Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Interview: JUCIFER/Amber Valentine

*unedited excerpt from my interview with Amber Valentine of Jucifer for RESOUND Magazine

How did you end up working with Relapse?

Over the years we've been touring, we have always
played with Relapse bands. I guess the label and our
band have existed for about the same amount of time,
so it kinda makes sense! We first met Matt Jacobson
when we were touring with High On Fire around 2002.
He was super cool to talk with, and kind enough to
give us a stack of cds. We kept in touch and
eventually were in a position to accept an offer from

It made sense to us because, though we're not a
straightforward metal band, our core is thick,
intense, heavy heavy sound and riffs, and Edgar's
drumming is just sick.

Our first two labels wanted to market us more as a
pop band- partly because I'm a girl singer, and partly
because we do write some pretty songs. But we would
go on tour and people expecting that would be
terrified of us- literally shrinking away from me as I
walked off stage at times!

Meanwhile whenever we played on metal bills, the
crowds would be loving it and driving us to be even
more insane. So we figured, not only is Relapse a
strong underground label that has survived, they also
can support the band we love being without trying to
cushion our edges. And we already had a lot of
friends among Relapse bands, so it just felt right.

You truly have an amazing voice – haunting, hypnotic, intimidating and
ethereal are all words that come to mind. How did you develop your
vocal technique? What made you want to become a singer?
Listening to your records, I'm reminded fairly strongly of Jarboe –
she also blended experimental, crushing sounds with strong yet very
feminine vocals and raw emotion. Would you cite her as an influence at
all? Are there any other female artists from whom you've drawn

Hypocritically, I never liked female singers too
much when I was growing up! My early vocal idols were
Henry Rollins and Ian MacKaye. I think I always
related to that power and release that were usually
reserved for males. I wanted to sonically kick
everyone's ass!

Over the years, I've learned to appreciate and
exploit my voice as an instrument. My goal as a
singer isn't to be showy or impress you (or even kick
your ass, haha). It's to drive home the song, to
color it with emotion, to make the character breathe
and walk.

I haven't heard a lot of Jarboe's music, but I know
enough about her to appreciate the comparison! She
seems to have been and be equally committed to her
art, and to the spectrum of being a person as opposed
to being a one-dimensional "girl".

Jucifer is always out on the road, traveling the country in your RV.
What is a typical day like for you when you when you're not playing a
show that night? Do you ever miss the stationary life?

A typical off day for us will sound pretty
mundane... but it's pretty much sleep, eat, shower,
clean, repair shit, try to catch up on communications!
Once in a while we get to stay somewhere with great
outdoors opportunities- we'll do a long hike or shoot
hoops or play tennis. We like to keep moving!

We miss people from the stationary places, but we
don't miss being stationary. We're addicted to
motion, and addicted to music, so living on the road
is good despite the hardships.

What kind of experience can one expect to have when seeing Jucifer
live? Your "wall of amps" aesthetic is a pretty important part of your
live show, yet you have some very soft, quiet parts to many of your
songs. I'm sure you've confused, shocked, and confounded more than
your fair share of audiences!

Confused, shocked, confounded, bedazzled, and
pissed off! People say it's a religious experience,
or they say we're not even playing music and we suck,
and everything in between. It seems like most people
who like our records like our band even more after
they see us live, which is great. We also get people
who say "I don't like this kind of music, but I
thought you guys were amazing". And we frequently
hear that we are the best show someone's ever seen-
which is a lot to live up to, but we try.

Then there's people (for some reason, often dudes
who have smaller amp rigs than me) who accuse us of
using fake gear. Others (usually girls) who say I'm
not actually playing guitar. Or that I can't play- I
guess because I'm doing what I want to hear rather
than doing all the same licks they've been taught
equals good guitar-playing.

And there's the metalheads who've been told we rule
heavy ass, then go listen to a sweet pop track from a
record and bitch online that we suck.

But the fans we get, who get us, are amazing. The
craziness of our band is challenging, and the people
who meet that challenge are the very best kind of
music fans. Often they've included some of the best
musicians among our contemporaries. If Matt Pike,
Buzz Osborne, Brent Hinds, Mike Watt, Joe Preston, and
the late Kurt Cobain dug my playing- I'm not gonna
worry about random dude!

No comments: