THE STORY OF JANUS
1969 – Two embryonic Krefeld based English bands decided to join forces. Colin Orr and Bruno Lord of ‘Amber Grunt’, and Mick, Derek, and Roy of ‘Mothers Bucket’, formed a new bigger, better band, soon joined by drummer/vocalist Keith Bonthrone, and Janus was born. (Live red sun recording?) A bizarre combination of prog rock, early punk, and classical, with a pinch of flamenco, led to some packed-out gigs. Here’s a recording of the first ever public performance of “Red Sun”, at the Jazz Keller in Krefeld, in the summer of 1969.
1970 – Colin Orr sent a tape to an agency in Germany with hope of getting support for the band. The agency didn’t have a tape player, so popped next-door to borrow one at the Cologne HQ of EMI records. Whilst the tape was playing, the head of EMI Harvest label, happened to walk past and question who created this wonderful, heavy progressive rock music. He then invited Janus in to record professionally at their studios, and they were signed on the spot.
1971 – Gravedigger was released. Janus did a few live gigs throughout Germany, but mainly enjoyed the (advance) royalties, did what most hippies in 1971 did, and partied their way through some times that make “Spinal Tap” look like the pre-school version of rock’n’roll lifestyle.
1972 – They partied some more. They were living in a hippy commune run by the East German Communists, and partied one night naked on the roof of the building, but started attracting attention as they were still going at 9.00am. This then led to the police drug busting them, but luckily they had pre-empted this, and stashed any “dubious legality substances” in a field.
At a later date in the commune, the band were trained in Urban Guerrilla Warfare. Why? “We were stoned, but became expert snipers, and brilliant at Molotov cocktails.”
They were taught to make bombs and managed to set fire to the commune, not once, but twice. Unfortunately the second time they were caught which resulted in their passports being confiscated.
It seemed like a pretty lucky escape, all considered. Unfortunately on the trip to the police station to collect their passports, Colin Orr and Bruno Lord were caught breaking into the proud Police confiscated drugs cabinet display. They were then frog marched into the head office and their passports were promptly stamped with a ‘get out of Germany’ stamp.
1973 – Liverpool. The band rented a house together 200 yards from Anfield Football Stadium. The bands gig calendar filled up rapidly, this was because the band advertised themselves as a German band. They indeed actually pretended they were Germans, changed their English accents and played the parts. As there were not many German bands available in England at the time, it made them unique and increased their bookings.
One of their proudest moments is to have been the only band to be kicked out of Liverpool’s famous ‘Cavern Club’ for being too loud. They played there twice, the first show going down so well it led to the second booking, where the band upped their gear volume and rejigged the meters. They were never asked back again.
1974 – The band continued to party, which led to less money, which led to real jobs… and it fizzled out from there.
1989 – A German company re-released the 1971 Gravedigger. The band had no idea until a friend in Germany saw a review in a local magazine and sent it to the now mostly out of contact band members. Colin Orr then contacted the company and they commissioned the next albums – ‘Agnus Dei’ and ‘Out Of Time’.
Colin worked with a variety of guest musicians and met Paul Phoenix through a mutual friend, who he invited to do some vocals on the friends recommendation. Colin was blown away with Paul’s voice and Paul sang most of the vocals across the two albums.
1991 – Agnus Dei charted in Holland and other countries. The next album was commissioned in the style of Agnus Dei – Journey. It was unfortunately, a commercial flop. It was however picked up in the media industry and used a lot across television, and led to more TV/Film music being commissioned.
1993 – ‘Innocence’ was created with rock vocalist, Paul May.
1994 – ‘Free Fall’ was created as a completely instrumental album. It was again popular across the media industry.
1999 – ‘Agnus Dei 2000’ was commissioned and created by major Dutch label CNR. This began to do quite well and sold around 10,000 copies in the first month, however bad luck struck again when CNR was sold to Road Runner Records and they dropped all ties with any dutch relations.Firing both Janus and Golden Earring. Here’s the video for “Agnus Dei 2000.
2002 – ‘Sea Of Sighs’ was commissioned and created.
2005 – ’The S Album’ was created and was uploaded, as a free download in exchange for voluntary donations to a children’s hospice, as a result of Colin Orr’s daughter nagging him to release material only intended for private listening.
2013 – ‘Gravedigger’ re-released. A German journalist got in touch with Colin Orr to talk about the original Gravedigger. It turned out, that ‘Gravedigger’ had been illegally sold on vinyl and CD, plus download, he estimated 250,000 copies over the last few years. EMI commissioned a re-release, but Colin Orr, who had always hated the original production, was asked to re-record and remix some of the tracks, so fans could hear Janus as the band had intended, which wasn’t the way the original “Gravedigger” album had portrayed. The remix was done in the magic Studio B at Mid-Tennessee university in Nashville, with Chris Haseleu.
‘Under The Shadow Of The Moon’ was also commissioned. UTSOTM had been partially written in 1971-1972, during the party period. It had however, never been recorded. But in 2013 some of the original band reunited, with other musicians, and recorded the album, 42 years late. A wonderfully creative and crazy music video was also recorded, and can be seen here.
These two albums, were the last albums to ever be released by the famous EMI Harvest label before they were sold on to Universal.
2015/2016 – ‘Afraid Of Sunlight’ label begins. ‘Gravedigger House Calls’ is commissioned and created. And here we are.