All Photos by Tak Wind at http://takwind.com
February 27, 2014
Changing a lead vocalist is always a pivotal step, as it can easily make or break the band in the future. Chicago based Hessler recently announced that classically trained Jessikill will be their new singer and judging by the song “Never Lost My Way” — Hessler’s first new single with Jessikill — the band is clearly aspiring to have this change take them to the next level, perhaps similar to how Iron Maiden broke through when they replaced Paul Di’Anno with Bruce Dickinson. Sleaze Roxx caught up with Hessler’s founder and leader, the very driven Igz Kincaid, as well as Jessikill — who was granting her first interview as Hessler’s new lead vocalist — to discuss everything from the band’s recent changes and future plans to Kincaid’s self-admitted control tendencies.
Sleaze Roxx: Let’s get right down to it. What were the reasons for former lead vocalist Lariyah Daniels’ departure from Hessler?
Igz Kincaid: We did a 25 date tour in November and December (2013) covering coast to coast, going from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and as soon as we came back home we were supposed to go into the studio and work on new material. Lariyah informed us after — the day after New Year’s — that she was going to be moving to Atlanta. After talking with her and letting her know that that wouldn’t work for the band — for any band unless they are wealthy enough to be flying back and forth all the time — and that she needed to be here, we just kind of felt that the band was not her priority anymore. We made the decision to move on without her and bring somebody else in. It has worked out with Jess.
Sleaze Roxx: Do you know for how long Lariyah was thinking about moving to Atlanta?
Igz Kincaid: It is one of those things that is a little bit hidden. The whole tour, I would say she was kind of giving off the vibes that something was going on. I don’t think the rest of the band really saw it at the beginning but we did towards the end. I guess now that she is getting into some darker things, like vampire stuff and what not, it does not tie in with what our message in music is and what we want to do. We do not have the same directional path.
Sleaze Roxx: I noticed that Hessler and Jessikill actually played at the same venue in San Antonio, Texas on December 9th, 2013. Was that the first time that you two met?
Igz Kincaid: When I started Hessler my ideal singer always would have been — just off the top of my head — a male singer in the vein of Bruce Dickinson or Rob Halford. You know, somebody with a great voice. Through my time in Chicago and playing around, I have never come across anybody that fit the stature of the band and had that type of voice — the same kind of goes for Lariyah. From the very first Hessler interview, I always said that she was not a heavy metal singer but I believed in her as a person and singer. I thought that she could learn over time but it was taking a little too long and not really going where we wanted it to go. When we played the show with Jess’ old band in San Antonio, we were just blown away because normally the bands you play with, very seldom do you get to hear someone with that much of a powerhouse voice. As soon as Lariyah told us she was going to be moving, Jess was the first person I thought of. And that show in San Antonio was what started it all.
Sleaze Roxx: What about you Jess? Do you have anything to add?
Jessikill: Yeah, definitely! When I saw Hessler as soon as they came on, I was blown away by their performance and the style of music. Everything in Hessler is everything I have always wanted in a band. I leaned over and told my friends that, “I can’t believe I am seeing this! This is everything I have ever wanted. They are right in front of me and it belongs to Lariyah.” I was just thinking, man, I love these guys. I went home and my day, my night, had just been flipped into something great. When we got to play, I got to sing my heart out. I saw Igz’s eyes just light up as they were watching us play. It felt like you guys really liked us. I went home and I was just like, “Man, that band was awesome!” I liked all of Hessler’s stuff and pictures. I was reading all their info, looking at their videos and I was like, “Man, I wish I had this!” Next thing you know, a whole month later, I got a call. I had kept in touch with (Hessler’s other guitarist) Frankie — we would text and call. We were just like, “Hey! How is everything going? Keep me updated with everything and tell me about the tour and all that experience.” I was just excited to hear about the tour. I was like, “I want to do that.” I would have wanted that and next thing you know, Igz called me and was like, “Hey! How would you feel joining with Hessler?” And I was just like, “What?” My jaw just fell off my face, I was so happy.
Sleaze Roxx: Was there anybody else considered or Jess was the first you called?
