Welcome to Lords of Metal. The reason why I interview you is because of your contribution to this year’s edition of Frankfurt Musikmesse. Are you looking forward to doing that in your home country?
Yes yes, absolutely! I have been going to the Musikmesse since I was thirteen years old. I think there was only one year that I didn't make it. I’m there every year, so I am really looking forward to it this time. So yes, it is going to be special.
Have you ever performed there before?
I played there several times. Years ago, I have played out with my AC/DC tribute band. Then a lot of solo clinic stuff. This year this year is going to be special, though.
Can you reveal what is going to be so special about it then?
Will Hunt, the drummer from Evanescence, will be there too and I think we will play together doing some Evanescence tunes. He is going to do his solo clinic stuff and I am going to do my solo stuff as well. We are playing every day and going to do exciting things, signing sessions and interviews, there's a lot going on. I'm pretty excited, it's going to be nice!
You just came back from NAMM, the American equivalent of Frankfurt Musikmesse. What is the main difference between the fair in America, compared to Frankfurt, besides the weather?
Haha, well the weather wasn't that good this year. It was raining and I've got a cold now, we call it the Nammthrax. But a music exhibition will always be a music exhibition, no matter if it's in America, Singapore, Frankfurt, or Moscow or Dubai. You always run into the same people. It’s the same companies around there, but NAMM is different because it's the start of the year and the brands of presents all of their new stuff there. NAMM is the first exhibition of the year where all the companies present the new stuff and developments. I saw some really freaky, crazy stuff. It was awesome. I could spy a little bit on that.
Great! You already gained more and more attention for yourself before you joined Evanescence but what happens when you joined that band?
Hahaha, well joining Evanescence is, to be honest… it changed a lot. I always try to do my best and I never changed my attitude over the years, so it was weird to see, out of the sudden thousands of people were reacting to my work and what I do every day. You know, even though I hadn't changed anything. I always try to do everything 110 percent, but people react so much more to it now. And of course, more and more people talk to you. You get tons of text messages and e-mails and interview requests. So that really changed and I remember people telling me “well, you might have to consider having another e-mail address” and I said “what for” but then I found out why shortly after, hahaha. But I still wouldn't change my e-mail address, I get a lot more messages, but I am really happy to hear from everybody and I like to read them and I still try to answer them every now and then. I can't answer all of them but I try to pick out some to which I do answer and I like to read them.
Have there ever been any scary messages in between those?
Scary? I did get really scary shit as well, but I do not want to go too much into detail, but when I said something in reaction to something Phil Anselmo said (the “white power salute at the 2016’s Dimebash concert), and it was meant to be for my friends and my supporters only, it was not meant to be shared by Blabbermouth. So I had a whole shitstorm coming my way from Pantera fans from all over the world. Even to the point where somebody threatened me to shoot me off the stage, giving details of the concert and when and where and how he was going to do it. So that scary shit is also there, but mainly a lot of positive messages come my way and a lot of love and a lot of acceptation. It is really nice.
Without going into too much detail that is still quite detailed, thank you for that. There is a stupid question coming up, are you ready for that?
I love stupid questions!
Okay, I should actually not be asking you this question. In this day and age more and more girls come into metal where it used to be a man's world. There are even women roaring and grunting and stuff like that nowadays. So it is no longer an exception. How cool is that for someone like you?
That is sort of my favourite topic to talk about, haha. There are more and more cool female musicians coming out on guitar, bass, drums and like you said even grunting vocalists. Like Alissa White-Gluz from Arch Enemy, she is perfection, she is awesome. I recently answered the question when I got the question what is the difference between being and female guitar player and a male guitar player and I said “I don't know because I have never been a male guitar player. I have never been a man I have been a girl all of my life”, hahaha. Like you said it used to be a more male dominated world, the rock and roll world, but it's nice to see more and more female musicians. I think emancipation is not that there are more girls coming into rock and roll but emancipation would mean it was equal, which it still is not. There are girls out there that really put out their female sexuality a lot into the picture a lot to get attention. I am not into that and neither is Amy Lee, the singer of Evanescence. We both agreed that you should impress with your musicianship and your intelligence than with your female sexuality.
Yet at the same time you don't seem to have any problems with showing yourself on a sexy your side in pictures.
Well everybody just wants to look good right. hahaha you can't look like shit and go out on stage. So everybody still wants to look good.
