JARRA: Metal Comes First

JARRA has been slugging it out on the metal circuit for over ten years. The band were formed in New Jersey, but have since relocated to Arizona and have recently released their debut album “Test Of Faith” through Lion Music. But enough of my yackin’..... Let’s singer/guitarist Kathie Jarra fill us in on the rest of the story about the band that bares her name.

Let’s start from the beginning and tell us a little bit about the history of the band.
Kathie Jarra: “JARRA was actually formed by Johnny Russian and myself many years ago on the South Jersey club circuit in New Jersey. We played in a cover band together in high school, but were more interested in forming an original band. So, we began writing together with the intent of having a career in the recording industry. We performed on the East Coast for the last seven years. Mainly in the New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia area opening for a lot of national acts and fine tuning our songs and live show. We had a series of bass players and drummers come and go and then met our current drummer, Shane Diaz and secured a local bass player as well. Concentrating heavily on the song writing and the recording, we released an EP on our own that got us a lot of attention and label interest. However, after an indie deal fell apart, we decided to record and produce our own full length CD and release it on our own label. No labels in the U.S. were signing metal bands anyway. We relocated, added a new bass player from Phoenix and released “Test Of Faith” on our own. It charted in the Top 15 ‘new metal releases’ on the import charts in the German metal magazine, Heavy Oder Was?!. Then the CD got picked up by Lion Music for worldwide distribution in October 2000.”

Please introduce the current members of the band.
KJ: “Kathie Jarra – lead vocals / guitar
Johnny Russian – lead guitar
Shane Diaz – drums
David Chaney – bass (with us now since March 2000).”

Why did you relocate from New Jersey to Arizona?
KJ: “Well, the East Coast was dead for metal as far as the music scene was concerned. There was nothing happening and really no places to play. I had a personal calling for many years to come to Arizona. After checking things out, I found Arizona had a fairly decent music scene and some type of metal scene, as well. Not to mention the awesome weather. It was discussed and agreed upon by everyone, except our old bass player. He was not willing to leave New Jersey. JARRA was not willing to be held back musically, so we moved on and relocated without a bass player. We knew we would pick up someone out here. We most definitely made the right decision.”

Tell us a little about the new album, “Test Of Faith”. KJ: “Well, not so new anymore to us, but newly released to the world. This was a turning point for the band. There were so many changes going on in everyone’s lives and in the band as well, that we just concentrated solely on writing this record with a passion for eight months. This was going to be our first full-length release and we were going to do it on our own, writing, recording and producing the CD ourselves. This was the CD that was going to take us to the next level hopefully. I think Johnny and I actually locked ourselves in a rehearsal room for this period of time and just wrote and wrote. The songs just came and, in retrospect, are very reflective of what was going on at that time. But this is only our first record and recorded so long ago. This is just the beginning of JARRA. There is much, much more to come. Not so sure it really represents JARRA today, as we are growing so quickly as a band on a daily basis. Almost like a new band.”

How would you describe the music on “Test Of Faith”?
KJ: “A combination of my Euro metal influences and Johnny’s blues and metal influences, with some Arizona flavor added in. We refer to ourselves many times as Melody and Chung. As much as we love it heavy, we always wanted to be aware of great melodies and the songwriting. We feel we have been able to successfully fuse both into our own metal sound.”

How did you hook up with the Finnish label Lion Music?
KJ: “The CD was doing well getting excellent reviews and we were shopping for distribution worldwide. I submitted the CD to Lion and within a week of receiving it, they offered us a deal to release the CD as is. So with releasing a finished master, we only had to repackage and manufacture. We got signed in October 2000 and the CD was being released by December, same year. It is going extremely well, I would say. They have been very good to us and we work together really well.”

Have you done much touring in support of “Test Of Faith”? How has the audience response been?
KJ: “Well, JARRA is very much a live band. Always has been. We have been playing consistently for our entire career. Because of being the road dogs that we are, we have performed non-stop on the West Coast for the last year. No one knew us when we came to Arizona, but we have a nice size following just here alone and it is building with every show. We had standing room only with a line outside the club for our CD release party here in Phoenix. The people have been really great in all States so far! Like Denver, but Colorado rocks hard also.”

What can fans expect when they come see the band live?
KJ: “A minimum of one hour of non-stop ‘in your face’ metal. Aggressive, guitar driven and loud, all about the music. Our live shows have us referred to in the press as “A wall of sound”. We are obviously performing material from “Test Of Faith”, but we are also doing new material that is being readied for our next release. They will have a great time!”
Are you happy with the way the press has reacted to “Test Of Faith”?
KJ: “Extremely happy! This is our first CD. As I mentioned, we did this on our own. Being put out there with the big boys, you have nowhere to hide. The reviews have been outstanding. We are being added to new radio playlists every months and charting. For an unknown band struggling for so long, it has been awesome to know that people recognize how hard we have worked and how sincere we are about our music. Our label has several of our reviews posted on our site, they have been that good.”

