Interview with Dan Hawkins
British powerhouse band the Darkness has just released their sophomore album on Atlantic Records, One Way Ticket to Hell…and Back. The Darkness is a throwback to arena rock bands of a bygone generation and are all about having fun and being rock stars. Bullz-Eye got to talk with guitarist Dan Hawkins about the band’s plans for world domination, the new record, and how f**ked up the music business is.
Bullz-Eye: So how are your plans coming along for world domination?
Dan Hawkins: Not bad, really. To be honest, world domination is not at the top of my list really anymore. (laughs) It’s, um, having a laugh, really. (laughs) After Adolph Hitler, it’s a pretty difficult thing to do, isn’t it? (laughs). Oh, so maybe don’t print that.
BE: So you guys hooked up with Roy Thomas Baker for this new record and have declared him a genius in the press release. What exactly is it about him that separates him from other producers?
DH: He’s a really good laugh. (laughs)
BE: He’s a good laugh?
DH: Yeah, that’s why we hired him, you know? Yeah, and of course he’s got a really good ear. And I think his commitment to the record from start to finish was amazing. Like whatever was happening, whatever fucking shit was going on, people leaving fucking left right and center and all this kind of shit, it’s like he was just there. Just totally fucking dedicated and concentrated on the main thing: the music. So, (Baker) was, on a lot of levels, the perfect guy, really.
BE: Cool. Well, you talk about having fun. And there definitely seems to be a lot of fun mixed in with your stuff.
DH: You can hear it on the album I think, really. Especially with the song “Knockers.”
BE: (laughs) Absolutely…I was just gonna say that. Would you say you guys have fun most of the time or is it all such hard work living up to the lofty expectations?
DH: I mean, you know, it’s hard work. Construction work is hard work, but this is sort of in a different way. It’s horses for courses, isn’t it? But yeah, we try. Anytime things become hard work, it’s not fun. (laughs) But you know, you won’t hear me complaining a lot about our situation.
BE: Well speaking of hard work, you guys almost broke up during the recordings of the new record. Was that all due to the bass player?
DH: That might have been a bit of exaggeration. You know when you have a bio, and it goes out to everyone, we all regret just how pissed we were when we did that…how drunk we were. (laughs) You know it was difficult but that problem didn’t arise while making the album. It was there for a long time and it just got to the point where something had to be done about it. From that point on, making the album and mixing it was a fucking great laugh.
BE: I read that in the early stages of the recording, that the tentative title for the record was Short Fat Cock. Was that actually considered?
DH: (laughs). You tell me, how good a fucking album title is that?
BE: (laughs) It’s a great album title!
DH: It’s a great one, isn’t it? Maybe we’ll still use it.
BE: On a future B-side or something?
DH: Maybe a future album, who knows? Yeah, we’re looking at the next album as like…Ed (Graham, the band’s drummer) came up with a really good one already, Poisson avec Chips. You know, like a melting pot of French, English language and food cultures, which could be good. You know, maybe sometimes we do know where to draw the line. (laughs).
BE: There are obvious retro rock influences running through your music. As a guitarist, who are your biggest influences?
DH: Malcolm Young. Jimmy Page. Pete Townshend, I’d probably have to say as well. It’s weird; I wasn’t really brought up with the Who. It’s something I got into later on. But the more I hear, the more I hear the way I play a little (like Townshend). It’s weird.
BE: I definitely hear that in there.
DH: Like on “One Way Ticket,” it’s like, people hear the album, like fans of the band or whoever really, you would always assume the reason you do something is because you thought about it, but that’s not really the case with us. We just do it, and it comes quite freely. We don’t analyze stuff. So after the record’s finished and you’re listening to it, you go, “Oh, wow. The way that riff bounces sounds a bit like that Who song.” Not musically, just the rhythm structure. And you realize you’re influenced by people when you don’t even realize you are.
BE: Well speaking of influences, what is the one band you hate hearing uttered in the same breath as The Darkness?
DH: umm…Enya. (laughs)
BE: Have you really heard that?
DH: Well you know the pan-pipe thing has been….no, I’m only joking. I’m taking a piss there. Umm…I don’t know really. Oh, oh yeah, I hate when we’re compared to Kiss. I honestly think Kiss is shit. And I think it gives the wrong impression when people try to describe us as Kiss because even in a live sense, they’re just a piss-taker. Yeah, I would say that is the only one, really.
