Just before soundcheck I met up with the real life Vixen that is Janet Gardner and her husband Justin James for quick chat.
Tonight is the 1st night on this whistle-stop tour of the UK. When did you actually arrive in the UK?
Janet – We arrived in the UK a few hours ago. We flew overnight and missed our connection in London
Justin – So we are literally running on no sleep for almost 48 hours.
Tonight’s going to be a hard show for you.
Justin – It’s going to be fun tho
Janet – Adrenaline trumps all. We’ll be ready, we’ll be fine
Of course you will, just plenty of coffee.
Janet – I’m actually having tea (laughs)
Well, there’s more caffeine in tea apparently.
Janet – So they say, I’ll let you know (laughs)
I don’t believe a word of it. I’m more of a coffee person. I need to have at least 3 coffees in the morning.
Justin – So you’re like Jekyll and Hyde?
Exactly, stray bullets start flying otherwise (laughs)
Justin – (laughing).
Janet, at the beginning of the year, you were quite unwell. What exactly happened?
Janet – Yeah that was freaky. We had done the video for the song Candle and during the filming of that we smacked heads pretty good. I remember being a little woozy for a minute but we just kind of continued and everything was OK. Nothing was really noticeable until a couple of weeks later.
We were doing a show at the Whiskey and I remember I felt a little weird on the 1st number and I was getting some headaches and my hands went numb and a few other weird things. But nothing that really freaked me out that much until the day after the show. I woke up in the morning and I was like, something’s wrong, something’s really wrong, so it was time to call 911.
They had to do a craniotomy and get rid of a subdural hematoma, which was just putting pressure on my brain. After which was a couple of months of not a lot of fun and recovery. Everything is back to normal and I really have no ill effects from it now. It’s like it never happened. Apart from screws and a couple of attachments and I can feel them, which is really weird. But no pain, no problems and no real damage.
You’re over here promoting your solo record. Why did it take so long for you to do a solo record?
Janet – Well, I didn’t know Justin and to be honest, I never really had the desire to do one. I’d work on little bits here and there but I never felt strongly enough about it to release it or make it into something more. Until we started to sit down, writing together and then it blossomed into 10 songs really fast. So we were like, let’s put it out there.
It’s a very different sounding album to what I’m sure, a lot of people were expecting from you. It’s a harder edged record and a complete curve ball.
Janet – For the most part it’s been really positive and it’s not a Vixen record so why do that when Vixen can make a Vixen record and do that really well and I have that outlet for that stuff. But it’s nice to do something different. Kinda stretch out a little in different ways and Justin’s influence was a huge factor in that. He was able to take things in a slightly different direction and still we were able to combine it so it made sense.
It’s a great album
Justin – Thank you. It was one of those things. It wasn’t planned,we didn’t have an idea when we started it. We just did what came naturally to us in that moment and before we knew it, we had 10 songs. It was a new direction for both of us, but it was blast. It was a lot of fun and never felt like work. It was just a great time and we loved it.
Superb, so how long did it actually take in total to get those 10 songs together?
Justin – We started in January of 2017 and we were pretty much done by the April. It was almost everyday. It was our outlet and what was fun to us. Instead of doing the normal couple thing of going out to dinner or a movie, we were in the studio writing the next song which was the most thrilling to us.
Nothing was over thought?
Justin – No nothing. It was all organic.
Janet – Between us we have 3 children, we have jobs, we have a lot of stuff going on, so it just goes to show you how focused we were on this. There was these other things going on, yet we were taking every moment of our spare time as we were just enjoying it. It was just so inspiring.
How do you balance having day jobs with the 3 children and having a music career on top of it all?
Justin – It’s hard (laughs) It’s definitely tough, but we manage.
Janet – Some-one was saying the other day that they were really bored and I was like, God, I’d love to be bored for 5 minutes. Just to have something not going on, or something on my mind, or something I need to take care of.
Justin – We always tell ourselves that we’ll find the next best TV show that we’ll just binge watch on Netflix and just think about nothing. Occasionally we get that.
Janet – Yeah, but we get a few minutes into it and fall asleep (laughs)
Justin – I think that’s the coolest thing we have in our marriage, is that we both have a love for it and a love for working together and what we create, that it’s just a joy, it’s a pleasure.
Just looking at the way you 2 are together, you can tell that you have an incredible partnership.
Janet – Yeah, with all that and my illness at the beginning, he was just amazing through all that. He was by my side every second in the hospital and when we got home he was picking up the slack and taking great care of me. That was proof right there that he’s a keeper (laughs)
We touched briefly on you having day jobs, how easy is it for you to take time off?