Igz Kincaid: You know, the funny thing, how she talks about us is the same for us about her. The night when we played together she was kind of telling her band, “Man, look at these guys. They really got their stuff together.” And I was saying the same stuff to Lariyah — “Listen to this girl’s voice. She is just not missing any notes, not pitching. She is really just soaring above the stands.” So as soon as I came home, from a fan’s perspective, I was watching every video of Jess that I could find online and showing it to my friends — just because I was a fan of her voice. So, there were a couple other people that could I guess fit but everything from the first day said, “Wow! This girl’s voice! Just call her, call her, call her.” So even though everybody was wondering if we were going to audition people — and we led them to believe that we were — in actuality, we just reached out to Jess and asked her if she would come up and try out. And if she likes it, you know, we go from there. And everything as you know has come together and fit in piece by piece.
Jessikill: It was kind of like band love at first sight (laughs).
Igz Kincaid: Yeah, yeah, yeah! It was band love at first sight. I like that, I like that. It is funny (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: At first, I think Hessler started with a male lead vocalist. Was there any consideration to reverting back to a male singer?
Igz Kincaid: You know, that was just from my original idea of having a male singer. But Frankie Snakes, our other guitar player, put it best — he was like, “We have already done so much leg work being a female fronted band, we might as well continue with that.” On a side note, if we had not found Jess, I do not know if we would have continued with a male singer but that does not matter because we chose this path. We are so happy with it so I do not know. A guy singing in Hessler? We have got Jessikill. We do not need a guy!
Sleaze Roxx: Now, Jess — you are based in San Antonio, Texas. Obviously, the rest of the guys are in Chicago. Are there any plans to change that?
Jessikill: Yeah! I am kind of moving to Chicago and pretty much visiting back home every time we have time off or whatever. But my head is in the game and I will do anything it takes to keep moving forward with Hessler.
Sleaze Roxx: Jess, you have an interesting background. You have been on the X Factor and you are classically trained. Can you tell everyone about your background and experiences leading up to Hessler?
Jessikill: Well, okay! I have been singing since before I could talk, I have been singing my whole life. I have been in and out of my own bands and my sister and I had a band. Actually, I come from a family of musicians — my brother, my sister and myself and just growing up, I have been doing nothing but music. I could not pull myself away from it, so when I was 15 I got a vocal instructor — Kerry Kraft. He trained me on all of the opera stylings. From there, I just took his techniques and started using my own experience. I would experiment with my own vocal flexibility. So yeah, I would not be the same without that guy.
In terms of X Factor, my mom kind of encouraged me to go because my friend Kristine Kraft, who is the daughter of Kerry, was going to audition for the X Factor. My mom was like, “Go. You have got a ticket.” And I was like, “Yeah. They are going to hate me, whatever.” I did not want to go and my mom was like, “Don’t forget who you are. You be a girl and be strong.” I was like, “Okay”, so I went and sure enough, they loved me! It was cool. You know, those shows are crazy — TV shows I guess. But, yeah, I have had my bands in and out. I have been struggling — I was Jessikill of the Dead and then Jessikill. I have been doing choreography, getting fit, trying to get everybody in the same mindset as I am and it has been fun. It has been fun jamming and being appreciated here in San Antonio but I just feel like it is time for me to go reach for the stars. I am on my way now, you know?
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! There is an official trailer on YouTube that was released in early 2013 for the documentary ‘The Last Kamikazes Of Heavy Metal’ which is on Hessler. The trailer indicates that the documentary is coming in 2014. What is the status of the film, especially with all the changes that have been happening with the band?
Igz Kincaid: Well, the documentary is an El Jinete film. Bilana and Marina Grozdanova have over 500 hours of footage. Sometimes fans will be like, “When is the documentary going to come out?” And I am like, “You know, would you like to edit 500 hours of footage into an hour and a half or less?” So it is something. I know they submitted it to festivals and it is coming together. But I think the one benefit of it having so much footage and taking so long to put the story together is that they can include where the band is now and what is going on with Jess coming into the band.
