bill bodkin breathes the night air with the hard rockers…
It’s not an easy task to weave a sense of melody into the hard rock, but the band Janus does it well. Their latest album Nox Aeris (Latin for ‘Night Air’) exhibits the band’s uncanny ability to provide a melody sometimes soaring and charismatic, sometimes fragile and heartbreaking into a thick, almost impenetrable wall made of hard rock hooks and electronic undertones.
Pop-Break’s Bill Bodkin spoke with the band’s lead singer David Scotney about the melody their music possesses, the theme of the new album and his thoughts on being in the current hard rock scene.
Pop-Break: First question about the album title Nox Aeris– can you talk about the meaning of the album title and how it reflects the themes on this record?
David Scotney: The title is basically a concept we stumbled upon when we were kicking around some artwork concepts for the new record. The new record ended up being a lot darker and heavier than the first record — sound, tone-wise and also subject matter as well. So while we were looking through artwork through different time periods, we saw this painting of plague doctor mask and I started doing research on the plague. What I found fascinating was this man-made myth about the night air. During the late 14th century when the Black Death wiped out a third of Europe a lot of people thought the night air could give you the plague. So it seemed like a really good metaphor for the darker undertones on the record. The whole idea of rough a period in humanity where people could actually create these man-made hysterias seemed like a good metaphor for the record.
PB: You mentioned that this new record is a lot darker and heavier than the last record can you talk about the evolution in the sound. Was there something that inspired this or was this something artistic you wanted to try?
DS: I would say the one thing that we knew that we didn’t want to do with the record was kinda repeat ourselves. We certainly didn’t want this to feel like Red Right Return 2.0. We wanted to tread new ground; we wanted to try new things. In doing that I had always wanted to write a heavier record. I had put that in the back of everyone’s mind if we could explore that side [of the band]. It seemed like the heavier moments from the last record went over well live, crowd seemed to dig it. So we had always wanted to write a heavier record anyway so it was a good chance to claim that as new territory we wanted to explore on the new record. Also a lot of the struggle we went through, a lot of the ups and downs we went through when we were on tour supporting that [first] record. So we channeled that through this record so that’s why I think it was a little darker in subject matter as well.
PB: Was there a sense of creative satisfaction and a sense of catharsis when this record went to print?
DS: I think all of us felt that way. Some of the songs definitely get personal for me in terms of subject matter but I try to keep the overall concept and the vibe behind the record something the entire band can express and share collectively. I think the songs themselves are very cathartic even though they have a darker point of view, I think they end up in a positive place.
PB: I think that your music has a very explosive quality to it, but it has so much melody to it. Do you feel that melody is lost in today’s hard rock scene?
DS: I think there’s a market for that, people are definitely into that type of music. However, at the end of the day, if you’re metal or you’re into hard rock or you’re into country or you’re into 80s music, I think people appreciate a good song for what makes a good song — good chord changes and good melodies. So I think there’s a strong need and want for that type of music. And I think there’s some heavier rock bands out there that put a lot of time and effort into writing some good strong melodies. We’re a big fan of Chevelle and we’re on tour with them right now and I think Pete writes great melodies and really good chord changes.
PB: Let’s talk about your songwriting process. To be honest I felt a lot of your stuff was worked on piano before it was fully fleshed out as a rock song. Am I totally off base here?
DS: I would say each song kinda comes about in its own way. Sometimes a song will start out with a cool synth drum rhythm or pattern Mike [Tyranski] comes up with — we’ll build a guitar progression around there. There’s a song on the record called “Always Rains” that’s way different from anything we’ve ever done and that started out from a string piece Mike had written originally. It’s the intro to the song with the string arrangement and I just fell in love with it. So I forced him to craft a rock song out of it and he did. He kinda back into the changes that make up the song, wrote this crazy bridge. When he was done with that I wrote the melodies.
PB: You guys are known for these 1920s-inspired uniforms onstage, will you be bringing back that look for this tour?
DS: The militant look on the last tour fit that concept but it didn’t fit this record. So we’re taking it down a notch in terms of the uniform look and doing our own thing. We still bring elements of the new artwork into the show — custom backdrop with the artwork, plus with all the merch.
PB: If you had to pick one cut off the new record to recommend to a new Janus listener — something that you feel defines the theme of this new record and you as a band, what would it be?
DS: I would say the new single “Stains” showcases where we are and what we sound like. It’s got a lot of the new electronic element that Mike’s been exploring on this record. It’s still got the big, heavy chorus and I do some screaming on it. It’s basically got all the usual suspects that make up Janus.
PB: You guys just came off tour with Chevelle. When it comes to crowds for hard rock shows like you guys and Chevelle do you find there’s as much support for rock tours there was when you guys started out during the height of nu metal and hard rock’s popularity?
DS: I think it’s still there. There are places in the country where rock and hard rock radio are still alive and well. People come out to the shows. The Chevelle tour mostly sold out, so I think it’s a testament to if you write good rock songs and you get them out through radio there’s still a market for it and you can have a career.
PB: I saw you guys played the massive Rock the Range festival last year and will be performing on it this year. You guys mostly play clubs and rock venues; can you talk about performing in front of a sea of humanity like you at a festival of this size?
DS: It’s an amazing feeling. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like. You can still have a cool, intimate vibe on a lot of those shows. There’s still a ton of people right in front that you’re making eye contact with, you’re connecting with. And so I think that we treat it the same way we do a smaller show. I can still interact with the crowd and make eye contact with those people right in front. They can feel they’re right there with us.
I love the outdoor shows. We played Rock Fest once and it was pouring rain. I hopped out into the crowd and sung and hung out there. We had an absolute blast.
PB: Finally, what can we expect for Janus in 2012? And for you, personally, where do you want this band to be by year’s end?
Dave: I would love for the single to keep climbing the charts and get the opportunity to put out a second single. I believe in a lot of songs on this record and I think radio is the perfect way for them to get exposure. I think some fans and possibly some new fans who don’t us yet might get excited about songs this record that they haven’t heard yet. I just hope the shows keep going well and we get to keep doing this.