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INTERVIEW: DAN HAWKINS, THE DARKNESS – April 2017

INTERVIEW: DAN HAWKINS, THE DARKNESS – April 2017
By Shane Pinnegar

Lowestoft’s finest, the Darkness, return to Australia in all their spandexed glory for the Groovin’ the Moo Festival and a series of national sideshows. SHANE PINNEGAR caught up with guitarist Dan Hawkins in the studio where they are recording album number five.

THE DARKNESS – AUSTRALIA 2017

Thursday, 27th April – Eatons Hill, Brisbane
Friday, 28th April – Groovin’ The Moo – Adelaide Showground, Wayville SA
Saturday, 29th April – Groovin’ The Moo – Maitland Showground, Maitland, NSW
Sunday, 30th April – Groovin’ The Moo – Murray Sports Complex, Annandale, QLD
Wednesday, 3rd May – 170 Russell, Melbourne
Saturday, 6th May – Groovin’ The Moo – Prince of Wales Showground, Bendigo, VIC
Sunday, 7th May 2017 – Groovin’ The Moo – University of Canberra, Bruce, ACT
Wednesday, 10th May – Enmore Theatre, Sydney
Friday, 12th May – Metro City, Perth
Saturday, 13th May 2017 – Groovin’ The Moo – Hay Park, Bunbury, WA

When The Darkness burst onto the scene in 2003 with debut album Permission To Land, many pundits were unsure if they were a Spinal Tap-esque joke band, or if they were serious. Dan’s brother, frontman Justin Hawkins, fuelled speculation that The Darkness were taking the piss by sporting over the top, low-cut spandex, a falsetto reminiscent of the great Freddie Mercury, and very quickly developed a cocaine habit to rival the greats of the ‘70s. The band imploded acrimoniously shortly after their over-produced second album, the only halfway correctly named One Way Ticket To Hell… And Back.

The brothers Hawkins made an album each with their follow-up bands (Hot Leg for the singer, Stone Gods for the guitarist), neither of which made much of a splash, and by 2010 both bands were on hiatus, paving the way for a reconciliation and a return as The Darkness the following year.


100% ROCK: I guess it’s a very different kind of ride touring with The Darkness in 2017 compared to back in those crazy days of 2003-04?

Dan: [Laughs] Yeah, just a bit. In some ways, it’s exactly the same, but in other ways… we remember more of what happens each day, that’s for sure.

100% ROCK: I bet. Is it more pleasant now?

Dan: Oh, pleasant’s a good word, definitely, yeah. Definitely more pleasant. Every day I wake up and I just think, ‘my God, I’m alive and I’m in The Darkness!” which is brilliant. From then on, everything’s a win, isn’t it? I think anyone who can wake up and go, ‘oh my God, I’m alive!’ and be happy about it – it’s just a brilliant thing, isn’t it? What are the chances, eh?

100% ROCK: Brothers fight, that’s a given – I certainly do with mine! But is it more difficult to be in a well-known band with a brother rather than someone you’re not related to?

Dan: You know what, to be honest, I think we became stressful because we were brothers, not because of [the band]. I don’t know, we managed to streamline both of our ideas and our musical ambitions together, and sort of worked very quickly together through things, because we’re brothers. You didn’t have to discuss things or put it to anyone. It’s like, ‘right, this is what we’re doing. Go.’ And it’s great. So in that respect, it made things a lot easier and, yeah, I don’t know how people can operate in a band where there isn’t two brothers.

100% ROCK: You’re due to have a new album out later this year. Have you finished recording that yet?

Dan: We’re actually in studio right now. We’re about nine tracks in and then we’ve only got another four or five to go. Everything’s going down live – that’s always been an ambition of mine, to find an engineer and a live studio and have the band rehearsed enough and confident enough to actually go in and do that. Yeah, it’s really exciting, and it just makes it so much fun to be capturing things as they happen rather than sort of toiling endlessly to get it acceptable.

100% ROCK: Are you planning to feature some of the new tracks in Australia?

Dan: Absolutely, yeah – try and stop us! The difficult thing is choosing which songs we don’t play. I think it’s just so forceful and up-tempo and aggressive, and there are some rhythms and some sounds that I’ve never heard in rock music before. We’re really excited about it. I think it’s going to be a real moment in rock, this album, and so we want people to go and hear it.

100% ROCK: There’s also talk of a feature-length documentary that you guys have been working on for a while…

Dan: Oh, the documentary… hopefully, it’s going to be more of a film than a documentary – ‘documentary’ sounds so fucking boring, doesn’t it? There are a million documentaries. I hate reality TV, and that’s one thing I didn’t really want to be involved in. I don’t want a load of cameras around watching me wipe my arse or whatever: I’m not interested in that. But it’s kind of like a life story in a way, and I think it could have been any band, really. It just happens to be us, and I think that’s the thing that’s going to be interesting about it. They’ve been with us for about two or three years.

I can’t believe I’m saying that – two or three years. We’re trying to get it wrapped up so we can actually release it and it can actually be edited. And there is so much to go through and so much has happened. But there’s always that [feeling] that something unreal might happen. Basically, we might have a hit album, someone might die – something. You just don’t know.

100% ROCK: Never a dull moment in The Darkness.