I saw preliminary — I guess a long two and something hour version of it that is going to be cut down and edited. I do not know where the story and everything else is going to go, that is up to the film makers. But I think — what I am hoping from my perspective is — the whole original reason I agreed to do it with the girls coming with us on the road and being a part of the band’s life for two years was simply to just showcase what we are about. Like Jess said, her struggling with bands, every battle she has fought on her own, we have fought together as a five or four piece. With her coming in, she does not have to be alone by herself in a war anymore. We are all fighting the same battle to get heavy metal rock and roll back in the forefront of music or just to be able to make a living off of consistently doing this because it is what we enjoy. So by joining forces, it is kind of like the end of that documentary. I just hope everything comes together full circle. But in regards to a release date, I believe they are putting it out here at the SXSW film festival in March. Any details to it, I am not really familiar with.
Sleaze Roxx: So Igz, you have confessed in the past to being a bit of a control freak but you wanted to ease up in that regard, and the official trailer of the documentary even hints at some band related issues. How are your control tendencies coming along and do you find it to be an asset or detriment to the band?
Igz Kincaid: Ohhh — that has to be the best question anybody has ever asked me in any interview I have ever done!
Sleaze Roxx: Thank you.
Igz Kincaid: It’s the truth! Our producer Chuck Macak at Electrowerks where we did ‘Comes With The Territory’ was wrapping up things the other day and I am sitting there getting the final mix down. He looks at me and goes, “Dude — without Lariyah here you are so different.” And I am like, “What do you mean?” And he goes, “You’re calm.” That control freak aspect, I feel like it is now going more and more out the window. It is just basically I have gone through, since the day I started the band from the very beginnings of playing in a garage, possibly 40 people or 40 members. Whether it was the girlfriends requiring too much time or they were drug addicts or boozers that did not have their stuff together — whatever the reasons may be — I felt like the control freak aspect of myself was definitely a benefit to the band because it kept it on a specific path. My thing was, I wanted five completely different people with the same goal. If we are all the same, it is boring. I do not want everybody to be like me. Hell, I would not want another person like me. It would drive me insane! I do not know how my band puts up with me as it is but I think that going forward, if I was that much of a control freak, I think it would be a detriment to the band.
The difference with Jess coming in, and one of the best compliments we ever received recently, is that it is a band. Lariyah was not on the same page with us musically. She was not a heavy metal or a rock and roll fan at heart like we are. She has her own prerogatives, missions and reasons and I am not going to speak for her. But if you are not five different people with the same goal, you cannot be a team and you cannot divvy up equal portions of the loot. I enjoy being captain of the ship but I do not want to be a tyrant. I want to be you know, just a captain of the team. I want to be a part of a team and I feel like with this video and this new song, Hessler is finally that. And everybody is responding very positively towards it.
Jessikill: I think every band needs someone like Igz (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: Why do you say that?
Jessikill: Because I think he is the chief and he allows us to put in our suggestions and everything. He is not just like, “No. It is going to be what I say.” It is just like he allows us to be free and he listens to everyone and we listen to each other. He also has a lot to do with the structure of this band and I am lucky that he is the way he is.
Sleaze Roxx: Now, there was a little less hoopla with this line-up change, but Marcus Lee, the drummer on Hessler’s last CD was replaced by Derek Spiteri. When and why did this change occur?
Igz Kincaid: Marcus was just — it just was not the type of music he wanted to play. There was of course personal reasons as with anything else but that to me is neither here, there or nowhere. The main thing is I do not think the type of music we play is what he wanted to do and he had a different mentality than we did. Where Derek is more — I refer to it as a puzzle — you just keep putting pieces in. It is like one of those puzzles where you have a thousand pieces and you keep putting them together. You cannot tell — it is the same shape but you do not know if that is the one that needs to go there. You just keep moving pieces around until it works and Marcus was not the right piece for the band. Derek was, and is, and I guess what we have out today is a result of that.
Sleaze Roxx: You have just released a new single called “Never Lost My Way”, which is the first song featuring Jess. What has been the feedback so far?
