Interview by Tony CannellaTo put it quite simply, Huntress killed at this year’s Mayhem festival. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy proposition to take the stage so early in the day (around 1pm) in the blazing summer heat and even though they had a set time of only about 30 minutes the band made the most of it and I’m sure came away with many new fans. Not long after the band left the stage, I had the pleasure to sit down with lead vocalist Jill Janus to discuss their excellent new album “Starbound Beast”, the mayhem fest and a variety of other topics. You are currently out on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival. How has it been going so far?
Well man, it’s just been a dream come true to be part of Mayhem fest. It’s like a family, a great learning experience, like a circus that travels by night, I feel like a gypsy. It’s a really, really interesting time for Huntress, especially being the second band to go on every day and just seeing the fan base growing and growing. It’s pretty cool.What’s it like playing in the day, because your performance seems very theatrical.
It’s definitely a challenge. We had to kind of revamp our stage design and think about the heat. Especially with me and my costumes, I would prefer to wear a little bit more intricate design of costume, but I’m very limited because it’s so hot, so you really take that into account. I leave the stage for a moment just to get sprayed down because the weather has been anywhere from 100 degrees to 110 on the stage.The new album is out, it’s called “Starbound Beast” and it’s excellent.
Thank you.What can you tell us about it?
“Starbound Beast” is the natural evolution of Huntress. We came out with “Spell Eater” last year, “Starbound Beast” this year and the third record will be coming next year. We want to do one album a year for as long we possibly can with our touring schedule. With “Starbound Beast”, what’s so cool about it, we have a new guitar player, Anthony Crocamo has joined Huntress and he brings a new dimension. The level of musicianship has risen on this album. We’re more confident. The lyrical content expands beyond earth. I’m really inspired by extra terrestrials and astrology on this album, so you tend to hear a lot of references to space and beyond.Obviously the song that stands out is the one you wrote with Lemmy. How did that collaboration come about?
Lemmy’s a good friend of mine. I asked him to write a song, he handed me a couple pieces of notebook paper with the lyrics to “I Want to F**k You to Death” and I gave him a big hug and thanked him. It’s the most romantic thing a boy has ever done for me. The fact that he has faith in Huntress and gave me that great gift, I am forever grateful.It’s like a stamp of approval from Lemmy.
I’ve been hearing that a bunch today. I’ve been hearing that you got the stamp of approval from the god of metal and I’ve got to say, you know, mind blown. It’s been a very magical year for us.You shot a video for the song “Zenith”. What can you tell us about that?
The director for it is Phil Mucci. He’s an award winning director who did High On Fire’s “Fertile Green”, so it’s gonna trip you out. He does this amazing live animation; I don’t even know what to call it exactly, he’s such a visionary, I can’t put him into any category, he’s absolutely superb, so talented. In the video you’ll get a glimpse of the actual Starbound Beast and the Oracle which is also referenced to another song on the album, so it kind of ties in together. I wrote to lyrics for “Zenith” and the boys wrote the music, so combined, it’s kind of like how high can you get, smoke weed with aliens, and go straight into the “Zenith”.Cool, I’m looking forward to seeing it.
Pack your bong, honey. (laughs)How have you gotten along with the other bands that are on the Mayhem fest?
Everybody’s so cool, everybody’s really down-to-earth. Once you enter this type of level in metal, I feel like we’ve just gotten to the bonus round. There are no egos, it doesn’t feel competitive, and everybody wants to help each other. We’ve got great teammates on our bus, Battlecross. Everyone is looking out for each other and you realize that this is a fight, we’re in it together and that’s really the way it has to be or you’ll perish. I’ve met some really amazing people and got to hang out with Amon Amarth, I get to hang out with them every day. That to me is so cool, I’m a sucker for Swedish Vikings, I mean come on.
How would you say “Starbound Beast” differs from “Spell Eater”?
