Speaking with JANUS
By Dave Schwartz
Chicago, the band JANUS has been lighting up the indie airwaves
with their Warner Music Group - Independent Label Group release,
"Red Right Return." The album's first single, "Eyesore," has
received national attention with spins on Q101/Chicago, WRIF/Detroit,
WJJO/Madison, KXFX/Santa Rosa, and KISW/Seattle. A video for the
track - directed by Noah Shulman - made its world premiere on
The album is a seamless collection of
songs, interwoven to create a musical landscape that is fresh
and honest. The use of a dynamic range of instrumentation
(violins, cellos, timpani drums, a full choir, air raid sirens
and a glockenspiel) adds peace to a backdrop of aggressive
I recently got a chance to talk with JANUS'
vocalist, David Scotney, and ask all the usual questions and
maybe a few more. The interview opened with Scotney calling in
from the road, somewhere in Utah.
DB: First of all, congratulations on the
new record. I received it in the mail about 10 days ago and it
hasn't left my car CD player. Let's start from the beginning.
What can you tell me about the record?
DS: The title of the record, "Red Right
Return," comes from an old nautical saying. When captains were
returning to port they would always keep the red buoy on the
right-hand side of the ship to ensure safe passage home. The
name is appropriate because it's a metaphor for our whole
approach to making this record. We really wanted to take our
time and make a full record and really try to make a record for
DB: Obviously you've been successful with
that, the record sounds great. As I did the research for this
interview I found myself reading between the lines for some of
the details. Please, don't be shy about telling me I'm crazy
with this next question. It appears to me that you initially
released this record independently and then re-released it
through Warner Music Group, is that true?
DS: We did exactly that. We made the
record independently, but only for a few months really. Kind of
because we really didn't want a record deal. We wanted to make
our own record, do our own thing. And sure enough we got
approached by several labels and we ended up signing a deal with
WMG, Independent Label Group. It all happened really quickly.
DB: OK, since you recorded the album
independently it makes complete sense that you also handled the
production duties as well. Is this your first experience doing a
full album? I ask the question because the production on the
record is spotless-- it seems like you've been doing this for a
DS: Well thank you. I've been recording
demos for years and we did do a full length with an earlier
incarnation of the band, almost all different members. I
consider this to be our first real record. We took a year to do
it, so to hear that it sound good is really nice. It was a long
process and we set the bar pretty high and it took a long time
and we're really happy with the results.
DB: It's nice to have that time to sit
down and work things out. As you said, a full year in production
allows for plenty of time to sort out the imperfections. It must
also be nice to have that independence to please yourselves, to
not have someone constantly looking over your shoulder second
guessing your vision.
DS: Exactly. We really just followed our
instincts. We did a lot of our mixing in the car, believe it or
not! It was a part of our refinement process. We would take
mixes out to the car to hear what they sounded like. We used a
couple of different cars. That's where you pick up on things,
all the little problems.
DB: Well, I'm sure you read through some
of the reviews and the comments as to how consistent the album
is, not only in production but also in songwriting. To me the
album is almost seamless. Is this a concept album for you? We're
you trying to tell a story?
DS: Not particularly. We really tried to
write songs that belonged together. One of the interesting
things about the writing process was that we were very
democratic about it, everybody's parts were on the table;
everybody had a say in how each part sounded. We found ourselves
trying many different things, writing sometimes 10 or 15
different choruses until we found something that worked.
DB: Yes, and I'm sure you found that when
something worked it jumped at you. You're from Chicago. That
city has had a great scene over the years, a lot of great bands
came out of Chicago. What's the scene like right now?
DS: The local scene in Chicago is great.
There are a lot of great bands and they all stick together, but
it definitely isn't what it used to be. Still, Chicago is a big
city and there are a lot of cool clubs to play. So I think it's
DB: Chicago was always a cool place to go
and see shows. I really enjoyed it when we lived in the area
and, as you know, it's great to have a supportive community.
Let's talk about the video for "Eyesore," that's an amazing
video, it keeps your attention because there are just so many
thing happening and it all starts with that bomb falling on the
city. How did you come across director Noah Shulman (Sleepless
City Productions) and who had the original idea for the video?
DS: Noah is a director out of New York
that we have worked with in the past. We did a video many moons
ago. We had a great experience, so we knew who we wanted to
direct this video. We approached him and told him about our
ideas. We knew that it was going to be a performance video. We
really wanted to see if we could bring to life this whole 1920s
I had done all of the artwork for the
record so he came to me and said that he wanted me to do a lot
of the background graphics for the video too. Noah really took
things to a whole new level. He added all of the amazing effects
and I think it came out great.
DB: The video is amazing. The first time I
watched it I played it again three times! While researching this
interview I noted that journalists were having a hard time
characterizing your music-- some said metal, some were still
suggesting an alternative feel. How do you characterize your
DS: That's a tough question. I've always
just answered "rock" because I think our music has all sorts of
elements to it. I think that sort of generic term is close
enough. To be honest, we love having the freedom of so many
DB: I think what tends to confuse the
person who attempts to easily define your music is your use of a
variety of instrumentation that doesn't always fit into simple
terms. For instance, on this record you used violins, cellos,
timpani drums, a full choir, air raid sirens and a glockenspiel.
Where did you come up with concept of creating such a diverse
DS: It's really just a result of
technology. These days a band has access to any instrument that
you can think of.
DB: You don't have any concerns about
recreating the instruments live?
DS: We have a laptop that we use because
we can't afford to bring an actual cello player with us on tour.
So we have a laptop and we sync up a lot of the more exotic
DB: And my last question for you. Have you
decided on what your second single will be?
DS: I'm not sure. The label hasn't really
decided yet, but I think they are leaning toward "If I Were
I want to thank David Scotney for calling
in from the road and sharing a little of his valuable time with
us. JANUS is an interesting new band that I'm sure you'll get a
chance to see. Until then, check out the band online on their
MySpace page (www.myspace.com/janus) and on their
official Web site (www.janusmusic.com).