INTERVIEW: Dan Hawkins – The Darkness

... in search of the perfect roast potato and a new album that goes to 12

The Darkness is about to descend upon Australia again in what is getting to be a thankfully pretty regular occurrence these days. This time though it’s looking like it might be extra special with the band currently in the studio recording album number five! So not only do we get East Anglia’s finest for a series of headlining shows and main stage appearances on the funky ‘Groovin’ the Moo’ Festival we might just get to hear that new material before anyone else.

DAN: (with great gusto) Buongiorno!

THE ROCKPIT: That’s a little bi-lingual for me this early in the day, so it’s a rather large ‘hello’ from me…

DAN: (laughs)

THE ROCKPIT: Hi Dan thank you for talking to The Rockpit, again… We seem to get to talk every two years or so – so I’ve decided as this is now our “official bi-annual interview “ and I’m thinking of having a badge made up…

DAN: (sounding intrigued) Yeah definitely! Like a Scouting badge?

THE ROCKPIT: (laughing) you’re onto something there! Recording album number five at the moment what’s the feeling in The Darkness’ camp as we speak?

DAN: Mega-excited. I can see the studio from where I am at the accommodation over t’road. Its awesome man, we’ve put a lot of time into rehearsing this records and we’ve had a lot of songs to choose from and this time too we’ve spent a lot of time writing. So it’s the most together we’ve ever been going into the studio, the most focussed and… we actually know what we’ve doing kinda thing! And so basically in six days we’ve got the core of the album done with main vocals down on it. That just never happens! You always just want to go in and do it live and ‘smash it out’, the whole band do but the reality is after about a day or two you realise ‘oh God, we’re gonna have to do that bit by bit’. But this time that hasn’t happened, there’s four of us playing in a room and it sounds massive! Very chuffed!

THE ROCKPIT: That must feel pretty weird things going to plan?

DAN: Yeah! (laughs) Yeah, it’s just really exciting. It finally happened, it’s the real deal. I think Rufus has a lot to do with it, it’s great having a drummer that you’re just locked in with. There’s a telepathy there, where I just know where he’s going to land things. And it’s fun, normally it was just headphones on, hit the ‘record’ and ‘hope I don’t f*** this up’! (Hope I can swear), this time it’s head down and head banging like a bastard!

THE ROCKPIT: I look very much to hearing it! Before we go on, how is the ‘roast potato’ injury? Healing OK?

DAN: Oh my God that’s the third time I’ve been asked that, my brother’s such a bastard! This is the problem you see when the band is in charge of the website! Yeah normally you have media to do that but all we get is jokes. But yeah, it’s recovering nicely thank you very much. It’s been a tough week, but it’s healing up nicely. I was more upset really that after all my efforts they were underdone! (laughs)

THE ROCKPIT: (laughs)

DAN: There’s nothing worse than a fucking uncooked roast potato is there!

THE ROCKPIT: Oh god I hate it when they’re crispy on the outside but still hard in the middle.

DAN: And I spent three hours! I think what it is, is that the Agas (an English wood-burning oven and stove top to the uninitiated) they’re not like conventional ovens, you know with a conventional oven you’ve got a fan and if you turn things up full blast you know things are gonna happen. They’re gonna get cooked. But with an Aga, if you’re using the other parts of the oven then the power is drawn away from the main roasting compartment and it takes ages. I was going four hours and they still weren’t done! But you won’t hear me complaining about it…

THE ROCKPIT: I remember that from going round my Gran’s for Sunday lunch, shed start around five in the morning and if we were lucky and there was enough wood we’d be eating before the sun went down!

DAN: (laughing) I know now!

THE ROCKPIT: So back to the album, and maybe we’ll return to my recipe later, has the new creation been christened as yet?