Like the picture of you on Metal-archives where you are in cut off army trunks?
Oooh I like that picture, it is sunny. I did almost freeze to death for one sexy picture that I insisted on being taken. But it was too cool, even though my lips started to turn blue.
So you are not making an issue out of it but you refuse to dress drown?
And nobody is asking these questions to the Misfits or Till Lindemann who are really muscular and really proud of their bodies no one's asking them if they are taken seriously because of the way they look. no one is asking them if they try to impress women or maybe even gay men.
Evanescence to be honest has a lot of straight and gay fans and I love the both of them, they're all sweethearts. I said I don't make a difference between male or female and the same is with straight or gay or whatever race, I don't care. Race, colour of skin sexual orientation, we are all human beings. Especially the girls out there were happy and going like “Yeah, we got two rock chicks now”, because that is something unusual. There are a lot of bands where there is one female person. But having a female fronted band with a female instrumentalist as well is not so common.
I bet you too hate the term “female fronted”, don’t you?
(Sighs)…well, we can’t help it (laughs).
But we get astray, it is about Messe here with you. Like we talked about, you are representing Engl and Ibanez and I assume you are bound to these brands, but do you also have the option to watch out the stuff of other brands too?
Of course. At NAMM I went to different guitar companies, watched everything. It doesn’t mean I have to like it. I see it as an inspiration. But I look around, see if something inspires me. Ibanez and Engl is my favourite combination. You should never choose an endorsement just because they offer you the most guitars, or for you, the most advertisement or something. You should feel connected to the gear. I know people who hop from endorsement to endorsement and I don’t support that. I myself have worked with Engl for ten years now, it is a really family-like relationship. It is sort of the same with Ibanez. It was the first guitar I ever bought, I was with Yamaha guitars for a few years, but I wanted to go back to my roots. I also work with ‘d Addario strings and Cordial Cables, take a look at this cable plug, it’s sparkling, it is awesome (she proudly shows me her flashy cable plug as she tells about them). I love it!
That looks like a Christmas plug!
It is called Crystal. Back to your question. We all own different guitars and brands, but you end up with that one guitar that you feel special with. In my case it is this Jem (shows her blue Ibanez Jem, with maple keys and blue inlays), I take it with my everywhere. I have a stash in Nashville, three baritones, two FR guitars, RG-models and stuff, for our tours in America, some acoustics, but this is the one.
I was going to ask you this later on, but maybe now is the right time to ask it: how many guitars do you currently own?
(looks defeated) I HATE that question, hahaha. Ok, be quiet and let me count (sums up the whole bunch). Do basses count? Then it is two more (laughs). I never counted my guitars before. I am at 27. I can’t beat the hundreds and hundreds of guitars of Jeff Water, but I love them.
Well, maybe when you are in your 50s you reached that number too
Hahaha, yeah, maybe.
Ibanez is prominently back on Messe 2017 and you will be doing the shows there, will you be mainly representing Ibanez or will you be representing Jen Majura?
Well, isn’t that the same? (laughs) That was a good answer, ha? Take a look. An electric guitar would not function without an amp. An amp is nothing without a guitar that plays on the amp, right? So, it’s like a one deal. Guitar, amps, pedals and the one who plays.
What do you think of bands, like Ghost does for instance, that play directly into the sound system?
NO! (long silence). I HAVE to have my amp behind my back and feel it. I do not support any modelling going directly into the sound system. You can’t really get the sound you have when you use a tube amp. Yes, I get it and yes it is sort of ok, for demos and stuff. I don’t have my 4x12 cabinets wired here in my house, my neighbours would kill me. Although they are supportive, hahaha. I will always prefer to play through an amp on stage. In Frankfurt I am going to use the exact same settings as I use on stage as with Evanescence. Two 4x12 cabinets and two Powerball 2 amps. This is my Evanescence set up. And I use a Helix. My main set up, come have a look.
What do you think is the main purpose of Frankfurt Musikmesse?
The major thing about music exhibitions is the business side. There are distributors and companies getting in contact, but it is also very clear that the industry wants to open up for customers. Now there is more focus on the audience, which is awesome. And I really enjoy running into fans.
Will you be there at selected moments to connect with your fans, then?
