As The Headbanging Moose is celebrating nine years of existence this month of October, there’s nothing better than offering the first slice of our cake to a woman who’s undoubtedly the most important name of all time from the Ukrainian rock and metal scene, and I would dare to say even from the entire music scene in Ukraine. Born on March 15, 1987 in Horlivka, or Gorlovka, a city located in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, she’s a singer and songwriter better known as the frontwoman for Groove Metal/Metalcore act Jinjer since 2010, kicking some serious ass wherever she goes armed with both her furious roars and mesmerizing clean vocals. I’m talking about the one and only Tatiana Shmayluk, a multi-talented and humble woman who’s also a role model to countless girls out there who want to find in heavy music a way to express all of their feelings, hopes and frustrations, and I’m sure you’ll get addicted to her vocals and her music after reading this tribute to her.
Long before becoming the face of Jinjer, Tatiana was already singing and screaming according to her own mother, always listening to Russian and Ukrainian pop songs she heard on the radio. “My mother told me I started screaming when I was a very little girl. I screamed so loud I had a hernia in my belly.” Furthermore, one of her favorite songs from her childhood was the 1989 dance song Lambada, by French-Brazilian group Kaoma, which she mentioned she still sings along to it with great joy, although she doesn’t know Portuguese. She then began singing more seriously at the age of eight, taking vocal lessons for a couple of months and making her onstage debut that year in a concert hall with a choir. “The songs were accompanied with dancing. I was very nervous, and of course I screwed it up because of the dancing. So I said, ‘Never again.’ I cannot do synchronic dancing with someone else. I need to do it alone so I can control the whole thing,” commented Tatiana, who also said that it was her older brother, who was a guitar player to a Doom Metal band, who introduced her to metal music, more specifically to Aria, the long-running Moscow metal outfit hailed as the “Iron Maiden of Russia.”
Proudly carrying the flag of modern-day metal music to all four corner of the earth, Jinjer were formed back in 2008 in Donetsk, but the band considers their official start with the addition of Tatiana and guitarist Roman Ibramkhalilov in 2010. None of the founding members remain with the band, with the current lineup being comprised of the aforementioned Tatiana on vocals and Roman on the guitars, together with Eugene Abdukhanov on bass and Vladislav Ulasevish on drums. Influenced by countless renewned acts the likes of Opeth, Guano Apes, Slayer, Death, Pantera, Anathema, Lamb of God, Gojira and Twelve Foot Ninja, as well as groups across the spectrum of R&B, soul, funk, jazz, reggae, and hip-hop, such as Cypress Hill and House of Pain, the band has already released four studio albums in their career, those being their 2014 debut Cloud Factory, their 2016 sophomore album King of Everything, and more recently their 2019 opus Macro and their 2021 critically acclaimed album Wallflowers, all of which have reached number one in their native Ukraine, while also seeing a total of 16 singles, six of which reached the top of the Ukrainian charts and one of which, Pisces, became a global hit and has to date sold over 20 million copies. In addition, they’ve also released three EP’s, those being Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear (2009), Inhale, Do Not Breathe (2012) and Micro (2019), and the 2020 live album Alive in Melbourne. You can enjoy several of their best compositions on YouTube, such as Vortex, Judgement (& Punishment), Wallflower, Home Back, Sit Stay Roll Over, and Who Is Gonna Be The One, as well as their full ass-kicking performance live at Resurrection Fest in Viveiro, Spain, in 2018, among many, many other awesome videos, and don’t forget to also stream their full discography on Spotify.
Unfortunately, not long after the ongoing conflict between the Ukrainian military, anti-government protestors and pro-Russian rebels began in 2014, Tatiana and her bandmates had to escape Donetsk, moving to a suburb near the city of Lviv around 800 miles away, not far from the Polish border. “”But we got bored there because it’s a city for tourists,” explained Tatiana. “We rented a house but it was impossible to live there because there were problems with water, with electricity, heating. So that’s why we moved to a more civilized place.” Furthermore, when asked about what makes Jinjer uniquely Ukrainian, she said that because the band comes from a land where kindness equals weakness, a tough country for everyone including their parents, especially in the 90’s, the band members became really grind and tough. For instance, she mentioned that Ukrainians don’t go to a doctor if something hurts, for example, enduring the pain until the end. That’s one of the reasons why the band tries to never cancel any of their concerts and tours, even if it’s impossible to play, showing how strong and determined they are.
