Parents go to great lengths to support their children’s dreams. They’ll sit through dance recitals, attend concerts they have no interest in and watch junior high school kids butcher Shakespeare just to encourage progeny’s ambitions.
None of those sacrifices are permanent. Tatiana Shmayluk’s mom took things above and beyond when she offered up her skin to her daughter’s budding artistic aspirations. “My parents gave me a tattoo gun as a birthday present,” Shmayluk recalls. “I tattooed my leg, then I tattooed my second leg, then I tattooed my third leg… just kidding. I was pretty bored and I was really into tattooing but I didn’t have money to go to a real teacher and get lessons, so I did it myself.
“My mom was one of my clients,” she continues. “She said, ‘I sacrifice my body to you, I invest in you, and maybe one day you’ll become a real tattoo artist.’ And I never did. I never made it. She lost. Sorry, Mom (laughs).”
As the lead singer of Jinjer, one of the biggest metal bands to ever come out of Ukraine, Shmayluk has given her mother a lot to be proud of, even if her parents were hesitant to embrace their daughter’s career path. “This rebellious taste that I had in punk rock music made me go against my parents’ will,” Shmayluk says. “Of course they didn’t see me becoming a musician. Of course they wanted me to be a decent citizen of my country living a normal ordinary life—working, having a family and then dying. I don’t know why, but I said, ‘Fuck it. I don’t want to live the same life as you do.’”
Shmayluk’s rebellious streak began when her older brother exposed her to a plethora of music—starting with Russian rock and moving to Nirvana, then punk, then metal. The more she discovered, the more focused she became on achieving her dreams of stardom. “I went to university, but I really was a shitty student,” Shmayluk laughs, ‘because I spent a lot of time going to practice, rehearsing, discovering new bands and daydreaming about my future success. There was always a type of knowledge inside, I just knew that it would be like this. It’s a strange feeling. I didn’t hope. I just didn’t see myself being anything besides a musician.”
Before joining Jinjer, Shmayluk played in a variety of bands. From jazz to punk to funk to reggae, she tried it all before getting into the heavy stuff. Through it all, there was something very visceral about hard music that was calling to her. “For me, it’s the vibrations,” Shmayluk says. “I mean actual vibrations, I’m not talking about some esoteric shit. The louder the better, it’s the best type of music to listen to at full volume. It just brings out something you never realized you had hidden inside. I’m a really shy person, but when I listen to metal the shyness goes away and something absolutely infernal wakes up and starts to party.”
The metal scene is divided into countless subgenres, which has led to a great deal of gatekeeping among metal purists who tend to be conservative about what exactly they consider to be “metal.” When viewed from this perspective, Jinjer is the genre’s black sheep.
“Just playing old school metal, that’s not us,” Shmayluk says. “Let’s just go against the stream, again, and mix any possible genre in the world so we can be different from other bands. When people say that Jinjer is not metal, I used to disagree and be very offended by that. But now I just take it as a compliment, I say, ‘Yes, we’re not.’”
It doesn’t matter what box you want to place her into, the strong-willed Shmayluk is going to be doing her own thing. We wouldn’t have it any other way.