‘The vortexes you possess in this country are incredible!’: An interview with Jill Janus of Huntress

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With the release of their second album Starbound Beast, Californian heavy metallers Huntress have been gaining momentum and are set on showing the world they are a force to be reckoned with. A support slot with the mighty Lamb Of God around the UK and Europe last month gave them a great opportunity to showcase their talents and make some new friends along the way. I caught up with frontwoman Jill Janus prior to their opening set at the Southampton Guildhall.

So this is the first date of your UK tour with Lamb Of God, how was Europe for you guys?

Europe was a blast! We’re expanding our fanbase; being on tour with Lamb Of God and Decapitated really opened some new doors for us. The fans have been really responsive and we’ve been seeing a repeat of fans coming back to these shows from our prior headlining shows and when we toured with Dragonforce last year, and that’s pretty exciting.

Musically speaking, you’re pretty different from the other bands on this bill; were you ever worried you wouldn’t go down so well with the crowds?

No, because we really fit in with any type of metal band, and that’s what’s so cool about Huntress – we have strong influences from various genres. We’re a true heavy metal band but we have touches of death metal, a bit of thrash, some black metal, so with all this combined together we are constantly put on bills that may not seem like a good fit but in front of a crowd, they really embrace it. Everyone’s been very welcoming and very cool with us.

Your new album Starbound Beast came out in the summer, what’s the meaning behind that title?

The starbound beast is the little creature that exists within all of us, the little creature that is longing to return home to the stars. Some aspects of it are greed, just wanting to be loved, but also this viciousness and ferociousness also that within us all exists. So there’s a beauty and a brutality within that beast. It was inspired by the Anunnaki and Aldebron and alien life, also astrology; truly inspired by the cosmos.

One of the tracks on the album, ‘I Want to Fuck You to Death’ was co-written with Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead. How did that collaboration come about?

Lemmy and I have been friends for a few years; he would perform with my former band Chelsea Girls. We were an all-girl cover band based in Los Angeles. We did this for about a year and Lemmy would come on and play ‘Ace of Spades’ or an Eddie Cochran song. We became friends, we stayed in touch and whenever we’re both in L.A. we meet up at [renowned rock bar]The Rainbow for drinks. One night I asked him if he’d write a song for the next Huntress record and he did. It was the most romantic thing a boy has ever done for me: writing a song called ‘I Want to Fuck You to Death’!

How come Ian Alden switched to bass from rhythm guitar for this record?

At the core of Huntress there are four band members. When we first started out we had a few lineup shifts – just to make the band stronger. We felt that Ian would be stronger on bass and he indeed is. We have friends who join the project who will sometimes collaborate with us, sometimes tour with us, but at the core of Huntress it’s four. That fifth member is generally somebody we’ll bring on the road but essentially there are four songwriters: myself, Blake Meahl on lead guitar, Ian Alden on bass and Carl Wierzbicky on drums.

So do you think there could ever be another permanent member or do you plan to keep on switching in and out various session guys?

It depends on what the universe wants. We’re just happy to let that be determined by other forces. We’ll see!

There was a year between the release of Starbound Beast and your debut Spell Eater, so can we expect another Huntress album in 2014?

We are writing it and recording it in 2014 with plans to release it in 2014. The only thing that may prevent that is more touring! We are absolutely planning on doing one album a year for as long as possible. Initially when we signed to Napalm records that was the vision, so these first three albums we wanted to fire off one a year in their various phases. It’s quite exciting for us and we’ve been really inspired so the album is coming along a lot faster than we expected.

There’s a theme linking these three albums, could you tell us more about that?

It’s really a spiritual journey of my own. I would say it’s a tribute to being Pagan and each album represents a different phase of the band. Spell Eater is in the ‘maiden’ phase, Starbound Beast is in the ‘mother’ phase and this third album coming is in the ‘crone’ phase. Those are just for the first three albums; the fourth, fifth and sixth are yet to be determined. But these three to me were very important for the development of Huntress; to have that ark of the three, the three of the trilogy. I’m not saying they’re thematic because they’re not, but they are all tied together by a little thin, invisible red line. So when you listen to them consecutively there are messages within that that I’m trying to convey to those that seek the secret site.

As you said, you are a practicing witch and Pagan themes are a strong presence in your lyrics, so would you say that in a way Huntress’ music is religious music?

I think it is if you choose it to be. Music is religion to some, to some it is not. I’m not here to change the world; I live for my own purpose, so anything I produce with Huntress creatively speaking for me is an outlet. For the boys of course it’s the same. It really just depends on your own choice and that’s what I love about being an individual; we all have our own choices so you can choose to make it your own religion or not.

Do you have any interest in ancient British Paganism?

Absolutely! I’m working on something now where I’ve been researching a lot about Britain’s history with Paganism and it’s absolutely mind-blowing! The vortexes that you possess in this country are incredible; you have an immense source of power here! Being here in your country is almost like getting a recharge; it’s very, very powerful!

There are relatively few women in heavy metal bands; why do you think that is, and what advice would you give to any young woman thinking of starting a band?

To exist in the world of metal is very challenging for a woman, mostly because you have to shed your female bullshit and you have to man up! It’s not easy; it was very difficult for me when I first started touring in particular because I really had to man up, get rid of any female drama, feeling like I had some sort of privilege. There is no privilege! You’re all equal with the boys, with your band mates. Without them I wouldn’t be able to be here; they’re my strength. So in that sense it’s gruelling, especially on a female body; we’re very emotional. You need to learn to have self-control and to shed a lot of that emotional baggage that comes with just being a woman. Once you un-sex yourself and you surrender to the road and live for your purpose, it becomes a lot easier. But to do that is easier said than done: it’s a sacrifice and until you’re willing to sacrifice that you’re going to face a lot of challenges.

Huntress’ latest album Starbound Beast is out now on Napalm records.

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