Posted by: Addison – Oct 19, 2012
The name of Sweden’s 'The Janitors' captures a workmanlike approach to a certain sound of repeated riff-ology, bathing themselves in distortion almost as an obligation – a dirty job, but someone has to do it.
Such was the impression borne of our first introduction to The Janitors, on the excellent Worker Drone Queen EP, a king-sized collection of frozen-fuzz-fueled tunes. Opening track “Do It Again” exemplified this sensation most directly, revealing just a hint of mantra-like sonic simplicity, the band pushing, pushing, pushing toward the inevitable collision amplifier-driven awakening. Carry water, chop wood, stomp boxes.
Initially, immediately after having having our mind instantly, mercilessly mopped by the follow-up EP, Head Honcho, we were prepared to offer The Janitors a raise for continued stellar performance on doing that dirty job. But it was probably two and a half minutes into “Strap Me Down,” when the wah-pedal flourishes scream louder than the unholy hounds of hell and manage to scrape the very back edges of your skull, that we realized that this is no mere job for The Janitors – this is their distorted destiny, their natural state of being ensnared by snarled sound. The Janitors are less employed than empowered, their insane, trance-inducing amplifier trashing only a job in the same way that the mighty Yeti can be said to be on the clock, and perhaps three-times as powerful.
We’re thrilled to have our ears firmly within the death-grip of The Janitors, and even more thrilled to have our ridiculous questions answered by founding Janitors Henric and Jonas below. Enjoy… and enjoy our old friend Al Lover’s extraordinary remix of The Janitor’s “Death Song” as well:
We have the impression – which is only an impression, as we’ve never been there ourselves – of Sweden as a very “clean” country. Do you think this is a fair impression, and does this impression have anything at all to do with choosing the name “Janitors”? What does the name represent to you, if anything? Are you from Sweden originally, and if so, how do you think the atmosphere of the country has impacted you as a musical person?
Yeah, Sweden is clean, not Singapore clean, but still clean. Though the image of Sweden as clean is more an image and sadly not a truth anymore.
The name “The Janitors” has actually nothing to do with that. The first incarnation of The Janitors was born on a museum in Stockholm where we met Johan Risberg (drummer of Swedens indie pride Hell on Wheels) back in 2003. We were all working as janitors/custodians and found that we shared a mutual love for JAMC and sweet, sweet feedback. After a booze-filled night we decided to start a band and the name came naturally. It’s not a very good name but like all other names it’s grown on you when you associate the music with it. .
The main Janitors are born and raised in Stockholm but we have a member from the south of Sweden as well.
Sweden has in the past always put great efforts into culture and art. There are government subsidies that everyone can easily apply for to get your own rehearsal space and instruments. We think this is one of the main reasons why there has been such a large amount of bands coming out of a relatively small country like Sweden. Other than that, Swedes have always been very influenced by American culture, so most of our influences musically come from the US and the rest of the West.
Do you think there is anything that is definably “Swedish” about the music made by The Janitors? Do you think there is any legitimacy in categorizing music in geographic perspectives – meaning, would we be any more or any less consumed with a band like Dungen or Graveyard if they came from Detroit, or Brazil?
Not really – there might be some cold, dark and isolated elements in our music that can refer to our quite-dull winters, which start in October and end in March, where we don’t really have any sun.
Of course, the environment you grow up in effects you in your creativity, but with globalization, every place in the world is your backyard to go out in – the geographic aspect is less important and politics and environment are the main aspects that could make an impact and influence.
Who are the Swedish artists or bands that made the greatest impact on you in your youth? And today?
Henric: Bob Hund, no doubt (Here they are with a Pere Ubu cover that actually made it’s way to the charts in Sweden). They were the first band that seriously changed my concept of how a band could look, sound, and behave.
Jonas: Growing up the punk scene definitely shaped me both as a musician and a person, there was a pretty vibrant punk scene in the early nineties before the Brit-pop and grunge entered. Today I do not listen that much to Swedish music – could be a track here or there.