DAN: Oh it’s not been yet… um, there are two titles I am fighting vehemently against because they might just end the bands career before I’s due, well in some people’s eyes at least (laughs)

THE ROCKPIT: (laughs)

DAN: All I can say is that, we’re going to put the best nine tracks out there, there’ll be no 12 or 15 tracks, on CD it’s pointless, we just want the best, something that will sound really good on vinyl. Anything that isn’t absolutely 100% we’ll either give away or put out in other areas. This time we’re just going all out on a mission to create a classic album.

THE ROCKPIT: And the most important question – how much does it rock on a scale of one to ten?

DAN: (after a considered pause) Twelve…

THE ROCKPIT: Excellent, I’ll just jot that down for future reference…

DAN: (laughs)

THE ROCKPIT: The big news of course down under and what has us all quite literally dancing in the streets is that you’re over in April and May, and selling out shows willy-nilly in Melbourne it seems?

DAN: Yes about 15 dates in Melbourne aren’t there?

THE ROCKPIT: (laughs) you’ll have to play all your material and maybe even make some upon the spot, I can feel the extended drum, guitar, bass and triangle solos coming on!

DAN: It’s day on day off during April I think (laughs)!

THE ROCKPIT: And then you’re also playing the impossibly cool ‘Groovin’ the Moo’ Festival, a Festival so cool I’ve only heard of three bands on the bill.

DAN: (laughs) and given that half the band are vegetarians we’re still not sure about that! But it’s a great Festival, it’s sold out and I guess that format is something that people are pretty excited about down there. We’re very chuffed to be playing it, it’s a real opportunity for us, we not only get to do the Festival but we get to play our own shows around it which is great. Normally you get to Australia and you’re there a week and its game over you have to get out and get back home. So it’s an awesome opportunity to be there for decent amount of time.

THE ROCKPIT: I always think it’s great to have a Festival with a few gaps, allows you to take in the fields, watch the youngsters having those self-portraits shot and doing all that stuff old people don’t understand.

DAN: Indeed.

THE ROCKPIT: You’ve been over to see us a few times now, what are your finest memories of our wonderfully sun-kissed Country-Continent so far?

DAN: I remember going into the Cherry Bar in Melbourne with Joel from Airbourne and to stay under the radar we’d decided to tie our hair back. We’d just played the venue down the road so we tied our hair back in pony tails so that we wouldn’t get hassled at all.

THE ROCKPIT: Possibly the perfect plan…

DAN: … almost except that it didn’t work a treat, but I did end up with a free denim from the venue.

THE ROCKPIT: That’s never happened to me when I’ve been in there, although I must admit I’ve never tried the pony tail.

DAN: You need a really tight pony tail, a hairline-threatening pony tail!

THE ROCKPIT: One where it’s so tight you get an instant headache?

DAN: (laughs) that’s it! Where I come from they call it a Croydon facelift!

THE ROCKPIT: (laughing) I’ll just write that down for future reference! I need to come up with an Aussie version of that!

DAN: (still laughing)

THE ROCKPIT: So getting back on track, what do you have planned for us this time round? Are you going to be mixing it up a bit for your Corner Hotel ‘residency’!?

DAN: We’re just gonna have to aren’t we I mean Christ! Oh God… I mean half of the people are probably going to have been there the previous night! Maybe we’ll get away with just playing the songs in reverse order? Or actually play them in reverse, literally?

THE ROCKPIT: It could work? (sounding unconvinced)

DAN: Oh no, no, no, it’d probably end up sounding like Clannad! (Dan here mimics are Darkness track being played in reverse with only the use of his vocal chords, just to be sure). Oh no, that’s not good…

THE ROCKPIT: Wait a minute that was on the last album?!

DAN: (laughing) Excellent! (still laughing) I wish! Actually don’t tell anyone I’ll save that for my solo album…

THE ROCKPIT: Is there the possibility of us getting to hear any new tracks Downunder before the album is out?

DAN: Oh definitely, 100%. There is a school of thought that says don’t play anything before the album’s out, but as far as the new album goes the stuff is so much better than anything we’ve ever done since the first record, it really is, even though of course I have to say that every album, this time it really is!

