Jucifer: The Hellbound Interview Part 2

By Jay H. Gorania

It’s that time of year again. Summer time means kids are out of school, lakes are party spots, Canadian Football League games are underway, and Jucifer is making its annual tour through Canada. This time, however, the band’s Canadian tour is following their second tour of Europe in their 15-plus year career.

For Jucifer, touring isn’t a part of a career as much as it is an all-encompassing lifestyle. The married two-piece band, comprised of singer/guitarist Amber Valentine and drummer Edgar Livengood, have spent the better part of the last decade touring North America in their RV, the closest thing they can call home, aside from the road itself. Amber Valentine offers Hellbound insight into Throned in Blood, their latest release which is inarguably their heaviest, most abrasive and filthy thus far.

Last week we published part one of Jay’s interview with Amber. Part two follows below.

In a sense, Throned in Blood’s musical brutality gives form to the contextual focus upon war. The final track, “Armageddon,” including some of your only melodic vocals on the release (paired with acoustic guitars), contrasts this musical abrasion with calmness. Speculation aside, what does it really mean?

That there is always a shred of hope for a better humanity. That love, when it exists, can conquer evil. Maybe it’s a fairy story, but I think deep down even the most brutal pessimists among us want to believe that. Oh, that’s a banjo, by the way, in case you wanna correct yourself.

It seems that your live set focuses almost entirely on your new material. How often do you play older songs live? Doesn’t that tick off some longtime Jucifer fans who want to hear their favorite songs?

We’re usually playing at least a couple songs from the current release, and we also sometimes play really old stuff. The funny part is people often don’t recognize those songs in the live setting, because they come across so much louder and more intense.

People at the shows seem to enjoy hearing new stuff, so I don’t think we’re upsetting a majority of our fans. But even if we were, our duty as artists is to be true to our vision. This means that as much as you appreciate your fans, you don’t necessarily worry about what they want. If you do, you risk becoming a parody of your past.

Jucifer doesn’t seem to attract the meathead segment of metalheads, so I’m sure the “show us your tits” comments and behavior is minimal. But to what extent, if any at all, do you face that kind of douchebaggery?

I see screwed up stuff online sometimes. But in that case it’s usually someone who hates us and uses the fact that I’m female in their slur. So they’re not gonna be at our shows.

We do get a lot of dudes at shows who I guess are meatheads on a surface level. Big dudes with muscles. Like you. Is that a meathead? (laughter)

But they’re usually not the type of guys who hate women or deride them, otherwise they wouldn’t be at our show in the first place. If anything, I hear that I’m “bad ass for a chick,” which is a backhanded compliment, yet something I understand since there aren’t a lot of chicks who actually play instruments. I usually mention that I’m bad ass for a dude, too, just so they realize what they’re saying. I don’t wanna come across militant, because I actually like males a lot. And hell, females say that kind of stuff too.

But I want people to realize that surface traits like gender and race don’t predict what someone is capable of.

Sludge, doom, grind, thrash, black, rock, folk, punk…all of this pours through Jucifer in a unique manner, surely to the benefit of your fans, but how much has your eclectic framework held you back in an industry in which rigid pigeon-holing is the norm?

Probably a lot! But it’s not like we didn’t know it would. We just have too strong a desire to do music that we love, to worry much about what other people think of it. We’re not success whores. We’d rather fail than do something we hate, which includes stifling our ideas.

We’ve always known that as an entire band—both live and everything on our albums—we’re asking listeners to have a very open mind, more open than a lot of people are capable of. Depending on what song somebody hears, we could fit so many different categories. So if somebody sees we’re “black metal” and then listens to “Japanese and Lovely,” they’ll think we’re “false metal,” or that the person who called us black is an idiot. Vice versa if somebody’s told we’re indie rock and then, God help them, comes to our show, screaming for the door.

But we’re consensual self-inhibitors I guess. We know how the music industry works, and the mainstream, and that thing that pretends to be the underground but is really just a different-looking mainstream. We know how it works, but we won’t bow down to that shit. We say, “Fuck all of it. To thine own self be true.”

People can take what they like from us and discard the rest. We’re not here to be a buzz band or rich and famous. All of that would be nice, but not at the expense of caving to a bunch of marketing bullshit. I just wish music fans were better aware of how controlled they are when they buy into that stuff. Corporate controlled consumerism in the mask of counter-culture rebellion.

You’ve toured for the better part of a decade living in your RV. You have had roadies in the past, but no longer. Whether it’s work or play, you’re always together. How have you not killed each other by now? How do you manage to keep your personal and professional relationships with each other both healthy and productive?

Playing brutal music helps. Seriously. But aside from that, we just really, really love each other. It’s something you don’t believe in until it happens. We know we’re beyond fortunate to have found that at all, let alone in a creative partner.

To put our experience into some kind of advice, I’d say, you have to be honest and stay honest and stay close. Always talk. If you feel like you hate them, talk. Even better, when you feel love for that person, talk. Everyone is alone inside, and has fear and self-doubt. In our relationships we have to reassure each other, or the trust and belief will disintegrate. I think a lot of man-woman problems come from gender roles and traditional teachings that we “can’t” understand each other and can’t be friends. But a couple needs to be friends…to be best friends. All the chemistry and great sex in the world won’t save you if you’re not.

For a list of their Canadian tour dates, go to www.myspace.com/jucifer

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.