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INTERVIEW – Jill Janus of Huntress, recently discovered gem from my vaults

| 20 December 2012 | Reply

Mere days after arthroscopic knee surgery, I was given the opportunity to interview and photograph one of the newest bands to get my attention.  Huntress was in Detroit, yet again, touring to support their debut release, Spell Eater.  This disc was constantly being played in my car and in my office.  After finalizing all the details with the label and the bands management, I was connected with lead vocalist Jill Janus.

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ToddStar: Jill, how are you?

Jill: Better than you, I hear, you poor thing. How’s your leg?

ToddStar: It’s alright, it’ll get there. I guess one too many concerts in my long history.

Jill: Oh no, well I’m glad that you can still do the interview and you’ll be out later taking some photos, right?

ToddStar: Yeah, I’m definitely interested in taking some photos, like I told your management team, you guys have just… you guys have lit a spark in me. I’m in love with you guys.

Jill: Oh, that’s really nice to hear. Thank you.

ToddStar: No, thank you. Thank you so much for taking a time out for 100% Rock Magazine, we really appreciate it.

Jill: Yeah, no problem. I’m ready when you are.

ToddStar: Awesome. Well tell us about the creation of your debut album, Spell Eater.  This thing is a monster. I couldn’t, you know… I’ve been spinning this for days. People in the accounting office where I work just kind of walk by and look, but I can’t get enough of it. What can you tell us about the creation of this disc?

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Jill: First of all thank you, I’m so pleased to hear that you dig the record and Spell Eater really is a lifetime achievement for me. I’ve been trying to put together Huntress for many years now and the timing just was right, and the formation of Huntress really was quite pertinent. I started looking for members in 2006 and it took me about 4 years to find my boys. Eventually what happened with the creation of Spell Eater was a year-long process writing and re-writing and more inspiration, and essentially the core of it comes from my devotion to witchcraft, to the secret right, and being in a cult as well. So all of that rolled in together and it’s staying true to the roots of heavy metal is really what drives Spell Eater.

ToddStar: Okay, well, you mentioned a year of writing and re-writing and just putting all the pieces together. Were there any songs, and I’ll get to what some of my recurring favorites are, that you found either came together so easily for you, or conversely, just took forever to get right?

Jill: Well I can tell you the story behind Spell Eater. We got the deal with Napalm Records and at that point we were discussing an album title. Most of my song ideas come in visions so I was walking my dog and all of a sudden everything went quiet and I had a slight ringing in my ears and my mouth opened, and I said ‘Spell Eater.’ I don’t know where it came from. Then I picked up the phone and I called the lead guitarist, Blake, and I said ‘The name of the album is going to be Spell Eater, now write me the song.’ That’s how I work a lot. So Spell Eater was written that way.  “Snow Witch” was another vision I had about, you know, the story of a witch that was in the arctic and a Viking that crashes his ship by ice cliffs and it’s this epic, romantic song and its, you know, really heart-breaking. And I’m not one for romance, anyone will tell you, I kind of steer away from that, but it’s about Vikings, which I am a sucker for.  The same with other ones, where I will go to the boys and give them a name of a song, or a concept and then I let them go away and work on some ideas and they’ll bring them back to rehearsal. I’m the only one that brings lyrics and vocal melodies, so it’s actually quite a magical progression with us. It’s really cool the way we work. Most of it is that way. Most of its where I just throw them something and then they’ll come back with a composition.

ToddStar: That’s great. It’s nice to know that because it really puts a spin on how talented you guys as a group really are.  You wouldn’t know in listening to the songs that they are written in such a fragmented fashion.  It isn’t disjointed or apparent that somebody brings you the music and you lay the words and melodies right over the top. It really speaks to the bands creativity and talent.

Jill: Oh, thank you. Well I have a background in music theory and opera, so the way I write is a little bit different that a typical rock composition. When I hear songs I see the musical notes on a sheet of sheet music, even when I hear music playing in a venue. It’s a little bit bothersome sometimes, to be singing and counting out and writing the notation down while I hear music, but my mind works differently. It’s a little bit more scientific in that occurrence with music. So, the boys are on the other end of the spectrum where they are purely feeling, so it’s like the merging of science and emotion and its meeting in the middle.

ToddStar: I’m so glad they merged in the form of you guys. I dig the album. This isn’t the street that I normally walk on. Normally when its, what I would call darker metal or black metal, you guys aren’t necessarily the black metal, and the whole death theme and everything else, with the occult, it’s not normally something that I would take for a spin, let alone find myself listening to over and over and over again a week later. You guys have really put something together nice, and it will appeal to not just the “black” or “power metal” fans.

