In the backstage area of the Die Börse in Wuppertal I sit vis-à-vis with Jen Majura. She plays guitar and bass, is a singer and songwriter. She is owner and managing director of the Music School Brilon. Since 2002 she has been a professional musician. She founded one of the most powerful AC/DC all girl tribute band (Black Thunder Ladies). Furthermore, she participated in Studio productions of Blind Guardian and Rage. Live she is i.a. playing for Knorkator (as rhythm guitar player). Approximately one year she played bass guitar for Equilibrium. And in her own band of DOZ HELL she stands at the microphone and plays guitar. Since August Jen Majura is also guitar player of Evanescence. But now she must face my prying questions for now.
Jen, you are playing guitar, bass, and you sing. Are there any other instruments that you play?
Yes, I play, amongst others a little bit drums, also piano since I was six, with eight came guitar, which I remain playing since then. Logically, I also play bass, one day I started to sing. Also I have played violin but that I gave it a miss quickly, because the violin is absolutely not my thing. So it is with the saxophone as well, but all these instruments I have only played as a bit on the side. It then remained of guitar and I have never had the ambition to force me with the other instruments such as the guitar.
You compose on the guitar, or …?
Yes. Exclusively on the guitar.
I ask because, many compose on the keyboard.
Depends on the song. I can also sit at the piano and compose, but then some other things come out of, the melodies are more ballad songs with piano accompaniment and less songs with electric guitar. I wrote a song, for example, ages ago, which is a piano ballad. And as I have composed it on piano I wouldn't play it on guitar the same way as on the piano.
Have you really idols on the guitar?
Oh dear! (Laughs)
Frequently Ritchie Blackmore is now stated.
Ritchie Blackmore does not come. (Hesitates) When I started, I liked players like Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme, which I found exciting as 8/9/10 year-old girl, and still now of course! I think it was amazing, because he plays very percussive, fast and yet stylish and song helpful. I am not so much a fan of the shredder fraction which plays according to the motto "faster - higher - further". Then there is a Swedish guitar player who currently is one of the most innovative grandest musicians on this planet in my opinion at all, Mattias "IA" Eklundh who plays in the band Freak Kitchen. He has also become a good friend of mine. He has a special way to deal with the guitar without using too many effects. If you use too many effects, the sound is always so vague, the real play, we hear only through the effects varied. The only thing he uses, is maybe a delay pedal, from time to time a volume pedal and that's it. I find the technique that he has fascinating and try currently to integrate into my play. He organizes every year the so-called Freak Guitar Camp in Gothenburg. I was there last year in August. It was unbelievable, a mega experience. Thirty guitarists meet in the middle of a Boy Scout camp in the forest in Sweden. And you do nothing all day except play guitar. That was something like vacation for my spirit, for my head. It was incredibly awesome. The time that I spent somewhere in the forest in the Swedish nowhere was abruptly interrupted when I was announced by Evanescence as new guitar player. Then my phone rang without a break.
You can’t be pressed into no musical pattern...
... you are playing recently at Evanescence gothic rock or rock. you are playing with Knorkator somewhat cruder rock ...
What's Knorkator (laughs)
Yes what is Knorkator, it is rock with many crude jokes ...
Knorkator is simply Germany's most band of the world, you cannot describe it otherwise.
... You've played Pagan/Death Metal as bass player with Equilibrium. And even with DOZ OF HELL you have an immense range, Queen, Richie Kotzen, Steve Lukather, Mothers Finest, The Beatles ...
You do not know where to begin!
I agree! Is there anything else that you'll like to try, a style that you have not done yet?
Dubstep! (Wikipedia: "Dubstep denotes a largely originated in South London musical genre, which emerged from Reggae, Dub, Garage and Two Step." t.A.) Dubstep Metal / Metal Dubstep. I'd be bent on doing it. I don't know how I can realize that. I am currently on composing. On 18 June this year I'm on the Ibanez Guitar Festival play after the terrific Fusion guitarist Martin Miller and before Steve Vai (among others with Frank Zappa, t.A.). There I would somehow come on stage dubstep like. I don't know how I do it. But I have now a really great new device integrated into my equipment, "Helix" from the company Line 6, which can do anything except making coffee. I'm sitting at home in my tinkering room and making sounds, maybe I get it out and going to play Dupbstep on stage with my guitar.
And now it gets personal. With DOZ Of HELL you cover indeed Jen Majura. How is this actually, it is difficult to cover yourself?
Well, that Jen and I, we've known each other very long. (Laughs) One has a little look at the history of the band. These are teachers who teach with me at my music school (Music School Brilon, t.A.). The idea of the band was born at the student's audition for Christmas. Usually, students then always play for their parents and teachers. And the teachers eat cake and drink coffee and do nothing. As we thought, we teachers should also play something for our students. So we created this band. You must then play music that is out of reach for the students, so we decided for three titles that were outrageously hard to play. A year later it was the same. But we did not want to repeat. That’s why we have rehearsed three other songs. So this has built up. Sometime I thought, why we don’t play songs from my solo album. That's how the band was founded. I always grin like a Cheshire cat when I stand with the band on stage, because it is a great feeling when you are on stage and can present your own music. And if you then stand together with musicians and friends on stage and when you also have people who are enthusiastic about it, then there's nothing better, right?
