“Justin really got himself together and now he’s fighting fit and a better guitarist and singer and performer than he ever was, even back then, it’s just great to be and I’m really privileged to be back with them.”
The Darkness, have possibly the best biography out there at the moment: “There have been two albums. There has been a short break. As promised, the break is now over. A third album is currently being honed in the east of England.” – Sums it up really! This is a band that likes to have fun, they write great rock songs, they are amazing performers and you either dig it or you don’t. Needless to say they are back and they are ready to rock once again!
We spoke to the returning Frankie Poullain about being back in the band, what’s ahead for The Darkness and what fans can expect on their upcoming Australian tour.
I have to ask straight off, for those that aren’t aware, you had in fact left the band but what were the circumstances in getting the original band back together?
Circumstances was, after seven years we figured it was time to let bygones be bygones and stop being stubborn and just had had enough time really, we’d had enough time to do our own little things, our own little projects and it felt like now or never really?
Was there one thing in particular that sparked it or was it a general consensus?
Probably the existence of when we realised that Maroon 5 were gonna be here to stay, we realised we had to do something about that.
What was it that in fact prompted you to leave the band in the first place?
Well, what prompted me to leave the band in the first place was being sacked ha ha ha ha. I guess that was the reason, but what prompted that… and it got a little bit complicated and we probably don’t have time to go in to it in this short interview, but let’s just say the personal relationships broken down and a lot of the good will and fun and energy that made the special had kind of evaporated and turned sour. Plus, can something biologically speaking evaporate AND turn sour? No I don’t think it can, can it? Ha ha. I suppose in a way it was a sour vapour of over indulgence and excess.
Was there ever a time that you thought you may never come back?
Yeah, it was really only the four of us that thought we’d never come back. Everyone around us was like it was inevitable, or that’s what they told us. We basically didn’t realise, we were all too kind of blinded by our pride and everyone has their own version of what the so called truth is and that kind of happens when you have different personalities, different characters you just perceive things differently.
You’ve basically jumped straight back in to touring rather than release a new album and tour off the back of that, what was the decision behind doing it that way?
Well we were just going to take a year out and make an album, but then it was literally just because of the Download festival, we didn’t realise we’d have the chance to be there, we thought we’d have to prove ourselves first before we started playing gigs, because we didn’t think there’d be a huge amount of people wanting to come and see us and so we all started rehearsing and writing this album getting ready to record it. Then we got these offers coming in because people had heard on the grapevine that we were doing this, so Download came in and gave us a really good offer to sub headline the festival last year below Def Leppard, so we kind of couldn’t turn that down, it sounded like the right thing to do, it was really scary to have to go straight back in to the bears den like that. After being away for six years, for me anyway, I hadn’t played a gig for six or seven years and suddenly I had to go on stage in front of 60,000 people at Download was really scary.
Only 60,000? Just a few of your mates…
ha ha ha we did have a couple of gigs before, a couple of warm up gigs and they went really well as well.
The bold statement of the song ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ what was the idea behind the song specifically? Was it you saying ‘We’re back and nothing can stop us?’
Ha ha ha yeah I think so. I tell you what, that song is just Justin singing about his childhood, it’s quite a sentimental song really, and if you listen to the lyrics, it’s getting back to childhood, as a matter of fact it’s was the same for me, getting back to some of the songs are quite sentimental. But yeah I guess the chorus has got that sort of vibe, so we figured that’s a good statement of intent, like a mission statement if you like, so that’s why it made a good first thing. It wasn’t really a single you know, it was more of a freebie for the fans you know?
So when can we expect to hear some new music or a new album?
The album will be June or July, yeah it’s all finished, we’re just getting the track listing sorted out and marketing how to package it and what the final title’s going to be.
Can we expect to hear any new songs down here?
Oh yeah for sure, we’re playing like four or five new songs a night. On the American tour in February we were doing four or five different new ones, we were rotating them, trying different ones out you know.
You’re heading back to Australia next month, what can fans expect at these shows? Is it just a balls out rock and roll show?
Ultimately yeah, in a nutshell that’s kind of what it is. This will be like a good, what people call flamboyant I suppose and a bit of fun, some new outfits to unveil, and I think there will be a little acoustic section. Might be a cover or two covers, just us doing our thing, yeah…
I’m not sure if you know, but the Melbourne show has already sold out with a second on sale.
Wow, that’s amazing. I thought we were doing all these interviews because the tickets weren’t shifting, that’s great, I’m delighted.
What do you think it is that draws people in to The Darkness?
