never released. It was only a demo I used to audition potential band members.”

In 2010, you released another independent EP, called “Off With Her Head”, which has three songs: “Off With Her Head”, “Hollow Hills” and “Creeper”. What can you tell us about these songs? And where does the picture come from on the sleeve?
Jill: “This is baby HUNTRESS. The voice was shifting, but not monstrous yet. I think, it’s quite endearing. The cover art is a medieval wood carving we all dig.”

In 2011, you recorded your first music video for “Eight Of Swords” and got signed to Napalm Records in November. What can you tell us about this video and is there a particular meaning behind it, because the ‘Eight of Swords’ is also a Tarot card. And do you do any reading yourself?
Jill: “HUNTRESS was on the verge of a profound shift. I asked the Tarot to reveal one card, that would be an epic song. Eight of Swords chose us. It represents self-imprisonment with freedom attainable only if you choose to release yourself. From that moment, I murdered all other ambitions and only focused on HUNTRESS. The concept for the video came effortlessly. Everything magically fell into place. When the video was released, we had several labels fighting to sign HUNTRESS. Napalm won us over, because we share the same vision.”

The single “Eight Of Swords” was released as a limited orange vinyl edition of 300 copies (we have no. 188!!), which looks pretty cool. Are you into vinyl at all or was this just for fun and something the record company came up with?
Jill: “All of us are mega vinyl nerds, so when Napalm wanted to press limited edition colored vinyl, we were thrilled.”

What’s the response been like towards your first full length album “Spell Eater”, that you released in spring 2012?
Jill: “We are still somewhat shocked, that people really connect with our debut album. We’re five kids, who absolutely love heavy metal and staying true to the roots always. We possess a NWOBHM sound, keeping it modern always, but we are quite unique considering the industry standard and glorification of mediocrity. Charting was also surprising, HUNTRESS debuted quite well on the charts for a new metal act. I’m just happy I can sing all over the world. But now I actually need to remember all my lyrics, because fans are singing every song back to me!”

The artwork and layout of this album (which looks pretty cool!) was done by award-winning illustrator, printmaker and graphic designer Vance Kelly. How did you meet up with him?
Jill: “Vance Kelly is our art warlock and we will have a life-long partnership. He understands our vision instinctively. Our label Napalm made the introduction.”

Since you write the lyrics for HUNTRESS, do write from your own experiences or from what you see & hear around you or maybe both? Obviously, you are very much into the occult and witchcraft, so I guess there’s plenty to talk about…
Jill: “Many of my lyrics are beamed to me, literally into the top of my skull along a thin blue line. I get possessed. It’s never contrived. It’s always pure. Witchcraft guides my songwriting and all aspects of my life.”

What’s your favorite song on the album and why?
Jill: “All the songs on “Spell Eater” are my children. I can’t say, which I love more… I love them each for different reasons. They all have little heartbeats and a story. Right now, I’m favoring “Aradia”, which is a tribute to the Queen of the Witches. I get the most emotional when I perform this song.”

Let’s talk about your live shows for a moment. What can people expect, when they come to see a HUNTRESS show?
Jill: “One thing we hear consistently is, that HUNTRESS live on stage sounds exactly like we do on the album, except a little more vicious. It’s very important, that I can sing exactly like our recordings. When we were in the studio with our producer Chris Rakestraw, these demonic sounds would come out of my mouth and I wouldn’t know where they came from. I’d ask Chris to give me another shot at duplicating those sounds, because if I couldn’t, I wouldn’t want them on the record.”

You toured with DRAGONFORCE and HOLY GRAIL this spring and WRETCHED in July and played at the Paganfest America and Metal Open Airs with MEGADETH & KREATOR in Europe. I bet, that there were some very funny moments, while being on the road with those bands. Maybe you can share one or two crazy moments with our readers?
Jill: “We’ve been on the road nearly non-stop, since recording “Spell Eater”. But I take it very seriously. There are too many ways for me to become ill and lose the voice. So I’m not much fun on the road. I have my moments. I pull a lot of pranks on the boys, but I always vocal rest after each show, hiding out in our van or bus. It’s a strange existence. The boys have fun stories, I’m certain about that. They get to do all the drugs and drink. I only smoke weed. I’m the lone stoner witch.”

This fall you’ll be joining forces with DRAGONFORCE (again!) on their European tour. What do you do to prepare yourself for such a long trip (two months)?
Jill: “Therapy! No joke, I see a therapist to mentally prepare for warfare. It’s challenging being the only woman on tour. I try to focus on my wellness. I look at tour like an oncoming battle. I eat a lot. I don’t gain weight easily, my metabolism is insane, so it’s important I pack on weight to be a powerhouse. Lots of protein shakes. And then there are the costumes. This is rough, because I don’t have money to invest in wardrobe yet, but I have to change my look for every tour. I can’t afford a new outfit nightly, so I get creative and swap pieces my friend the Sewceress makes for me. Or I find clothing in odd places, like a pharmacy selling a weird 80’s era jumpsuit. So random.”

Jill, you are the (only) female member in the band. Do you feel, that you have to prove yourself twice as much in a very male dominated metal scene or isn’t this an issue as far as you are concerned?
Jill: “I don’t have to prove myself to anyone. I only live for myself, my purpose. Nothing else matters. However, I am my toughest critic, so I push myself to achieve greatness.”

Aren’t you afraid that people will see you as a sex symbol, instead of a rock goddess, because of the way you profile yourself in your videos?
Jill: “I draw you in with sorcery, I walk the old path. I have the voice to back it up. I fear nothing!”

We are a Dutch on-line ‘zine, focused on the female musicians in the (hard) rock and heavy metal scene. Do you think that female musicians still need the special attention and recognition?
Jill: “I always say respect is not given or taken, it is earned. The same applies here. Women don’t need any more special attention or recognition. Let them earn it. Like men do.”

We are based in The Netherlands, well-known for its colorful tulips and beautiful windmills. What comes to your mind, when you think of Holland or The Netherlands?
Jill: “Hookers and tulips!”

What are the future plans for HUNTRESS? And are you already writing songs for the new album?
Jill: “We have begun writing the second album with plans to record in early 2013, followed by non-stop touring.”

Do you have any hobbies or interests, besides playing in a heavy metal band? I heard you love pets and have a little Chihuahua, which travels with you on tour…
Jill: “I don’t have much time for hobbies, only during long drives in the tour van. I focus on my occult studies mostly and make crystal jewelry. And I do love animals! With all my heart. I have a Chihuahua named Party Time, who tours with us in the US. He’s my little man. And a bulldog named Attila, who stays at home with family. I grew up on a farm, so I was always surrounded by critters. I used to bring home various animals all the time. It’s so hard for me to not bring home every animal in need. It breaks my heart.”

Do you have any personal messages for our readers?
Jill: “Those searching for purpose in life, never ever give up. The vultures can wait.”

copyright: METAL MAIDENS
interview by: Rita van Poorten, Metal Maidens 'zine / September 2012.

Check out the first music video of HUNTRESS on You Tube:
video "Eight Of Swords"

Check out the new video of HUNTRESS on You Tube:
video "Spell Eater"

Visit HUNTRESS official website at:
or go to their Facebook page at: