The Darkness Interview Justin Hawkins (vocals / guitar)By Dave Borgioli-Jones
UK glam rockers THE DARKNESS are back after several years hiatus! Actually, they’ve been reunited since about march last year, but now they’re back with ‘Hot Cakes’, a new album that features lashings of surpy glam goodness. It’s the classic DARKNESS sound. We caught up with frontman Justin Hawkins to find out more about the new album, and the possibility of seeing THE DARKNESS in New Zealand soon…
NZRock: ‘Hot Cakes’ is an instant rock n roll classic for me. I was really stoked about that because you never know what to expect when a band reunites. How did you find writing and recording new songs with the original line-up again after being apart for a few years, and are you pleased with how it turned out?
Justin: First of all; glad you like it. thanks! As for how it felt… imagine placing your hand in a soft velvet glove, and then putting that gloved hand into an even softer velvet glove, and then putting the resulting double-gloved soft fist into a solid gold bejewelled further glove and saluting in the general direction of Valhalla. sort of a bit like that.
NZRock: You said in a recent interview that the song ‘Nothin’s Gonna Stop Us’ has been around for years. But it seems so fitting for now. What kept it off the previous albums?
Justin: We had just never got around to recording it properly. The timing was eventually right and the subject matter sufficiently beyond the statute of limitations.
NZRock: I love the song ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’. It harks back to NWOBHM and it’s probably the heaviest song on the album – certainly one where the vocals are pushed hard. It’s also the one song which doesnt have the lyrics included in the CD booklet. Why is that?
Justin: Boring legal reasons. Its not our song, so it would have meant a load of red tape. how’s that for a really tedious business answer?
NZRock: Diego Gravinese did the cover artwork and it’s awesome. Who came up with the concept?
Justin: It was a group effort, really. you decide your album is called ‘Hot Cakes’ and the ideas just flow. the finessed final idea though should be credited to the sensational artist Thom Lessner. he brought it to a fine point for us.
My kid was looking at the Hot Cakes CD cover this morning. She pointed at it and said “Mummy”. What should I do?
Justin: Tell her that life is full of strange and wonderful things happening beyond the narrow constraints of reality television and perceived ‘common decency’, and that that sleeve is just the slightest hint of a brighter, more syrupy, future available to us all if we just throw off the shackles of conformity. Either that or warn her that if you put a bunch of boys in a room, eventually the talk will turn to girls in gold swimwear covered in syrup.
NZRock: You’ve released ‘Hot Cakes’ on [PIAS] Recordings which is an independent label with a long history. How’d you get onto them? And what are the benefits of going with them as opposed to a major label like Atlantic?
Justin: we worked with PIAS way back in the very early days of us releasing music (although they were called Vital back then). To tell the full story would take more time than we have here. But, suffice to say, they’re good people and they care passionately about music and doing the right thing by the artist. major labels tend to put the artist pretty low down the list of priority.
I’ve seen photos of you being lowered onto the stage in a giant set of breasts, about a million bare chested band photos, spandex… is there any idea you’ve had for THE DARKNESS that you haven’t been allowed to do by your label, bandmates or otherwise?
Justin: not one that can safely / legally be shared in public.
NZRock: In your opinion what’s the greatest guitar solo ever written… by THE DARKNESS?
Justin: Hmmm. I’ve done a couple that I’m really proud of. I’m always surprised by the subtlety of my main solo in ‘Living Each Day Blind’, and I’m always startled by the madness of the solo in ‘I Love You 5 Times’. Dan’s done some goodies too, like the one in ‘Nothin’s Gonna Stop Us’ or the Get Your Hands Off My Woman solo. Solos are always ace, just because they exist.
NZRock: One distinguishing feature of THE DARKNESS is the wild falsetto vocals. Who would win in a falsetto-off out of THE DARKNESS and KING DIAMOND?
Justin: I only heard King Diamond recently. He’s got an amazing voice. If a falsetto-off involves using falsetto, neither of us would win. Our go-to technique comes not from the head, but upper chest and throat. It’s screaming. Falsetto is ‘soft-voice’. Trust me, there’s nothing soft about the way I sing. I was recently told by a BBC engineer that I had the second-loudest singing voice out of anyone he’s ever recorded, and this was during an acoustic session. Haha! First place; Noddy Holder. As you can tell, I’m kind of sick of this ‘falsetto’ wrongism. I wish it would go away, but 10 years in, I can’t see anybody bothering to get it right.
NZRock: When will we get to see you play in New Zealand next? Are there any plans?
Justin: There are plans afoot. We’re all very very fond of New Zealand. It is a beautiful country and we can’t wait to see you soon.
Gergő Hájer (guitar) and Ákos Szathmáry (bass)
Ryan Forsythe (vocals / guitar)
Pietro Beltrami (vocals) and Marcello Lega (guitar)
Jona Weinhofen (guitar / vocals)
Raffaele Galasso (vocals / guitar / bass / synths)
Dez Fafara (vocals)
Mark Hosking (guitar)
Booga Beazley (vocals)
Jaz Coleman (vocals)
Tomi Joutsen (vocals)