What draws people in to the band? Well… I think cause they don’t have to think or mull over or get bogged down in the reality of things, it’s quite escapist I suppose and yeah I think we’ve kind of tapped in to something that’s hopefully en joyful and liberating, free, and we’re like magpies, picking up little bits of the 70’s and 80’s that we think are kind of worth picking up ha ha, taking little morsels from the past.
The last time you were here was in 2004, I saw you play here in Sydney and it was one of my favourite shows I’ve ever seen, do you have any fond memories of that tour?
Thanks for that! Yeah almost all the memories of that tour are fun. Any memory I can remember from that tour is fun, I can’t think of a bad memory from Australia , even though we were really hung over whenever we went on stage there, the sun would be coming down on us because we were playing early afternoon at the Big Day Out, it was still like a warm glow around us. It was just a great time for us.
You guys were on early as you were the buzz band then and everyone was talking about you all day after that…
Really? That’s amazing. Yeah something about Australians and Americans just really pick up. They’re less cynical the Australians and Americans, yeah we get a lot of attention in our own country but we divide a lot of people in our own country and people get really kind of cynical about us, but in Australia and The States people kind of think embrace that hoe down aspect of it, that they don’t really get in the UK.
Do you ever get considered and a joke band over there at all?
Yeah yeah, we get that a lot but it’s not like it’s always a bad thing you know? It depends, there’s good jokes and there’s bad jokes you know what I mean ha ha. There is a jokey aspect, it’s not like we’re laughing behind people’s backs, because a joke is usually an element of cruelty, and I don’t think there’s any cruel intent from our side. If you listen to Justin’s lyrics I think they’re very warm and very sensitive and very human and they have a bit of substance to them as well.
I wanted to ask you about your thoughts on a band like Steel Panther who have almost taken The Darkness and lyrically just gone that next step further.
I think it’s good, it’s a great parody of 80’s metal, I think that’s what it is and they do it really well and it’s one thing it’s one really accurate kind of parody of 80’s metal and I don’t think what we’re doing is a parody, we’re actually banking in to the whole thing which is why we went too far and it banked the whole thing back then and the band broke up and it all imploded because we’d bought in to it too much, a sense of the rock and roll lifestyle and everything you know ha ha. Maybe they’re doing that too? I wouldn’t say they necessarily believe in what they’re doing , I think for them it’s kind of theatre pretty much 100% isn’t it? There’s a lot of sincerity to what we’re doing.
Do you still play material off the second album or is it mostly off the first album?
Yeah we play about two tracks from the second album normally, now we’re doing Hazel Eyes, One Way Ticket and Is It Just Me? If we can get Justin back on the keyboards we might do English Country Garden as well, that’s a really cool song. There’s some good stuff on that second album, I’m happy to do stuff from the second album.
Did you ever look back after being replaced and have any anger in seeing someone in essence take your spot?
No, not really, I was kind of glad; I wouldn’t say anger was the emotion. There was a bit of sadness at how things ended and we ended up disliking each other and all the cruel words that were airing by both sides, but that was all to do with the organisation, something rotten at the core of the organisation and the music industry was changing a lot then as well, so it’s also the politics of the record company too back then because they were getting all really scared by what was happening with the changing face of the music industry you know. A lot of bands had problems back then in that time frame you know in 2003, 2004, 2005, it was all changing, But anyway, I wouldn’t say I was angry, in a way, in some ways I was kind of pleased I wasn’t part of that as it progressed, that kind of campaign, you could see, and I’m sure Justin would be the first to admit, it wasn’t really an enjoyable experience and it all went a little bit sour and he started to go off the rails a little bit after that too and then the whole thing kind of collapsed anyways. So I was probably quite lucky to watch that from afar really. Justin really got himself together and now he’s fighting fit and a better guitarist and singer and performer than he ever was, even back then, it’s just great to be and I’m really privileged to be back with them.
THE DARKNESS AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES
Friday May 04 – Eatons Hill Hotel, Brisbane
Saturday May 05 – Newcastle Panthers , Newcastle
Sunday May 06 – UNSW Roundhouse, Sydney
Tuesday May 08 – The Palace, Victoria
Wednesday May 09 – The Palace, Victoria
Thursday May 10 – ANU Bar, Canberra
Saturday May 12 – Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide
Tickets on sale now
Band members: Justin Hawkins – Vocals / Guitar, Dan Hawkins – Guitar, Frankie Poullain – Bass, Ed Graham – Drums.
Latest release: New album coming in June / July