Born in the Ukraine and raised in Brooklyn on a steady diet of pierogies and metal, Mistress Juliya has risen to be the modern-day Riki Rachtman of Headbangers Ball. After hosting music programs on Fuse like Uranium and Slave to the Metal, she has graduated to the network’s Top 20 Countdown (Fridays at 5 p.m.). Off-camera, Chernetsky riffed with her Top 20 Countdown cohost Allison Hagendorf about music, tattoos, and her icon, Bettie Page.
What was your earliest memory of music?
Michael Jackson. My parents used to listen to him all the time when I was little. He was huge in Russia in the ’80s—as he was all over the world! When I was 12, I was turned on to Guns N’ Roses, and I’ve never really been the same since then.
Who was your music idol as a teenager?
Was and still is Ozzy. Mostly because he lived an insane rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle while creating amazing albums and having a family. I’m not saying every album is perfect, or that his family is normal, but that’s the beauty in it for me. He is the epitome of rock ‘n’ roll. And he’s still alive and happy, which is more than most can say or hope for.
Is talking about music and interviewing musicians what you always wanted to do?
Actually, no, I wanted to be a psychiatrist—though hanging with musicians all the time isn’t far from it. It’s kind of funny: I used to sit around what we called the “metal staircase” in high school, and wonder how I’d ever get to see metal interviews and videos once Headbangers Ball got canceled. And then, three years later I started Uranium. The stars aligned, I suppose—right place, right time, right station.
When I had the opportunity to interview Judas Priest’s Rob Halford with you, you were so pumped to speak with the metal god. Do you still get nervous to interview your heroes?
Absolutely! I mean, I of course realize we’re all just people, and I’ve done this now for about 10 years, but people who create art that changes lives fascinate me. Art is the most sincere form of expression; that is why it touches people’s lives, opinions, states of mind, and emotions. Rob is definitely one of those people. I get nervous from excitement. It’s very exciting to get a chance to sit down with real artists that have changed people’s lives.
Who has been your most special interview thus far?
So many have been special, because when I started I got to do a music show with my favorite music genre. So most of my interviews were with people I really looked up to. My Dimebag Darrell [of Pantera] interview really stands out because he is such an icon. On the way to meet him, I just prayed that he would be the same way as I imagined him, and he was so much more.
When you interviewed Travie McCoy I could see you guys were bonding about your tattoos. Is that a common way for you to build rapport with artists you’re about to interview?
Well, art for artists is always a common ground. As a journalist, I always look for ways to connect with the artist because they are often shy or are expecting a generic media experience. I like to make them feel comfortable and know that I am interested in what they are about. A lot of artists have ink just to have it, because it’s cool. Which I don’t support at all. But with Travie, I saw that it was more personal, so that’s why I brought it up. When ink is personal, it is definitely an intimate issue to discuss and makes people feel good to be understood on that level.
What made you get your first tattoo?
I was dying to get tattooed, but I was 16 and needed to get it in a place where my parents wouldn’t see it and find someone to take me. At the time I was working with Keith Caputo’s [of Life of Agony] father. He was this badass biker guy and he took me to get my first tat. I had also just discovered Mary Jane at the time, and I thought commemorating my love for it was definitely the right choice for my first rebellious piece of art. So we rode in on his Harley, he vouched I was 18, and I got a little pot leaf with the words “High Life” above it, on my lower stomach. Unfortunately, he passed about 10 years later and to mark that in some way, I had Tim Kern cover up the little leaf with a really big one.
How many tattoos do you have now and what do they mean to you?
I currently have five pieces. There’s the leaf, and next came the two zodiac signs inside the sun on my neck. Those represent a special bond I had with my first love. We were together for a very long time and kind of raised each other, so we got those together when I was 17. Next came the Catwoman on my leg. I got her at 19 when I moved out on my own. Catwoman is one of my two female idols due to her representing an independent, strong, power-wielding female. It only made sense to get her to represent my own independence. After that I got my first Paul Booth piece on my lower back, the Bettie Page demon. Bettie Page is my idol. In a time when women were repressed and very controlled socially and at home, she had the balls to be naked, to be in touch with her sexuality and her dark side. Over the course of the six months that it took for her to be done I went through a tough breakup, developed a career, and was left on my own to deal with both loss and triumph. It was quite appropriate.
Does your Bettie Page tattoo mean the most to you?
My second Booth piece on my right arm, which is a half-wilting, half-blooming poppy flower, holds the most meaning. It represents two things: shedding old skin and starting again and admitting that most things in life are opiates and we must see past them to find real truth.
It’s a long story, but to shorten it: I went through a really awful breakup and lost my job around the same time. Both were rather unexpected and very much tore my soul out. I was in a very deep depression for a long time, during which my friend brought me a gift from her travels in Prague. It was a beautiful antique mirror, with an image similar to my tattoo engraved into it. I remember looking at it and thinking that it was exactly how I felt: dulled by pain and dying inside while trying to come out of it and be born again, pain and past cast aside. I talked to Paul, who knew of all my personal issues at the time, and he agreed to do it. It’s the most special piece I have; the tattoo process was very intimate and very therapeutic. I transgressed the point of pain on that one and cried out a lot of my past. Thanks for the therapy, Paul! It’s also a very unique style even for him—I think it’s safe to say that we are both very proud of it.
Do you regret any of them? No, they all mark important changes in my life. I love them all.
Any more planned?
Well, that’s an ever-changing question. Until I’m solid in what my future is I must be careful. But all my tattoos mark major changes in my life and I’ve always saved the inside of my left arm for when I get married. I think to join your path with another is the ultimate change in one’s life and I would need to commemorate that on my little map. It wouldn’t be a name or a face, just an image that will come to me when that time comes that will represent my new path with a partner. Of course, I would want Paul Booth to do it, in a similar soft-sketch style as my right arm.
Ideally, where will you and your tattoo status be in five years?
I hope to be in a more stable place in my life. I hope to have more stability in my career and personal life. I very much yearn for that. The past few years of my life always put me in a position where I didn’t know what was next. Perhaps my left arm will get filled. We shall see.