Attendees to this year’s Paganfest have been pleasantly surprised by opening act, Huntress. While the band’s debut album, Eight of Swords (Napalm) doesn’t get its national release until May 8, their blend of traditional metal and thrash has undoubtedly perked up more than a few show concertgoers’ ears from beneath their viking helmets. Much of that is due to vocalist Jill Janus. Since joining up with the remainder of the band, who had been called Professor, the classically-trained Janus (she’s in the center – duh) has brought her four-octave range and outspoken personality to the band. We caught up with Janus prior to their show at New York’s Gramercy Theater to talk about being on tour without an album out, the preconceived notions of a onetime model joining a band (Janus has graced the pages of Playboy) and who their dream tourmates would be.
So, here you are on the Pagan Fest. How does it feel being one of about seven girls out there every night?
It feels so sexy. But in all sincerity it is a huge honor being on a bill of such reputable bands especially without having a record label – I mean without having a record out. See I’m so used to not being signed (laughter).
You have a label, it happened, congratulations!
I do? I do! Thank you so much! Yeah, we were put on this bill without an album out. Now, after this were going to be on the Dragonforce tour so that’s actually when our album drops.
That’s pretty awesome…
Yeah dude, I can teach them a few things about playing guitar!
You guys probably will have to speed up a bit.
Yeah, ya think?!
So was joining a major tour without your album out yet an issue?
You know it was never brought up. I think that there has been such a showing of support and faith for Huntress for the very beginning. I’m so grateful and I don’t really know where exactly it’s coming from but we’ll take it. I think when we signed with Napalm, there are two other bands on this bill that are signed to Napalm, Turisas, I believe are signed to Century Media. So I think we’re also grouped in because were family. At the same time, it’s kind of mind blowing that people are showing such support with us not even having a record out yet.
And what made you decide to go with Napalm? Were there other deals on the table?
There were. When we released Eight of Swords we were unsigned and the reason we put it out was that we wanted to get some attention. I knew it would get us attention but I didn’t know it was going to create a frenzy. When that video came out, we literally had about nine labels pushing us to sign. It was extremely stressful and I’m happy we have a good lawyer. And I never thought I would say that but the business can be quite disgusting and ultimately Napalm won because they really shared our vision. We also wanted to be on a label that had a European sensibility, especially in the German and Austrian markets. I feel that metal over there thrives and we knew from the start that we wanted to be part of that. So Napalm has just honestly been really fucking cool and very supportive. They give us money to help us out so we can eat, which is great.
So how realized was Huntress? I know Professor was a whole separate band.
Huntress has been a vision of mine for many years. I was fortunate enough to meet Professor in Los Angeles and become friends with them and play them a couple demos I had written previous to meeting them and they kind of called it Iron Maiden light. Which is cool but I wanted it to become darker and I think that they bring a true element that I did not possess previously, this underground, roots of heavy metal, authenticity. So for me, merging with them really changed my whole perspective and made us much heavier and darker and I just want to strive to go darker and heavier now. It’s been quite a journey and really exciting and happy that people are getting it.
While your music definitely has more of an underground feel, I’m sure you still encounter the stereotype of a model joining a band. What was the music you grew up on and got you into what Huntress is now?
First off, I love the challenge of winning people over. I am not afraid to use sorcery and sex to draw you closer to the flame and then burn you alive. I have the voice to back it up. I don’t fear shadows. So that’s never been an issue for me. My path is very clear, nothing gets in my way. So in that regard its fun! It’s fun seeing people coming to the show and having preconceptions and destroying them. My first love with metal was probably Suicidal Tendencies. I had a pen pal that was German, that was a skater from the time I was in seventh grade. And we still hang out whenever I see him, whenever I’m in Germany, Arna. He used to send me mix tapes, a lot of it was weird German metal bands and again, ST a lot. By the time I was thirteen I was deep into thrash and also doing opera at the same time. So I had quite the dichotomy going. I was also in a Misfits cover band in high school, I still have those recordings, they’re quite endearing.
Yep totally, there you go! Napalm, put it out! I’ve always been an angsty, violent, angry little teenage girl at heart. That definitely comes out at times and I should probably learn to control that a little better; no fuck that, right?! But at the same time it’s all about being authentic and being true to the roots of heavy metal. I could have been in some really stupid faux-metal band with guys with faux-hawks and Hot Topic clothes but instead I chose to starve instead and live in a van with four heshers. I think I made the right choice.
Now I’m sure you get asked this every single interview but the whole,’using your sexuality, Revolver Hottest Chicks in Metal’ kind of thing – do you have a problem with being objectified to a degree by mainstream media and using your sexuality to spread the word about the band.
Like I said, I will always use sorcery to draw you to the flame. It’s not to me anything that hasn’t been done for centuries. I’m a witch. This is what we do. Burn me at the stake, luckily this won’t have to happen anymore, we’ve evolved. But to be serious about this, this is something I don’t think of necessarily, because I have the voice to back it up. I also don’t really think there’s anything wrong with utilizing that as long as you have the skills. If I was a tart in some easy listening metal band and just showed skin and was styled by some Hollywood stylist, it would be dumb. What I do is much darker and much more authentic; I really don’t think that it’s a problem in the long run. Also, I’m evolving. There is a reason I do that, it’s all part of the plan. I will become more well-known and I will be able to have more opportunities come to me and as those opportunities will get larger and I’ll be able to make a little more money; I’ll shift. I probably won’t show as much skin. I’ll probably alter my clothing and pull back a bit further. But right now having limited funds and knowing that I want to draw people closer to us there are certain things I do. We are not a gimmick band. People will tell you that over and over again. Once you see the show once you hear the album, Spell Eater, there are no gimmicks. It’s very straight forward and true to metal. So I ain’t worried.
So what is your dream tour, who would you want to play with?
I know I know! I just think for all of us, we are huge King Diamond/Mercyful Fate fans and that would be the ultimate. I mean you could always say Iron Maiden or Judas Priest, but fuck that! Really when it comes down to it, it’s King Diamond.