Any plans for a new album? If so, when can we expect it and can you tell us anything about it?
KJ: “Oh, Yeah. This is something that we have prepared for our entire career. Johnny and I always expressed that we needed to have another record ready to go when we got signed. So, when we released the “Test Of Faith” CD on our own last May, we decided that we knew we were going to get picked up for that CD and we wanted to have another CD ready to go right behind it. We began writing the CD and it is almost complete now. We have been in such a good writing roll, that we are just going to keep writing and then make the selections for the record after everything has been recorded. This CD is more straight forward metal. That is where we came from. All of the tunes are faster and more aggressive this time out. We hope to be in the studio no later than the first of the year, but it depends because we are waiting for tour support in Europe and could be on the road for sometime still with “Test Of Faith”. But, we are actively seeking a deal for this new CD now.”

Are there any bands that you would like to tour with?
KJ: “Right now, I would love to be out with DIO or HALFORD. But I love so many great metal bands... We could have a great time with all of them.”

Where does your inspiration come from when writing lyrics?
KJ: “You know, I never put any science to this. I sang from birth and was playing piano and guitar and writing songs at ten years old. It seems I just always was drawing on what was going on internally. For “Test Of Faith”, I was in a most definite spritual awakening and soul crisis. In thinking about this now, it is more that the lyrics sort of come to me, as opposed to me seeking them. I write the melodies first, then the melody seems to set the mood for whatever is going to come out. When it comes out, it is usually representative of something that is going on with me at that time. I indeed, go within.”

Is your debut EP “Two Evils” still available?
KJ: ”Yes, in cassette only. Through www.KarmaRecordsGroup.com.”

You also worked as the musical supervisor for the film the “Villikon Chronicles”. How did that come about?
KJ: “I got to Arizona a few months before the rest of the band was here and unable to sit still for too long, I looked for other work in the music industry. I’d done some singing and voice over work on a project back in Jersey that was going to be used for horror movie soundtracks in Germany and had so much fun doing it. I thought I would try to pursue it here or in Los Angeles to make some new contacts and get some work while waiting for the rehearsals to start with the band. Well, funny as the universe can be, I got the local music paper and there was an open call for actors and musicians to work on this independent movie being made here in Arizona. I missed the open call, as I got the paper too late, but I called the phone number and they asked me to come to a meeting that weekend and bring my music. To make a long story short, the creator, Bryan Kinnaird loved our music and thought it would fit the movie perfectly and wanted to use two of the songs for the film. That was cool, but later that night, he called me to offer me the job of music supervisor, when the film goes into production and handle all the music for the film. Of course, I accepted.”

What was that experience like?
KJ: “A blast! Going to the meetings and meeting the actors and costume people was just great! I got to listen to all of the bands, that submitted music and got a real feel for how to set the mood of the film.”

What is the status of the film? KJ: “Still in pre-production. But funny you should ask. I just got back from a meeting with Bryan and partner/illustrator, Roy Young. The movie is going to be a graphic novel. A comic book, if you will, and it is being released on July 6, 2001. We are kicking off the release of the novel with a book signing and in-store concert appearance at the Virgin Mega Store here in Arizona. We will be performing Live during the book signing on July 6. This is a big Virgin Mega Store media event.”

Will JARRA be contributing any songs to the soundtrack?
KJ: “Absolutely!”

Would you like to do any more film work in the future?
KJ: “Yes I would. I love music and anything to do with music. I love movies also and the way they go together so well. I wrote my first ‘score’ last year. I am working at getting a part in the movie as well but only as an extra. But, the truth is “THE METAL” is always first, the rest is a perk!”

What does the future hold for JARRA?
KJ: “Hopefully, a string of great metal CDs and the ability to fulfill the dream of touring the world as a career. I want to stay a working musician.”

Who are some of the band influences?
KJ: “BLACK SABBATH, JUDAS PRIEST, ACCEPT, THE SCORPIONS, UFO, to name a few.”

Who are some of your personal influences?
KJ: “DIO and HALFORD. Not only the voices, but also the passion in the voices, the execution of the song. Genius!”

I heard that you would like to work with Ronnie James Dio. Has this ever been discussed?
KJ: “Well, for me, I would love to do a metal duet with Ronnie. That was always something I could envision. I thought of how wicked it could really be if that could happen. I knew I had to get signed first, though, so I put it on hold for a few years. I went to his show to see him with the intention to actually meet and tell him this. And this was last year before we got signed. We met outside Alice Coopers Town (ALICE COOPER’s bar here in Phoenix) after his show and met with him. I told him who I was and what I did and told him that I would love to work with him on that level. We talked for quite awhile. He was most awesome. He took a copy of the CD and said there is always possibilities of working with other artists. He is still touring now. So, I am waiting patiently for our paths to cross at the correct time.”

What bands are you currently listening to?
KJ: “I just saw a band called NEVERMORE and they blew me away! They totally kicked ass!! Great songs. I am listening to them and new HALFORD’ Live CD.”

Is there anything else you would like to say?
KJ: “Yes, thank you for keeping the metal alive and it is an honor to be here. Look for a “Live From Arizona EP” soon from Lion Music and our new studio album next year.”

copyright: METAL MAIDENS
interview by: Tony Cannella, 2001.

This interview was published in Metal Maidens #25/October 2001.