Music Interview

Falling Janus

by Jett Black

Falling JanusNew Orleans holds many dark and mysterious legends for which it draws worldwide fame and recognition. Few places in the world evoke such apprehension and mystery. The very atmosphere that provides unique experiences to New Orleans natives and visitors influences all that lives and breathes, creates and walks, flies or crawls out of New Orleans. Falling Janus captures these themes and presents them through the dark, ambient and deeply foreboding Gothic rock music it creates and performs. Falling Janus begins a brief tour with Gitane Demone on May 30, 1999 in which it will hit several Texas and Louisiana hot spots. Hopefully, you'll have an opportunity to catch Falling Janus and Gitane Demone as they bring to you their own unique flavors of dark gothic ambiance. Please also visit http://members.aol.com/falljanus/fallingjanus.html for more personal details about Falling Janus.

In the drama of last minute details, founder Harry Koniditsiotis kindly takes a moment to respond to questions mostly concerning My Shallow Thin Shallow, a full-length CD released in 1997.

The outline and order of songs on My Shallow Thin Shallow seem quite unusual. Five actual tracks register on the CD, however there are many more songs divided by sections and spaced only by silence within those sections. How many actual songs were included on My Shallow Thin Shallow?

Eleven.

What's the concept behind the structure and why did you choose this method over more conventional track structuring?

I guess in some way it was done to "fuck with peoples' heads" but it also seemed to be the best way to keep everything continual. It's not traditional or DJ friendly (they always complain about it). People are equally pissed off about it as they are intrigued. The songs are grouped together for thematic reasons in their sections. It's also a bit of technology reaction i.e. you need to scan through the CD like a tape to reach certain songs

Various songs on the CD may vary significantly for those preceding and following. Clearly though, a sense of continuity remains throughout the CD. Please describe the themes employed on the CD My Shallow Thin Shallow.

People are amazed at the variety of sounds. Some have thought it was a compilation. I just don't always notice it anymore. The theme of the CD is within the title "My Shallow Thin Shallow." It's all about perceptions people have on themselves, others, their surroundings, situations they might be in, relationships, how outsiders to your own little world may see all of this and not understand any of it. Hence, the word repetition of shallow and the depth perspective of it, thin being the line drawn between understanding and not understanding.

Song for Winter seems to me, personally, the most powerful and emotive track on the CD. I love the layers of production evidenced throughout My Shallow Thin Shallow and particularly on Song for Winter as I seem to gather a Celtic sense of ritual beginning and flowing throughout this song. So much about your music remains mysterious to me, though. What language is used to initiate Song for Winter? Who is the vocalist who opens the song?

The vocalist is a friend of mine named John Aefoundoules. It's a funny story. He's about 45 now, but he entered a monastery when he was 18 and literally had to escape when he was 30. During those 12 years he studied Byzantine chants. The language is basically a mixture of Greek and traditional Byzantine sounds. We met in 1992 through my mother, who thought he would become a religious role model for me or something; convince me to go to church on Sunday and such. It all back-fired on her though. We became friends and I corrupted him. He became very interested in piercing and fetish things. He ran a tape duplication company and pressed the early Falling Janus demos.

Track 5 begins with a sample of, and from what?

Actually its not a sample. It's "Harbinger." Check the lyrics. My friend Victor Havel (known then as Victor Smoothie) performed it on a ukulele. I recorded it really shitty and put lots of pops and static so it sounds like an old record.

What influences did you find useful in the developments of Allison?

"Allison" is about certain people and a certain lifestyle that exists so predominately in New Orleans. It's basically about being so fucked up on drugs and alcohol all the time from a very young age that the reality you live in is so warped and you do not even realize it.

What basic concepts are woven into the section Hollow Than Hollow?

Perception of loneliness and emptiness (which is a major theme through the whole CD) and how they are hidden, dealt with, twisted into a way that is tolerable and somewhat acceptable.

Which samples did you use in tracks found on My Shallow Thin Shallow?

Dirty old records, radio scans, "Star Wars," "The Fly," "Twin Peaks," the Pope doing the rosary and other miscellaneous things.

Track 4 really *is* just silence. Was this intentional? If so, what do you mean to convey by including a track in complete silence?

"Silence" is an interlude before the entire sound of the CD takes a 180 degree turn. The songs before "Silence" are typical songs; verse, chorus and such. "My Shallow Thin Shallow " is a different side of things. Noise. That's also why "Harbinger" is played again in a different style by Victor Havel.

What is the CD insert cover art depicting?

The cover is actually a sewer drain outside Cafe du Monde of New Orleans, manipulated beyond recognition.

The face of the CD itself depicts an image of a lady (we'll call her Janus). What is Janus falling through?

