By Aniruddh “Andrew” Bansal
Los Angeles-based occult-themed traditional heavy metal band Huntress have been around in the LA underground music scene for a number of years, but 2012 has truly proven to be their breakthrough year, with the release of their debut album “Spell Eater”, followed by the Paganfest North American tour and another run with DragonForce. Recently, I caught up with singer Jill Janus to talk about the band’s rapid progress, the debut album, her interest in occultism, among various other topics. Read the in-depth conversation and check out the band’s facebook page for more info on the album and the upcoming tour dates.
First of all, your debut full-length “Spell-Eater” came out in May on Napalm Records. What are your thoughts and feelings about the album at this point?
Spell Eater recently debuted and we are so proud of our album. It was a beautiful and brutal experience. I’m still dusting off demonic cobwebs from the vocal booth.
Even though this is your debut full-length, you did put out an EP and a single in the past. Would you say the songs on “Spell Eater” follow a similar musical style?
We have stayed true to the roots of heavy metal since the formation of Huntress. Our musicianship gets stronger, our sound more definitive. But at the heart of it, the vision remains the same.
The most notable thing about the music is the dark, occult vibe. What’s the reason for your liking of the occult?
I have been Pagan since birth. I grew up on a deer farm in the Catskill Mountains of New York, a region known for its ties to the occult. My family is quite eccentric and always encouraged my secret sight. I’ve never had to speak of my beliefs until Spell Eater. I will always hold close my mystery, however, many secrets will be revealed within the songs.
You have displayed a great vocal range on this album. When did you start
learning to sing?
I was born with a four octave coloratura soprano range. My mother realized I had a big voice and took me to auditions as a child. I was performing in opera productions while recording thrash songs in my basement. It just took me a little longer to break free of theatre. My classical training is now the foundation for my screams, it helps me to maintain the Voice.
I read somewhere that you toured Europe as a teenage opera star. Would you say you’ve brought some of those theatrics to your on-stage performance as part of Huntress?
Absolutely, I love theatre. I feel a strong bond with the stage. But I have spent many years stripping away the classical inflections in my voice. Huntress is not musical theatre, it is metal. Opera was never dark enough for me.
But did the opera experience at such a young age give you the confidence to perform on stage?
Yes, but I’ve always been confident. I’ve always known my purpose, which is the Voice. My family said I had a focus and drive as a child that was beyond my years. At the age of five, I told my father I was born to sing and I would do nothing except sing for the rest of my
life. I’ve never lacked confidence!
Does your on-stage performance change with different sizes of venues, or do
you keep things exactly the same?
You will have to ask the Crone that question. She runs the show. She is the nasty, horny old hag who possesses me on stage. I can tell you we are an amazing duo.
In LA, what venue do you most enjoy playing in?
The Roxy. Best venue in Los Angeles.
Coming back to the debut album, when did you actually started working on it,
and how long did it take?
One and a half years. One year of writing and re-writing. One month of pre-production. One month of recording. It was a tedious process. But we wouldn’t compromise. Our debut album is exactly what we envisioned.
It’s great that Huntress plays traditional heavy metal. What made the band gravitate towards playing that style?
Traditional heavy metal is simply the best. We aren’t throw backs or retro, we keep our sound marching forward and are influenced by black metal, death and thrash. But the heart of Huntress will always stay true to the roots of heavy metal.
Yeah, it’s been a whirlwind and a bit overwhelming at times. But we can back up the hype. We are fearless and ready to conquer. We’ve been waiting a very long time for this moment. I’ve visualized much of it, seen it play out like a movie. I’m sitting here writing this interview on our tour bus, from Metalfest Loreley in Germany. It’s raining. The band Witchcraft is playing right now. One year ago exactly, Huntress fell apart. I fired the original drummer and almost lost my band. I had a nervous breakdown that put me in the hospital. But I asked the remaining members to have faith in me, I told them we must share the same vision for Huntress. I would not compromise. I never will. And now we’re touring Europe in a fucking Nightliner and have two US tours under our belts. If you can dream it, you can be it. Believe the ways of the witch.
You did the Paganfest tour. Huntress must have been the odd band on that line-up. Was it a conscious decision to be on that tour and play to different audiences?
We were given some wonderful opportunities as a baby band, many people had faith in Huntress. Paganfest was ideal for us, it was the perfect first national tour. We learned a lot, and even though we aren’t pagan metal, we found a common bond through fantasy with the other acts. The audiences embraced us, we miss the crew and bands like mad! We’re actually hanging out with Alestorm today and it rules!
What plans does the band have for the rest of the year?
After Paganfest, we joined up immediately with Dragonforce for our second US tour. Again, audiences embraced us and we formed friendships with the Dragonforce boys. Now we’re in Europe playing Metalfest Open Airs, followed by another US tour this Summer and more dates to be announced for Europe and UK this Fall. This Winter we plan to finish
the next album, which we have already started writing.
I also read about your very recent music video shooting adventures. Tell me a
little about what you went through, and does that make the final video even more
worth the effort?
Huntress has two videos: Eight of Swords and Spell Eater. Eight of Swords brought us the attention we desired to find a record label, as the Tarot cards foretold. Both were directed by Simon Chan of Artificial Army. He’s a wizard. Both video concepts came to me like magic, the creative aspect was quite effortless. Every song on this album already has its own story, its own little heartbeat. However, the actual shoot for Spell Eater was brutal. Two days in the Mojave Desert, rain, snow and violent winds. I broke down and cried each night. The photography is breathtaking, it’s heavy. But I wouldn’t do it again.
Lastly I would like to ask, you’ve done so many different things in life already .. opera, hard rock cover band, and now metal. Do you feel that this is where you belong from now on?
Anything I have done prior to Huntress was preparation for this moment. I grew up poor, learned to hustle and took on jobs to fund my music. Metal has always been my true love. Looking back, it all makes sense now. I finally feel like I belong on this planet.