Hailing from Wisconson Jex Thoth has spread out to the metal and rock world with the spell-bounding ethereal and magical music. The band is led by Jessica, the primusmotor of Jex Thoth since the Totem years. The most recent album titled BLOOD MOON RISE proves the magic and ethereal elements playing the strong part of the approach of Jex Thoth. Therefore getting to interview the front lady of Jex Thoth unveils more about the new excellent full-length album.
Interview and live pics by Arto Lehtinen
Hello there how is it going in the Jex Thoth camp ?
Hello. Things are good here.
TOURING AND BEING ON THE ROAD
I have witnessed Jex Thoth three times on the stage and in my opinion the band’s atmospheric material creates a unique feeling for indoor clubs, but how do you view this that Jex Thoth and music catch the most ethereal atmosphere on gigs? Do you view being in a certain mood gives you more passion and excitement to create a memorable gig experience?
Certainly it does. We take time for ourselves before each gig to clear our minds and focus on what we want to create. I’m pleased to hear that you get a unique feeling at our concerts.
The performance at the stage is reminiscent to one kind of ritualistic experience, as a matter of fact could you tell a little bit more about the stage performance what for example burning a piece of wood means – what kind of symbolic meaning is behind these acts on the stage ?
The wood I burn is Palo Santo. It’s uses dates back to the fifteenth century. It comes from Bursera Graveolens trees that live for close to 100 years. Once a tree has died and been left to rest for 10 years, the wood is harvested. I burn it at home. Both the flame and the smoke have significance for me.
Creating the certain atmospheric and the ethereal feeling with candles plays the essential role at gigs of Jex Thoth as the audience is literally in trance, as I have witnessed, do you follow how the audience behave and act on your gigs and do you attempt to guide them into the world of Jex Thoth ?
Originally, I brought these things from home with the desire to create a refuge for the band. I wanted to create an environment for son stage which would inspire a musical event special to those moments. Hundreds of concerts later, I find that the smell of the burning Palo Santo and the glow of the candles do help to transport the audience, often, even before we’ve played a note. They prepare the senses to for the music and allow energy to collect in the room.
There is hardly communication between the audience and the band, is the whole thing based on performing the music and let the atmosphere float indoor clubs between the band and the crowd?
On the contrary, there is a great deal of communication going on we just aren’t using words. Together, we allow the room to become another place, alongside reality, between the harshness of the industrial world and the undisturbed beauty of the natural world. If you come to a concert and see the crowd in what you perceive to be a trance, then we have gotten there together. Conversely, if the crowd is charged we build on that.
Does the crowd differ somehow in different countries where you have played and visited ?! What kind of audience do you prefer playing for ?!
Crowds vary from country to country, but I really like that. I couldn’t ask for better fans. I’ve met a great many people at our concerts and they all seem to have a deep love for music. There is no feeling like coming home from a tour feeling appreciated for having made the trip.
The band’s the line-up has gone some changes as the keyboard player had dismissed from the rank and so on, but in general what causes these changes ; disagreements on the musical direction, not getting along on the personal level etc ? ?
My understanding of music is constantly evolving. I want to work with musicians who will take what I can offer and make it better. I’m on a ruthless quest to find musicians who will cause me to think differently and push me to grow.
How much have you struggled to find suitable musicians for the Jex Thoth line-up – has finding these right musicians been a “mission-impossible” task after all ?!
It’s been ride. Finding a perfect combination of desire, style and ability in one person is a tall order. I’m very excited about the group as it stands today and I can’t wait for our next tour.
When starting Jex Thoth as Totem, was the original purpose to have a real band as the name was different , when changing the name did you want to have the name to focus on you as a leader and the core of the band ?!
When we began, I never looked into the name Totem to see if it was taken, I just used it because it felt right. It was in fact taken and I got a letter from another Totem, asking politely that we use a different name. Everyone involved at that time was contributing tremendous ideas but it was my vision we were executing. I wanted our new name to reflect that, hence Totem would carry on as Jex Thoth.
JEX THOTH RELEASES
The first long length same titled opus saw the light of day back in 2008 and after that a couple of Eps titled “Totem” and “Witness” have been unleashed, how come there is a five year time gap between full length albums ?
I only do a release when I have something I feel like sharing. I don’t want my albums to simply reflect a selection of recent ideas.
Did you instead want to focus on releasing these ep, can we expect to see more ep releases from you ?
The first official release as far as I know was the split release with Pagan Altar, how did this come about ?!
Pagan Altar are friends of IHate Records which was extremely fortunate for us, as were all fans and immensely excited when this chance came along.
The outputs of Jex Thoth have been released by the Swedish label I Hate, as the success and fame have both increased, so have other labels expressed their interest toward Jex Thoth ? What made you stay on I Hate Rec after all ?
I have been approached by other labels, some great ones actually, but none so far who have offered me more than what I have found in I Hate. It’s flattering to be offered money to go record your music, but you can’t let good feelings get in the way of choosing the right home your band. I look for creative freedom from my label above all else. Run by Peter Lidén, I Hate is a small company with a high level of organization. I value our direct communication. Peter puts his trust in me as an artist, and defers to me to decide what’s right for my band.