Time, space, reality... the name Falling Janus is motion. It's not the beginning, it's not the end, it's continual. Janus is the Roman god of good beginnings and endings. We are the middle-ground, we are in motion from beginning to end. We have lots of duality, the two faces of Janus, I think that's obvious in our music variety.

Artwork throughout the CD pages also seems to be thematic and although I expect this is intentional I am not familiar with artistic styles enough to categorize them. Please describe the artwork and tell us why you chose this or these styles to use for My Shallow Thin Shallow.

A Baton Rouge photographer named Andrea Sweet did the artwork for the CD. We chose her photos because of the blurred surreality of them. All the images were quite different but connected by her style. A couple of the photos became omens to things that would happen in my personal life.

What seems most surprising is that Falling Janus is all but hidden away, bathed in the black light of New Orleans' French Quarter rather than touring with Clan of Xymox, Bel Canto, Rosetta Stone, or any number of widely recognized gothic favorites. Will Falling Janus shed this mystique of NOLA's "best kept secret" before the end of the millennium?

That would be nice.

Travis Shuler steps in with his guitar on track one. Does that refer to Harbinger? How did Travis come to make a guest appearance on this sing?

Yes, it does refer to "Harbinger." We've been friends for awhile. He was an early fan who learned to play guitar by listening to our first EP "The Trinity Site." At the time he was doing me a favor by filling in our second guitar slot for live shows; so I let him do a track for the song.

How do you relate with the music created for Falling Janus?

It is an expression of everything that I am, consciously and subconsciously. Some see a lot of it as negative, but I see it as hopeful. Playing music is the best therapy.

What would you like to accomplish through Falling Janus before the end of the millennium?

That would be a really long list. You really don't want to get me started. I'm quite the workaholic with music. I never feel like I'm doing enough.

What other recordings, outside of Falling Janus, have been released by its band members?

None, oddly enough, but original guitarist Matt Collord is now playing with Ex-Voto. They are on some Cleo comps. I have a bunch of noise and ambient stuff that has never been released by an old side band called Petaphanelia.

What other side projects are currently being developed?

I've had a couple of noise, industrial and ambient improv groups through the years but Falling Janus takes all the time now. I'd like to do something like Mazzy Star in Twin Peaks but I've never really found a female vocalist.

What songs have been in development since the release of My Shallow Thin Shallow?

We've got lots of new material. We started writing again at the beginning of '98, so there's a bunch. Its different but the same; if you've heard all our stuff through the years.

How close are you now to releasing a second full-length CD?

I'm not sure about a full length (I'd love to get one out soon). We'll probably do an EP. We're going to start concentrating on the studio side of things after our little tour with Gitane Demone.

What will you entitle the next release by Falling Janus and when will it be available?

Title, I'm not sure of. I've been brain storming on some concepts. Hopefully we'll release an EP in the next few months, August maybe.

Falling JanusWhat are you looking for now in terms of new musical influences?

The usual; anything that breaks barriers, stereotypes and the norm.

Which shows have you seen during the past year that impressed you the most?

Nick Cave, absolutely incredible. He's such a great performer and song writer. Love and Rockets, Bauhaus, The Dandy Warhols.

What changes has Falling Janus experienced during the past seven years?

Jesus... lots. I consider this currently to be the 4th incarnation of Falling Janus. We've gone full circle with everything. This incarnation reminds me of the early days, but more refined. The big mass of noise Falling Janus still exists and pops up every now and then.

How will your next CD release compare with and differ from My Shallow Thin Shallow?

Well, its going to be more controlled and dreampop oriented. Shorter songs, guitar hooks but still with all the effects. I can't stand guitars without them. They sound so boring. Somewhere between Echo & the Bunnymen, Slowdive and Iggy Pop.

Looking back, what mile-stones have been most notable for Falling Janus?

Public wise: it has to be our show with Nine Inch Nails. It was incredible. We did an animal rights show not long ago that has really stood out in my mind. Personally: it was when I realized people I did not know were singing along to our songs. It's a great feeling.

What new goals will you focus upon now?

More song writing, studio work and manipulation of sound, trying to find a good label, good distribution, tour support and everything else a band could possibly want.

I see that you will share a stage with Gitane Demone Wednesday, June 2, 1999 at The Curtain Club in Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas. What other dates and venues will you perform in June?

We start with Gitane on:
May 30th in Houston @ Instant Karma
June 1st in Austin @ the Atomic
June 4th in New Orleans @ Jimmy's Music Club
June 5th in Baton Rouge

What more would you like to share with our readers?

We're probably going to work on some videos, 8mm film stuff, abstract and Warhol-ish (not campy though).

How can readers best contact Falling Janus for more information?

Falling Janus, P.O.Box 55371, Metairie, La., 70055, USA
fallingjanus@compuserve.com