THE ROCKPIT: It’s always tough that balance between the love of the old and the excitement of the new…

DAN: Actually it makes sense though because the songs that we love from each album we end up playing live all the time, not just because they’re singles and we have to, it’s just because we love them. I don’t know what we’re going to do though because I really enjoy playing every single song on this new album. Maybe we should just not have a support band and do it all?

THE ROCKPIT: Interestingly we just had Thunder over who also have a new album out and over the tour I think they played every track off their new album, so they beat you to it.

DAN: Well we’re not going to do that the, we’ll just play the same thing three times in a row!

THE ROCKPIT: Sorry Melbourne…

DAN: (laughs) One thing we want to do is make sure that no one gets a chance to go to the bar. If you go to the bar you’re going to miss something awesome! Mind you I think I’ve changed my mind, even though Thunder did it I still want to play the lot, so don’t dismiss anything!

THE ROCKPIT: Back to the serious interrogation then: as a guitarist will you always be in search of the perfect chord and ultimate solo?

DAN: You know I’ve never really considered myself much of a guitarist really. I kind of play the guitar by default and just try to keep time. I just like to write songs, and I love my Les Paul and the way it sounds through a Marshall. Let me give you an example. I had to play a song that had a barre chord in t the other day and I hated it. I realised I’m never ever going to write a song with a barre chord in it ever again. I fucking hated it. I think that Graham Coxon once said that ‘the best thing about you is the original thing about you which is the worst thing about you’… I’m shit at barre chords and I refuse to play them. So in a way… I’m just happy just to be in a band! There are people out there that can really play. One of my Instagram people and I think I might have to delete them soon as they are a vague friend, they practice every day and they post when they practice. I almost deleted them this morning, I though man you’re just trying to make people feel bad! Stop trying to change people’s lives!

THE ROCKPIT: Do they tell you about their breakfasts too?

DAN: (laughs) I wish, if they’re going to share anything share how to make great roast potatoes! That’s what I want. I don’t care if they’re practicing or not I just want to know if they use duck fat or not!

THE ROCKPIT: My oven is constantly on, I’m just eying up a new batch now, I think they might be done. I’ll save you some.

DAN: Please do, well no, don’t bring the potatoes bring the fucking recipe!

THE ROCKPIT: Yes there may be some pesky PC health and safety considerations carrying a hot pan spitting fat through a crowd of concert goers! Not like the old days when everyone could bring potatoes to a rock concert.

DAN: (laughing) those were the days. Just bring me the setlist too!

THE ROCKPIT: I will do that. And to close one from our readers “What’s the best record you’ve heard this millennium?”

DAN: This millennium? When did that start again? 2000 or 2001?

THE ROCKPIT: I’ll give you a year either side depending on how you feel about that, myself I’m a January 1st 2001 man.

DAN: Hmmmm… Well it’s a tough one isn’t it… What’s the next question, while I think about that, I’m worried about the date.

THE ROCKPT: Well the next question is even easier: “What is the meaning of life?”

DAN: 43…. No, 42… no 43 (laughs) no I’ll stick with 43. (laughs) Going back to the last question, that’s a difficult one isn’t it, I mean everyone has their own favourites but there’s no big albums anymore. Personally I just listen to a lot of old shit… Jethro Tull? Has there been any Jethro Tull this millennium? Yes, this millennium I have been mainly listening to Jethro Tull, so that’s the only tip I can give you really. So speaks the man with the finger on the pulse of the music industry!

THE ROCKPIT: (laughing) I’ve written that one down as well too, so my notes are complete now and we should be fine… Thank you so much for taking the time today Dan, it’s been a pleasure.

DAN: Thank you, you’re the Rockpit aren’t you?

THE ROCKPIT: We are. Have a safe trip over and stay away from the Aga!

DAN: Good luck with that roast dinner – I look forward to tasting it!

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