Janet – I’m very fortunate that I work for a dentist (Janet’s a dental hygienist) that’s very supportive of my music. If I need a week off to play shows in the UK, he’s cool with it.
Is it weird when you have a patient recognise you?
Janet – It is funny. It’s hilarious. Like, Hmmm Janet Gardner, not THAT Janet Gardner? and I’m there kinda, yeah, now open up (laughs).
Do you think the music industry is better or worse than it used to be?
Janet – Wow, that’s a hard question. Why don’t you take that one?
Justin – I mean there are benefits.
Janet – It’s Hard because, obviously the internet and things like that, it’s so easy for people to see and hear what you’re doing.
Justin – If you’re planning on making an album to make money you have to rue that out. You do it because you love it, you have a passion for it. But the flip side of it is that it gets to people a lot easier. You can spread it out thru social media and YouTube. It has its pros and it’s cons to it.
Janet – You know, the great thing is that there’s nothing like going to a live show. So that’s the good news that live bands and live music is alive and well .
Vixen were always portrayed to be very clean-cut back in the day, was that the case behind the scenes?
Janet – Wow I didn’t realize we were kinda portrayed that way. Well, we were always serious about what we were doing so the music always comes first. So, when we were touring a lot we were pretty well-behaved because you can’t party all the time and stay up all night, not get enough sleep and pull off a great show. That was kinda our focus. We would save it til the end of the tour and then we’d go crazy (laughs).
After the tour we’d be YAHOO, so it’s a yes and no answer (laughs)
I think it’s great that one of the reasons we can still do all of this is that we were sensible. We didn’t end up in rehab and didn’t do drugs and having those kind of issues. It’s great that it’s because we didn’t have any of those issues then that we can still do it now.
Vixen has a new live album coming out shortly.
Janet – Yeah, we recorded it in Justin’s home town of Chicago, and we got together and did a new studio track with Michael Wagner and we also did an acoustic version of one of our old songs also with Michael Wagner.
I’m assuming you’ll be touring on the back of that album.
Janet – We’re gonna have a really big summer. We’re doing a lot of the European festivals including Sweden Rocks and we’re doing Barcelona, Graspop as well as one in Finland, I can’t think of the name of it right now (Nummirock), but we’re doing that one too (laughs) and Nottingham. Then we’re doing some dates in the US with Skid Row.
Do you think your voice has changed over the years and how do you keep it in shape?
Janet – It’s a little different but it’s the same thing. Trying to take care of myself. It’s part of the body, it’s not like you can just throw down a guitar and go off and party. So just trying to stay healthy and eat right.
What’s next for Planet Janet?
Janet – Well, we’ll finish off this UK tour and then I’ve got the stuff with Vixen and then we’re back at it in the fall in the States.
Have you got anything written for the new solo album as yet?
Justin – We’ve noodled with some ideas. Nothing totally solid yet. But there’s some stuff that’s been pondered around.
Janet – You’ve always got to let it simmer a little before you really hit it hard again. Because once we were up and running the last time, we didn’t leave the studio for 3 months. So right now we’re out playing and learning from life, so it’s sizzling, simmering,.
Was the album written acoustically at all?
Justin – No, it was all pretty much plugged in and ready to go with the exception of the one song.
Janet – That’s part of the fun of it, is just messing around with sounds. When you have so much at your fingertips
Justin – That was just so inspiring, just to have all these new tricks that you could mix together and throw in there just to see what it can do. Just to throw something so completely left field in there that you would never think would work in a certain song idea, but it makes it really interesting.
There’s a couple of industrial moments on this album that took me totally by surprise upon listening were I was like, hang on a minute, is this Ministry or is this really Janet Gardner (laughs). This is not what I expected, are you sure this is the same Janet Gardner from Vixen?
Janet – Who is this imposter? (laughs)
Did you do anything at all analog or was it all done via Logic?
Justin – A little bit of both. A lot of it was done through Logic. Only because you such a palette of colors to choose from to paint these songs with and it was just fun some days to have the base of the song down and then sit there and go through all the different sounds and find out which worked and get really excited over which one sounded cool.
So THAT’S why it turned out as left field as it did as you had lots of things to play with.
Justin – Right.
Thank you so much for taking the time to have a chat,I know you’d best get soundchecked. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Janet – Thank you so much for all the support. We’re out here having a good time, come join us.