Your own songs, are they varied/ modified, or do you play them the way they sound on the album?
We adopt the songs mostly one on one. On the album, of course, there are more synth and sound effects that you cannot implement live, unless you are working with samples. We are now in the process of working with samples soon, so we can present also some reverse effects on stage. And even the choirs I have sung all alone sound live naturally different.
You are traveling a lot, with Knorkator, with Evanescence, hopefully soon also in Europe. You have work at your music school. How do you manage to juggle all this?
It's easy to pass along. My week has nine days and each day has 37 hours...
OK, then I could do it as well
... And if 37 hours a day aren't enough, then we just take the night to work at that.
Now we turn to the other two bands. With Knorkator you play essentially rhythm guitar and only live. At the studio productions you're not there.
On the contrary, I was in the studio in February for the production of the new album, but not for the guitar but vocal parts for the backing chorus and that made totally fun, Alf and Stumpen kept saying "Do this - do that - or that". And in the middle of the night "Do that scream ..." and then you stand in the middle of the night in the studio and shout out the soul from the body.
Do you take live guitar parts, which were recorded in the studio and are necessary during the concert as a second guitar, or is it simply to give the live show even more pressure?
No, I did not want to play the same as Buzz Dee. So we also worked out guitar arrangements, which are not even necessarily on the album, but simply complete the play of Buzz Dee, so the sound is just more powerful, voluminous. So now it's not bad if I'm not there. Because Buzz Dee is the guitarist of Knorkator and when he plays alone, it sounds just like original. And if I'm there, there are just a few more sounds with it.
You released your first solo album recently. The list of collaborating musicians reads like a Who's Who of German rock and metal scene.
They are all friends ...
So my question is already answered.
... I thought I'd make the album in the first place for me, so that my music can be produced even with a large sound. And the project I wanted to achieve with good friends. Thats why Stumpen is involved, Toby (Tobias Kersting, t.A.) of Orden Ogan is a buddy of mine, Marco (Wriedt) and I were friends for many years. I just wanted to make an album with many friends.
Last summer, you jetted to New York for a short time.
I did camouflage it well, at this time no one should know why I flew over. And I have seen everything within a day. I have completely seen the entire peninsula, have participated every sightseeing, so all could see that I'm on a holiday trip to New York (Loud laughing).
I have also read, you didn't have to audition. So Amy Lee knew who she had invited.
Even for myself it was confusing. On the evening of 23 July an e-mail niggled in which somewhat read like "Hi Jen I am the manager of the band Evanescence have you ..." I didn't read any further, I immediately pressed the answer button and wrote "yes". I did not need to think about it. About a week later I was on the plane. I have never met Amy before and I was a little nervous after all, Evanescence belongs to the big bands. They have toured all over the world. But then it took a handshake and a hug then I have found that we, Amy and I, are very similar. The big difference between us is she plays piano and I play guitar. We have the same sense of humour, we laughed, ate, drank, went for a walk and had just spent time together. What is often underestimated you can have a cracking musician in the band but if the chemistry is not right you can forget it. We see this both as well. That’s why it was good to spend time together without necessarily going to the studio and play something. We finally went to a vintage music store, I've 'taken a guitar and we played together a song, Amy sang, I sang the second voice and played guitar. And then she simply says "You got the gig!"
The band I got to know only in November when I flew to the USA and Japan for some shows. The chemistry was right immediately. There was a really intimate friendly relationship. Troy, Tim and Will are terrific musicians. I am happy every time I see them. They are totally lovely people and I am pleased that I will have a couple of gigs with them now.
You are also a singer and songwriter. Will you bring in yourself to the songwriting of Evanescence in the future? Oh, and it will sometime give a duet with Amy?
I already sing backing vocals. Previously that like that at Evanescence. You cannot let Tim or Troy sing female backing vocals. Now there is a girl on stage, so it works. And it's great fun and I will sing a few more songs. Duet - no idea, you'll have to ask Amy ...
I would like to
Also concerning future songwriting I consider myself completely covered. That's Amy's thing. She must decide.
And now we come to the final question. What can we expect in the future from you? I think a new album with Evanescence will come. What about a second solo album?
When I'm rich and famous someday, afford to drive an Audi R8 LMS, to live in a mansion of marble and I would be able me to finance a second solo album without going bankrupt then I would definitely be very happy to do it. But fact is we live in a consumerist society that is relentlessly hurtling towards the abyss. It is doubtful what the musical profession will be worth in 10/15 years. Otherwise I would be just happy and healthy. I attach a high value on friendship, to good times and good intense moments. And that is what’s most important now, whether it is seen musically, culinary or creative. I am a person who lives in the here and now, so I rarely think about the future. As I said, a second solo album would be nice, I would be happy. I look forward to many guest jobs that I might make with other bands or musicians. I now have played a guitar solo on the solo album of Therion singer Thomas Vikström. Moreover I was very happy because he is also a good friend and fellow musician. Then I will be heard on the solo album of Luca Princiotta from Doro. Let's see what there is still to come. I hope for a great variety because I will not let me be limited to a style. And in any case I hope I may occur a little more with my DOZ Of HELL guys. Let's see what's happening.
So, thank you for the interview ...
Sweetheart - gladly! Any time. (Laughs)
Pictures: Tom Row (2), Rainer Kerber Photographie (2)