Monday, April 26, 2010

Gazelle Amber Valentine of Jucifer

Gazelle Amber Valentine of Jucifer
Digging deep with the eclectic-metal frontwoman.
The idea of art and metal walking hand and down the uncharted path of the avant guard is a bizarre idea to most bands. Year in and year out metal regurgitates a never ending parade of heirs to the Pantera throne, juvenile musical attempts to be “evil”, soulless technical masturbation or worse yet melodramatic female fronted gothic metal. These constant retreads leave very little in the way of true expression from a genre that used to strife with it.
Enter Jucifer, a nomadic extreme band that creates music from a dark and ugly place but one that flows with artistic expression. Nothing Jucifer does is part of a game plan or in reverence to a scene; they are simple there to exercise their demons in the most creative way possible. What drives this two-piece husband and wife metal team to reach down into the darker emotions and then fuel that with art? I got to speak with front-woman/guitarist Gazelle Amber Valentine about the band, their music and their new album Throned In Blood.

CRAVEONLINE: So give me a brief history of Jucifer.
GAZELLE: We started playing together in 1993 after both having moved to Athens, Georgia from other places.  Our earliest recordings didn’t come out officially, just on cassettes.   Stuff we recorded in 95-96 became our first album, which was released twice, first by an Athens indie label and then again in 2000 by a major.  Because the major, Capricorn, wanted to re-issue that first album, our whole recording career got kinda jammed as far as keeping up with the release schedule we would’ve liked.  Which brings us to 2010 and just now putting out our seventh record, even though we never stopped writing and touring.

CRAVEONLINE: Why do you prefer to stay a two-piece as opposed to involving other musicians?
GAZELLE: At this point, in our seventeenth year, adding anyone else would completely change the band and feel very bizarre!  In the beginning, for a few months, we did try having other members.  No one at that time started out to be a two-piece--- it was something you just wouldn’t think to do, because no one was really doing it, especially in heavy music.  But it was quickly clear to us that our unit, the two of us, was going to be the driving force in our band.   We didn’t want to be in a position of telling other people what to play, or having them try to change what we were playing.  Edgar and I immediately had insane chemistry and the same instincts… other people would have just slowed us down.  
So we buckled down and wrote and practiced as a two-piece for a couple of months, until we knew it worked.  At one of our earliest shows, a girl said to us, “it’s a revolution!”  Now that there are so many two-piece bands around, her statement really rings true.  Oddly enough the only drawback we find to being this type of band is that more recently it has become very trendy.  But for us, the satisfaction we get creatively and personally from our partnership makes up for any passing perceptions of gimmickry.

CRAVEONLINE: You’ve been described as nomadic in nature.  How so?  Why did you choose that life style?
GAZELLE: We haven't had a house, land, or hometown since 2001.  We live in our tour vehicle 12 months of every year.  So we truly have no ties to any single place.  I think we both were addicted to the idea of traveling from the time we were little kids.  When we started playing together, being able to tour was a huge priority.  For years we did things the “normal” way, touring here and there for a few months out of the year and then returning to shitty restaurant jobs.  We got to a point where we felt that we weren’t committing ourselves to our music in the way we really wanted to.  It was easy to get lazy coming back to a town filled with bars and friends. 
We decided that we needed to streamline our life, to get rid of the surface stuff that held us back from being full time musicians.  As early as 95 we had talked in an interview about getting an RV to live in so that we could be on tour all the time.  In 2001 we finally did it.  For us, being a couple and a band and wanting to play shows literally all the time, being nomadic is ideal.  When you have a home and stuff in it and you’re away, it’s very stressful.  Learning to live as transients has made us so much stronger and better able to focus on our true priorities.

CRAVEONLINE: For those who don’t know, how would you describe the music of Jucifer?  
GAZELLE: We’re hard to describe because we’re extremely eclectic in our writing --- so much so that a lot of the songs on our albums are completely unrelated to the songs we play live.  It’s unusual for a band to do such crazy shifts, but we’ve built a reputation that makes fans expect us to freely explore our ideas.  We don’t worry about other people's boundaries.  They may need them, but we don't!   If we feel something we express it in whatever way sounds right to us. 
That said the essence of our band is heavy and loud.  One person called it "stonerthrashdoomgrind" which is probably the best quick description aside from blackened sludge metal.  Neither of those says it all but they're enough to give someone a grasp of what our show will be like. 

CRAVEONLINE: You've said your new album Throned In Blood is a concept album.  How so?  What are the themes involved?
GAZELLE: Bottom line, the record is about how violent and self-annihilating humans are.  How the intent to hold power and "succeed" above other humans corrupts and deforms the human spirit.  No one can seek that power without ultimately destroying themselves.  Extended to societies and civilizations, this premise manifests in terms of injuring one's own people and lands as so-called collateral damage.  Each song on the album was inspired by real events that bear this out.  The LP version will have liner notes that explain what the songs are about, and they'll also be available online for those who wanna delve that deep into the themes.

CRAVEONLINE: Why call the album Throned In Blood? 
GAZELLE: It's very literal as far as expressing the concept.  We like that it can be taken as throned in the blood of others or in the blood of the self or both.  It's also evocative of ruling parties and excessive power of individuals over the masses.

CRAVEONLINE: You likened the recording of Throned In Blood to The Shining.  How so?
GAZELLE: Just in the sense that we were snowed in out in the woods and it was a very intense, fast session.  No actual humans or animals were harmed in the making of this album.
CRAVEONLINE: Do you think there's a difference between your recorded material and your live show?  Why or why not?
GAZELLE: Many differences.  One of the most basic is that our live show involves an extremely large wall of amplifiers.  No matter how well the guitar is recorded or how many mics and amps are used to do it, you'd have to actually listen to the recording through a wall of amps at full volume to get the same effect.  Aside from that, there's the fact that when we're in the studio, we usually experiment with sounds and styles we'd never do onstage.  We love being this insanely loud and heavy thrash-n-bash band when we're playing a show.  But as fans of all kinds of music, we like to explore other avenues in the studio. 
We've played violin, cello, horns, weird percussion instruments, all kinds of stuff on our records.  We never wanted to bring in guest musicians or samples, so it makes sense that playing live we stick to what drums and a loud ass distorted guitar do best... obliterate!  Throned In Blood is more true to our live style than anything we've put out before, although there is one little surprise on it that we won't be likely to play at shows.

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