Dan: [laughs] Tell me about it! We might be rocking through some sort of Armageddon, someone might launch a nuclear missile… you just don’t know, do you? The trouble with that is, when do you stop? Because you know that the longer you film, the better the story will be, but maybe no-one will care!

100% ROCK: Not only did the Hawkins brothers need to reconcile, but the band needed to make peace with former bassist Frankie Poullain, the first to quit the band in 2005. Was it a difficult process to repair those burnt bridges before you could settle back in to working together after those few years apart?

Dan: You know what, that just didn’t take any time at all. That was fine. In fact, those bridges were clearly just still fully erect… much like the band members.

100% ROCK: [laughs] Well, that’s the advantage of brothers, isn’t it? Because even though you fight, you make up really quickly because you’re blood.

Dan: Yeah, that’s true. But remember, I’ve known Frankie for so many years before the band. It’s like, things happened and got out of hand, and that one year that we really kind of lost the plot – it’s only one year out of twenty or thirty that we’ve known Frankie, and obviously forty-odd that Jus and I have known each other. I forgive people things these days very easily and, no, I don’t bear grudges. People make mistakes, no one’s perfect. We’re just pleased that we can do what we do.

100% ROCK: Older and, hopefully, a little bit wiser.

Dan: Well, yeah, I like to think so… most days.

100% ROCK: You’ve had Rufus Taylor on drums these last couple of years. He’s got mad skills, of course – was his personality and his drumming style an immediate fit for The Darkness?

Dan: Instant. It was instant, really. He’s just a really great guy. My brother and I, we were driving back from rehearsals a few weeks ago. My brother’s like, ‘Rufus is just a really great guy, isn’t he?’ I’m like, ‘yeah, he is.’ He’s like, ‘yeah, great. Not like us!’ He’s brilliant. He’s very much an old shed on young… old shed? Old HEAD on young shoulders – not an old shed!

100% ROCK: An old shed… where are you going with this, Dan?

Dan: He’s an old shed on young holders. I can see, like, a Monty Python sketch now where the chef’s being carried off by him.

100% ROCK: I’m thinking of The Two Ronnies doing Four Candles.

Dan: Exactly! Even better. He’s like a young Two Ronnies in one – he’s like an old Ronnie.

100% ROCK: Well, wasn’t that slightly tangential on that one? Knowing what big Queen fans you are, it must have been a buzz to meet his dad too?

Dan: Ah, you know what, we met him years and years ago when Rufus was a young lad. We’ve known Roger for a long time. It’s great to be around the family, really. That’s not dismissing what an awesome thing it is to be friends with those guys [from Queen]. I’ve met them through the years and had them come to the shows and vice-versa. It’s wild. They’re the reason why Justin and I do what we do. I think they were the first ones where it was like, ‘this is it – right, stop everything else.’ So it’s kind of wild really, yeah.

100% ROCK: When Permission To Land first came out, it instantly polarised a lot of people. I remember reading some big names in rock were writing The Darkness off as some kind of joke. But that sense of humour you find in the band, it’s so integral to your music. Do you still get snubbed by some people who refuse to accept that rock can be fun?

Dan: Well, you know what, when I read about these people being polarised by us, I always felt actually sorry for them. I can only imagine that means being turned into some sort of… into an icicle to some extent, or worse, a polar bear. Is that what polarised means? I was like, Christ, so what? So people are listening to our music and then fucking getting, first of all, really cold. I wanted to throw a coat on them and then, I suppose, they’re running on all fours trying to fucking find a seal to eat for their dinner. So I’ve always felt really bad for those guys. That’s a terrible gag, I’m sorry… that’s a bad joke. Is that, like, something to do with seal clubbing, clubbing seals?

But… yeah, you know, we’ve never cared, really. That’s the absolutely honest truth. In fact, the moment in our career where we have cared what people thought, that’s when we haven’t made very good music. And that goes for anyone artistically really. If you’re thinking about your audience or even your critics when you’re making music, then you should stop. We really don’t care anymore, and I think it’s definitely making us do better stuff and enjoy what we do more. So in a way, when people don’t like what you do and it upsets people, it means that you reach people. And that can only be a good thing – so my advice to anyone, any band or artist or writer or anything that gets bad reviews, it’s like, ‘thank fuck you got some, someone’s doing their job.’

100% ROCK: That sense of humour and that sense of outrageous fun about the band, do you think that’s why Australians get The Darkness so well?

Dan: Yeah, I think so, yeah. People go out for a good time, don’t they? I honestly don’t know why … Whatever Australia has, Italy’s got it too. It’s the same sort of feeling. And it’s not necessarily like that anywhere else. Occasionally, you get that sort of level of, like, ‘fucking yes, here we go,’… maybe in Spain sometimes. It’s a mystery to us really.

100% ROCK: That joie de vivre sort of thing?

Dan: Maybe, that is it, yeah. I think maybe that’s it, yeah. I honestly don’t know.
An edited version of this story was first published at X-Press Magazine in April 2017

INTERVIEW: DAN HAWKINS, THE DARKNESS – April 2017

Filed Under: Interviews

About the Author: Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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  1. Jessica says:

    thank you, I really enjoyed this article

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