Jill: Sure, well I appreciate that. I feel that we want the outreach to you… to spread and get into other realms and genres, so to speak. We don’t write music for anybody else except for ourselves. We’ve been painted as melodic death thrash, we have elements of… a variety of influences, you’ll hear some black metal riffs, a little bit of death metal sprinkled in occasionally, and we have NWOBHM sounds. You know, and then I have various voices that I kind of split all the way through the record. I like to challenge myself, especially having a four octave range; I like to have fun with my writing. So I tried to take an approach where, if I can’t duplicate it live, I won’t record it. So there are often times in the recording process, with Chris Rakestraw, the producer, something would come out of my mouth and I’d have to stop him to say let me try it one more time, to make sure I can duplicate it. So we really remain authentic, and some of my peers maybe, would really see that this form of music, or even the energy that comes with it, you know, I think you kind of wait for it because it stays true to the roots of heavy metal, and it also has this strange pop sensibility as well. You know, I’m a big fan of pop and also, you know, all about the process of writing catchy pop, or catchy choruses. We want people to come to the show and take the song with them in their head. That’s how I hear “Eight of Swords” gets close to you after you leave.

ToddStar: Well that song definitely has an anthemic feel to it. And I found myself going to some of the ones, like “Night Rape” is one I found myself going back to, and even “Terror,” I found myself going back to those songs thinking that there’s just something about them that stands out.

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Jill: That’s very interesting you saying that because we’ve been in our own world recording and writing Spell Eater, that we made assumptions that there were certain songs that we were just so used to that we didn’t really think there was a very big response. You mentioned “Terror” and “Night Rape,” they were songs that we kind of dismissed. We didn’t know those were even going to be interesting because we thought they’ll be B sides. Really, we did. However, we’ve been hearing so many people interested in these songs. We keep getting favorites or ones that trigger something, whether it is “Night Rape” and “Terror,” which to us is really surprising. It makes you just… you can’t figure it out. You just have to let it happen naturally. Which, you know, for us and also independent records and everything having to happen naturally and keeping the authenticity going with the story line. So, it’s interesting that you mention those two songs. We did not expect such a good reaction.

ToddStar: I’m glad I could contribute to proving you guys wrong a little bit.

Jill: Please, we love getting proved wrong. Especially with our song choices.

ToddStar: Without drawing comparisons to other bands, if you had to use words to describe the sound of Huntress to somebody who maybe wasn’t familiar with you guys, what terminology would you use to describe yourself?

Jill: I would say its heavy; it’s fast, unrelenting and a little bit dark. But most of all, I would say that it’s unique and memorable. So, you know, those are all words I use to describe how I feel about it. But truly, I want to say it’s a solid, heavy metal record. You know, it’s… we don’t slow down. While writing this album with the boys I made sure that we weren’t going to be writing any ballads on this one. We really wanted to write an epic type of metal album that could stand alone on its own.

ToddStar: Awesome. Again, you’ve done that.

Jill: Thank you.

ToddStar: Two more quick ones before I let you go, if you don’t mind?

Jill: Sure.

ToddStar: If there is one piece of music in the history of time that you wish you had written, what would it be?

Jill: One piece of music that I’ve written?

ToddStar: That you wish you had written.

Jill: I don’t think I understand the question.

ToddStar: If there was one piece of music in the history of time that you wish you had written, something influenced you so much it made you want to do what you do.

Jill: I would have to say I don’t have an answer for that. I really, that one you stumped me on.  You can ask me again if you have a next interview and I’ll have time to think about it.

ToddStar: Sounds good, so final question, Jill. What’s the meaning life?

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Jill: The meaning life? I can tell you this, it is one thing, and one thing only: to live solely for your purpose, and that is it.

ToddStar: Succinct.  I wouldn’t expect anything less from you at this point.

Jill: Seriously, I believe that I was born to do one thing and that is sing, and more so to sing heavy metal and I finally feel like I belong on this planet.

ToddStar: Excellent and I’m so glad you did and that you do, and I can’t wait to watch you tear Detroit up tonight.

Jill: We’re going to rip it to shreds.

ToddStar: Awesome. Thank you again so much for your time with 100% Rock Magazine today, we really appreciate it and we’ll make sure everything gets where it needs to be.

Jill: Perfect. Alright, darling I’ll see you tonight and I’ll see you working in front of the stage.

ToddStar: Okay, cool. I will see you then.

Jill: Alrighty, see you tonight. Bye bye.

Todd ‘ToddStar’ Jolicoeur

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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