INTERVIEW WITH JESSIKILL
Date: January 15, 2016
NOT EVEN TWO YEARS AGO, I, ALONG WITH MANY OTHERS, WERE INTRODUCED TO THE POWERHOUSE VOCALS OF YOUNG FEMALE SINGER JESSIKILL WHEN HESSLER REVEALED THEIR NEW LEAD VOCALIST IN THEIR VIDEO FOR THE VERY GOOD SONG “NEVER LOST MY WAY.” TO MY CHAGRIN, JESSIKILL LEFT HESSLER LATER THAT YEAR BUT SHE IS BACK FRONTING THE BAND BEARING HER NAME. WITH LONG-TIME BASSIST ARTHUR ALVARADO, JESSIKILL HAS ASSEMBLED A NEW CAST OF MUSICIANS WHICH FEATURES TALENTED GUITARIST SHREDDER AND JESSIKILL’S BOYFRIEND JYRO ALEJO ALONG WITH GUITARIST JOEY V AND DRUMMER ALAN CISNEROS. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH THE BAND MEMBERS IN JESSIKILL ON THE EVE OF THE GROUP RELEASING ITS DEBUT EP ‘METAL KNIGHTS.’
Sleaze Roxx: Congratulations on your new upcoming EP ‘Metal Knights.’ When and who wrote the songs on ‘Metal Knights?’
Jessikill: “Midnight Rush” and “Metal Knights” — I wrote back in 2012. “The Beast” was written by bassist Arturo Alvarado when he was 16 years old. Years later, come 2015, Arturo and I decided to share our original music that we wrote as individuals with the almighty Jyro Alejo who obviously put his spin on the songs. “Give it All” and “Don’t Let Go” were written by Jyro Alejo and myself. Jyro wrote the music. I wrote the lyrics and vocal melodies. We look forward to writing all together as a band for our next album. We now have the line up to do so.
Sleaze Roxx: The EP cover, theme and songs seem to have a Dio feel to them. Do you agree or disagree, and why?
Jessikill: Ronnie James Dio is a huge influence to me personally. We all grew up listening and jamming to Dio, [Iron] Maiden, Metallica, Manowar, Judas Priest, Helloween, etc. [Ronnie James] Dio was an extremely passionate human being and artist who left behind a great legacy. To be compared to such an incredible man is beyond words, it’s definitely an honor. I have to agree that Dio has heavily influenced our music and passion. So if it shines through and people recognize that, then long live Dio!
Sleaze Roxx: Since when has Jessikill been together or going?
Jessikill: Originally back in 2012, I started the band Jessikill Of The Dead. I played guitar at the start of that, as well as being the frontwoman and songwriter of the band. Time passed and I was appreciative of everything that was happening for me at that time. However, things came to a slow when I found myself to be the only fully dedicated musician. I then began to keep to myself day in and day out with hardly any communication to the outside world. I wrote songs, played my guitar, prayed, meditated, and dreamed that I would find my band. Throughout months at a time, I tried out different musicians. The hardest part of finding your band, is finding fully dedicated musicians who share the same passion and dreams. Finally in 2013, Arturo Alvarado and his brother Juan Alvarado joined me. They had been in a couple of bands together in the past. I kind of knew the guys from growing up in the San Antonio local music scene.I’ve respected these two and was happy to welcome them into my life, which was my band. They’ve been by my side for years since then. I did not have to continue my search alone.
Sleaze Roxx: Jess – Why did you shorten the band name from Jessica Of The Dead to Jessikill?
Jessikill: The name Jessikill Of The Dead was more of a theme. There were rumors that I, as Jessica Espinoza, had passed away. The rumors were that I had died in a knife fight, car accident, shooting, and all kinds of things. Some people were skeptical about it and some people actually shared words of mourning on my behalf. I thought it was kind of funny. Rumors were that I had risen from the dead. So that’s where the theme Jessikill (Of The Dead) came into play. Soon the time had come to drop “Of The Dead” to become more straightforward and bold. So we became Jessikill.
Sleaze Roxx: There seems to have been some major line-up changes to Jessikill along the way. Can you take me through the various Jessikill line-ups and why changes were made at various points?
