Progressive metal act JINJER was one of the last bands to be on tour before the pandemic shut down most countries around the globe and concerts were canceled and postponed during most of 2020. The band recently did a mini-tour around Germany and Switzerland that respected the rules and regulations set by the government and social distancing and, on top of that, they are releasing a brand new live album, “Alive in Melbourne,” from their first show in Australia. We had the chance to talk to singer Tatiana Shmailyuk. Read the complete interview below…
First of all, nice to talk to you and thank you so much to take the time to talk to me about your new release. How are you doing today?
Thank you, I’m fine. Just chilling at home, here the weather in Kiev is pretty crappy, it’s been raining the whole week, the last week and this week and yeah. So, not much to do. Just having all those marathons like interview marathons lately. How are you?
I’m good, yeah pretty much the same here in Finland. It’s been pretty much rainy and grey but today was a nice day actually. Now, enough about the weather. Let’s first talk a little bit about what’s been happening with JINJER the last couple of months. I believe in September you had a four-date mini-tour which respected local governmental satefy and social distancing rules. Now what does touring look like during a pandemic? Was there a lot that changed for you guys?
Well, first of all, you know, we and the fans were starving for concerts, headbanging, and playing on stage and of course, we were ready to do anything to play at least these six shows. However, first of all, Ukraine didn’t want to let us out and Germany didn’t want to let us in, once we got to Germany, we spent about 2.5 hours in the police office just explaining and trying to prove that we were there legally and that we have the whole package of necessary documents to prove that we are actually here to play concerts and these are social distancing concerts and yeah, after all, we ended up playing four shows in Germany and three shows in Switzerland, that was kind of weird, it was a weird experience. First of all, because there were not more than three hundred people in the venue and also, most of the shows were seated, people were sitting. You know, it’s not really the way metal shows are, but it was good, I think that people obviously looked awkward, they felt awkward, but it was interesting.
Yeah, especially with a band like JINJER, there are usually a lot of moshpits and such going on during your shows, and crowd surfing if that’s possible in venues, does it feel weird for you to see people seated at a show?
For me personally no. You know what? Many years ago when I started singing and I had my first show with my school band and we paritipcated in some kind of contest, we played a song called “Lords of the Boards” by GUANO APES in front of the elderly and they were sitting and of course I felt awkward, but that was my first show and I couldn’t compare that show to anything else, you know, so seeing people who don’t mosh or shit, for me it wasn’t a surprise.
Now, it seems like you also had quite a hassle getting there and such. Was it worth for you at all to do these shows, even though it was restricted capacity and such?
Of course, it was absolutely amazing because as you may know, we were the last band who played actual shows this year, it happened at Hell & Heaven Fest in Mexico. After that show, after that festival, everything was just shut down and no one was able to play shows, at least from what I heard and we started touring again as a first band and we were really grateful for that chance. After that, we got some more propositions from other countries in Europe from promoters to play some shows with restrictions in December, but we said no, fuck it, no we’re not gonna play on good luck, I think it’s enough. We’re not that greedy.
You also recently released a video for “The Prophecy” and it seemed like you had a lot of fun shooting it. What can you tell about the video shooting?
Yeah, you are absolutely right, that was the plan! We were so tired of these really complicated scripts with directors and producers and this music video was supposed to be like that, just to feel as if it’s a birthday party and very simplified… Nothing more than just a bunch of friends and musicians. That was the most fun music video shoot that we’ve ever had.
Yeah, is a music video like that really different from playing a show and is it something you take into account when doing the act?
That’s what I’m saying, this particular music video, was almost as if we were playing a small garage show for friends because we were able to actually connect all our amplifiers and drums and so on, but if we talk about some of the music videos where we have to act, for example, like “Judgment and Punishment,” we were in this old house and I was a witch, so of course, it can’t be compared to a concert and it didn’t feel like a concert, it felt like a movie. Of course, it depends on what story you tell in the music video.
Are these music videos for you guys something of importance? I noticed you’re one of these bands that puts a lot of effort and thought into them as well.
Yeah, well obviously, they are important, but I cannot explain why (laughs). Eugene can tell you more about that. He has his own reasons and I think a platform like YouTube right now is a huge part of promoting your band, brand, or whatever you do, of course. On top of that, visuals always affect you in a big or huge way, so you’ll remember the song just because you liked the video, for example. They can kind of influence your mind or something.
Now, you guys are also releasing a live album “Alive in Melbourne” end of this month – in another interview I listened to, you mentioned you’re actually not a big fan of live albums. Keeping that in mind, how do you feel about your own live album?
Yeah, that’s true (laughs), I don’t like watching live videos and especially JINJER‘s. You know, I haven’t seen “Alive in Melbourne” yet, I haven’t listened to it yet. I decided to get surprised by watching it together with fans at the end of the month, I’m gonna watch it then. I should probably just film reaction videos… they’re very popular right now, just reaction videos to my own live show (laughs).
