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http://www.rockwired.com/janus.jpgJANUARY 21, 2009
Everyday, I talk to bands and solo artists and when it comes to the topic of 'music industry', almost every single one of them cries revolution and rightfully so. Just turn on any rock radio station (more than likely owned by CLEAR CHANNEL) these days and what you hear is not the brashness or the rebelliousness that has often come to signify rock n roll, but consensus - a consensus reached by a bunch of fellas in white shirts and black ties sitting at a conference table. Every indie artist is right to call for a shake up in the way things are done but the Chicago-based JANUS are taking a stand as bold as the constructivist artwork that adorns their latest release 'RED RIGHT RETURN'. "It's almost got a revolutionary kind of feel to it." says JANUS guitarist MIKE TYRANSKI "The meaning behind it is about revolting against opinions of the music industry in what they feel that people want to hear. We're all about shutting things like that out and forging ahead. We're going to be in charge of our destiny."

ROCKWIRED spoke with MIKE TYRANSKI over the phone. Here is how it went.

Just yesterday In interviewed an artist named XIREN and the title of his album emphasizes three R's as well.

Yes it is. His album TRIP-R stands for ROCK N ROLL REVENGE and your's is RED RIGHT RETURN.

Explain the title?
'Red Right Return' is actually a nautical term. Ships use it when they are navigating back to port. There these bouys that serve as markers out in the ocean and they use red ones on the right side of the boat when returning back to the port. We use that as a metaphor for returning to what we as a band do and not what the industry might want us to do. We are really focused on making good songs and making the music that we enjoy and if that goes well, then hopefully it will be widely accepted. So the title is a metaphor.

What's different this time around from your previous release?
So many things. The writing is different this time around. We've learned so much more about how to create and write songs and use different techniques for layers and really open up the box to not feel limited to bass guitar, drums and vocals but to add electronics to it and see where we could push it. We came up with different ways to structure songs. Stylistically, the first record we had was pretty raw and pretty rough and we had a lot of really good experiments with melody in there and on this album we took it a step further and really focused on having a lot of really strong melodies and keeping the verses as interesting as the choruses. There were also some line up changes from the first record to this record. The bass player and the drummer are different and that added a whole new element to things.

Now that the album is out there for everyone to hear, what are your thoughts on the finished piece?
I'm extremely happy and extremely satisfied with the final package. It came out as I expected it to. Are there things I would change? Probably but I could probably do that until the end of time. Sometimes, you've got to just let it go and this album was ready to be let go and we released it. I'm extremely happy with it and I'm extremely happy with how well it has been received by not only our friends but by people that we don't even know.

And it is a great CD, by the way!
Thank you!

What drew you to music in the beginning?
I think what drew me to music and what still draws me to music is the emotion that you can invoke when listening to it and creating it. In listening to and creating music, it evokes really powerful emotions and when you mix that with lyrical elements and you've got a whole other set of emotions as well. It just kind of adds on to it. It's very powerful and it's like a drug. You want it all the time and it takes you to some amazing places.

Why the guitar?
That's funny because I had actually played bass in all of my other bands throughout high school and beyond. I played a lot of bass and when I first joined this band, our singer DAVID played and sang. He was the only guitar player at the time and he suggested that I come and play guitar because he was thinking about just singing. I was like 'Oh, cool! I can do that! That would be fun!' That was how it started. JANUS is the first time that I've ever played guitar in a band and I love it. It's such a versatile instrument and there is a lot of room to explore different sounds and techniques. I love electronics to and I love experimenting with different pedals and effects and finding things that make my ear perk up. It feels right to me to play that instrument!

What perks your ear up? Was there ever a sound that you wanted to emulate as a musician?
I've been a huge DEFTONES fan for a long time. Before that, I was really into things like HELMET, QUICKSAND and bands like that. Hardcore stuff. I do a listen to a lot of metal, lately. A lot of prog metal. Usually, I go for heavier, chunkier riffs as far as tones go, but there is a whole element song structure-wise that really perks up my ear to. It isn't anything specific. When you hear it, you know and that is how I go about writing. You write and write and write until you hear something that catches your attention. You don't know why it's great or why it sounds great to you but it just does and you've got to capture those moments.

Explain how JANUS came together?
The initial version of JANUS came together when our singer DAVID grew up in Maryland and he started the band with his buddies in high school. Then they came out to Chicago because they thought that LA and New York were saturated and they thought in Chicago they might have a chance at breaking through some of the noise. Over time, one of the guitar players left and they went on as a three piece for a while and that was when DAVID called me and asked if I wanted to play guitar. So I jumped in. He had done a lot of the writing as far as the songs go and then I started writing all of these parts and started putting songs together and a bunch of stuff came out. That was when we started creating that first record. Shortly after that, the bass player took off and headed back home to Maryland and we picked up this guy AL who is really great. Sometime after that, our old drummer RITCHIE left and we picked up JOHNNY who was from a signed band RELATIVE ASH. They were signed to ISLAND/DEF JAM. He was like sixteen years old and he was in bands actively in the Chicago scene. I called him up and I was like 'Hey, we're looking for a drummer, do you know anybody?' and he said he was interested and that he wanted to try out. He did and he nailed it. It all worked out. This latest line up is really clicking. Everything is really solid. We've found the right people to really make this record.

What's the story behind the name?
The name itself was literally taken from a dictionary. I think a lot of bands do that. The meaning fits us perfectly. JANUS is the Roman god of beginnings. It is depicted as a two faced entity with one face looking forward to the future and the other looking back. I think that is great for us because we are always learning from our past but we're trying to move forward. We don't want to get stuck in the past.. It fits perfectly with us.

