After a quite long time, Zisis Petkanas and Katerina Mitika from the Rock Overdose family participate in a cool talk with Jen Majura, the latest member from the legendary Evanescence, and they come to know everything about their first album with entirely original material after 10 years, the long-awaited “The Bitter Truth” that is set to be released at 26th of March, in addition to how they deal with the pandemic situation.
RockOverdose: So, hi Jen, and welcome to RockOverdose Greece! How are you?
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Hi! Thank you so much for having me, I’m doing great, thank you.
RockOverdose: I think it’s been a long time since our last interview.
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): When was that?
RockOverdose: I think it was 2017.
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Was it for “Inzenity”? My solo album “Inzenity”?
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Oh my god, that’s a really long time ago. Really? It doesn’t feel that long, wow, okay.
RockOverdose: We had one interview when you first joined the band.
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): True, yes, I remember that. How I got the geek and everything! Yeah (laughs).
RockOverdose: I think it was via mail the first one and via Skype the second.
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Exactly yes, exactly. And now look at us, all professional on Zoom with this pandemic situation! (laughs)
RockOverdose: Yes, now we are at Zoom! (laughs)
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): (laughs) Who knows what’s next, you know? (laughs)
RockOverdose: So, how about the pandemic situation, how are you living through this?
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): I cook a lot, I dived into acrylic painting, I knit socks… (laughs)
RockOverdose: Oh, you knit!
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Yeah, it’s really tough because for the past, not 2020, nobody knew that 2020 would be the, excuse my French but shit year that it was. My life before that was only touring, airports, hotels, venues, tour bus, airplane, jet lag, airplane, hotel, venue, all the time nonstop for years and I’ve always complained, I was like “Oh man, I wish I had more time to practice my instrument and write more music”. What 2020 taught me is out of a sudden you force to stop, you’re forced to slow down and really you’re forced to stay home. At first I thought “I’m gonna play so much more guitar” but I didn’t, and “I have all this time on my hands and I can write my third solo album”, but what happens is when all of that, all of the things in your life, all the inspiration is been taken away from you and your only inspiration is your couch in your living room. It’s quite hard to come up with music and creations, I mean, what am I supposed to write? The couch blues? (laughs) It’s hard and I really believe in 2020, I have never ever ever ever, since I’ve started playing guitar, played less guitar than in 2020. It can be scary, really. I talk to a lot of friends of mine and I’ve realized this is not just me, it’s a lot of people just not knowing how to deal with this pandemic situation, or maybe by now knowing, of course, because you tried to distract yourself from like I said, with cooking, painting and other creative things, but it’s really not like “Oh you have all this time on your hands, now I wrote 3 albums”. It’s not like it, it’s unpredictable.
RockOverdose: It depends, because other musicians used this time to write songs.
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Some of them, yes, but not all of them! (laughs)
RockOverdose: By the way it was such a good idea, a good time to rest from touring and start other things that you didn’t do. Now, during the pandemic, you have time for other things.
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Yeah, and I appreciate that, especially I really enjoy cooking and painting and other things and having time for the first time. I feel, in 16 years I was longred home than just 2 months and I appreciate that time, but for right now if you ask me what my biggest wish is, is “Please, give me my life back and let me go out and play shows for the fans”. I miss connecting with the fans and no livestream online can replace that energy exchange that you have with your fans.
They give you so so much and I also believe I talked about this with my Something on 11 partner, Alen. I also believe that this pandemic situation will make us be grateful for a lot of things that had been annoying in the past, like “Oh my god I have a 2 hour lay over in London at the airport ughhhhh, sucks”. No, doesn’t suck. From this day on whenever we’re back to touring, no greasy, overpriced airport food will suck, no dressing room time to wait for the show will suck, nothing will suck, no jet lag would be bothering me ever again. I’m gonna be thankful having all these things happening in my life, right? I really believe we’re gonna come out of this pandemic as more people that appreciate and value things way more than we did before.
RockOverdose: So, let’s go on with your new album.
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): What album? Just kidding (laughs), this is my favorite thing to do! That was like, “Let’s talk about the new Evanescence album” and I go like, “What album? Well, there’s a new album? They didn’t even tell me, I’m not even on it”. No, I’m just kidding (laughs).