Jessikill: First off, Arturo has been the longest standing dedicated musician by my side in Jessikill. Together, we’ve made many of the band’s decisions. I highly respect his take on everything. Together, we’ve been through about ten different musicians. Most of the changes in the line-ups were due to the individuals’ lifestyle decisions — whether it was school, jobs, personal relationships or a fear of moving forward too quickly as a full-time professional musician.
Sleaze Roxx: Jess – It seems that you were playing bass at one point. What made you decide to stop playing it and concentrate on your lead vocalist duties?
Jessikill: I did play bass guitar for a while. I had planned on continuing as the bassist and lead vocalist of Jessikill. When I had the chance of welcoming Arturo into Jessikill, I felt that I had respected and loved Arturo as a person and bass player. I knew that he had the same determination and passion as I do. It took me a minute to consider that I would no longer play bass in Jessikill. From one minute to the next, I couldn’t help but ask myself why the fuck wouldn’t I welcome Arturo? I love that guy.
Sleaze Roxx: Jess – I first became aware of you when you joined the Chicago based group Hessler back in February 2014. At that time, you had your band Jessikill. Why did you decide to join Hessler at that point in time and were you planning on continuing with both bands at that time?
Jessikill: I had first heard of and seen Hessler live when they shared the bill with Jessikill at a show in San Antonio. Two months had passed and I had received a call from Frankie Snakes, the lead guitarist in Hessler at the time. He gave me a heads up that Igz [Kincaid], the leader of Hessler, wanted to talk to me over a phone call. I said, “Hell yeah! You guys are awesome.” Igz made the call and offered me a video audition to be Hessler’s frontwoman. I nearly dropped to the floor with excitement. So I wound up joining Hessler. I had planned on being in both bands — writing, recording, rehearsing, and flying out to and from Chicago and San Antonio.
Sleaze Roxx: Jess – When I interviewed you and Hessler guitarist Igz Kincaid back in late February 2014, you had indicated that you were “kind of moving to Chicago” to join Hessler and that you would be “visiting back home every time we have time off or whatever.” At the end, it seems that you never made the permanent move to Chicago. Am I right and if so, why was that? And why did you leave the band?
Jessikill: Originally, I was definitely all in for Hessler. All the guys were awesome, I had a lot of fun in Hessler. Igz was opposed to me staying in both bands.
[Interviewer’s note: When I interviewed Igz and Jessikill back in February 2014, I had asked about Jessikill continuing with the band bearing her name but that question/answer was omitted from the interview at Igz’s request. Two days after the interview was published on March 1, 2014, Jessikill posted the following Facebook message (in part): “A lot of people have been asking if I am still singing with Jessikill. YES, when I am in San Antonio and if I get booked out of town I will. I LOVE MY GUYS! Meanwhile thank you for all of your love and support! 7,000 views and still climbing! I will be touring with Hessler so scroll on over to their page and check out the schedule.”]
It was tearing me apart. I loved my family back home, my brothers of metal in Jessikill. I also loved my new brothers in Hessler. It ate me up inside. Months had gone by and in February of 2014 [on February 13, 2014], Jessikill played as direct support to Dio Disciples. That show was a great success. Jyro Alejo had been present at the show and saw Jessikill for the first time that night. A week later, I went to see the heavy metal legendary band Metal Church. Coincidentally, Jyro shared the bill with his band at the time with Metal Church. That night, Jyro approached me at the bar. For both of us, it was love at first sight, words, and touch. He had mentioned how impressed he was with my voice the week prior at Dio Disciples. I had felt a little star struck, because Jyro is an incredibly prestigious guitar shredder and overall musician. Not to mention he’s gorgeous! The following day, Jyro messaged me on the social media network Facebook. We hit it off right away and a week later, we went on our first date.
Long story short, we fell for each other and started playing music together. Soon the time had come to rejoin with Hessler in Chicago. Still enjoying being in the band Hessler, I was forced to make a decision. Jyro had offered to play lead guitar in Jessikill. Fortunately, the slot had been open for him. I felt true passion playing and writing music together with Jyro and not to mention my brothers in Jessikill awaited me. My decision had been made. It was hard for me. I still miss the guys in Hessler. I wish all of my brothers could’ve met and united for some good times.
