Nita Strauss, the Los Angeles-based guitar shredder for the ALICE COOPER band, says that she was surprised by the death of her THE STARBREAKERS bandmate Jill Janus.
Janus, who was also the frontwoman for the California heavy metal band HUNTRESS, passed away on August 14. A longtime sufferer of mental illness, she took her own life outside of Portland, Oregon.
In a recent interview with "Chasing Glory With Lilian Garcia", Strauss said about Janus's decision to commit suicide: "She was my sober sister, and the weight of the world just seemed very heavy on her."
Asked if she saw Jill's death coming before it happened, Nita said: "I did not see it coming. I think people closer to her than me may have.
"If you had told me this news about Jill two years ago when we were both still… I guess I wasn't partying at that time, but she was still drinking, doing drugs, partying, I would have said, 'Yeah, that makes sense,' 'cause she was a party girl," Strauss continued. "But she was really happily sober. She had gotten sober on New Year's Day of this last year, of 2018, and she had confided in me so many times. And when I would tell her how hard it was for me [to stay sober], she would go, 'I don't feel that. I don't feel that it's that hard, because I love how I feel being sober.' So it came as a surprise when it happened, yeah."
Nita said that losing Jill in such a tragic way has been "hard" on her. "She was a trailblazer in the music industry," the guitarist explained. "She played in a heavy metal band. She had this super-rebellious attitude. She had a four-octave, incredible vocal range, so she could sing anything from opera to crazy heavy metal — crazy highs, crazy lows. She would do four octaves in our show — easily.
"When I first met her on tour in 2008 or 2009, they were the first band on the bill — the first band out of six, so they were going on at 6:30 in the afternoon every day," she recalled. "And she was going around directing everyone, 'By the way, you guys can't smoke in here. I have a four-octave range. I need to save my voice.' And by the time we got to a band together, she had learned that she had to tell people that she had asthma. 'I have asthma, so you can't smoke.' And the last show we played together was at The Viper Room, here in Hollywood, and she went off on the owner of the club and said, 'It says very clearly on the door: no smoking.' And everybody would look at her, 'cause she was a beautiful little blonde. When she got in her zone, she would say, 'Look, it says on the door. I have asthma. If this doesn't stop right now, we're not going on stage.' And everyone was, like, 'Yes, ma'am.'"
In addition to fronting HUNTRESS and THE STARBREAKERS, Jill was the vocalist for female metal/hard rock cover bans CHELSEA GIRLS and was the co-composer and creator of an upcoming rock opera with TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA's Angus Clark. She also had a decade-long career as New York City DJ Penelope Tuesdae. Her musical career began in childhood.
Janus has been open over the years about her battles with not only mental illness, in the form of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dissociative identity disorder and alcoholism, but also physical illness in the form of cancer.
Janus was diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2015 while HUNTRESS was working on its third album, "Static". She was eventually declared cancer-free after undergoing a hysterectomy.
"Static" was released in 2015 via Napalm Records.