Jinjer’s Tatiana Shmailyuk: ‘Ukrainian culture resurfaces’

Over the past eight years, Jinjer have grown into one of metal’s most exciting bands, with Tatiana Shmayluk’s brutal voice carrying its message of resistance and determination.

With their home country of Ukraine under siege by Russian forces, these words are more vital than ever – and with the help of Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture, the band have been allowed to tour as country ambassadors to raise funds and awareness. As Tatiana looks back on her life, she explains why she and her bandmates will never stop fighting.

Metal hammer line cut

BEING A UKRAINIAN METAL FAN HAD ITS CHALLENGES WHEN I WAS GROWING UP

“Metal was not accessible to me. Where I grew up in Donetsk, few metal artists in the world came. They were going to the capital, and it was 700 km and 12 hours by train. I had no money because I was a teenager and my mother was strict; she didn’t give me much pocket money, although it stimulated me to earn some myself, for which I am very grateful. My parents wouldn’t have let me out of town, but that was better too. It made me want to play my own music and form my own band.

MY BROTHER SENT ME TO METAL

“I listened to a lot of rock music, then grunge, punk. Then the music got heavier and heavier and I started developing as a musician on my own. Now my brother doesn’t listen to any type of heavy music anymore. It has been years. He stopped listening to heavy music when he grew up. That’s the problem in Ukraine, people stop listening to heavy music once they have a job, a family, they get married.

SUCCESS CAME TO US SLOWLY…

“It wasn’t easy or quick at all. It’s been more than 10 years already. It even took me five years to cross the Ukrainian border to play in Romania in front of an audience that had no idea who we were. Five years! Traveling to other European countries and the United States takes even longer. It took a few years to get noticed by a label and then we grew from 2015 or 2016.”

…BUT I AM HAPPY IT HAPPENED LIKE THIS

“I’m happy, we grew naturally. No crazy promotion, nothing at all. We won it with fucking blood and sweat. That’s why I can really call it a success, not just a moment of glory.”

TO DO IT, WE HAD TO GO OUTSIDE THE STANDARDS

“I can’t name any Ukrainian metal band that was famous in the world before us. Can you? Most Ukrainian bands stick to playing in Ukraine or Russia. They usually don’t sing in English, so they just play in their home country. I have always been inspired by Western musical culture in jazz, blues and then metal. I’ve always had this love for Anglophone music, even pop music; Britney Spears is one of my biggest idols! People can understand it easily and for me it was always about spreading my own message through a more accessible language to people around the world in different countries. That’s why we chose to sing in English and that’s how we made our own path.

THESE REACTION VIDEOS ON YOUTUBE MADE ME REALIZE I AM A GATEWAY ARTIST

“It’s a surprise to me that people are still impressed that women can scream. When I was an 18 year old girl with no internet I knew there was a band called Holy Moses [German thrash metallers] with a woman on vocals doing crazy stuff. Maybe we impress the younger generation, but the older generation already knew that. Sometimes I get annoyed, but then you say, “OK, well, I didn’t see a hummingbird until I was 35.” It’s always a good time to discover new things. It’s great that screaming women are a phenomenon.



DON’T BE SO HARD ON YOURSELF

“I was vegan for three years and then in the middle of a tour I started eating meat again because I was starving and there was nothing to feed me. don’t punish me, maybe I’ll try again, but I try to be moderate in my meat consumption. I still don’t drink milk. To tell you the truth, the smell of roast meat made me really mad as a lion, I just couldn’t resist. And that’s the problem, I have this inner conflict. My instinct says to me, “Eat it, eat it”, but my conscience tells me said, “Come on, come on. Sometimes I fish and feel bad, which isn’t healthy, I try to be gentler on myself. At least I try.”

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME

“Ukrainian culture is reborn because of this horrible war. Many people who speak Russian, for example, have started to learn Ukrainian. I am married to a Mexican and I found a lot of similarities in our cultures. Big families, lots of great food, Ukrainian food is one thing, and music. Women singing at the table. It is very similar to Mexico in terms of traditions. We respect nature, we love flowers and poetry. I cannot express it in two words or in 30 minutes. You have to be there and maybe spend years to fully understand Ukrainian culture.

LIVING IN AMERICA IS SUITABLE FOR ME

“I love California. I’ve always wanted to live there because of all my favorite movies. Since December of last year, I moved back to LA after our US tour and have been living there ever since. I love the weather I love the palm trees I love nature I love the oceans and the seas Living in California is a beautiful thing Where we live now, two hours away and we are in the mountains; you can ski, you can play snowball. Then you go back to LA and there’s the ocean. They have everything I love.

BUT I MISS MY HOME IN Kyiv

“I had thought that once I got my green card, I could go back to Ukraine with my husband and we could go back and forth between Kyiv and Los Angeles. Then the war started. Honestly, sometimes I cry when no one sees me. I miss my home in Kyiv. I lived there for five years. I really miss my hometown, Donetsk, where my childhood was, and I really want to go back there and see my kindergarten, my parents, my toys are still there. It’s really heartbreaking. I can’t imagine how life turned out.

BEING SEPARATED FROM MY FAMILY IS ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT THINGS I HAVE EXPERIENCED

“I haven’t seen my parents in person for three years. We communicate via cameras with a virtual connection. I have a brother who lives in Russia and I haven’t seen him for over five years. But there are more horrible things in life. War is the most horrible thing, more than the separation of people.

SOMETIMES EVEN MUSIC CAN’T HEAL THE Void

“You know what, I’m losing my faith in music. I don’t feel like I can express myself enough to say what I really feel because there are no words to explain. So, I feel like I should give up…but something pushes me to go further.

I DON’T KNOW WHEN JINJER WILL BE ABLE TO PLAY AGAIN WITH UKRAINE

“I don’t think that will be possible in the near future. It’s hard to say, it’s absolutely a blur, so I can’t even think about it, but we also have bigger problems.

IT IS A GREAT HONOR TO REPRESENT MY COUNTRY

“We are very grateful to our Ministry of Culture for Ukraine who gave us this opportunity to do what we love to do and play all the festivals we announced. We use each festival to raise funds and take awareness of the real war going on in the 21st century, which is crazy. It’s hard to believe, but it’s the harsh reality. It’s heartbreaking, but at the same time, we’re as hopeful as soon it will all be over. We spread positivity and hope, and we dream of peace. I hope no other European or world country will ever experience the same as Ukraine.

NO FAME CAN BUY HAPPINESS

“I want my band to be one of the biggest bands in the world, but happiness comes first. They say you can’t find happiness anywhere because happiness lives inside you, but I’m learning to appreciate my This is my greatest ambition, to be happy and to find inner peace, and that there is justice for Ukraine.

Jinjer is set to tour the UK in March 2023 with Bullet For My Valentine and Atreyu

Helen D. Jessen