Apart from her undisputed career with Jinjer, you can also find Tatiana as a guest vocalist in an array of distinct albums and songs, including the songs Through the Never (I Will Return) and Horror of Daniel Wagner, from the 2022 album Horror of Daniel Wagner, by Ukrainian Heavy/Power Metal band Morton; the song Find My Way, released in 2022 by American Modern Metal band Lions At The Gate; the song Over and Out, released in 2021 by Australian Heavy Rock band Twelve Foot Ninja; and my favorite of all those tracks, the pulverizing Hello Death, from the 2022 album Cancer Culture, released by Polish Death/Groove Metal act Decapitated. Not only that, if you pay good attention to Jinjer’s song Judgment (& Punishment) you’ll notice several elements from reggae added to the band’s extreme music, and that’s something that comes from Tatiana as she was a part of a band that played reggae, ska, ska-punk and funk before Jinjer, playing several cover songs and singing in Ukrainian, Russian and English. “I was a huge fan of reggae. I wore dreadlocks and I was all about Rastafari,” commented Tatiana, who also said that, even being a huge reggae fan, she doesn’t smoke weed simply because she doesn’t like it.
Currently living in Los Angeles, California and spending as much time as possible on tour, having closed 2021 with over 70 concerts including many summer festivals, a short tour of mainland Europe and a two-month North American tour, Tatiana obviously misses her homeland, her family and friends, although she finds the region’s lingering Soviet attitudes unappealing, with the remnants of hardline communism surrounding everyone there. While she was still living in Ukraine, she said that “I was too young to remember life in Soviet Union, but the spirit of Soviet Union is still here. I’m living in an apartment built maybe 40 years ago, and my parents live in such an apartment, as well. All our shops and supermarkets are situated in buildings built then. So it is still like Soviet Union. And there are a lot of people who still have Soviet Union in their heads and their minds.” However, Tatiana mentioned she doesn’t feel safe when on tour it doesn’t matter which country she’s visiting, not only in Ukraine, saying she’s always afraid of going anywhere by herself.
In one of her interviews, Tatiana said it’s a surprise to her that people are still impressed that women can scream, mentioning for example female-fronted German thrash metallers Holy Moses, who she got to know when she was an 18-year old girl in Ukraine, and saying that despite the fact bands like Jinjer might impress the younger generations, the older generations have always known what women can do in rock and metal music. “Sometimes I’m annoyed, but then you say, ‘OK, well, I didn’t see a hummingbird until I was 35 years old.’ It’s always a right time to discover new stuff. It’s great that screaming women are a phenomenon.” She also said it’s incredible to know she’s an inspiration for many young women mainly because they don’t know she’s in fact a very shy person, also sensitive, fragile and easy to be offended, or in her own words, she’s not better than anyone, complementing by saying she’s just a performer when she’s on stage. “Of course there is some true shit, but I don’t move my head 24/7 and I don’t scream all the time. Well, I scream every night. But not every morning.” Furthermore, you can learn a little more about how Tatiana learned to scream by clicking HERE, from first hearing Otep to screaming Mudvayne lyrics, to the dominant force she is today.
As any other metalhead in the world, Tatiana has a lot of idols and influences in her life, in her vocal style, in the way she writes the music for Jinjer and so on, but following those artists wasn’t easy at all when she was a young girl due to the aforementioned impact of the Soviet Union over Ukraine at that time. “Metal wasn’t accessible for me. Where I grew up in Donetsk, not many worldwide metal artists would come. They’d go to the capital, and it was 700km and 12 hours on the train. I didn’t have money because I was a teenager and my mom was strict; she didn’t give me much pocket money, although that stimulated me to earn it myself, for which I’m really grateful to her. My parents wouldn’t have let me out of the town, but that was for the best too. It made me want to play my own music and form my own band.” As mentioned, her brother was the one who got her into metal (although he stopped listening to heavy music when he grew up), but before that she used to listen to a lot of rock music, grunge and punk especially after the Soviet Union collapsing in 1991, as MTV hit the Ukrainian airwaves and she began listening to bands like Nirvana and The Offspring. She then found the music by Otep, and got addicted to the vocals by the iconic Otep Shamaya. “I think I was 15 when I heard Otep the first time,” said Tatiana in one of her interviews. “I said, ‘This dude is so cool!’ And my friend said, ‘This is a girl!’ I was like, ‘Jesus fucking Christ!’ This is the first girl I am hearing do this. I was shocked, and I wanted to shock people like her.”