Nowadays there are an abundance of awesome bands coming out of Sweden, but here’s a bunch of great psych(-ish) bands in Sweden right now that we always give love to: Audionom, Orange Revival, Pascal, VED, Goat, Ikons, Uran gbg, Sudakistan, Hills, This Is Head, Fontän, Syket, Holograms, The Skull Defekts, Beast, and Les Big Byrd.
What was the first music that you gravitated to with such vigor and admiration that you absolutely knew that you had to try to create your own? What was it about that music that appealed to you so strongly? How have your thoughts on that music evolved over the years? What was most immediately satisfying for you about playing in a band? What has taken you the longest to figure out?
Always and forever The Jesus and Mary Chain. It was the band that got us started and changed our perspective of how and why music is made. Psychocandy really changed our whole view on music, how you could make a guitar sound and the brilliance of three minute tracks in three chords. The rebirth of classic rock ’n roll song structures and drown that fucker in grinding noise.
The most satisfying thing about playing in a band was and still is the total takeover of yourself when you are rehearsing or playing live, it is only then and there in a very positive way. I think the longest thing to figure out is the balance between perfection and the beauty of non-perfection, something we are closing in on with the latest The Janitors recordings. It´s also one of the main arguments that we have among ourselves that always keeps us on our toes creatively.
What has been most surprising for you during your time with The Janitors thus far? What were your original aims when coming together, and how had those aims shifted by the time of the Worker Drone Queen EP? One of the (many) things that we love about that EP is how it sits almost equidistant between “the riff” and “the drone” (no offense to the mighty Queen, of course).
That we actually kept on making music. We are in our tenth year by 2013 (with a five year hiatus, but still). The original urge in the first incarnation of The Janitors was to fill the void of noise/pop driven music in Sweden. The first setup of The Janitors was quite strange. Floor tom, tambourine, and snare drum, plus two guitars, a lot of harsh feedback, and some kind of pop melody underneath. Very much influenced by JAMC. We were together for about 1 ½ years and then split up. When we got together again after about 5 years, it was mainly because we missed the feedback and the creativity. We both had become fathers and really needed a creative output. At first we were kind of lost but still got to make an album (First Sign of Delirium), compiled of old and new material that really wasn’t that well thought through and kind of rushed into. After that we almost broke up again.
Then we decided to start our own label (Your Ears Have Been Bad And Need To Be Punished) and started to record the Worker Drone Queen EP in our own studio Psychgrottan (“The Psych Cave”). The main goal was and is to only make music by our own rules and get it out to people that might be interested.
What can you tell us about a song that has found its way directly into the coffin-chamber of our heart, “Death Song”? Despite the practice of constraining the headphones directly and tightly atop our ears repeatedly, we’re unable to make out a single-line of the lyrics – they seem to disintegrate in to space-fuzz.
“Death Song” is one of those songs built on a single riff and then just jamming round that one. I had the melody in my head and it fit nicely to the feeling of the intro riff. The lyrics came later on, as usually is the case, I don’t write the lyrics until the track is almost finished. It turned out pretty neat… We really look at the vocals as one of the instruments, and since we have a fondness for fuzz & delay, why shouldn’t we bury the vocals in the same as the rest. A spaced-out vocal sound is something we have tried to achieve for a long time, hearing how it “should” sound in my head, but I think sound engineers generally are too obsessed with the crisp vocal sound that pops out of the mix and, in my head, does not “glue” to the music. I feel that a delay drenched vocal is better in sync with the backgrounds. Lots of sharp high-band delays makes it pop out in a different, more satisfying way.
How would you compare your latest EP, Head Honcho, with its two predecessors? Was there anything in particular that you hoped to execute differently than you had previously, either in regard to the overall sound or to the “vibe” or “tone” of the songs?
The Head Honcho was created in just three months. We didn’t really have any blueprint for this EP.
For Sick State and Worker Drone Queen, we had a few songs when starting, but this one was a blank paper.