“Starbound Beast” is a little more thoughtful than “Spell Eater”. With “Spell Eater” we were an underground metal band with no tour experience. We never recorded an album before, so for us we just did it with a lot of passion and it kind of drove me crazy, the whole process of it. It was pretty brutal for me mentally, it was quite challenging in that aspect. This time around for “Starbound Beast” after touring relentlessly for a whole year with these boys, there’s this new level of confidence. We’re a little bit more at ease with ourselves, with being musicians and being better performers. Like I said before there is a sense of confidence on this album, and what’s cool about it, it’s just the way it should be, it is as it should be, it’s a natural evolution and it’s very organic.Do you feel like you’ve gained a lot of new fans on this tour, because I was watching the crowd when you were playing and everybody was kind of just standing there in the beginning, but by the end of the set everybody was really getting into it. Have you experienced that a lot on this tour?
Sure. You have to win them over man. It’s challenging and I love the challenge. You know, I come out on stage, there is going to be misconceptions – I’m wearing a leotard and a cape for god sakes, and there is a lot of metal bands here that are not theatrical in that way – so knowing that those misconceptions are there, I have a lot of fun winning them over, and I do every time.By the time you got into “I Want to F**k You to Death” everybody was really getting into it, and everybody knew the song, too, which was pretty cool.
It’s great, they do know the song. The song is actually a summer romantic hit, I think. (laughs)It’s kind of catchy too, it has a great chorus. It’s very melodic.
Thank you, I’m glad you noticed that. That was very important when I was writing the song with the boys. We got the lyrics from Lemmy and I wanted that chorus to remain melodic, I didn’t want it to just be riot girl. Of course it’s still a crushing song, it’s heavy as f**ck but it has that chorus that transports you into a little bit of a feeling of love.It’s the type of song that stays with you after you’ve heard it. You can’t get the chorus out of your head.
Yeah, some of the other bands on Mayhem fest are like, “god-damn it Jill, I can’t get that song out of my head it’s been in my head for three days”. (laughs)So you have a couple really big tours coming up following the Mayhem fest. What can you tell us about those?
It’s so cool to finally be able to talk about these tours, because you can’t talk about them until they are announced formally. We’ve known about going on tour with Danzig and then Lamb of God for awhile, so for us it’s quite victorious to finally be able to share that with our peers here on Mayhem fest and our fans. Right after Mayhem fest we’re heading out to do some shows with Amon Amarth and Children of Bodom, we’re playing Heavy MTL festival in Montreal, Canada, and then we’re off with Danzig and Doyle for their 25th anniversary tour which blows our mind. After that it’s back to Los Angeles for a bit to start working on our third album and then it’s back on the road with Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage and Testament throughout the entire fall. We’re booked up straight through early 2014; there are some things I can’t talk about yet.I heard you’re a big Danzig fan, so it must be a cool thing for you to open for them.
Yeah. Well, I recently met Glenn (Danzig) and I did get down on a knee and kiss his hand (laughs). Because that was my fantasy when I was a girl growing up, I said, “if I ever meet Glenn Danzig I will bow before him”, and I did. I’m still a big dork at heart and I do have a bit of a crush on him. It’s going to be a fun few weeks.You mentioned that you were going to start working on your new album. Do you have anything written yet?
We already do, yeah. We’re writing on the bus. I don’t even want to talk about it because I don’t want to take any attention off of “Starbound Beast” because we’re so proud of that record and we’re ready to really hit it hard and promote it and open up the minds of some people about returning to the stars. There is a very strong message within that album and I’m hoping those that want to find the secrets will seek them, because they are woven. I leave secrets in all albums of Huntress. This is our second one and the third one will also contain some interesting tid-bits. It’s always a journey, it never ends, the hard work never ends and we want to be in this for the long haul.Will the first EP, “Off With Her Head” ever be released?
You know, that’s a tricky one. We have it in our back pocket if we want to release it. That comes with longevity; we have to earn releasing that, I feel. I feel that 5-10 years from now if we’re still in the game – which we will be, I really do strongly believe that we’ll be around and going stronger than ever – but I feel you need to earn those early moments. The “Off With Her Head” EP was absolutely baby Huntress. You can hear my voice is a little less developed, and it’s quite endearing. Prior to that I recorded two demos that I wrote and hired musicians to do, one of them is called “Back From The Dead to Kill” and the other is called “Call of the Wild” and those two songs I used to find musicians for Huntress. There are some tracks there that I would love to see come out someday.Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Are there any final words for your fans to wrap this up?
Yes. Thank you so much to all of my creatures for having faith in Huntress from the very beginning. Remember to always keep your goals away from trolls and stay metal forever.
Photos by Neil Zlozower