Two hours before doors opened for the Huntress, Decapitated and Lamb Of God performances, MetalMouth’s Jo Moolenschot popped backstage at Brixton Academy London.
Topics covered include constant touring, the cosmos, lyrics written by Lemmy and what’s on the schedule for 2014!
MetalMouth: So, thanks very much once again for chatting to us!
Jill Janus: Thank you!
So for our readers who don’t really know about Huntress and who will be reading about you for the first time, tell us a little bit about the band.
Huntress is a heavy metal band. We stay true to the roots of heavy metal, while being a very modern, forward-thinking musical act. We have many influences that combine to create this ultimate sound of Huntress: we’re influenced by thrash, death and black metal. But one thing that stays constant is melody. And I use a variety of vocal approaches.
I use a melodic attack, I also have quite a witchy scream, and guttural tones as well. One of my biggest influences is King Diamond / Mercyful Fate, so I like the versatility that he has. You know, so someone like King Diamond or the great Rob Halford from Judas Priest, Freddie Mercury… so I’m very influenced by men who are melodic yet tough.
Yeah! Well, on the subject of your vocals, you’re a classically trained operatic vocalist and you have a metal vocal coach… Have you always wanted to be a singer in a band? Is it something you’ve just always known about yourself?
Absolutely! From the time I was a little gal I’ve known what my purpose is. Then when I was thirteen I heard Suicidal Tendencies Controlled By Hatred and when I first heard that song I was just bit with the bug and I knew I wanted to be a metal vocalist. My mother was really strict with my training at that time and looking back now I’m really glad.
She knew that if I wanted to approach that type of aggressive singing I would need to have a foundation. So now the classical training is the foundation for my screams and I am able to perform night after night and never lose my voice. But it starts with the training.
Yeah, it does. And did you take part in any operatic shows?
Absolutely, in my youth I was in many musicals and opera’s. But I really separate that from metal. Because I want no operatic inflections in the metal whatsoever. I’m not a fan of symphonic metal or easy listening metal, it’s not for me. So I really only use that operatic training to produce my screams and to keep my voice healthy.
That makes sense. Yes, I don’t hear any of that [operatic inflections] in the actual style [of your vocals] at all. But you’ve still got that strength so I guess that background in the operatic stuff has given you-
-it gives you the power!
The power, yeah. It’s interesting.
Okay so, 2013… a landmark year for Huntress in many ways? You guys have been so busy!
Yeah! It’s been magical! It’s been really magical. We tour relentlessly and I think that’s been part of our success is that we’re just on the road constantly. And with this we become better performers, better musicians and, you know, closer as a family.
Yeah, I was actually going to ask you about how touring so much affects you guys as a group. I guess you do become closer because…. it’s kinda tough as well, isn’t it? It takes a lot out of you but it’s exciting…
I mean you must be exhausted but at the same time…
…you maintain it. I mean, if you abandon everything else in your life and you only focus on being in the touring band things become easier. When I first started touring I had never toured before. It was in 2012, we were put on the the road on a national tour, Pagan Fest in America, and our first record wasn’t even out yet. I nearly lost my mind living in a van with four guys. Like, I literally almost killed all of them!
…so I had to learn quickly to ditch my female bullshit and really surrender to the road, and realise that if you’re living for your purpose you really gotta man up.
Ah yeah, I’m sure!
Just looking at what’s happened with you guys [chronologically]: you got signed in 2011, you released these two albums, now you’re constantly touring …. it feels like things have happened really fast [for Huntress]! You’ve made this massive jump, I think, in a relatively short space of time which is great. So, why do you think Huntress has resonated with so many fans?
I think we’re a breath of fresh air in a nihilistic world. You know, there’s not been a lot of melody in heavy metal in a while. I can see a resurgence, it’s not just Huntress, many other bands are coming up now, and at the heart of it is melody. It’s still heavy as fuck, but there’s melodic tones to it, you know? And I think that’s just part of the shift.
We’re in to this new motion, and it’s occurred with the shifting of the era. You know, we’re in the age of Aquarius now and when that shift happened, speaking astronomically even, I could feel it occurring within the cosmos.
And I just think that the timing is right for Huntress. We’re very authentic, we’re down to earth, we relate to our fans, we’re very close to our fans, you know, and that’s been vital to our existences… really maintaining a friendship with our fans, and meeting them every night after we play. There’s not one night I won’t go out there and meet a fan…
That’s very cool.
And I want to always stay that way. You know, I want to always be accessible to them. Bring on the creeps and weirdo’s, I’m one of them.