Igz Kincaid: Positive! Let me take a look here on YouTube to see what it says. The primary thing we were concerned with is, going back on the control freak thing from earlier, I did not ideally want to put Lariyah on the cover of ‘Bad Blood’ which was our first CD. I was going to put what is on the actual disk on the cover which if we re-release it, I will do that. I just wanted to kind of establish that Hessler was no longer a male fronted band, that I was not singing, that I had a new singer. So with bringing Jess in, one thing we were worried about was just the usual comparison of a female singer but deep down inside, talent — I know that talent is always going to prevail. That is kind of why I had her do the scream at the beginning of the song. That is the main thing people get hooked in within the first 10 seconds. Jess establishes that she is there and she is there to kick ass and take care of business like only somebody with that kind of talent and power can.
Sleaze Roxx: What about the beginning of the video? It has a funny intro which shows a little bit of the band’s humor. Is that something that the band will pursue or display more of in the future?
Igz Kincaid: Yeah, they are goof balls. I am the one that has to do like, “Hey guys, get serious.” But what is life without humor? Humor is the best medicine and the best energy so Jess is right — we should. Where it is going to go, I do not know. We did funny stuff in our last live video in the past. I think it is just important to take yourself seriously when you are performing and dealing with people and fans and everything else. But if you take yourself too seriously, I think it becomes kind of pokey. You want to find that balance of it and I think nobody noticed that we put — we are all big Pat Benatar and Beavis and Butt-Head fans — a Journey video they were watching that says “Hey Beavis. What? It is Pat Nebatar.” It was Jess’ idea so we put Pat Nebatar on the video but nobody has noticed it yet.
Jessikill: Yeah! People have been asking me who came up with the ideas. We kind of did it together. It was really funny!
Igz Kincaid: I mean, that was the cool thing — just like what Jess just said — we came up with it together. Everybody suggested something. You know, I put Kim Wilde, Frankie put Janet Jackson, Eric put Satan, Derek put — I don’t know what he put — Courtney Love. And we were just having a great time with it. It is funny that that silly little piece of paper really shows how this band has gone from one guy trying to work a bunch of troops into shape to a team of five people forging together like a unit to get our message across.
Sleaze Roxx: You have three songs that are going to be released including “Never Lost My Way”. Were the songs written with Jess or prior to her arrival?
Igz Kincaid: I say, let’s leave that one as a surprise for people to find out when it comes out. What do you think Jess?
Jessikill: Igz did send me some tracks and he gave me the freedom to work on the melodies. He kind of gave me a little guide so basically I came up with the melody to the song.
Igz Kincaid: One of the songs that is going to be on the Maxi-single, Jess wrote all the words to it.
Sleaze Roxx: So you pretty much answered the question.
Jessikill: I am just into Hessler, so now we are pretty much doing crossovers. I do their stuff and put my twist on it and then we start working together. That is exactly the way it has been.
Igz Kincaid: It is really fun. It is like all of a sudden getting the toy you always wanted that you saw on a TV commercial and you’re like, “Oh! We can do this and this and this” from a songwriter’s perspective.
Sleaze Roxx: The band really seems to be trying to forge a new beginning. You even have a new logo. What led to that change?
Igz Kincaid: I did not even think people were going to notice. It is more turning a new page — starting out putting on a new pair of shoes — a new day, a new year. We just kind of wanted to clean the slate with what we had done. It does not mean we won’t play songs we have played before because they are Hessler songs.
Jessikill: It is like a new album cover.
Sleaze Roxx: Sure. So when are you coming to Canada to play some shows?
Igz Kincaid: We were supposed to go to Canada twice. We have a lot of great friends that are awesome bands from Canada like Skull Fist and Diemonds. People are really receptive and they are nice and just hanging out. The Toronto scene — we would love to. The tough thing for us is the visas for American bands to get into Canada. It is not necessarily that it is all that expensive, it is just when you are doing everything yourselves — like we do with all the paperwork and whatnot — it makes it a little bit tougher. It is also a very long drive, imagine going from Saskatoon to Calgary. It is not like going from Chicago to Indianapolis. It is not that we are not road warriors — you know, we have done 19 hour drives and 23 hour drives and everything else. I would love to go to Canada tomorrow if we could. We would be on the road everyday if we could. I guess we have to make it make sense and financially have to be able to manage it.