RockOverdose: And the journalist stacks. (laughs) I was like, “Did I ask the wrong person?”.
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): I’m sorry, it’s just a stupid joke (laughs). Ok, here we go.
RockOverdose: So, I think you like jokes, I suppose.
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Me? I never laugh, I’m very serious, I’m German. (laughs) Ok, let’s talk about the new Evanescence album, come on.
RockOverdose: Yeah, that’s the point. So, when did you start the writing process for this new material?
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): I believe the writing process started already in 2019, but actually it started 10 years ago, because one of the songs called “Take Cover”, I believe Amy wrote it, I think 10 years ago. So, you have all these ideas on your iPhone and your voice messages but I remember when we got together in Canada after playing Heavy Montréal in Canada, we went all the way into the Canadian woods into this beautiful mansion and just spent time together as a band. You know, writing together as a band, it’s just something really beautiful that is so different from what a lot of people think. A lot of people think that Amy comes up with the songs and she goes like “Here, play what I tell you to play”, but it’s not like that. We really worked as a group together, everybody had different ideas that he or she brought to the table. Canada was amazing. The last time I saw Amy and the guys was February last year when we met up in Nashville in Studio X, I just finished playing in Los Angeles the numbshell and flew directly to Nashville. We met up in the studio and recorded the first 4 chunks of songs. Everybody went to the airport and said like “Oh ok, bye, have a safe travel back home, alright see you next month, bye”.
If somebody would have told me in February that I’m not gonna travel back to the States and see my friends for the rest of the year, I probably would have had a good laugh or something, I don’t know. Nobody expected, this just happened right after that I came back home and then out of a sudden, boom! Lockdown! And I’m like “Ugh, what?”. So, the recording process for the album was was different than how I pictured my first original musical album with Evanescence, because I saw us all together in the studio instead of me at home all by myself and just sending files. I mean, thank God for modern technologies, so it was happening, it was possible but I think what I missed most was when you’re in a room recording with an awesome producer like Nick and maybe having Amy sitting on the couch in the corner of the room, you play something and there’s always a little feedback. Amy would go like “Oh, this is beautiful, try this again, oh this is amazing, what a great idea!” or Nick would say “Hey, do that again but try a little bit more, punch, try a little bit more, this or that” and I didn’t have that feedback, I didn’t have that input from the others. So, what happened was that Amy and the guys, they met up in the States and they were able to meet up in person, of course with all the testing and being careful and social distancing and you know, but they created the songs in the moment. In the beginning, there were talks about doing face times and having me involved but it’s just not the same, you have to be in one room as humans and everybody gives their input and that’s how you create stuff.
Then, they would send me the files that they have recorded and it was very sweet, Amy kept updating me every day, she was like “Oh, today was like this and that” and “today we did this and then Troy did that”, it was really sweet. Then I just recorded the guitars, my parts, here in Germany at my home studio and sent everything over to Nick, but, like I said, without that feedback from Amy or Nick or Tim or Troy or Will. I mean, I really appreciate every single band member and I’m glad that they give me input, I think you can only learn and become better, but there was no feedback, so I did another take, and another take and another take, I’m a perfectionist, you know. So, after taking out about 2000 guitar tracks I’m like “Ahhh Jen, man, you have to make up your mind, goddammit, just send something to Nick!”. So, I sent over the files and his first response was “Awesome!”. I remember tracking for this one particular song called, it’s our latest single that came out like 6 days ago I think, “Better Without You”, they sent the files and I listened to the song and when it finished I was like “I gotta listen it again” so I listened again. I think I listened to it 5 times in a row and then I texted Amy and I said “You know, I think the song is perfect the way it is, I’m not gonna lay any guitars on top of that song just for the sake of me playing and me showing of or credits, I don’t function like that. If a song is perfect and it doesn’t demand any more guitars, I’m not gonna play” and then I said “What shall I do?” and she’s like “Sing.” and I said “Ok, alright, I’m gonna sing on that album”.