You know, like, I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid. Of course if one day we get bigger and bigger and we need to hire security that’s cool, you know, but I always maintain that closeness to the fans.
That’s really very cool. And speaking of the whole cosmic theme, I was trying to get a feel for the theme of the recent album. I looked at your video for “Zenith” which is amazing-
And you had an incredible director join you, Phil Mucci?
Phil Mucci, yes! High on Fire’s Fertile Green was what really sold us on that.
Ah okay, so that’s pretty exciting. The theme for that album definitely seemed to have this galactic, kinda cosmic feel…
It did indeed!
And with the video it comes through quite strongly. It’s really kinda trippy and very different to your previous videos.
The inspiration for Starbound Beast comes directly from the cosmos. The way that I get inspired for a record and then translate it to the boys is through trance. And I started receiving messages from deep space, man. I’ll straight up tell you right now. It came from the Ananarki. Which is… coming home.
We’ve returned to home, returned to the aliens, returning to Aldebaran and the Alpha Tauri constellation. All of that tied into the theme for the album.
The first album Spell Eater in 2012 was very earth based. You can hear that it’s in its Maiden phase and this is the scope of the three albums. Three Albums, within three years and they are all in the various phases of the goddess. The first album is the Maiden: you can hear a ferociousness in that album, very youthful attack to it.
Then you come in to Starbound Beast and it’s longing for the stars, longing to return home for knowledge beyond the earth. And that ties into more thoughtfulness, more motherliness. Now we’re coming to the third phase which is the Crone. It’s more vicious, more brutal, it’s the dying phase so you’re going to hear a more brutal attack on this third album. And she’s horny and she’s old, and I’m really looking forward to tapping in to that.
Actually speaking of that [being horny] I wanted to talk about the other people who’ve been involved in your recent album….and of course there’s that amazing song I Want To Fuck You To Death, the lyrics for which were written by Lemmy!
Awesome. Am I right in thinking that you just asked him and said ‘Hey, would you mind.. ?’ and then he just gave you these lyrics one day?
You’re completely right! It’s as simple as that. I’m friends with him, I asked him and then before I knew it he wrote lyrics for Huntress. When he did it was just…bewildering. I’m still stunned that it actually happened. He’s such a man of integrity and a dear friend.
That’s great. Have you checked in with him recently?
Absolutely, he’s a warrior.
Ah that’s good to hear. And of course also ZEUSS produced the album….
Yeah, ZEUSS is just such a monster of metal. He came in to this project because… we went to ZEUSS because we knew we needed to record an album in a very strict time frame. When you’re putting out an album a year you need to find people on your team that are capable of delivering the product and not compromising your vision. So he made a very modern, crushing metal album without sacrificing our integrity. He mixed it, he engineered it, he produced it… I mean the guy was sitting at the desk twelve hours a day! We did that album in three weeks!
Yeah, he’s incredible.
I think it’s so important to have the right person producing an album.
Yeah we’re looking at him for the third one which we’re recording this year as well.
God, you guys are non stop!
Yeah we’ll see if he has the time to do it. He’s a busy guy!
I’m running out of time so I best pick my last couple of questions…
Let’s look to the future: you’re finishing up this great tour with Decapitated and Lamb Of God, then you’re off to Europe to play some headline shows – and then [the rest of] 2014 – you’ve briefly mentioned your new album is to be recorded this year. Looking to the future what’s coming up for Huntress? What’s next?
When we finish this run with Lamb Of God and Decapitated we’re going back to Los Angeles where we’re finishing the writing and will be recording the third album. So three albums within three years is the goal. Then we’re playing some amazing festivals. We’re coming back to Download for the second year in a row!
We’re doing Nova Rock, we’re doing Graspop, we’re doing Rock Am Ring and there’s more to be announced. So we’re going to be doing a bunch of festivals, then recording in the summer and back on the road this fall. You know, if the Universe wants to give us some killer opportunities again we’ll take ’em!
It’s just been such a magical time for Huntress and we never take any of this for granted. We know it could all go away tomorrow so we’re just staying stoked.
That’s brilliant. One more quick question it that’s okay. You guys have done so well and you obviously work really hard but what advice would you give to emerging bands? Looking back what do you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?
Well, something I’ve always known, and take it as you will, but keep your goals away from trolls! Stay away from negativity, stay away from anyone’s outside influence. You live for your own purpose. You create your own art. You need to stay dedicated to that art and commit yourself to it completely. Live for it. Any noise outside of what you do, it doesn’t matter.
That’s great, thank you so much!