VIXEN Singer/Guitarist Goes Solo
She is the lead singer and guitarist of all female rock band VIXEN who had their fair share of success with their catchy melodic rock tunes in the late eighties early nineties until grunge took over the musical landscape. After a break from music Gardner returned with Vixen and now even found the time to release her first solo album. And what a record it is! This is Gardner as we haven’t heard her before, aggressive, heavy but still always melodic. HeadBangers LifeStyle contacted her and asked about the role of her husband, how it felt to have no boundaries, her passion for music, the plans with Vixen and her own touring plans.
When did it become clear to you that the new album should be your solo album?
,,Justin and I really didn’t have any plans to work together. It just sort of happened. We were a little bit nervous because we thought that if it didn’t work out, it may drive a wedge between us. It ended up doing the opposite… It brought us closer together. The first song we wrote was ,,If You Want Me”. We both thought that it was pretty good but we also thought it might be a fluke. After we had written about three or four songs, we knew that we were onto something. We thought about putting a band together but Justin thought that, since I had never released a solo album, that this should be it!’’
The album is very modern sounding and a lot more aggressive than we do know from you with Vixen. Was it the chance to show another side of yourself?
,,This was definitely an opportunity for both Justin and myself to explore things musically and lyrically that we had never done before. We got a chance to experiment and find our own sound together.’’
Is that also the reason the album starts with the pretty aggressive and angry sounding (almost Rob Zombie like) songs ,,Rat Hole” and ,,Hippycrite”?
,,We played around with several different song orders on the album and eventually, we decided to come out with guns blazing and open with “Rat Hole”.’’
How did it feel that there were no limitations musicwise? The fact that you are exploring new territories on this album?
,,It felt really great to have no limitations or expectations. We just really let it flow and did whatever we wanted to do and said whatever we wanted to say! It was very liberating!’’
Was this completely your idea or did Justin have a say in this as well?
,,Justin and I made all of the decisions together. We have a lot of trust in each other so we were very good about making compromises and trying to understand one another’s vision.’’
You started making music at a very young age, still many people know you from the poppy hard rock you made with Vixen. Did you have a vision or a goal when you started making music?
,,Growing up, I listened to, played, sang and wrote everything from folk, to pop and even classical music but when I joined my first rock band, I knew I was home!’’
You took time off from the music scene. Was that to make up for things you missed while being the rockstar you were with Vixen? Or were you fed up with the touring and the problems you encounter when playing in a band?
,,The grunge scene took over and we had some internal problems in Vixen. When Vixen broke up, it was definitely a time of introspection… some dark times there. I knew I needed a break and I knew that there were other things in life that I wanted. Especially children and a stable family life. Music is such a part of me on so many levels and I knew that I could not live without it but I also knew that I needed to balance some things in life a little better. I decided to go back to college and get a degree in dental hygiene so that I would have something stable.’’
As you say, besides being a singer and guitarist you are also a dental hygienist, something completely different. Do you need this totally different job to stay grounded?
,,Yes… it has helped me achieve a better balance in life. It’s still very difficult and sometimes I am so busy that my head is spinning but I am actually enjoying the music more because there is no pressure financially. I know that I can take care of myself and my family and that’s a very good feeling. Now I can just enjoy my passion for music without the pressure of having to make money from it.’’
You are married to Justin James, also a musician. You wrote ‘Janet Gardner’ together. Did he change your look on music in any way? Or did you change his look? How do you two complement each other?
,,We just discovered a very special musical connection as well as bringing us closer together on a personal level. I don’t think that it really changed anything musically for either of us but I think we grew as people, musicians and writers in the process.’’
What do you consider your biggest success or achievement in music so far?
,,I try not to gauge my work creatively by the traditional parameters of success. Having a few people tell you that your music means something to them and has somehow made their life better or helped them through a difficult time or inspired or moved them in some way means more than any financial success. The fact that I’m still able to do that is a huge achievement for me!’’
What is the last thing you do before you enter the stage?
,,I do some deep breathing exercises to calm my nerves. It usually takes me a few songs to relax and enjoy the ride.’’
Do you have something like a good luck charm or something you have to take with you on tour?
,,Hmmmm… I always have a favorite pair of boots to wear on stage. I had a pair that I had been wearing for the last five years or so. I had them repaired several times and I finally had to get rid of them. It was very Trumatic for me! LOL!’’
Is there a difference between Janet Gardner on stage and Janet Gardner off stage? If so, what is the difference?
,,Not really. I pretty much just put myself out there. I’m actually very shy so getting up on stage for me has always been difficult but my love for singing and reaching people through music just takes over and somehow… I’m able to do it. I’m actually more comfortable on stage than I am in many social situations. Kind of weird… I know.’’
What would be your advice to a kid who comes up to you and tells you he/she wants to become a musician as well?
,,Just be honest and express yourself freely. That’s what’s going to reach people and move people.’’
You are still very much touring with Vixen what are the further plans with that? Maybe new music, a new album?
,,We have a live album coming out soon with a couple of bonus tracks. We recently had a guitar player change so we’ve just started the process of working on new music.’’
What are your plans as a solo artist? Touring maybe?
,,Yes. Our tour is underway. So far, we’ve played three shows and we’re really enjoying bringing this new music to the live arena! We’re doing an East Coast run here in the United States. Then we’re heading to Texas for a few days and then the West Coast here in the states. Hopefully after that, will make it over the pond and do some dates in Europe and the UK.’’
Follow JANET GARDNER on the Vixen website and the Janet Gardner official Facebook Page