Producer and engineer Eli Janney on reuniting with Girls Against Boys, the future of audio engineering, and his favorite chair.
Eli Janney

Photo from GVSB facebook

Raised in Washington, D.C., Eli Janney began his career working at Inner Ear studios under the masterful ears of Don Zientara (Minor Threat, Fugazi, Bikini Kill) and eventually began engineering for producer Ted Niceley (Fugazi, GVSB, Noir Desir). In 1991, Janney moved to New York City with Girls Against Boys and recorded six albums with the band until he retired from touring in 2003. Janney has since focused his energies on producing and engineering and has worked with acts such as Motion City Soundtrack, The Obits, Holy F*ck, Wilco, and The Big Sleep. GVSB head out for a European tour in May check out the write up on Brooklyn Vegan with tour dates.

I heard that you recently got together with Girls Against Boys at Saltlands.

We are working on a new EP, probably for an early summer release if we can get our act together.

What made GSVB get back together? Was it difficult to rekindle your passion for playing together?

Ha! No, I love playing music, it’s the touring that’s difficult for me. I have two young boys and hate to be apart from them for too long.

When you had your first son, how did that affect your career? Did it change your ambitions in music at all? 

Well, it certainly changes your perspective on what’s important in life, but I already felt GVSB had accomplished so many things, I needed a break. But I still worked on music, and continue writing to this day.

Being from DC myself, I’m curious to know what were your favorite places to go see shows when you lived there? What do you miss most about the city?  

DC Space was really happening when I was young, and that was an amazing place to see bands. It only held 60 people, but was so much fun. Doing sound at the old 930 club during it’s heyday was also amazing, I got to see so many huge bands in that little 250 capacity place.

Are you from Northern Virginia or Maryland? Or are you one of the select few actually from DC? 

Actually from DC. I first lived at 16th and Swann st, then moved up to Van Ness Street near American University.

You worked for great producers like Don Zientara and Ted Niceley, can you recall any great lessons they taught you that changed the way you approached your work? 

Don was always ready to listen to my questions, no matter how silly. He taught me great patience and appreciation for all viewpoints. Ted was a tireless worker who accepted only the best results. He made you work!!

I really love “Latin” by Holy F*ck, and the record seems like it was a lot of fun to make. Can you describe your involvement with that record? 

I was brought on pretty late in the game to do some mixes, those guys are amazing and it’s one of my proudest collaborations. They are so very artistic and made it their own way without compromising. Plus they are so funky!

Knowing that you have a Pro Tools remote application on your iPhone, I think it’s safe to say you’re definitely into embracing technology in music. With that said, it seems that nowadays every kid with a Macbook and a pirated copy of Abelton live is suddenly a “Producer” (not excluding myself). Since producing music is becoming so accessible, do you fear that the traditional role of a producer will soon become obsolete? 

Probably not, knowing how to arrange a song and keep a session together and productive is a very complex task. I don’t think there is the same appreciation for the art of producing but I believe it will never die. Bands who need and seek out that kind of help will keep it alive. I think a lot of the move towards technology instead of skills is a product of the lack of respect for the recorded medium by the general public. That’s a social problem and can be changed. Hopefully, it will eventually.

There seems to be an inverse relationship between the number of aspiring producers/engineers versus the amount of professional opportunities in the field of music production. With many studios shutting their doors, how much longer do you think the professional audio engineer will exist? 

Ha! I have no idea. I always laugh when I see those ads on the subway “Become a studio engineer!” and work where? But this is NYC and there’s always opportunity, you just have to hustle and don’t give up.

What are your favorite pieces of gear at Saltlands? 

The chair, it’s comfy. And also the [Neumann] U67, what a beast!

Are there any plug-ins that you swear by or always find yourself turning to? 

I love the UAD stuff. Lately, I’ve been using the Shadow Hills Compressor plugin. It’s crazy good on mixes!

--Q & A by Jesse O'Connor Feb 6, 2013
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