SOURCE OF INSPIRATION
Where do you ladle the inspiration and ideas for the lyrics, for example the nature ?!
I have many sources of inspiration.
How much different kinds of mystic and in general occultism fascinate and inspirate you to pen the lyrics and do you have to be in the certain mood in order to create the lyrics for Jex Thoth ?
I like exploring the human condition as it relates to nature. I’m usually writing my thoughts and ideas for lyrics separately from working on the music. For the music to come, yes, there are certain moods which are conducive, maybe not the ones you would think. I don’t normally sit and plan to write a song. When I’m in a certain frame of mind, a melody will blanket the front of my mind and demand my attention, often accompanied by a single string of lyrics or a lyrical type thought. I may keep those lyrics, I may not, but I find that I usually uncover the essence of whatever this new melody means to me, in those very first few thoughts.
When you started the band as Totem which bands were the main influences on how the music developed ?!
We bonded over our love of Black Sabbath, Amon Düül II and Reverend Bizarre.
NEW ALBUM ; BLOOD MOON RISE
There was 2 year span between the first song and the last. I demanded a lot from the perspective songs for this album. I needed to feel strongly about each one for its individual contribution and even more so for it’s purpose on the album as a whole. A lot of thought went into crafting the over all feel of the album.
Did you come up all the riffs and platform for the songs in the first place or did band members expressed by coming up their own ideas for songs ?
I wrote the songs and worked on them alone until I felt strongly enough about one to share it with to the band. By that point the songs were written, riffs, melodies and basic structure but from there we would develop them even further. We experimented with instrumentation and tempos and we toyed with the structures. I wanted this record to really stretch dynamically to create a clear arc over the course of the album. The band played an integral part in developing that.
I refer this question to these “line-up questions” a little bit, did you find somehow complicate and difficult to create the new stuff as the line-up had gone thru changes and you had to learn the playing style and methods of new members and on which level they are ?
The result of the lineup changes was that I became more private with my material. I was more selective about what I chose to bring to the band to develop. I was confident in the abilities of the new members, and the fact that they dug the albums that preceded their participation, brought some interesting perspective to my work. They all seemed to like the earlier releases for different reasons. That was nice. They encouraged ideas they heard on my demos that I likely would have dismissed as place holders had I simply taught them the chords to the songs. It was through further exploration as a band that the songs really blossomed and I discovered just how they would fit together to construct what I had in my mind.
How long did the recording process last and did everything go as planned in the studio ?
We recorded for two weeks as a full band, I spent a week laying down the vocals and we spent a week mixing. Experience in the studio has taught me to expect unexpected turns, and not to fight them. Unexpected turns can cause things to take a bit longer but more often than not, they sprout new growth.
Some bands and musicians need to have a certain feeling and atmosphere in the studio, by brining their own stuff to the studio. Do you bring the material and stuff of your own to have the magic feeling in the studio while recording ?
I brought all I needed with me, but I also received some unexpected gifts while I was there that made the experience even more magical.
After listening to the album and how it turned, are you 100 % pleased with the achieve result in terms of sounds and mixing, have you spotted some things which could have been carried in the different way ?
Things could always be executed differently and I look forward to doing them differently on the next go around. I couldn’t be more satisfied with Blood Moon Rise, especially with regards to sound and mixing. Randall Dunn produced the album. I’m so glad I decided to put it in his hands, he did a fantastic job. This is our second time working together so I already knew how gifted he was in the studio, not to mention his vast body of work. The experience I had working with him on this album still somehow managed to surpass my expectations. He really took the time to understand me, how I work and my musical vision. I can hear that that translated onto the recording. He’s also a wonderful person. I expressed to him my desire to push myself, vocally, beyond where I’ve gone on previous recordings. When the time came to lay down the vocals, he went out of his way to help create an atmosphere for me, inside the recording booth, which would allow me to fully relax, let go, and focus on the meaning of my words.
SUCCESS AND FAME
I couldn’t say, but I’m sure they’ve helped.
Do you view the occult and mystic themas are these factors attracting the attention and interest from the metal crowd ?!
I think it’s apparent that there has been a increased fascination with these themes in recent in musical trends. I find this mildly amusing, but I don’t mind if that’s the reason someone new discovers my band. We’ll give them a better reason to hang out and keep listening.
During the past few years Jex Thoth has increased the success above all in Europe, have you been utterly surprised by the success or did you somehow expect to have such a large following ?
I’m so grateful to our fans, they have given and continue to give me so much. They are the reason I’m able keep doing what I love.
What do you hope to achieve with Jex Thoth as the biggest dream ?
I was asked this same question in an interview I did back when I first formed the band. I said I’d like enough fans to rival the Kiss Army! That’s still true, but I must say that the fans we have already found are worth their weight in gold to me.
I thank you for your time to do the interview for Metal-Rules.Com and the last words are yours…
We have three concerts coming up in Italy on November 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Official dates posted on jexthoth.net and facebook.com/jexthoth. Hope to see you!