Absolutely. I am also so looking forward to seeing Jeff Waters again, I haven’t seen him in ages and we barely talked the last time. I really like that, hooking up with old friend, meet the fans.
Will you also be showing your vocal side at Messe?
I will do Evanescence songs with Will during his slot. When I am doing my show, I will not focus on Evanescence. And yes, I am planning to do some vocals as well. I don’t know exactly what, but I have the possibility. It is my interpretation of music. Sometimes it is guitar, sometimes I sing stuff, maybe I end up doing a saxophone solo in the middle of something, we’ll see
Could you do that?
Yes I could, hahaha. Maybe they should give me a spot
Tell me a memory you have of Messe, please.
I really remember well when my dad took me to Frankfurt Musikmesse for the first time, when I was thirteen years old. You enter this halls, with all these guitars and all these amps, I went “oh my god, this is Christmas, birthday, Easter, Thanksgiving… all at once”. It was heaven, I was stoked. I hope a lot of brands come to Messe to let the new young kids feel what I felt when I was a kid.
You just told me you have 27 guitars, you play with a major rock band, you just told me you play saxophone, you are a skilled singer yourself, but… is there one thing left on your bucket list that would make your life complete if it was scratched off?
(long silence) Music-wise, as in playing with someone?
I prefer music yes, but if it is to climb Mount Everest, than that is your answer.
No, I don’t need to climb mountains. Probably share stages with Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme).
That is not musically motivated, is it?
Yes it is! He’s been my first inspiration. His playing is very percussive and rhythmically interesting. I would have to go for “play Madison Square Garden with Nuno Bettencourt". There are on the other hand so many great musicians, which makes this a really difficult question.
Thanks! So looks do play along, and you already mentioned that you are into a broad variety of styles. What artist would you turn down if you were asked to play along with them?
When I don’t like the music. Let’s say, just a few days ago I got an offer from a hip hop artist to go out on a tour. But the music didn’t convince me. So I would never go for something without the content in the music I could relate to. I sort of did it out of curiosity with equilibrium on bass, because I thought it was interesting, as I was not THAT familiar with their music. It didn’t work out though (laughs). I try to be honest to myself and I try to be a good person. Maybe I joined a lot of bands and projects, but I never do any of them for the sake of gaining numbers of played shows, it always need to be the music. If the music doesn’t get me, it wouldn’t really work.
But if a really talented musician in hip hop would ask you to write him a song, would that make it any different?
I don’t believe it will. Because I am not familiar with that, I don’t listen to that. I could put something out there, but it wouldn’t be me. If I don’t feel it and have to shape into something, that would not feel right to me. Not for the sake of it, not for the sake of fame, without true creativity. This is how I approach my new solo record. I now will admit that I made some compromises on my first solo album. For all kinds of reasons. But I won’t do that again. I want to write whatever I want to. I am already collecting songs. Hey!!!
So the next Jen Majura album will actually be a 100% Jen Majura album?
100% Jen Majura insanity. I will have great guest musicians, because I like to turn my solo album, not into “me me me me me me me me me me”. I want my friends to join me and share this piece of my life. Sort of celebrating the friendship on my albums. I am not going to mention any names. But lately I found out some very interesting people who are willing to play along, at NAMM actually. But we are still talking.
So now you made me too curious, David Ellefson?
I would love her, but.. well, maybe I could ask her yes. Good idea, I’ll make a note!
Oh, Jeff Waters then?
(Avoiding my look, smiles and sparkles) I really can’t mention any names, hahaha. But I like his playing. He is like Angus Young on LSD and other dope or something, I really like his music, it is so cool.
Jen, if you put Angus Young on dope, you still have Angus Young...
Yes, I know that, but you know what I mean.
I would love to have him on my record. GOD, he can play my entire record, oooooh.
I think I hit a soft spot there, didn’t I?
A little one (chuckles). If you ever get to interview him, just ask him if he is willing to join in on my record, for one solo.
I'll pass the message if it comes to that. I have some great news for you, we reached the end. So I will give you the honour of closing the interview down, but not before I told you that you were in fact amazing to interview, crazier than I could think of at times, which made it even greater. So, thanks and what are your last words to the readers of Lords of Metal and Frankfurt Musikmesse?
I am really looking forward to play Musikmesse this year, it is going to be really special in the new setting. I look forward to hang out with everyone and meet new people. Metal all the way!