Huntress’ Jill Janus Talks ‘Spell Eater,’ Practicing Witchcraft + More
Huntress are one of metal’s most exciting new bands. Hailing from Highland Park, California, the female-fronted act soar with their brand of melodic death and thrash metal with a bit of a power metal atmosphere thrown in. Having just released their debut album, ‘Spell Eater,’ the band have opened up a whole new realm of possibilities.
We recently caught up with Huntress vocalist Jill Janus about ‘Spell Eater,’ touring with DragonForce in a small van with four dudes, her fascination with the occult and witchcraft + much more.
Check out our exclusive interview with Jill Janus of Huntress.
Thank you so much for talking to me. I saw you guys at the New England Metal and Hardcore Fest and I thought you guys were awesome.
Aww thanks. That was quite the trip on the way out there — two days non stop to get there.
How is it being a female vocalist and having to share a van with 4 dudes?
It’s really sexy. [Laughs] The truth is that it’s been a really rough start for me. You know, learning and readjusting — being a woman in a van in such a small space. It’s definitely difficult after two months of touring. I feel like I’m just now finally starting to get it, you know? So it’s a learning process.
You just finished up your tour with DragonForce and Holy Grail. Was that your first major tour and how was it overall?
It was Huntress’ first national tour and Canadian tour. Actually, Paganfest was the first national tour we had and that was an amazing opportunity and a really good experience for us to begin with. Then DragonForce, we joined up with immediately afterwards. The boys in DragonForce are just big sweethearts and touring with Holy Grail — it’s family. The drummer from Holy Grail is actually our lead guitarists brother, so thats been fun for them to be on the road together as well.
I heard that you used to sing Opera. How do you decide when to utilize that in Huntress?
Well, for me the Opera training simply is the foundation for the vocal approach. I’m not the type of singer who is going to want to put the operatic inflections in there. In fact I spend years attempting to strip that away knowing I wanted it to get heavier. I was born with a four-octave coloratura soprano range. The fact that I’m able to really expand on the voice and go places that perhaps other singers can’t, simply because they don’t have the range. However, none of that means anything unless I can sustain the voice and maintain my health, so i try to keep a very humble outlook on it and really know that it takes a lot of work to maintain it. That’s where again the training comes in — vocal rest immediately after shows. I don’t talk after shows. I don’t speak in the morning until I do my speech warm up I don’t drink, I don’t party anymore, so the voice rules me and it has to be that way to pull off the type of antics I do. [Laughs]
Can you tell us how you came up with the concept for the ‘Spell Eater’ video with you sucking the life out of people and what not?
[Laughs] Well when we were writing ‘Spell Eater’ the record, there was a lot of references to the occult and to alchemy and into numerology — the album is drenched with that. So in essence I wanted to create a video that would embody a lot of those images. It came to me in a vision — this is how a lot of my songs come to me actually — I was walking my dog and all of a sudden everything went silent except for a buzz in your ears, you know, when you think you’re losing your hearing. Everything went silent and my mouth opened and I just said, “Spell Eater.” I don’t know where it came from necessarily, but often I feel like lyrics are even beamed to me from another realm. [Laughs]
So with ‘Spell Eater,’ in the lyrical content I say, “I am the Spell Eater.” A lot of it is about addiction — addiction to spells obviously, but addiction is universal. So to maintain my addiction, something I must do is take the soul from another person to maintain that. In the video you see that I am withdrawing and failing, then I meet this alchemist on top of a cliff and he gives me yet another potion, which all ties into feeding this addiction of mine to spells and magic. I could talk about it for hours. There is so much more to it, but I think that if you really spend time listening to the record, there’s many secrets that will be revealed.
You’re very open about the fact that your very much into the occult and that your a practicing witch. Can you tell us a little more about that?
