Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival brings bands together for a metal feast. Huntress’s lead vocalist, Jill Janus, sat down with Maine Music News backstage July 17th after her performance in Bangor, Maine, and shared her experiences as a female metal singer. If you have ever wondered how metal singers create such a huge vocal impact, keep reading.
MMN – For our readers that are just hearing about Huntress for the first time, please tell us a little about the band?
JJ – My name is Jill Janus, and I am the vocalist for Huntress. We are based in Highland Park, California. We are a heavy metal band. We stay true to the roots of heavy metal so a lot of our influences come from classic metal, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, King Diamond, Merciful Fate, and Danzig. That is where we are heavily influenced. However, we are a modern metal band, we are crushing, but we won’t sacrifice our integrity when it comes down to the choices we make.
MMN –As a female vocalist, what kind of a reaction are you getting?
JJ – Everyone has been so cool with me especially now that we have moved up into the big leagues. We are on the Mayhem Tour. Once you are in the circuit and actually touring and spending time around professional musicians, you begin to realize that it is a fight that we are all in. You gain a new level of respect for everybody – especially for being able to do this type of production day after day in the heat. I have had so much support from my male colleagues. I feel really safe around them. I am surrounded by a bunch of bearded burly metal heads. I am a happy little girl.
MMN – Female metal performers seem to take it in the shorts by a lot of the critics, but it sounds like the professionals welcome you in and say “come on, let’s go?”
JJ – Absolutely. We are the ones that really know what occurs on the inside. I have a rule: “I keep my goals away from trolls.” That includes most of the internet as well. I don’t read reviews. I never am part of any forums. My interaction is very limited to just the fans and to maintain those relationships. My relationship with our fans is the most important thing to me. It’s vital to our existence. Without them, we would not be here today.
MMN – One of the songs on the new album, “Fuck You to Death,” was co-written by Lemmy. Can you talk about what it was like working with Lemmy, and how did you get hooked up to work with Lemmy?
JJ- Lemmy and I are friends. I asked him to write a song for the upcoming Huntress album which is out now called Starbound Beast. He said sure, and he did. He stands by his word. I am so impressed that he has faith in Huntress and he gave us this awesome gift. I think it is the most romantic gesture from a boy that I have ever received. The song is called “I Want to Fuck You to Death.” Who would not want to go out that way?
MMN – How does one become friends with Lemmy?
JJ – I met him during my band days with Chelsea Girls. I was the front person for an all-female cover band with Samantha Maloney on drums. She was in Hole, Eagles of Death Metal, and Motley Crue. Allison Roberts of the Donnas was on guitar, and Corey Parks of National Pussy was on bass. We had about a year run with that band and during that time, we had a residency at The Roxy in Hollywood. Lemmy was friends with the girls, and he would come up and sing with us and play bass. We would rotate various guests, and he was one of them. The first time I met him, I remember him pulling me aside and he just looked at me and said, “Your voice is phenomenal.” I told him he was kidding and just a joker. He said, “No.”
MMN – You are a trained opera singer.
JJ – I am, but that to me was the start of our friendship – with a big compliment and another huge compliment with him writing me a song. To continue that, yes, I am a trained opera singer. All of my training was in my childhood and the classical training is the foundation for all of my screams. That is a big reason I don’t lose my voice, and I can continue this path night after night and keep it going.
MMN – I read in a previous interview that you worked really hard to not let too much of the classical training show?
JJ- When I was fine-tuning my metal voice, it took me a year to strip away a lot of my classical inflections. I have always wanted to be a metal singer, but the opportunities really started to hit after we released our video for “Eight of Swords.” That is when I said “it’s about to get real.”
I have a vocal coach, Melissa Cross. She has an amazing DVD called the “Zen of Screaming.” I started working to her DVD. Randy from Lamb of God, Angela from Arch Enemy, all use her for their vocal coach. I have really connected with her, and she is a big reason why I am able to maintain those screams.
MMN – So there is an art form and a method to screaming?
JJ – Indeed, there is an art to screaming.
MMN – Can you tell us a little bit about your previous tours?
JJ – We have been touring relentlessly since 2012. We released our album Spell Eater in April of 2012, however, we were already on the road doing a tour called “Paganfest” in March of 2012, just before the album came out. That tour led into a US tour with Dragonforce, and that tour led into Metalfest in Europe in the summer of 2012. Then we toured extensively with Dragonforce again in Europe late last year. We just came home, recorded that album within a three month span, released it, and we are back out on the road. Our goal is to continue to do one album a year until we can no longer make it happen along with our touring responsibilities.
MMN – Are the European crowds different that the US ones?
JJ – Europe is a little different. I feel they embrace metal a little more like royalty. They treat you almost in a god like way. It is really unique to see. I feel that it pulses the blood of the Ancients in Europe. Here in the US, it’s a new world, and the fanatics are not as fanatical, but they are just as awesome. Our US fans kick ass, too. We can’t wait to tour Asia. That is the next thing for us, is to head to Japan. We don’t know when it will happen, but we are working on it.
As it stands right now, we have the rest of the Mayhem Festival, leading to the Heavy MTL Festival in Montreal, and then we are touring with Danzig for his 25th anniversary with Doyle. That will be a dream come true for us as we are all big Misfits fans and have been inspired by Danzig through our childhood. Today it was just announced that Huntress will be touring with Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage, and Testament this fall. We have some heavy hitting tours coming up this summer and fall. It’s going to be another year of relentless touring.
MMN – It sounds like you are ok with the steady touring.
JJ – We have been working our whole lives for this. The boys and I really decided that we want to focus on touring. We have had to make changes in our personal lives in order to make it happen. There are a lot of personal sacrifices, however, when you want to achieve something as a group, you really have to choose one goal, one focus, and attack that. Luckily, I have a team of people surrounding me that really share the same vision.
MMN – Can you talk about your Indiegogo crowd sourcing for tour support? How has that been received by the fans?
JJ – The Indiegogo campaign, which we called our “Virtual Yard Sale,” was to help fund our bus expenses, our liability insurance, things we never experienced before, even though we have an awesome record label. Napalm Records has been very good to us in helping with tour support, however, they are just an indie label and can’t really take on a lot of the expenses. We surpassed our goal of $15,000. We went up to $17,500. I have a whole new level of respect for fans based on the results of this campaign. They are so intelligent, they are so interesting, and they have so much faith in Huntress. It really opened my eyes to a whole new world of what I call Fan Worship. I would not be here without them. I think there is a future in these types of campaigns regarding alternate funding within the music industry. I didn’t know exactly what was going to occur, but it was a really special moment for us. There is stigma that goes along with crowd funding so we made sure we kept our sense of humor. We made a really funny video that embodies us being dorks, and I think that helped us win over some of the naysayers as well.
MMN – There is a stigma. There is a fear of asking the fans for help. I believe Amanda Palmer says, and I’m paraphrasing, you have to allow the fans to help you, but people are uncomfortable with bands asking you to pitch in.
JJ – When you realize that you need others to help achieve your dreams, you go through a few different emotions. There is a little bit of ego there and you don’t want to have to hand that over. You want to feel like you are self-sufficient, but you have to get rid of that pride and realize that together we can make things possible. As an artist, I can’t do it without the fans. That is the bottom line.
MMN – What a perfect way to close. We can’t say it any better than that. I think that about covers it. Thank you so much for your time, we really appreciate it.
JJ – For sure, thank you.