This is something that makes me really proud, this is the first time ever in the history of Evanescence that there’s another female vocalist recorded on an album and I couldn’t be more proud about this, really, it’s beautiful. I learned about singing with Amy during the Synthesis Tour when we toured with orchestra. There were absolutely no tracked vocals, nothing, no samples, no backing vocals, nothing, it was just Amy and me singing. I think the qualities of a really good backing vocalist is when you’re able to blend in with the main vocalist, you don’t wanna push that main vocalist the way with your voice, you wanna support it, you wanna make it shine, make it bigger. I think that our two voices match really beautiful and yeah, I’m just really proud that yesterday I received my copies from the label of the new album and I looked into the booklet and it says “Jen Majura - Guitars and Vocals”. I was so proud, I’m like “Oh, this is amazing, so cool” (laughs).
RockOverdose: Yeah, it’s great! In how many songs do you sing for this album?
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Oh God, you asked me now? I think 5 or 6. I think so… I’m sorry, I can’t remember it, it’s so long ago when we recorded that stuff. It feels so long ago, it’s not long ago, but in the pandemic times, you lose track.
RockOverdose: Yeah but it’s really great that you are not doing backing vocals but also main vocals to this album.
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): No no no no no, that’s wrong, Amy is totally the main vocalist.
RockOverdose: You are not main but you support Amy.
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Yeah, exactly, she is the voice of Evanescence and that’s completely perfect the way it is, but I just added my backing vocals and the choruses sometimes in the verses. It’s just been beautiful working on new song material because I got into the band in 2015 and all the music I’ve been playing so far sort of has been written already, so you can revisit it and listen to what she recorded back in the days for backing vocals, and you just learn what she did and you sing on top of the backing vocals of hers, right? But this time it’s new songs, it’s new energy, it’s new lyrics and everything is new in, so you’ve got this freedom to create and point out ideas like question-and-answer vocals like in “Better Without You” and it’s been beautiful. I’m really really happy that I was able to deliver some background vocals for the new album.
RockOverdose: Great. Jen, from where you were inspired for the writing of “The Bitter Truth”?
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): As I said, I’ve been part of the writing process for the beginning but then not so much for the second half of the album, but if you take a look around on planet Earth so much is happening. You know, there’s so much that you have to process these days. I don’t wanna dive into politics, but also not only politics in the States, politics all over the place. There are so many movements, the climate change, so much is going on our planet these days and I feel like 2020 taught us that we are not in control of everything and we had to learn to kinda go with the flow. This album is an empowering, energizing feel, it’s like an inspiration to be real, to stop denial, to stop faking and just be real, face reality, that’s the bitter truth.
Even you, all of us humans, we have bruises, we have scars, we are not perfect. It’s ok to be weak sometimes, it’s ok to be vulnerable, we are humans and we need to stop this Instagram filter “I am so perfect, I can’t even believe how perfect I am”. Also, I believe that we as humans need to stand up for, to fight for the right thing, you know, not fight fight, I mean not punch anybody but have a voice because your voice matters and it matters more than ever, to just make the planet heal again and change things for the better. I really see this album as something that is really encouraging, it’s an encouraging, empowering album. I can’t wait for everybody to hear all the songs. Really, we couldn’t be more proud.
RockOverdose: Great. So, what about the feedback from the press for your new album?
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Oh, everybody was like “Oh my God, Evanescence put out a new original album for the first time in so many years!” and the fans! Every single we put out, I think the 5 singles that we put out by now, are very diverse. You can’t really compare “Wasted on You” which was the first single with “Better Without You” and I truly believe “Better Without You” might even be one of the heaviest songs Evanescence ever put out there. They’re very diverse one of another and it represents the variety of the sounds and the songs on the album perfectly, and the fans just love it. I mean, just imagine you love Margherita pizza and you have to wait like 9 years to get your next Margherita pizza. Did I just compare our album to Margherita pizza? But you know what I mean! (laughs)
RockOverdose: I suppose you are a little hungry!
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): I’m hungry, I haven’t had dinner, I’ve been talking all day. I’m hungry yes!
RockOverdose: Ok, so, what are your next news regarding Evanescence?
