Light From Darkness: An Interview with Junius
Joseph Martinez and his band Junius have never shied from the dark rock world they created in Reports from the Threshold of Death from 2010. Guitar textures and keyboards mixed with emotional vocals from Martinez, ambient soundscapes segued into epic hard rock and metal riffs, drawing the listening into a world of comforting shadows and warmth, where one could revel in the darkness and love. More intense than before, the band returned in 2011 with a self-titled album. The Martyrdom Of A Catastrophist was also released in 2011, dense and confident, dramatic and lovely. Three years later came Days of the Fallen Sun, a short album filled with grinding guitar noise, energetic and often violent rhythms, Martinez’s soaring vocals taking on a deeper tone. Now we are graced with a new full length called Eternal Rituals for the Accretion of Light, with Martinez and band going more metal, more singing, more keyboards, more light, more dark. And some surprises in store.
This is Bret from Highwire Daze. I’ve been following you for your last three releases and am happy to finally hear new music! I love Days of the Fallen Sun and wrote a little story to accompany the listening experience, something I’ve only done a few times.
Hey thanks for the interview and I read your story… you can definitely write the lyrics for the next Junius album.
From what I read you did this new album on your own? Do you plan on bringing in any of the touring players or others into the fold on a permanent basis?
I wrote everything, but the drums… Dana (Filloon) is still in the band and will be touring along with our old bass player Joel (Munguia). Drew Speziale from Circle Takes the Square is going to be our new touring guitar player for the foreseeable future.
Who was your sounding board while making the album? What was some of their feedback?
Good question…I don’t really do the feedback thing until the songs are almost done, but at that point it would be Drew and Dana. They were the only ones I played anything for in the early writing stages. Both of them were very positive about what they heard.
You’ve always had a good ear for epic and dark sounds. Who or what do you think has been the main influence on your approach? How does this work with your own personality? Is it cathartic for you to create as it is for us to listen?
Ha, yeah. I think it’s part of my being now. I tend to gravitate towards the darkness. It’s probably due to all the gross happy hair metal i was subjected to in the 80’s, I would get physically ill from hearing it, I still do. I get nauseous, no joke.
I don’t think my personality is too dark..I’m definitely not the most gregarious of people and I do tend to stay home and keep to myself. Maybe it’s the introvert in me that helps bring out the dark side. Really though, I think I just find immense beauty in what other people might think is dark/depressing. It makes me feel good to write songs with musical depth and meaning. Writing is a cathartic experience for me, it’s part of who I am. If I don’t write for long periods of time, I get grumpy and depressed. It’s kind of like when an astronaut comes back from space, nothing can compete. I like living up in the ether.
I read that this is the third in a trilogy as far as song subject matter goes. Can you tell a little bit about your lyrical influence? How do you think they translate into a rock’n’roll format?
All my lyrics are influenced by the music I’m writing, the concept’s setting, the motivation of the protagonist, the tone of the music, etc. The natural melody that I want to sing and the sounds of a word can determine what lyrical choices Igo with as well… sometimes it’s limiting and I use the same words too many times I think, but I want it to sound and feel natural. The concept and melody are the two most influential factors though. As far as idols go, I don’t think I really have any, I don’t pay attention to lyrics that much, but if i had to choose maybe Morrissey or Tim Kasher?
I think my lyrics translate to “rock’n’roll”… I hope so anyways. They might seem a little too “new age” at times, but I’m ok with it.
When writing the songs do you consider how they will sound when played live? Has there ever been a song too difficult to play on a nightly basis? What are some of your favorite songs to play live and why?
I definitely consider how a song is going to translate live. I’m always adjusting parts to make sure I’m utilizing every instrument to their full potential. Yeah, we do avoid certain songs live if we can. Ten Year Librarian is tough as shit for us to play. Dance on Blood is somewhat difficult and as far as favorites go right now, I think we look forward to all the new stuff, which is pretty common. I still look forward to playing Battle in the Sky and Forgiving the Cleansing Meteor. A Word Could Kill Her is an old one we’ve always enjoyed playing too. I couldn’t tell you why we enjoy playing certain songs over others.
What do you get out of writing and performing? What do you imagine you’d be doing with yourself in an alternate world without Junius?
Writing and performing are both meditative experiences for me. They keep my centered. I contribute all of my consistent happiness in my life to music. I don’t know what I’d do without music. I’d probably end up doing something with computers. I’d like to think I’d be an architect or something cool and creative, but I’m sure I’d be filling TPS reports in a cubicle somewhere.
There’s some quite heavy songs on ERAL. Junius has always straddled the line of metal and hard rock but on Clean the Beast there’s some quite effective screaming, a change of pace from your deep-voiced clean singing and the guitars are dirtier than usual. I like the variety. Are there sides of you where you just want to tear up your fingers on a guitar and then some where you want to be pretty and intellectual like the fluttering keyboards and soaring vocals on The Queen’s Constellation? It all sounds confident, like heavy and pretty go well together.
Thanks… yeah, I definitely wanted to get heavier than we’ve ever been on this album. I knew I wanted Drew’s singing voice on this somewhere and he has a fantastic scream, so I got him on Clean the Beast” and A Mass for Metaphysicians. The Queen’s Constellation is definitely a more classic sounding Junius song and it almost didn’t make it because I thought it was going to sound too much like something off of Reports from the Threshold of Death. I rearrange it to give it more of a asymmetrical structure and try to make it feel full without loading it with vocals, which I think gives it a beauty that we haven’t explored yet. I do have this desire to write an album that’s just brutally heavy, but at the same time I just want to write a “new age” album too. It’s such a weird dichotomy to desire, but it’s always there and maybe JUNIUS is kind of my balance. I try to incorporate all those elements together on one song. Maybe I’ll do a double album with some brutal tunes one disc and then some meditative drones on the other, who knows?
What are some new elements you’ve included on ERAL? I love the strings and quieter singing on Telepaths & Pyramids.
Thanks, yeah that’s the quietest and longest I’ve ever sang on a song before, I think. This album has a lot of firsts.
This is the first time we’ve had a serious screaming song and the first time we’ve had an acoustic song. We also have way more obvious electronic parts. I also sprinkle some exotic scales and riffs throughout the album to kind of hint at it’s Egyptian setting. Yeah, I experimented a little more on this album then I would have normally.
Eternal Rituals for the Accretion of Light is an incredible album and full of depth and emotion. Will we have to wait another three or four years for another great Junius album? Is that how long you need to recharge and come up with another album’s worth of worthy music or is it just how the album and tour and recording cycle has worked out? I’m almost fine waiting another half-decade for the next Junius album.
Ha, it might be another five years, it just depends on personal lives, touring and ultimately money. On this album it took me 20 months from writing the first note to recording the last note. So it might take awhile. I am sitting on an album full of Junius ideas I wrote before I started working on ERAL. It’s a bit catchier and I’m not sure I want to go back in that direction. Who knows, maybe after some touring I’ll start working on another album, but a really big part of me thinks I should stop altogether. Art is a fickle beast.
Who do you hope to tour with this year and when will we see you in Los Angeles? Any big gigs or festivals in 2017 or even TV appearances?
Nothing solid yet. Just an east coast tour with our long time friends InAeona. Working on some more tours right now. No festivals yet and Hollywood said something about “too ugly” and “ratings disaster”, whatever that means. We’ll see what happens when the album drops.
Thanks for your time Joseph, I look forward to seeing you in Los Angeles soon.
Thanks Bret, same here.
(Interview by Bret Miller)