Lowestoft’s finest, The Darkness, return to Australia in all their spandex glory for a show at Metro City on Friday, May 12 and an appearance at the Groovin’ the Moo festival, Hay Park, Bunbury on Saturday May 13. SHANE PINNEGAR caught up with guitarist Dan Hawkins (brother of Justin) in the studio where they are recording album number five.
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. The band imploded acrimoniously shortly after their over-produced second album, the only halfway correctly named One Way Ticket To Hell… And Back, and only reconciled in 2011.
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?
(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.
I bet. Is it more pleasant now?
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?
You’re due to have a new album out later this year. Have you finished recording that yet?
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.
Are you planning to feature some of the new tracks in Australia?
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.
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?
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.
(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.
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 20 or 30 that we’ve known Frankie, and obviously 40-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.
You’ve had Rufus Taylor (son of Queen’s Roger 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?
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! (laughs)
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?
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.