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CVLT Nation Interviews JUCIFER

Gemma Shaw

Nick Sargeant interviews Gazelle Amber Valentine

Self-advertising nomadicism is pretty much the name of your game as a band, and your preferred way of living (at least for the last 15+ years) – how are you still doing it?

It’s pretty grueling.  But living in a vehicle we could tour in, a.k.a. touring in a vehicle we could live in, was really the only path we saw to be this weird extreme underground band we are and survive.

We’ve structured our whole lives around our band.  It’s exhausting and risky, but our priority hasn’t been security or ease.  Everything we do is so we can play this music we love and believe in, for the people who share that love and belief, as often and as many places as we can.  We named our record label Nomadic Fortress because that’s what we’ve created, a safe haven for our music within this incredibly unstable existence.
Jucifer (2)

Gemma Shaw

Does it get expensive to travel with your massive amount of gear?

Extremely!  If we toured like normal bands, we might actually make money.  Haha.

What inspired you to use such a large amount of gear and pioneer this massive sound and large-scale performance?

For our own enjoyment, and for the audiences’, we both wanted to do the most amazing shows that we could.  Part of that was approximating stadium level sound in the smaller spaces that an underground band inevitably plays.  To us, the combination of intimate space and massive sound is simply the best possible scenario for a live show.  We love experiencing this.  For the audience, it means my guitar, which is half of our music, doesn’t get obscured if the sound engineer misunderstands our band.

Another aspect of what we do is our belief that you can truly create something grand and awesome without a giant crew and income.  Because getting a transcendent show environment shouldn’t be only for bands who play pop music or fans who can afford hundred dollar tickets.  And being DIY is no less valid than having things done for you.  If anything it’s maybe more valid – definitely more rewarding.

Most of all, playing with the enormous amount of gear that we use is just a glorious experience to share as musicians and audiophiles.  We work ridiculously hard, long hours to create this experience.  But every time I turn up at the start of our set and we feel ourselves enveloped in that sound, we know it’s worth doing.

Important note re: Psycho Las Vegas – we’re flying there, so we won’t be able to bring our infamous White Wall.  But I can promise that whatever the festival provides for backline, we will bring 100% of our devotion and energy to the stage!

Jucifer (7)

Gemma Shaw

Valentine – the guitar tone that gear creates is so unique and diverse that it breaks through a wall of music that can often run together, so what do you do to give it that individuality? Are there any pedals involved, or is it just your amps and how you’ve worked your guitar?

Thank you!  I alter almost every aspect of the gear and signal path.  As much as I love talking about gear, I don’t share my techniques.  I’ve built my sound with my own ideas, taste, and learning process.  I think that’s not only the path with the most integrity, but also the one that will get anyone to their best personal tone.

That said, something a lot of people miss – and gear sellers count on them to miss – is that a huge part of what a guitar sounds like comes from the player’s own body and mind.  This is why no matter how many people play the same setup as someone like Hendrix or Van Halen, no matter how intimately people know what they did, for basically 50 years, we have not gotten the same guitarist again.  And to me that is awesome.

Is life one big tour to you, or just as many tours packed into a short life as possible?

One big tour, definitely.  It’s a pretty accurate metaphor for life in general:  you make the perfect plans, something will always screw up, but you’ll also get some incredibly nice surprises along with the pain.

Do you guys have a favorite place to play in the world, since you’ve made your way around it so much? Where are you planning to go after you’ve dominated the Earth? Maybe be the first band to play on Mars?

Ha!  That sounds like a lot of gas money…But seriously, we have too many favorite places to list.  One of the reasons we can be on tour continuously is that we find something to enjoy about every place we go.
Jucifer (9)

Gemma Shaw

With consistently being on the road and having literally no home base, what are the difficulties for you guys in writing new material, recording it, and then releasing it?

The biggest difficulty is stopping to record, because it’s hard for us to throw a wrench into the booking process.  But we’ve now recorded War Bird, If Thine Enemy Hunger, L’Autrichienne, Autocannabalist, Throned In Blood, за волгой для нас земли нет, and District of Dystopia from the nomadic fortress – planning stops at various studios to record between tour segments – so we’ve found some kind of rhythm in the process.  It always takes longer than we want it to, due to having a finite amount of studio time before a fixed date that we’re back on tour.  We make adjustments to the recording process to make that work.

Writing isn’t so difficult, in part because we have a lot of ideas and playing shows constantly just adds to our level of inspiration.  It also helps that we’ve been playing together for 23 years.  We can communicate and jump in on each other’s parts really well.

Releasing is hard, especially because we are always on the move and don’t necessarily have time or internet access to do publicity stuff or even things like approve a test pressing.  But we have learned that the UPS store is our friend.  Endorsement gifts welcome, UPS!

The worst effect on our recording from the constant touring is just that we don’t put out records as frequently as we otherwise could.  But we know we’re never gonna completely capture our band’s lightning in an album.  And we do get to capture it, in this strange temporary-but-perfect way, at certain moments on stage.  So we’re okay with the trade off.
Jucifer (4)

Gemma Shaw

All your albums have upheld a theme, and your most recent releases (including District Of Dystopia and за волгой для нас земли нет) have had very politically-driven themes. Are you continuing on a political route with this upcoming release, or drawing content from a wider sphere?

For me, our previous albums aren’t so much political as they are explorations of human propensity for violence, cruelty, endurance and resilience.  There’s a thread throughout history in which politics figure as period costume for this relatively unchanging skeleton of human nature.  I’m interested in revealing how that skeleton endures through different segments of the thread, and in connecting it to the present and the future, whether as homage or indictment or comforting familiarity.

I can’t disclose the theme of our upcoming album until the release date is close, but it will definitely be something we’re very inspired about.

Your split with Sete Star Sept has been in the works for a while; does it follow the same thematic string as your releases or is it something different? How has working on a split with another veteran band been for you?

The split with Sete Star Sept did come out awhile back.   We didn’t work directly with them, but through a French label who approached each of the bands individually.  We hadn’t known about SSS before, and didn’t even hear their tracks for the split until it was all done, but I loved the songs and hope we will end up playing together at some point.  It was cool to find out about a great band we didn’t know before.

Aside from splits, there’s a growing popularity in collaborative albums recently breaking into a more mainstream field for metal; are you interested in collaborating with any artists? 

For sure.  We’ve already talked about doing stuff with certain musician friends, though getting in the same room together to jam hasn’t happened yet.  It’s definitely interesting, but hard to fit something like that into everyone’s schedule.
All photos: Gemma Shaw //
Written By

I like being nice and traveling. I wouldn't be here if Gaia was still a lively website. I play bass and do some vocals in a band.

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