Do you not like it because you think it’s weird to watch yourself perform live or is it another reason?
I think it’s boring. Personally for me it’s kind of boring, I already played that show on stage, so I don’t feel the urge to watch it again, you know, because for me, every show that I play is almost the same, unless I wear something extraordinary, like the golden jumpsuit (laughs).
Yeah, that came to my mind too when you said that. So, my next question is of course, but maybe you don’t have any memories connected to that show but playing “Alive in Melbourne,” it was your first time playing in Australia, do you have some specific memories from that show or the general experience playing live in Australia?
Oh yeah, well, you are right! I don’t have particular memories from that day, but from the whole tour, in general, I brought a lot of stuff back home, for instance, pictures of us carrying a kangaroo… (laughs) Sorry not a kangaroo but a koala (laughs). We happened to visit a sanctuary, so we saw them and we were able to walk around their territory and touch kangaroos and hold koalas and see some magnificent animals and stuff like that so that was on our day off, I think, or it was before our show, I don’t remember. The whole atmosphere and then the climate and nature was beyond our expectations, it’s really something that’s a present, a gift, life’s biggest present to us. It’s amazing and the fact that it’s so far away from Ukraine for example, so I feel like I visited another planet.
Yeah, was it a bucket list thing for you to play in Australia?
Yeah, of course (laughs) we want to cover the whole globe, and I wish we could play in Alaska maybe someday.
Yeah, you guys have been pretty much around Europe and the US, but you mentioned that visiting that sanctuary for the wildlife and such, do you guys do a lot of things on your days off during tours, or are you usually just chilling whenever you have some time off?
Well, we do sometimes go sightseeing if we are somewhere, some place we have never been before, or we just were there but not really been able to see the scene. If it’s, however, in the middle or in the second part of any tour, then we are pretty exhausted and just smashed (laughs) we prefer to just stay somewhere because we started to tour by night liner and usually we are parked somewhere outside the city. There is not much you can do there, chilling or just sleeping or whatever. Sometimes we go to downtown somewhere and maybe just have some lunch or dinner in some restaurant or whatever, but yeah when we were in London we tried to just do everything that you can do when you are a tourist and you happen to be in London. So we tried still and sometimes you don’t want to, but you go there (laughs) some people don’t even have a chance to go and visit this city, so why sit somewhere between four walls.
Now, you guys also played quite a lot of songs during that show. I think about 15 if you exclude the intro and outro track. How do you guys usually go about picking the setlist, as I know it’s a bit of a struggle for most bands?
Yeah, it’s a struggle. If you are a headliner and you have like 120 minutes of set, you can do whatever you want, because this time we were and the fact that we were there for the first time, people haven’t heard our old songs before live, for example. So we brought as many songs as we could and we performed them, although we hate playing some of them, but we did. Little by little, some few songs from this album, few songs from that album, and then you have a perfect setlist (laughs) that covers all your discography, all the musical heritage.
What songs from “Macro” did you enjoy playing the most, if you have any?
I think “Judgment and Punishment,” just because of this small tiny part where people say, “Booyah.”
That was something that a lot of people commented on on the YouTube video, that “booyah” has become like an iconic word for you.
Well, I didn’t create it (laughs). It was some, you know this is an imitation of a sound of a gunshot, so yeah, it came from Africans or African American people and widely used in hip-hop and reggae or raga.
Now, of course, having not been able to play so much with your band and being in lockdown in general, how have you guys as a band kept yourselves busy? Did you already start working on some new material or are you just relaxing with the free time you have?
Oh, we keep ourselves busy, that’s for sure! We prepare some material for a new album and I think music-wise, almost like 5 or 6 songs are already ready. I just have to step up and start writing lyrics. And also, for the past month we’ve been doing a lot of interviews, I don’t know how many, also tomorrow we’re going to film another music video.
Is there anything you can already say about that or not really?
No, not really. We always like to keep it a secret, we always prefer not to spread the word, not to create hype over that, like hey guys we just filmed a music video and here is a picture of what we did yesterday. No, our music videos are released like bam, like someone hits you with a shovel.
Yeah, that is true. Anyway, I’m looking forward to that, I think our time is almost up. Thank you so much for doing this, do you have any last thoughts you want to share with our readers and your fans?
Yeah, sure of course. I would like you to stop scrolling down on your Instagram and find some time and find some cool articles on Tuonela Magazine about what’s going on in the music industry of heavy metal and hopefully, people haven’t lost their hope yet so let’s see what 2021 is going to bring us. Probably nothing bad, because there is nothing worse than this year. It’s hard to fuck things up next year! (laughs)