November , 2012
By Scott Dworkin
The Darkness: Hotter Than Hot Cakes!
An Interview With Dan Hawkins Of The Darkness
To say members of The Darkness have had an interesting time coping with fame the past ten years would be a severe understatement.
Brothers Justin and Dan Hawkins, as well as drummer Ed Graham and Frankie Poullain on bass, came out of the gates with their guns blazing when their debut album, Permission to Land, was released in 2003. The record featured four hit singles, "Growing on Me", "Get Your Hands off My Woman", "Love is Only a Feeling" and the monster, "I Believe in a Thing Called Love". The band also went on to capture two Brit Awards (England's equivalent of a Grammy) for Best British Rock Act and Best British Group. Within two years of its multi-platinum debut, two members of the band, Justin Hawkins and Frankie Poullain had departed. The remaining two put The Darkness on the shelf and formed another band, Stone Gods. Poullain went off to rehab and Justin started another project, Hot Leg.
Fast forward to 2011 and you find a wiser, more mature Darkness has announced the original members are getting back together for a series of reunion shows and festival appearances. The performances rekindled the musical spirit within the group, reminding them all of why they came together as a band in the first place. Two brief tours this year in February and May reintroduced the band and their music to these shores. In August 2012, The Darkness released its third studio recording entitled Hot Cakes. Outside of some brief appearances in the U.S., the band has been crossing Europe opening for Lady Gaga. Not quite sure how her 'little monsters' are taking to the band, but it has enabled them to venture into unfamiliar territory with arguably one of the hottest performers on the planet.
Recently, The Darkness flew into this country for two special one-night stands. The latter appearance, at Club Nokia in Los Angeles, was filmed for a live broadcast on AXS TV.
JAM: Is there anything you'd like to add to The Darkness reforming that hasn't already been printed?
Dan Hawkins - Nah, go on!
JAM: Since you're in Los Angeles for a live broadcast event, have you thought about going to Sunset Strip on your day off and taking in that whole vibe? It's an historic place for rock and roll. In fact, the whole Sunset Strip mystique fits in perfectly with the music The Darkness plays. Does the Strip hold any significance to a British band?
Yes it does. Literally ten minutes ago I was having an argument with my manager about the Strip, and what it means these days. We had finished almost all the press for the day, and the four of us were talking about what to do tonight. I said, "Surely we're gonna hit the Strip right?" Our manager goes, "Come on! Get out of 1985!" He then proceeded to call me a tourist. I was like, "What?" To me, the Sunset Strip is still very cool and it means something. It's iconic. On that particular argument I was having with my manager, I told him we were going to the Strip tonight, period. I didn't give a damn if no one famous was at The Rainbow. It was a place we should be going to and we did.
JAM: It is surging once again with a lot of real rock bands playing the clubs.
I love Los Angeles. Being British, you have to love the weather. I also love that sort feeling of space, the way that it's not built up like New York and everything is squeezed together. The Strip also represents a bit of an influence on us, the kind of '80s glam band thing that was coming out of the Strip at the time. The British press called us a heavy metal band when we first came out. I don't necessarily think that was true.
JAM: Lemmy will be there. I'm sure.
Well, you know, Lemmy will be there and that's all it matters. It's funny, but L.A. seems to be where a lot of the English rockers end up!
JAM: So California is to British rockers, like Florida is to the elderly?
Yeah right! (Laughs) I will say of all the English speaking countries, Los Angeles does have the nicest weather and climate. Also, Los Angeles is where a lot of the business is conducted. So in a way, it makes sense to live here.
JAM: I read a quote from you one time where you cited San Diego as the nicest place the band had ever played.
Hmm! The best place we had ever played? Now that I think about it, I remember that gig very clearly now. I just can't remember the name of the venue.
JAM: I would assume it was the House of Blues.
I think you are right, actually. That show was one of those pretty amazing gigs where we were just totally in tune with the audience. There was a kid there named Colin. Now it's crazy I can remember that since it was 10 years ago. This kid comes up on stage with Justin, which is something we don't normally do. It is not part of our show.
JAM: It makes sense.
The crowd just went absolutely nuts. This kid was really awesome. I remember he whispered into Justin's ear to ask if he could stage dive. Of course my brother told him to go ahead. He just launched himself into the audience without a thought, didn't even think about it for a second. The crowd carried him from the front of the stage all the way to the back of the venue. Then they brought him right back to the front again. It was amazing for us to watch this from the stage. During this whole time, he's singing along to one of our songs - the whole crowd was singing along - and this crazy scene went on for about ten minutes. I was just stunned, and I stood there on the stage thinking how much I loved this scene. I know San Diego is a smaller market, but musically, everyone's pretty dedicated down there.
JAM: Do you think that Los Angeles is as important as a market as it once was, or has it just become another stop on the tour?
Obviously, there are a lot more media people concentrated there, especially industry types. As a band, every gig in every city, big or small, is really important to us. Hopefully that answer doesn't sound too wanky!
JAM: No I get it
You have to give it your all every night you perform. Sometimes in the bigger cities that are more media savvy, where they get a lot of bands coming through all the time, the audience tends to be a bit laid back and watching, if you know what I mean. After five minutes, we're totally involved with the show, so we tend to forget where we are and just play.
JAM: I think the expectations in Los Angeles are high because there's literally something to do here every night. If people arrive at your shows without that jaded LA thing, they'll have a good time at your show.
Absolutely, they will! We aim to please! (Laughs)
JAM: You mentioned The Darkness was influenced by the '80s vibe that was resonating off the Sunset Strip. That sound is making a comeback again.
What I see is this. Live rock is the best way for people to have a good time. When you have crowds spending 30, 40 even 50 bucks for a show, they are expecting to have a really good time. For the past few weeks, we've been in Europe opening for Lady Gaga. At the same time, we've also been booking our own headlining shows on her days off. People seem to be into it. You hear these rumors that rock is dead, but we don't really see that. I mean when is AC/DC's Highway to Hell, for instance, going to start sounding bad? Except for maybe if you compare it to Back in Black! (laughs)
Rock is a primal thing. There's one thing I've noticed with people all over the world when it comes to this music. Without sounding too high brow, or overanalyzing the situation, people need that social interaction thing that rock and roll has built into it. Today, social networks allow people to basically say hi and communicate without going down to the local pubs anymore. The live gigs have become events where all of these Facebook and Twitter fans can actually go to a specific location to meet each other and see us play. Believe it or not, our shows have become major social events for our fans, which is really cool. It makes it really special for us to play.