Rebellion Festival Q&A: Janus Stark

Punks will descend on Blackpool this weekend for Rebellion Festival where more than 300 bands will occupy six indoor stages and a new outdoor stage at the Tower headland. Experimental punk band Janus Stark are among the bands opening the festival on Thursday night (4th August). Frontman Gizz Butt tells Blackpool Social Club what to expect from their set.

What informs your music and songwriting?
There’s a magic that can happen between two or three chords, the way you can enter a chord change and the way how you exit. Combined with a particular melody, put a harmony on top of it and it’s getting to the place where Janus Stark likes to go. The last album had a lot of garage rock, garage punk and proto punk influences but when you add harmony vocals to that it really takes you to a higher level. I love a strong riff, a really powerful guitar sound, not fuzzy, not brutal, just strong, tough. If you turn a good lyric around your head often enough, over and over, write it and re-write it, eventually you can get something that says what you always wanted to say. Catchy but meaningful. My parents died within two months of each other, just before the pandemic, and that had me reflecting about many things and that shaped a lot of the lyrics.

How did the pandemic impact your music and how does it feel to be back on the road?
We were supporting The Wildhearts in Autumn 2019 and going down well with their fans. The momentum was building all the way through our November album release, Angel In The Flames. We started our own tour the following February with plans of touring all year when in March everything closed down. We couldn’t believe our luck, like dominos, everything fell down. We’d invested so much. There was really nothing else left to do but move the studio into the shed and get on with recording and writing. I had to record an entire album of vocals and guitar for the 77 punk band The Dole and that process taught me a lot about how to use the studio to its best. Then I knocked together a couple of demo tracks on my own, Father Time and Rollin’ With The Punches, and put them up on YouTube. Eventually, me, David (our rhythm guitarist) and Si Martin (our bassist) would meet up to jam some new ideas, regardless of the lockdown. That really got things moving.

What are you up to at the moment artistically?
Pushing the new album, Face Your Biggest Fear, which we’ve all invested massively in. This is the album of our lives and we aim to enjoy it. There are shows right up to Christmas. We’ll play wherever and whenever we can and take stock in winter. After what happened with Angel In The Flames being doused by the impact of the coronavirus, we want to enjoy this while we can.

Tell us your most embarrassing or surreal experience.
Surreal! In 2013, I officially put Janusstark.com to bed. The band had finished in 2002 but had a reunion show in 2009. In 2018 we reunited to play the Hamburg Booze Cruise and it was the band ANADRINKSDOGSPISS that inspired us to go for it. I wrote a bunch of songs and we made some demos and one song was standing out called Shuffling The Pack. I took the words from a Magnum Opus emailed to me by an old band mate Andy Frantic. He died mysteriously in 2017 – some think it was suicide, so those words meant a lot because they were sent to just me. The song was standing out from the rest and producer Andy Hawkins was suggesting that I did something with it.
I had this mad idea of getting a video made for the song and using that to get some attention, so I went to local businessmen trying to get sponsorship. Eventually, Mark Simlo got behind us and put the money up for a video, the only condition was that his car, a Tesla, had to be in it! There is a building in the centre of Peterborough called The Guildhall. No one is allowed in it, it has no actual use! It’s just very old and in the centre, so it was my goal to film the video in there! One of my friends, a local labour councillor called Ed Murphy, knew an influential guy on the Peterborough Council. That man gave me the keys to the Guildhall and sorted it so I could use it for one day! On Saturday, August 4th, a roasting hot sunny day, we made enough racket in that medieval hall for all of Peterborough to hear, and believe me, we sweated! We popped our heads out and witnessed thousands of shoppers, all intrigued, “What’s going on up there?” All stood at the bottom of the stairs.The video was finished and publicist James Sherry went to work putting it in the public eye. Janus Stark were back and that kick started the writing sessions for the album in earnest.

If you weren’t a musician what would you be doing with your life?

I’d love to write another series of Only Fools And Horses. In fact, I’d be happy to watch re-runs of it all day, every day!

What’s on your rider?
25 cans of beer and a kebab.

What song do you wish you’d written?
Oh come on, it has to be Holidays In The Sun. That song is simply perfect! What is there not to love about that song?

What’s your worst lyric?
Hey, what are you trying to say? Oh wait a minute, yeah I have written a dodgy lyric before but fortunately it was never released. It was an anti-religion song but it was way too fucking clumsy.

Are you looking forward to playing Rebellion and is there anything you’d like to check out while you’re in Blackpool?
This is the greatest punk rock festival in the world! It’s an honour to be playing here. I’d like to see this lot, let’s see how I get on: Circle Jerks, Bad Religion, Undertones, Skids, Jilted John, Subhumans, Peter Hook, Cockney Rejects, Rezillos, Bob Vylan, Demob, The Insane, UK Subs, Ruts DC and Stiff Little Fingers!

What can we expect from your live set?
You’re gonna get some mean guitar riffs and harmony vocals. I can absolutely guarantee you that one! Oh and I do like a good shimmy! You’ll definitely witness shimmying!

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    Antonia Charlesworth Stack is a journalist and editor from Blackpool. She was deputy editor of Big Issue North magazine and is editor of Blackpool Social Club. Antonia is also the founder of Reclaim Blackpool, a women's safety campaign that began life as an article she wrote for Blackpool Social Club. She's a contributing author to the Lancashire Stories anthology with her story about a Blackpool performer, The Call of The Sea. The book is available for free in libraries across the county.

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