Huntress' Jill Janus: I Despise The Glorification of Mediocrity in Metal
There's a lot to love about Huntress, and it's not just because frontwoman Jill Janus is gorgeous, bad-ass and intelligent. The band's debut album Spell Eater, recorded and produced by Chris Rakestraw, earned stellar reviews. The musicians--Janus, guitarist Blake Meahl, bassist Ian Alden, and drummer Carl Wierzbicky--thrive on heavy riffs and spectral solos, occult science and bong rips, and a love for thrash and black metal. Influences like Judas Priest and King Diamond come into play, but with a modern sensibility about the heavy metal industry.
And then of course, there's vocalist Jill Janus. Trained as a classical opera singer from childhood, she was drawn to metal from the first time she heard Suicidal Tendencies at the tender age of 13-years-old. That led to metal, punk rock and then thrash with her four-octave coloratura soprano range and a natural ability to growl and scream. She's been part of a witch coven since the age of 15, and hosted a night cabaret in the World Trade Center up until the night before 9/11.
Now on tour with metal vets Testament, Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God, Huntress is all about learning the ropes, sticking to core values, and not compromising shit. Up On The Sun talked with Janus about Huntress' upcoming album, their mentality as a "baby band," and being in the World Trade Center mere hours before 9/11.
The Lamb of God, Testament, Killswitch Engage and Huntress tour is definitely one of the biggest metal tours of the year. How is it going so far?
It's been monstrous. It's beyond my expectations, the level of professionalism. We just feel so humble to be here. All the bands--Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage and Testament--have been so supportive.
Was there an act that you were more nervous about or intimidated by? I mean, I know Huntress has played with quite a few legends.
I think for us, it's about making sure we're on target with our stage show and being completely professional. That's really the way to go into something like this. We are trying to just stay out of everyone's way.
What band do you probably have the most in common with, or are closer to from maybe, say, past tours?
Lamb of God reached out to us last year when we put out our first record. Chris Adler was impressed with out first record and gave some solid good advice. Fast forward a year [and] we're now on tour with them, so we really feel like Lamb of God has been vouching for us and we're forever grateful to them.
I'm also amazed with Randy Blythe and his vocal abilities, seeing his transformation from early albums to now. We share the same vocal coach, so we have that in common.
Melissa Cross [your vocal coach] did The Zen of Screaming, right?
You got it! Coming from a classically trained background I always knew I wanted to be a metal singer. But my mother was very strict with my upbringing and vocal training as a child, so from the very start I've had very good training, classically. When I decided I wanted to pursue metal and make that my purpose I sought out Melissa Cross.
I actually watched her DVD, and it frustrated me because I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to strip away a lot of my classical inflections and obtain that scream effortlessly. After about a year of trying I did it--so now it's effortless, but it does take a lot of maintaining the voice on the road, so I lead a strict lifestyle. So the classical training is a foundation of my screams.
So do you miss singing classical opera?
I've done it since I was a child, so it's almost like it was another lifetime for me. I still keep the operatic repertoire, and I do that as warm-ups. I find I'm really able to keep the clarity of my voice and vibrato if I continue my classical repertoire, [so] I try to do those as warm-ups sometimes.
There's never any operatic inflections in Huntress; I make sure of that. I have a very large range, but that doesn't mean I'm going to incorporate it. We're a straight-up, true heavy metal band, with elements of thrash, death metal, black metal. I do miss opera in a way, but not enough, man.
I was intrigued to learn that you hosted a night cabaret in the World Trade Center up until the night before 9/11. Can you tell me a little about how that shaped your musical personality?
Everything I've done prior to Huntress has been to fund my music career and band and search for musicians. That was definitely pivotal in...even now, talking about it is difficult. I hosted the very last party at the Windows on the World, September 10, 2001. I left around 2 a.m., and then you know the rest. But at that point I lost all of my work as a DJ, as a cabaret singer... fortunately, a couple years later, I had some opportunities that brought me to Los Angeles, and that's where I found my musicians for Huntress.
But it took me about a decade to find some metal musicians who shared the same vision as me.