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): This is a question for my boss, I can’t answer that. First of all, it’s we all wait for the album release, this is gonna be amazing and exciting and you know.
RockOverdose: And I suppose you are looking forward to support it by touring.
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Ok, it’s very odd to put out an album and not having a tour attached to it immediately after the release. You know, it’s just first time ever in my life that I’m involved in an album release without a tour coming up straight away. So far, we still have the tour in September-October with Within Temptation, a European tour, and, like I said, the one thing we have to keep in ourselves and our guts and our cores is hope, because I really really really want to play that tour and just be back, but it’s unpredictable, you don’t know and nobody knows. We have to wait and see but we definitely have to hope to be out there soon and rock again and support the album. I mean, we try to do the best that we can, give the fans little things to connect with us but it’s just hard, everything is online…
RockOverdose: Yes, I agree. Are you planning to do maybe a livestreaming show?
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): This is another question for my boss, not for me. (laughs)
RockOverdose: Ok, (laughs) so, let’s go on with personal questions.
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Oh God no, personal questions, no I’m not answering those! (laughs)
RockOverdose: But I will ask! What are your greatest influences as a musician?
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Oh God! Ok, I think spoken for the musician and person that I am today, I believe, when it comes to playing the guitar, one of my biggest influences is Mattias IA Eklundh of the Swedish band Freak Kitchen. He’s not only a very dear heart friend but he’s also something like my life guru, there’s so much wise stuff coming out of that guy. I like his approach, the way he sees things and he’s got this style of playing with the over-harmonics. I found it so fascinating that I find myself adapting that to my style of playing, it’s like I’m the merge of me and part of his playing. So, I think he is a big big big influence. Recently, people keep telling me that whatever I play sounds a little bit like Steve Vai. I feel very uncomfortable with that comparison because Steve Vai is just, I mean, come on, it’s Steve Vai! And I’m like, “I’m just JenJen”. It’s a very charming complement and maybe they talk of certain scales or brain wired ideas that I have, I don’t know, but that was coming up lately a little bit.
And I think Amy inspires me, really, because we have a lot of things in common but I respect her so much as not only a fabulous musician, not only a vocalist, but musician. She’s a strong woman, she knows what she wants, she is the leader of this group that I’m allowed to be part of and I think she is a big inspiration in my life as well. And a good friend.
RockOverdose: And how do you feel for being an Evanescence member so far?
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Well, what can I say, come on. Ever since I joined the band it’s been a cool ride. Touring with Evanescence is like being on a big vacation that is amazing with your best friends and then, on top of that, you get to play these amazing, awesome, fulfilling shows. I feel like I’ve been eating so much bullshit in the past that I am allowed to relax a little bit now in this band. For the first time, I have a band with where everybody is friends. I thought this is not the norm, I thought there’s always gonna be like the one stinkface, but it’s not. Evanescence is like, not only the band but the crew and the whole team, we’re all one. That’s a very very beautiful thing and I really cherish that a lot. Yeah, well, minus 2020 right? Because it’s been such a good, great year! (laughs)
RockOverdose: Ok, so, which is your favorite Evanescence song?
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): To play live?
RockOverdose: To play live and to listen to.
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Um, I might have to renew that now that we have new songs, but I first of all have to play the songs live to decide if I wanna change up that list, but so far, it’s been always “Disappear”. The song “Disappear” is my favorite track because it’s such highly energetic and we trade solos, Troy and I, and I just love that song. To listen to… Oh, I don’t think that anybody has ever asked me that… You know, the beautiful thing, the beauty about music is that you listen to music and it can create emotions and, like, videos in your eye in your head: landscapes, sceneries, pictures.
Music is creation and when somebody listens to music and gets all these visions and emotions and pictures, that is the goal of music. You don’t make music for the sake of money, that’s definitely not what you do. You do it because music is touching and it’s touching your soul and if music really is touching, this is the goal. So, I believe, I have moments where I’m like “I love to listen to “Made of Stone””, then I have moments where I’m like, I don’t know, “I love to listen to dreamy stuff like “Lithium””, it’s hard to say. You can’t really tell because it always depends on the mood.