Sleaze Roxx: Jess – One big difference between Jessikill and Hessler is that Hessler would tour throughout the USA while Jessikill tends to play more local shows in and around San Antonio, Texas. How was your touring experience with Hessler and is this something that Jessikill will be doing in the future?
Jessikill: Touring with Hessler was one of my life’s greatest experiences so far. Something I’ve always dreamed of doing. It was what I expected touring with my brothers to be and more. I look forward to touring with Jessikill in the near future.
Sleaze Roxx: All of you seem very active in the San Antonio, Texas music scene playing in multiple bands and quite often in that city. A lot of bands take the attitude that you should not play your hometown too often so that people don’t get tired of the band but Jessikill seems to take the opposite approach. What is your take on that?
Jessikill: We all really enjoy playing shows. It’s quite the outlet. People here in San Antonio fortunately are super supportive with Jessikill and any other project that any of us are part of. We play as much as we want and feel like playing. We don’t believe in ground rules when it comes to playing music. However, we like being personal with people so the shows we do in town are more of a party for us and the people who come to see us.
Arturo Alvarado: We all take pride in where we come from. When larger national acts such as Queensryche, Dio Disciples, Overkill or Symphony X stop on tour to San Antonio, the promoters reach out to us, or even the band themselves will request us, to open for them. We try to stray away from doing too many shows other than national ones here in town. Although, we also do play around the nation in our other bands such as Jyro in Seventh Son, which is an Iron Maiden tribute band, and me in Mini Kiss.
Sleaze Roxx: How would you say that the music is different between Hessler and Jessikill?
Jyro Alejo: Hessler was glam and sleazy — more like fun party rock. Jessikill is 100% pure metal influenced. Our message is deep, our sound is faster and heavier, melodic, sexy, and catchy. Jessikill’s sound is just true.
Sleaze Roxx: Jessikill have the particularity that two of the band members are in a relationship. How has the relationship between Jess and Jyro affected the dynamics of the band?
Jyro Alejo: The love from our relationship helped us write true passionate heavy metal. Both writing styles complement each other real well. We share the same goals for success of our musical dream. We both understand what it takes to be a musician. We have received great feedback from the music we write. So our relationship has effected the band in the most positive way.
Sleaze Roxx: Switching gears a little bit, what got each of you into playing music?
Arturo Alvarado: We all had the dream to be rockstars as kids. When I was eight, my parents bought me my first beginner’s guitar. I would play guitar and my brother would play drums at the loudest level possible and play jibberish in our room upstairs with the fog machine clouding the room. The fire alarm went off a few times [laughs]! The feeling I got with just a guitar on my shoulder gave me an unexplainable feeling. Kind of like how an NBA player dribbling his first basketball. I still get that same feeling to this day everytime I’m on stage. That feeling got me into playing music.
Joey V: Aside from my dad already being an established guitar player, it was watching Yngwie Malmsteen play with the Japanese Philharmonic Orchestra. I’d watch that DVD everyday till I fell asleep.
Alan Cisneros: I heard the thunderous sounds of the bass drums of Lars [Ulrich] of Metallica and immediately I was inspired. After that, I looked for bands whichever way I could including via Napster. Annihilator, Pantera and Iron Maiden were huge influences on me as a child.
Jyro Alejo: When I was ten years old, I discovered my top three bands that I loved. My three favorite bands of all time are Metallica, Slayer, and Iron Maiden. Michael Angelo Batio and Yngwie Malmsteen took my guitar playing to next level. At age 12, I then met Mike Guerrero aka the Tapping Ninja. He mentored me and directed my playing to a more professional level. I eventually learned that being a musician for the rest of my life is what I wanted to do.
Sleaze Roxx: What are Jessikill’s plans for 2016?
Jessikill: Our plans for 2016 are to release our ‘Metal Knights’ EP, reach out to our music industry friends that we made in 2015 who’ve awaited the release of ‘Metal Knights.’ We also plan on traveling to different places, playing shows, writing more material which we’ve already begun, and expose Jessikill to the people in the industry that can help us with our rise to the top.