Sleaze Roxx: What are the band’s plans for 2014 aside from your upcoming Metal March Madness tour?
Igz Kincaid: Well, we were supposed to be going to Sweden for three or four shows at the beginning of May. Now those plans have been pushed back to the summer. Frankie and I are planning a full June tour for us and we are working on some other things. I do not like throwing names out there because if it does not happen, I feel like you are just blowing smoke up people’s butts. Basically, just to put out as much music as we can, meet as many new faces as we can and tour, tour, tour. Get to head bang every night, drip sweat on stage and listen to Jess kick ass.
Sleaze Roxx: Last question. For each of you, what are your three favorite albums of all time and why?
Igz Kincaid: Jess, go first.
Jessikill: Alright, I’m going to have to go with Metallica. You mean like of different bands?
Sleaze Roxx: You said Metallica, so pick three favorite albums of all time. If you are going to say Metallica, which album would you pick from them?
Jessikill: That is a tough one because I really like ‘Ride The Lightning’, I love the ‘Black Album’ and I love ‘Kill ‘Em All’. But if were to go through separate bands, I would have to go through all them because I love Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and all that. But yeah, those are my favorites. Metallica to me says a lot because they were able to transition the music and they did not keep all their songs and all their music sounding the same through time. You know, people complain that they changed but then again if they did not change, people would say, “Ohhh, their music sounds the same.” Their music is very inspirational to me. ‘Kill ‘Em All’ was just like, “Yeah! Thrash!” and it made me feel good every time I went out and partied — it made me feel good. The ‘Black Album’ was just like, “Man, I have got passion. I am an artist and I am going to showcase that.” ‘Ride The Lightning’ is just full throttle, creativity, power, passion and it puts everything together and summed up a lot of Metallica. So I am very inspired by them and how they are able to just have a variety showcasing their talents. That is what I want to do.
Sleaze Roxx: Well obviously Jess, you are a little bit of a Metallica fan (laughs). Now, Igz, what about you? What are your three favorite albums of all time?
Igz Kincaid: My favorite album of all time, number one forever until the end of time, is Iron Maiden’s ‘Number Of The Beast’. Beginning to end, you can’t touch it. “Hallowed Be Thy Name” is on it and it’s the first album with Bruce Dickinson. I could listen to it all the time and I do. The band gets mad as I will listen to it on repeat on tour and it never gets boring to me. It sounds just as powerful as the first time I heard it. I mean it is what real metal is. Man, it makes your blood cells boil inside your body. So, ‘Number Of The Beast’ is number one. For number two, I would have to go with Judas Priest’s ‘Screaming For Vengeance’. That is kind of my band in high school when you are making your — I guess transitions. You are giving thoughts to your future about what you want to do and why it is. ‘Screaming For Vengeance’ has the same power as ‘Number Of The Beast’. You can just kind of listen to it on repeat. I also think that “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” is the best crossover metal song that could be played on top radio or mainstream radio. Same thing — just the “dundundundundun” — that kicks a lot of ass. I love that record.
The third for me — which might be out of left field for some people — is Rammstein’s ‘Sehnsucht’. I remember in ’98 when the “Du Hast” video came on TV, on the Box, and I just stood there with my jaw dropped. Six German guys dressed like the Reservoir Dogs, car explosions, and heavy ass guitars chugging like a Germanic Judas Priest. “Dun dun dundundun da dadundundun dundundun”. I listened to the cassette on replay for four months straight. Side A — side B — fantastic record! I have never seen or heard anything like it. The point Jess made of Metallica changing over time — Rammstein is a band who is also not one of those that hit their prime in the ’80s. I mean ‘Number Of The Beast’ came out before I was born and the same goes with ‘Screaming For Vengeance’. It is something I got to see as a back catalogue whereas with Rammstein, I feel like that is a band that I have had the opportunity to grow with as a fan. It is always going to have a special place in my heart because of that.