Being a rock and metal artist in Ukraine wasn’t easy at all, taking Tatiana and the rest of the band around five years just to cross the Ukrainian border and play in Romania, and even longer to reach other European countries and the United States, but fortunately everything seems to be working for Jinjer now, with the band organically growing in the worldwide scene and gaining more and more respect from fans from all four corners of the earth. As expected, Tatiana has some important complaints about the Ukrainian metal scene, saying that most Ukrainian bands stick to playing in Ukraine or Russia, and that they don’t usually sing in English, the main reason why they just play in their motherland. “I was always inspired by western music culture in jazz, blues and then metal. I always had this love for English speaking 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 language that is more available for people all around the world of different countries. That’s why we chose to sing in English and that’s how we made our own path.” Another major issue in Ukraine according to her is the post-U.S.S.R. thinking and mindset, where you’re not accepted if you’re different, as for example tattoos (and we all know she has plenty) are not acceptable for men nor women in her homeland.
However, as you might probably know, Ukraine is suffering with the Russian invasion that started back in February this year, and that has been hitting the band hard in their hearts and minds since then. In March 2022, it was reported that Jinjer had “paused” their career to focus on relief efforts in Ukraine after the war began. Right after that, in June 2022, Jinjer announced that they received permission from the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture to leave Ukraine and tour as ambassadors of the nation to raise funds and awareness. “We are very thankful to our Ministry Of Culture for the Ukraine who gave us this opportunity to do what we love to do, and play all the festivals we have announced. We’re using every festival to raise funds and spread awareness about the real war that is happening in the 21st century, which is crazy. It’s hard to believe, but this is the harsh reality. It’s heartbreaking, but at the same time we are also full of hope that soon it is all going be over. We are spreading positivity and hope, and we are dreaming about peace. I hope that no other European or world country ever experiences the same as the Ukraine,” commented Tatiana, also saying she has no idea when Jinjer will be able to play in Ukraine again, and that the band will never stop fighting. Moreover, in their most recent releases there are lyrics addressing the war in Donbas and its effects on their home region of Donetsk, and you can also find tons of amazing interviews with Tatiana and the boys talking about the war in Ukraine, just like this one conducted by Loudwire.
Regarding her relationship with social media, Tatiana said that due to her explosive nature she usually replies back to anyone that messages her, it doesn’t matter if it’s a positive or negative comment, saying she “enjoys” replying back to internet trolls because she’s easy to piss off. “Sometimes it’s just overwhelming. I feel like if I let it go, I will let them continue to do this shit again and again. It’s like I give them unspoken permission,” commented our stunning diva, also saying most of the feedback she gets online is actually positive. In addition, one of her favorite ways of interacting with her fans is to customize shirts she receives from them before a show and wear them onstage the same night. “Most of the time, these shirts are very personal. For example, yesterday I was given a shirt — it has a huge ape giving a middle finger and it says something like, ‘Humans destroy everything.’ It’s so related to our song Ape. They will see me wear it on the stage and it is a huge pleaser. They get double joy. I love all the things they bring to me at meet and greet. They are so sweet,” said Tatiana, complementing by saying that some of those fans are very shy and don’t want to talk a lot, being very happy with just an autograph and a photo.
Our unstoppable frontwoman also said that, in an effort to improve her own standing with Mother Nature, she tried to be a vegan for three years, but she went back to eating meat in the middle of a tour because she was starving. She said she still tries to be moderate in consuming meat, and that she doesn’t drink milk, though, revealing her own inner conflict. “I still try being vegan, but it’s really hard for me because I was raised in a family that was not very rich,” she explained. “We could not afford eating meat very often. So when I stopped eating meat, I realized that I loved meat a lot. When I smell meat, it drives me crazy. Something inside of me forgets about animals, suffering, health, environment, and I just want a good piece of meat.” You can get to know more about Tatiana by listening to our growler answering 10 questions asked by Metalshop TV (volume 1 and volume 2), as well as other interviews online such as Tatiana and her bandmates answering the most asked questions on the Internet about Jinjer. Lastly, just like several people out there (including myself), Tatiana also believes something went wrong in our evolution, saying mankind went wrong, and that although we are so small on this earth we act like we are gods, which makes her really sad. She’s trying to learn how to be happy, how to find the happiness inside, and to appreciate her life. “That’s my biggest ambition, to be happy and find inner peace, and for there to be justice for Ukraine.”
Tatiana Shmayluk’s Official Facebook page
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“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 then something makes me go further.” – Tatiana Shmayluk