Interview by Rainbow Llamacorn & The Scream Queen
We Are PIGS is a Nu Metal-Trap project created by Esjay Jones in 2020, debuting the band with a cover of Duality by Slipknot, from their 2004 Vol. 3 [The Subliminal Verses] album. We Are PIGS features many different collaborations with Artists including Morgan Lander of KITTIE, Brian ‘Head’ Welch of Korn, M.O.B., Cristin Davis of Grey Daze, Keith Wallen of Breaking Benjamin, Terry Corso of Alien Ant Farm, Richard Patrick of Filter, and most recently a song co-written and co-produced by William Patrick Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins.
Esjay grew up in South Africa, where she formed the Alternative Rock band Stealing Love Jones. Coming from a Music scene that is dominant with the Quito and Afrikaans genres, and the Rock scene at the time being very small, Stealing Love Jones broke the mold and became very successful, topping the charts. Seether is one of major international Artists who came out of South Africa, and in the beginning of Stealing Love Jones, Shaun Morgan took Esjay under his wing and showed her the ropes.
After a move to Los Angeles to gain a fresh start, Esjay has carved her way into the Music industry as a successful producer and also an Artist with We Are PIGS. Working on a lot of Hip Hop and Trap records inspired her to fuse the sounds together with Nu Metal, a genre she’s been a fan of for a long time with Loving bands like Deftones, Korn, and Alien Ant Farm. More inspiration for combining the genres together also came from working on and producing songs off of the Grey Daze records, Chester Bennington’s band he started before Linkin Park, and was working on releasing more material before he passed away. “Chester is the king of hybrid that’s what he. That’s what he did. That’s what Linkin Park did. He was never afraid to push boundaries and step outside of what people thought the box was.”
There were many times when they were tracking in the studio and everyone would get full body chills, they could feel Chester being there in the studio. When Esjay first got the Grey Daze reels and extracted Chester’s vocals, it was an incredibly haunting experience, “Chester in headphones was like whispering in my ear the whole time, you know, and my job was to be like, how can I serve you best? You are here with your own voice, you know? It was such an incredible experience. These two albums were done in a completely selfless and loving way to, to lift Chester in the highest capacity.”
Working with so many different Artists of all genres by producing and also collaborating with them, Esjay’s seen more of the Music Industry than most have, especially on an International level with beginning her career in South Africa before moving to the United States. It’s a perspective widening experience where she goes into every session and experience with an Artist as a learning opportunity.
“As an evolving Musician, Producer, Artist, Engineer, the best thing you can do in every circumstance is, how can I serve this project best? How can I bring out the best in this person? That’s how I go into every session or opportunity and working with all of these people. These Artists are my heroes, you know. It really is crazy to think that as a kid in South Africa, twelve thousand miles away from any of these people, that they would be my friends that we would be able to sit as peers and have a cup of tea and write a song so, it’s kind of mind blowing. I still have to pinch myself every day. They’re heroes and it’s really what can I learn from you? And it’s so wonderful, because what I’ve found is that they pretty much have the same philosophy. They go into the room with me going, “What can I learn from you?” It’s always egoless and just such a wonderful collaborative space.”
One of the most important foundations Esjay’s learned over the years is to be an egoless leader when in the studio, “that’s always how I see it when I’m going to the room producing records or working with people. It’s like, I’m here to listen to you, I’m here to help you articulate your vision. And how can I do that in the most emotionally intelligent and Loving way? I mean that that’s kind of what I’ve learned of my twenty-five years of being in the Music industry, I’ve had to fall on my face a lot to get to the place I am now and I’m still evolving every day.
On January 27th of 2023, We Are PIGS released the song “PIGS“, co-written and co-produced by William Patrick Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins, who released the second album from their series of trilogy albums, Atum: A Rock Opera in Three Acts. The third album, along with the entire box set of the albums is set to drop on April 21st of 2023!
We Are PIGS had been sitting on a version of the song for a few years before Billy came in and collaborated on the special track, “I felt like the song with without Billy was just very pedestrian. It kind of cruised and then when he came in, he changed a couple of the root notes and added a couple of different chords. And it really brought the song to an emotional rollercoaster journey, which I think when you listen to Pumpkins records, that’s what his albums do. It was really amazing to learn from one of the greatest of all time. Billy is just a genius, when collaborating and writing with him, he understands how chords work and how adding like a seventh or a minor or shifting a key somewhere will just change the whole emotive value of the song.“
We Are PIGS is releasing their next single in March. It is another collaboration track, this one being with Seth Binzer aka Shifty Shellshock of Crazy Town. Lyrically, the song is about Seth’s journey of addiction and sobriety. Musically, the song has a Pop vibe and was written for the radio with a young-blood healthy mashup. “This was really special. Seth and I have a special bond and we’re actually talking about doing a rehab tour, which is going to be really cool. Just doing something different, like doing an acoustic thing, going around and talking to people. It’s really exciting.”
You can hear a sneak peek of the track by watching our interview with Esjay! 😉
As her own producer for her Music, Esjay embraces the imperfections that may happen in the studio. On the song Clavicle, which features guitarist Keith Wallen from Breaking Benjamin, there was a raw moment they kept in the song that came from one of the original demo tracks.