RockOverdose: I have to agree with you. Do you have any other side projects?
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Oh yeah, we released an album, Something on 11, working with a partner from Croatia, another guitar player called Alen Brentini and we released an album, I think, when was it, November? I think November Friday the 13th (laughs) and this is just a fun project. The meaning of Something on 11, when we put our heads together to think about writing music together, the core of Something on 11 is to literally show the middle finger to mainstream. Middling, well, you have to have a certain song structure. No you don’t.
We have a song with a hookline, a chorus that is a guitar melody but there are vocals in the verse, I mean, who the hell does that? We also have a song with a giant, big drum solo in the middle, right in the middle of the song, or a couple of songs where you would have a big, dynamic breakdown in the song and then you have tabla and dobra and synth sounds and the song is breathing. It’s just very unconventional songwriting. I am singing, I’m playing guitar and Alen is singing and playing the guitar. We put that out, I think, mainly for ourselves because it’s been a lot of fun working on these songs and they are all very crazy and diverse, kind of like the style of my solo album “Inzenity”. It’s very very diverse and very enjoyable to listen to, very playful.
RockOverdose: So, what are your memories from our country, Greece?
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): It was hot. I’ve been to Greece exactly once in my life. I think it was a festival, right?
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Wow God, it’s just been so long ago, was it 2017? It’s been long ago, and I remember I was so excited, I said “Oh my God, for the first time I’m gonna come to Greece and I wanna walk around and find a local market” and “breath it all in, the culture, the food, the people”. I was so excited, and then it turned out it was so hot that I couldn’t even open the window of my hotel room. It was just so hot! And we gathered, we had a band dinner, it was a beautiful restaurant and we could see the Acropolis, it was really beautiful, and the food was great, but the only thing that I was concerned about was I got my makeup running down, my contour is, like, I’m sweating like crazy, it’s just too hot! (laughs)
RockOverdose: Too hot, yes! It was at Rockwave Festival 2017.
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Thank you, so that was when it was and I think that also in the backstage it was super hot. I had to jump into my stage pants and I was like, “Ughh am I ever gonna make it into those leather pants and make it out of those leather pants again after the show?”, it was just really really really hot. I hope next time we return I will get a little bit more time because I so much want to experience the country and the culture. This is the beauty about when you tour, you get to see countries like Brazil or Japan, Australia and it’s so exciting and so beautiful, but if your shoes are melting when you’re walking outside, this is not fun to experience a culture! (laughs) It was just too hot!
RockOverdose: My God, it was too hard!
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): I felt like I had, I don’t know, 60 degrees or something, it was just way too hot! (laughs)
RockOverdose: It was on July, I think.
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Super summer, in the middle of summer, yeah. It was tough! So, dear Greece promoters, if you hear this and you wanna book Evanescence, please book us in Spring or Fall so that I can go to a local market and buy some olives and experience the Greek culture a little bit more than instead of putting us into an oven!
RockOverdose: (laughs) Would you like to leave a message to the Greek fans and your fans worldwide?
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Especially to the Greek fans, because you’ve guys been so amazing, I’m following everything that our Evanescence Greek Fan Club posts and you’ve guys been so supportive and loving and passionate and we can’t, really can’t wait to come back to play for you live and connect with you again!
RockOverdose: Great! I have to thank you for this interview.
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Absolutely, sure, anytime!
RockOverdose: I will let you now to rest, I don’t know if you have another interviews afterwards.
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Thank you! I will stop talking now! (laughs)
RockOverdose: And have some food!
Jen Majura: Yes, I’m gonna eat something, exactly. Not sure what I’m gonna make, maybe I’m gonna use some feta cheese right? Because inspired from this last interview. Overbaked, filled mushrooms or something.
RockOverdose: Or pizza Margherita!
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Or pizza Margherita, exactly! (laughs) Thank you so much for this chat, it was just so much fun to reconnect and be back with you! Thank you so much, that was fun!
RockOverdose: Thank you, thank you! Bye bye!
Jen Majura (EVANESCENCE): Have a beautiful evening! Bye!
Questions, Edit: Katerina Mitika