I’ve never really had to talk about before until I started getting more attention with Huntress, and obviously my lyrical content triggers that, but I was born in a very eccentric family on a farm in the Catskill Mountains of New York. From the time I was a child, my parents always encouraged my pagan ways, so there’s never been a moment when I haven’t been encouraged to seek my own path. I don’t speak of many details. I prefer to keep it in my music, you know, to keep the mystery and to keep it sacred, but indeed I am a witch and I have been since birth, but I don’t walk the path of darkness. I am not a satanist. I’m the type of witch that likes to trip my tits off in the woods on shrooms and dance with fairies. That’s the type of witch I am.
So it’s safe to say that your just practicing a little bit of white magic maybe?
Jill: Well yeah, I would say mostly for me, what witchcraft means and what magic means is just being able to visualize what you want and see it come to fruition — and indeed that has happened with this band entirely.
One thing about Wicca that I’ve always found to be interesting…
That’s the other thing that’s a misconception. I’m not Wiccan. In fact I have many friends that are in Wicca, but Wicca is an organized religion and I want no part of organized religion. I am a solitary witch — not associated with Wicca. You know, people can say white witch, but you know I’m just a witch. I’m a little witch that loves heavy metal, thats all. [Laughs]
Your persona both on stage and in your videos is really interesting. There’s a lot of sexuality in it — whether your in minimal clothing in the videos or fully clothed on stage. Can you tell me a little about what you’re thinking in those scenarios?
You know, I have a good sense of humor about this business and I look forward to the evolution of my image. Right now, I simply can’t afford clothes. That’s why you don’t really see me in them much. [Laughs] Also a big inspiration for me is She-Ra, Princess of the Universe — He-Man’s sister. So clothing-wise she’s got it so you know? I try to emulate her a little bit as well.
The way that the music industry is moving, women are gaining a lot more power in terms of what they can do creatively in metal. Some of that I think is based in music and some of it, you know, is from the Revolver ‘Hottest Chicks’ calendars and the Century Media calendar…
I think it’s a good way for women possibly starting off. If they would like to take that route to get more exposure, you know, I’m open to that. I’ve been part of those types of awards or profiles. It’s strange, it’s a double-edged sword, you know? But really, other people’s opinions really don’t matter to me. They’re not part of my purpose. My purpose is to sing heavy metal. I have a very clear vision for Huntress, so when it comes down to it, I understand there will always be misconceptions and preconceptions, especially being a female in the metal world, but I have the voice to back it up, and down the line I really do look forward to evolving and honestly shedding that image and no longer being apart of those types of profiles. That day is coming. I’ve used sorcery for a while to draw people closer to the flame and burn you alive, but you know, we’re a young band. I’m learning and I don’t expect to be participating in those types of profiles much longer.
Because of those types of profiles, have you encountered any creepy male fans or people who you think may be into Huntress for the wrong reasons?
I’ve always had creepy older male fans and I’m used to it. I’ve been a DJ for many years in New York City, so I’m used to the old creeps. Again, other peoples opinions about the music, whether they are in it for being a metalhead or in it just for being an old perv, it’s cool with me — buy my record. You know, I really don’t discriminate against fans. Thats really again something that I just don’t let effect my path whatsoever. I just make music and I make music that I love, and if we can get someone that can relate to it, whether they’re not in to metal or they are, that’s cool with me and its cool with the boys [the rest of Huntress]. We all feel the same way, you know? Come what may.
I got to speak with some of the guys in the band at the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival and they were all telling me about their day jobs doing landscaping. So I wanted to know do you have a day job as well?
I don’t currently have a day job. I actually had a little job — I was DJing and that was it. That was the night life. That was primarily what I did — worked the night life for many years as a promoter and a DJ. Once I chose to focus on Huntress and make that my only ambition in life, that is when success started to come to me. I’m broke. I don’t have any money at all right now in the world, but i’ve never been happier. Once you decide to choose your purpose and live only for that purpose, that is when you will find success, and right now Huntress is it. I’m married to heavy metal and that is all that I have.
Huntress’ debut album, ‘Spell Eater’ is now available on iTunes