“Those lyrics are not actually even lyrics. They were more like mumbles on the verses and I kind of it was just a vocal melody and lyric idea. And then when we rewrote the verses and I recut the vocal, I just didn’t like them as much. So, I actually left in the mumble weird verses that was in a demo probably done with my speakers on because I preferred how they made me feel to the actual lyrics that we’d written. Keith actually agreed he was just like, he was like, “yeah, I much prefer the verses of the demo mumble, they have a more Bjork-y kind of thing, whereas the new ones feel like they’ve been thought about a little bit too much,” and I think that’s really interesting.
Even when I’m working with other Artists, sometimes I feel when we come to recut the vocals, I feel like the demo vocal was cooler because you were in the emotion that day. Sometimes you just can’t get that emotion back. And I know for myself and maybe it’s just because I’m not a good enough singer or whatever it is, sometimes it just cannot recapture what happened in that moment. Like the scream will never sound the same again or like that particular weird thing that I did. I’ll never be able to capture that again. Especially with We Are PIGS, it’s a project really, just for, for my Artistic satisfaction. So, I’m like, it’s okay, we’ll let it go.”
Pulse Queen is the first original single from We Are PIGS and one that Esjay is attached to when it comes to the message of the song. She wrote the song about the Music industry, feeling like an outsider that could never get in, who was never pretty enough, or skinny enough. “I think that that’s something that, that everybody can relate to and in every circumstance in Life, you know, whether it be friend circle, relationships, work…There’s always society and people are so cliquey. And I feel like it can be that for me. It was just a really big a-ha moment of just being like, you know, a big F-U because my Life and my self-worth is not on whether you open doors for me or not.
I think your self-worth really just comes from how good the person are you… Can you give back? Do you Love yourself? Are you good to yourself, you know? So, it was really like this growing moment for me and that’s what that song’s about, just kind of like I’m losing my mind in this industry that I’ve worked my entire Life to get acceptance from… And it’s like with everything in Life, maybe you’ll never get it, so it’s just finding that Peace within yourself.”
Esjay is part of a non-profit organization called We Are Moving The Needle. It’s for women in the audio industry. There is a study by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Study that less than 3% of producers in the Music industry are women. We Are Moving The Needle is working to find allies to help bring more women up into the engineering, producing, and songwriting aspect of the industry.
“I think the Artist percentage was like twenty eight percent this year, the song writer percentage was like thirteen percent, and then production and engineers was two point eight percent for women, which is just it’s grossly lopsided and I honestly, I just don’t think that women are given a fair chance in the industry. So, it’s great to support organizations. Go check out WeAreMovingTheNeedle.org, and just see how you can be a part of it.”
Aside from creating Music and producing We Are PIGS, Esjay is also producing and writing with Artists like Cinnamon Babe, who released her newest single titled, “Loose” at the end of October in 2022. Esjay co-produced the song with JR Bareis, and co-wrote it with Stormi Maya, who is the frontwoman of the band. They are currently working on a five-song EP that is planned to be out by the beginning of April. One of the songs features a collaboration with Otep!
Esjay co-wrote and co-produced two new songs from Otep’s highly anticipated album that is currently scheduled to be released in the Fall. “I’m busy editing those vocals right now, and it’s so heavy and so brutal and you know, Otep is just, she is the King of Metal vocals, she really is. A lot of people forget where this sound came from and as far as I know, she was the first woman in history to do that. It’s such a privilege to work with her. And she’s a massive inspiration of mine. Like a lot of people, they’re like, “you sound just like Otep.” She’s a lot “growlier” than I am, but I definitely picked up a lot of her special nuances throughout creating, finding my voice.”
***You can catch Otep on tour in the USA this May! Click here for all the dates!!***
Another Artist Esjay is working with is Miss Velvet, who is coming out with a new single on February 14th called “Lovin’ In The Afternoon” from her upcoming album that they spent a year working on. “She is unlike anybody that I’ve heard in like 50 years. If you think Aerosmith meets Heart, it’s a voice that I haven’t heard just because radio has become so cookie cutter and all female vocals sound the same and all songs sound the same. And it’s so refreshing to work with such a massive talent. Her voice is just mind blowing. A part of our vision together was how do we harness the energy and vibe of when you’re listening to Joan Jett records or Heart records? And the Led Zeppelin records… How do we harness that energy, but still make it sonically stand up against other songs today? So, it was definitely a challenging project. Completely joyful, and I’m so honored to be a part of it.”
At the moment, We Are PIGS is in discussions with a record label about doing a full-length album, however the main focus is on releasing new tracks to build up momentum and also have the algorithms on streaming services work towards their favor. “I think when you are just building a brand or building yourself as an Artist, I think it’s better just to draw as much as you can, even if it’s every two weeks, if you have the capacity to do that, just to keep people excited because then it’s not like listening to a full album all in one go, you know, it’s something fresh every two weeks or every month.”
Fan Facts: Esjay is a huge Limp Bizkit fan, having them in her workout playlist, or listening to them if she’s in a bad mood, or if someone’s pissing her off, “They capture such an emotional, vibrant frequency that I’m just like, yes! And I would Love to collab with Fred!”