“Strap Me Down” and “MSSG” were created through jamming before the release party for the Worker Drone Queen, and “A-Bow” came to life through a recording Jonas made of a bow (an actual bow-and-arrow bow, that is), tuned to A, hence the name, “A-Bow.” And from that we found the guitar riff instantly, and everything else fell into place fairly easily (with a little help from our favorite friend Innes & Gunn).
All in all, the sound of Head Honcho is what we were aiming to do with Worker Drone Queen but didn’t quite make the whole way. Since we produce and record everything ourselves it has taken some time to get the recording process going and the equipment fine-tuned.
What music have you been listening to lately? If push comes to shove, what is your favorite Hellacopters album and why?
A mixtape from The Janitors right now would contain: Cat Power, Goat, Moon Duo, PJ Harvey, First Aid Kit, Anna Von Hausswolff, The Bronx, The Oscillation, Dead Skeletons, Marduk, Tom Waits, Depeche Mode, Wooden Shjips, Refused, Liars, UFO Club …
For those of you with Spotify here’s a playlist: “Janitors Love, Sept. 12.”
When it comes to Hellacopters, it has to be Supershitty to the Max. No doubt, just the title says it all. It was kind of a hit in the face. Hadn’t heard that kind of music since MC5´s Kick Out The Jams, which we (for apparent reasons) had not experienced live.
What has your experience been playing live with The Janitors so far? In what ways do you hope that your live performance is more than just a faithful replication of what you had previously recorded, and in what ways do you consider a live performance as something “beyond” what can ever be expressed through a recording, through an “artifact”?
Our live shows are never really a replication of our recordings. We change members and bring in new people from time to time to get the process a bit different. We are quite harder and more harsh live than on record. The feedback can live in another way when you experience it live than the way you capture it on tape. We also work a lot with lights in order to create a visual experience as well. There is always an element of “Let´s see where this goes” in the live shows.
The magic of the live performance with all its imperfections and moments is hard to put against the recording process, which we are quite fond of. The magic when everything falls into place and a new song comes to life while recording is something we really love. Until recently we haven’t played much live. We focused on getting our ideas on tape instead. But now we got together a brilliant band that we feel very comfortable with and we have some shows booked. But rehearsing takes time from creating, so it’s a balancing act.
In his book The Mission of Art, Alex Grey writes the following:
“The difference between lunacy and time-honored religious rituals is a thick layer of morphic resonance built up over many generations of devotional repetition. Many of our most scared rituals would appear to be the behavior of psychotics were it not for their acceptance as demonstrations of faith. Prostrations, the use of phylacteries, genuflection, and numerous self-mortifications – all are strange to the uninitiated. When ritual becomes habitual and widespread, a tradition is born. The power of morphic resonance promotes the unquestioned or unconscious acceptance of traditional behavior. The creative spirit is in turbulent resonance with the collective morphic field. Part of the job of creative persons is to challenge traditional habits of thought and behavior and develop new expressions to surprise and reinvigorate the collective mind-set.”
Well, being born and raised in a secular society we see most religious rituals and religion being just looney-tunes. It’s not wrong to believe in something but come on people, get a grip on reality. We are living in the 21st century, and people still wage war to impress invisible superheroes who live in outer space… The Janitors believe that through repetition comes beauty, and that no chain is stronger than the weakest link, so take care of yourself, your friends, and those around you that don’t have the benefits you have.
What’s next for The Janitors?
The first Stockholm Psych Fest was September 22nd. The first of hopefully many that we are a part of and helping curate. We finally got together an awesome band so there will be more live shows in the future.
We are writing new songs for the vinyl that will collect our favs from the past EP’s. It will hopefully be done and out by the end of the year. A lot of nice remixes of “Worker Drone Queen” and “Head Honcho” are in the making, featuring good people like Al Lover, Swedish favs Fontän, STRSSMMNT, and many more. For all of you reading, drop us an email if you’re interested in remixing! That’s 2012.
For 2013 we haven’t got a clue so far. we haven’t made that plan yet. We got some offers to do gigs in Europe and a visit to the States would be nice.
By Ryan Muldoon/originally appeared at revoltoftheapes.com