BE: What kind of plans do you guys have for a US tour and what is your favorite US city?
DH: Favorite US city to be in, I don’t know…my favorite show we ever did in America was at a venue in San Diego on the last tour. That was such a cool vibe, really unpretentious. We kind of fit right into it and it was just fucking loads of fun. So, I’m looking forward to going back there, and maybe even playing the same venue. Oh, and Austin, Texas is always brilliant as well. We’ve got a lot of history there as well. We were unsigned two years running, and came over to play South by Southwest twice. And we fucking partied and had a great time.
BE: Have you ever written for other artists or do you see that in your future?
DH: I’m definitely going to do that in the future. The thing is that it’s amazing how much time and effort it takes just being in the Darkness. You’d never believe this, but when I say I haven’t had a day off for a year, I mean it. (laughs)
BE: Oh, I believe it.
DH: But I’m not saying I want one. Don’t get me wrong.
BE: You’re doing what you love.
DH: Exactly. And that’s why I’m sure I’d have the opportunity at any point, being that I’m quite an influential person in the band, I can just go, “Oh, I’ve had enough. I’m off for a couple weeks,” and no one would be able to stop me. But you don’t do that, because what happens is you do get a weekend off, you sit there trying to watch TV like normal people do, and your foot starts tapping and you go into your studio and you mix something you recorded last week. You know what I mean…you don’t shut off. And neither would I want to. I mean, I’ll just be going at it like the fucking clappers then I’ll go fishing for the rest of my life probably in five years time. I don’t know. (laughs)
BE: In another interview your brother makes reference to the fact that Atlantic Records dropped the ball as far as American radio. Will it be different with the new record?
DH: We’re trying! (laughs) They went through a lot of changes. I mean, the record companies are in a fucking mess. Unless they sell millions and million of records, they’re fucked because of downloading and stuff. So, it’s their fault really, across the board. I remember when MP3’s came out and the technology for the Internet, and I find it unfathomable that they still don’t have their own sources for buying music direct from a record company for downloading music. I just don’t get it. I mean, how stupid can that be? Even when it became a legitimate way of (buying music), you’re passing on your business to someone else. So, I don’t know, we’re trying to be as involved as we can be this time around. And we’ve learned a lot from the way things went with the first record. But who knows, we’ll try and do things the right way, but only time will tell if we’ll be successful here or not.
BE: I’ve also read that some of the British press is particularly hard on you guys.
DH: Oh, they are particularly hard, and on other levels they’re particularly fucking great.
BE: You’re going to have that no matter what kind of band you are.
DH: Yeah. And it’s good to have that. Because otherwise you’d have everyone fucking loving your band and they turn around after a while and go, "Actually, they’re shit.” We’ve never been part of the fashion and we never will be. A lot of people are always going to hate us or think we’re uncool and I could give a flying fuck. (laughs)
BE: Well, I assume to your fans in the UK you’re considered royalty.
DH: Yes! So we should be.
BE: What are the groupies like at your level?
DH: Well, I’m not saying we don’t meet our fans or anything. But you know we sort of live in our own little bubble and not many people get in or out of it.
BE: So do you guys have trouble walking down the street?
DH: Yes. (laughs). I mean the thing is, we’re a recognizable band just for the simple fact that we’ve got long hair. Well, obviously there’s a lot of metal bands with long hair, but because we seemed to have crossed over we’re probably one of the most recognizable bands on the planet. Though even if you don’t like the music or have never heard it you can see us walking into a service station in England and you’re going to know who we are. That’s not me playing my trumpet of “Oh, look how big we are,” that just ..I’ve got long hair! (laughs)
BE: What kind of crazy things do you ask for on riders?
DH: Oh, you know we’re not that fussy with the rider and that. As long as there’s at least 10 bottles of really nice champagne, caviar on ice, and sushi…fresh sushi, about 200 cans of nice beer for our crew, and a shit load of drugs, we won’t get upset! (laughs)
BE: (laughs). Sounds like a party!
DH: I should leave out the drugs bit. Oh, actually when I say drugs, I’m talking about painkillers for to overcompensate for the size of the rider.