Originally written by Sasha Horn.
I had seen Blackguard perform once, not so long ago. And it was in one word, explosive. Lots of hair flailing, leather legs up on monitors, and fist-pumping against the night air thick with the moisture of metal. One of this clique refrained from most of that posturing: Meet Justine Ethier, drummer. Well dressed and very serious by day, metal maniac from dusk ’til dawn. This is the first in a series of tiny interviews that I will conduct with her, easing you and I into this new-found friendship.
??Just after her last response here, she took off with the rest of the road warriors on their way to their first Euro tour, in support of their newest (and Victory Records debut), Firefight, which hit the streets just this last Tuesday. If the passion put forth through their live show is any indication of their intentions, I do believe that they will act like the album title and blaze their way through this world, fighting one fire at a time…. And probably in the nicest way possible, seeing as how Justine is simply, lovely. Stay tuned for what I’m hoping will be stories filled with the mayhem and debauchery of friendly and “epic” Canadians landing on virgin soil. Enjoy!???
MR: Greetings, Justine. Thank you so much for giving MetalReview some of your time in the name of Blackguard. For those who are not in the know (considering that the band is only in its third year of existence, it’s not a stretch), you are a girl…that plays drums…really well. That’s not something that we run across so often in this realm. Even less, a girl that plays to the strengths of a full-steam-ahead Folkish-Melo-DM / BM / PM….okay. I’m tongue-tied. Just how the hell would you describe Blackguard anyway? I’ve heard and seen that phrase twisted a million ways….
??JE: Hi there! It is my pleasure to take the time to answer you. Oh, and thanks for your kind words!??
Well, I would describe it as “epic” metal because of the epic feel provided by the orchestrations and the song structures in general. Yes, there is power metal, heavy metal, death and black elements in our music too, which makes it difficult to tag mainly because every musician in this band has their own influence and taste. But overall, if you listen to a track and it makes you feel powerful, makes your mind travel in the greatest landscapes, and it sounds as big as a movie soundtrack, I would personally call it ‘epic metal’…. ??
MR: Well, then we shall call it epic.
??I had my first taste of Firefight just a few days ago, and let me just say first and foremost, that the title chosen is all too appropriate. It is, if nothing else, a blast-furnace of an offering from first song ’til last. I think it’s because what you’ve said is true, about Blackguard being an amalgamation of the aforementioned styles, that I’m able to really get into this album. I’m not much of a power metal guy, but none of your chosen methods shadow another; this album would seem to be a pretty damn successful combination of elements. Now, if I could shift focus onto you a bit before bringing the entire entity into the fold:
Like I said earlier, female metal drummers that ignite at the push of a button are not easy to find. Can you give us a glimpse into your drumming background? When did you start playing? Why did you start playing? And is the kind of attention that I’m giving you something that you come across often, considering that you’re a double-bass beast in a world where we’re hard-pressed to find your equivalent?
JE: Thanks. I’m glad you liked the CD!
Oh well, I started playing twelve years ago, and as for the ”why’,’ I don’t really know. Haha! I wanted to play trumpet at the kids fanfare, but the really nice guy there was playing the snare drum, so I just got into the percussion section! At school, I was trying out for the trumpet again and I helped a friend get into the drum audition for the big band and I figured I should try out myself. I got the spot thenext year. I never played trumpet for any kind of orchestra afterward, so I guess this is how I started to play drums!
When the time came to go to college, I decided to try out for music; “classical percussion” to be more precise. There, I learned a lot about music, and especially about hand technique. Funny that you mentioned my feet! For that I guess I have to give credit to our ex-keyboard player for always writing faster songs, and for always telling me ”Hit those drums harder goddamnit! I can’t hear you!”
I have had a lot of different projects and bands through the years, but Blackguard has always been my baby…
MR: It sounds like you really, really tried to play that trumpet, and it sounds as though you were drawn to the orchestral side as well. It’s no surprise then, that you ended up playing in a band with such bombast, n’est pas?
And you are a learned musician. That kind of experience must be a precious part of how you came to be the player that you are today. Tell me, how does one go from a burning desire to be a trumpeter, to studying classical percussion at a collegiate level, to playing drums for a metal band? What sort of lessons learned then, translated well to your chosen style now?
JE: Yeah, I kind of had a weird progression. But to be open minded to many styles is always a plus for a musician in my opinion.
I would basically go teach a kids orchestra on Saturday mornings, well dressed and very serious… Then go to our metal jam and get some beer. Strange day!
??I guess the good thing is that I developed a great ”ear’,’ and I learned things that helped me with my preparation, practice, and work ethics. It even helped me to simply communicate my ideas better with other musicians, like feeling and intentions about the music. And as for the music of Blackguard, you can clearly hear the classical touch in our discography…?? I guess that’s why I love my band so much. It is as ”bipolar” as I am, mixing classical and heavy stuff.??
Thanks for your time!!!
And just like that, she’s off to her next “metal jam,” (I’m guessing) beer, and if we’re lucky, creating an exciting next chapter to take place right here in due time. Stay tuned. Stay Epic Metal.