Talk about each of the members of the current band and what you think each of them brings to the table not just creatively, but personality-wise?
When we were going through some line up changes, one of the most important things to us, besides being able to play their instrument, was how well we all get along with each other. And we do. We get along great with each other. It is absolutely integral to have people that you get along with if you are going to be spending this much time with these people in a confined space. It doesn't mean that we don't get on each others nerves sometimes, but we all have a similar sense of humor. It is generally a great experience. It's super fun and everyone likes to laugh and that makes the process much easier. As far as what each person brings to the table, DAVID SCOTNEY has a great artistic vision. Not just musically but visually as well. He did all the art work for the record, the merchandise and the website. He is a great lyricist and a phenomenal singer. He is always willing to learn something and go that extra mile. AL QUITMAN will surprise you. He plays a multitude of different instruments. He is a tremendous bass player and he will surprise you when you are working on stuff with him. He is hilarious but you  are not sure what he is thinking if you don't know him that well. He might come off a little serious but he is a hilarious character and it's great to have him in the band. JOHNNY SALAZAR is a rock! There is nobody better behind the drums. He is just phenomenal. He's got a great technical ability but also a definite style in the way he plays and how he tunes his drums. He's got a unique drum sound. He's also a great guy and he takes criticism very well. There is nothing he wants more than to be in a band. As for myself, I like to think of myself as less of a guitar player and more of a songwriter. I think my biggest contribution is writing riffs and writing changes and arrangements that fit together really well. It's great to have this group of guys to work with. Sometimes I'll come up with an entire song and be able to bring it to them and we'll tear it apart and rework some things and chop it up and then we're able to come to a final agreement.

Is the songwriting process ever frustrating?
Yes. It can get so frustrating that you don't even want to do it anymore. At least for me. Sometimes you work on something and it takes forever and you feel like you're not getting anywhere. You have ten versions of a song until you you find the right version and then some songs just come out really fast and that's like a treat. Other times it's just a lot of hard work and you've just got to keep at it. You get an inkling that there is something there still and you don't want to throw it away and you keep working at it. The end result, which is this record, was completely worth it.

What songs off of 'RED RIGHT RETURN' stand out for you at the moment and why?
My favorites right now are definitely 'EYESORE'. That song is definitely unique. We found a lot of ways to pull in a lot of different instrumentation and sounds that we had never worked with before. It's got a lot of great parts to it and a lot of originality yet it's very heavy at the same time. Part of our sound is to have these really heavy songs that are bordering on metal but also have these great melodies in there too that are almost like a pop song. I think the combination of the two is very powerful. Another one of my favorites is 'STRANGER'. That song is one of the fastest songs on the record so I really like playing that song live. The bridge of that song stands out for me. It's got a lot of cool textures and a lot of vocal layers. Every instrument sort of breaks off and starts doing a different thing. The third favorite of mine is 'YOUR ARMS'. It's an older song but it's got a great melody and great chord changes and it's got another great bridge in it. I love how it deconstructs and builds back up again before the last chorus. Very cool song! I think the bridges on all of the songs on this album are very cool and very unique to the song but also to the record but those are my top three right now.

The war motif of the album art is very striking! You've already told me who the artist was but how did the band decide on it. Were there other ideas being considered as well?
It came up in conversation and we started to do some research. It's like a constructivist period of artwork. Russian constructivism. That period was very striking and the more research we did , we just really fell in love with the style and felt that it was very powerful and thought we could tie that style to 'RED RIGHT RETURN' because of what the meaning behind it was. It's almost got a revolutionary kind of feel to it and the meaning behind it is about revolting against opinions of the music industry in what they feel that people want to hear. We're all about shutting things like that out and forging ahead. We're going to be in charge of our destiny.

Have people misinterpreted the artwork. And if so is it annoying?
I don't think it's annoying. I've seen one review and I don't know if they were kidding or just having fun writing their review but the artwork was attributed to communism - like we were trying to be political and we're not. Lyrically, there are no political statements behind these songs. At least in the common sense of politics. We're not communists. I can see how people would come to that conclusion but it's just not the case. It's only happened once and we don't try to defend something like that. We know the intention behind it. it makes people want to ask you and it's fun to open up that dialog.

How long did it take to record this album? You worked with MANNY SANCHEZ. Describe what that was like.
MANNYis an old friend of ours. He did some mix work on our first record and he has since put up his own studio in Chicago so when we called him up we were like 'Hey, we wanna do some drum work and some guitar work for this next record at your place!' He's got a great studio and a great two inch tape machine and he's just a really talented individual. We knocked out all of the things that we intended to do at his studio in just a few days. And then he gave us some mixes and we took those back to our studio and worked them and worked them and worked them. That was kind of frustrating, trying to get to the point where you are happy with the stuff. We started the recording process in November of 2007 and we were actually done with it in a matter of months but it felt like forever and you didn't know what to think anymore after listening to so many different versions of the album. We finally brought he album to where it needed to go. Wasn't sure we were ever going to get there but we did.

What would you like a person to come away with after they've heard this album?
I would love for someone to feel the same connection that I feel when I listen to other records that I really love and that was kind of the benchmark for us when we were writing. We asked ourselves how it made us feel. I would like people to come away with that same feeling. I'd also love for people to come away with their own interpretation of the lyrics. If people get what was intended by the writer than that's cool, but sometimes you pick up on things that mean something different to every person and I'd love for people to explore that whole range of emotion. I hope anyone who listens to it gets some sense of that.