“Over the years I’ve gained a little more confidence, so the songs have more melody and more singing in them, the lyrics are pretty much the same as usual, that’s one thing that kind of hasn’t changed *laughs*.”
From Bio: Eighteen years. Twelve albums. Two Gold Records. Thirty-plus transatlantic treks. Fifteen Top 40 singles. Arena tours across 11 countries with Guns N Roses. A video trilogy starring Elijah Wood and Ralph Macchio. A feature-length documentary. An oral-history biography. Personal invites from Lemmy to join Motörhead on the road (and on water, for the 2014 Motörboat cruise). For most bands, that would amount to a hell of a career. For Toronto trio Danko Jones, it’s called “warming up.”
Calling in from Toronto we chatted to Danko Jones about new album ‘Fire Music’, new drummers, WWE, Australia and much more…
So the album is called ‘Fire Music’ tell us why this was the right choice for the album name and what the title represents to you?
Well you know it kind of matches what we thought was the energy in the songs and how the songs were kind of high energy and up and aggressive and angry, so ‘Fire Music’ seemed to be the logical title, and yeah, I think we bounced it off a few people and they seemed to like it after we’d already bounced twenty five other shitty titles, that was the one that finally got them *laughs*.
This being your seventh album, how if in any way does the creative process differ now compared to your earlier releases?
Well you know when we first started we were just kind of like we knew how to play the instruments enough to not be laughed off the stage, and over the years we’ve kind of gotten better at playing the instruments, writing the songs, incorporating bridges and knowing how to arrange a song which is more JC’s department, our bass player, but that’s kind of how we’ve grown. In terms of the lyrics and the melody and the singing, I’ve gotten a little more confident with my voice, I don’t just scream and bark like I used to… I used to equate melody with a singing voice and as much as I listen to a lot of it, I couldn’t pull it off to save my life. Over the years I’ve gained a little more confidence, so the songs have more melody and more singing in them, the lyrics are pretty much the same as usual, that’s one thing that kind of hasn’t changed *laughs*.
You seem to have had more drummers than Spinal Tap some through the ranks, but now have Rich Knox behind the kit, what has he brought to the band that you felt may have been missing previously?
A good positive attitude, a good pro-active attitude and no rack tom… all the drummers that ‘ve had have never played with a rack tom, but our last drummer Adam Willard when he joined the band I said ‘Listen, hey Adam, we don’t usually have a rack tom on the drum kit, it’s usually just a three piece, kick, floor and snare’ and he said ‘well that’s just not going to happen’ so that kind of set the tone for his stay in the band *laughs* and us trying to be welcoming, we just let it go but it always kind of irked me that our drummer had a rack tom because the whole point of the band is minimal set up, maximum volume you know? You look cooler as a drummer if you play this loud, bombastic music with such a bare kit, it makes you look cooler. So the first order of business for Rich when he joined out band, and it’s almost coming up on two years was he wanted to get rid of the rack tom and go back to how it used to be, and that was such a relief for me to hear and I was like ‘Oh thanks God, we’re back to normal now’ and then he was just really proactive… the song that has now become the single off the album ‘Do You Wanna Rock’ and we were just talking and like ‘you know what, it would be great if we had another song with a cowbell in it’ because we’ve had other songs in the past, like ‘Full of Regret’ was a single for us, and ‘Sugar High’, ‘Mango Kid’, we always try to incorporate like a cowbell in the songs and without telling us, he went back to our rehearsal space, recorded two drum patterns and sent it to us, this is something that drummer in our band has ever done who has been this proactive. Then we used one of the drum patterns for ‘Do You Wanna Rock’ that basically laid the foundation for that song, once we sped up his drum pattern which is his original drum pattern only slightly sped up, the song wrote itself in about twenty minutes.
And of course there’s nothing more rock and roll than a cowbell…
Yeah and it’s funny how it’s become this pop culture joke through that Saturday Night Live skit, but the truth of the matter is, the cowbell is a great device when you’re writing a rock song and it sounds fucking great with a rock song. Whether it’s a joke or not, I love it, there is no joke in any cowbell song we incorporate it, it’s only meant to kick ass. So that unto itself, the fact that it became the single to the album and everything, I mean that just established Rich as a real member of the band, and in terms of his chops and skills, the guy is a monster, sometimes we get out of rehearsal and me and JC just go ‘Holy Fuck, we fuckin’ scored here’ like we got this guy, so we’re very happy. Oh, and the most important thing that a drummer or any member of the band is whether you can hang off stage, hours of driving, days on the road in close quarters, and he’s a good hang, he’s a good guy, nice guy and good character and it’s all good.
Another that stood out was ‘Getting Into Drugs’ a real no bullshit kind of song, is there a story behind this one?
There kind of is, it’s half true and half made up, true in the fact that yes, I don’t do drugs, but I have… so it is about someone who hasn’t done drugs and gets into it late in life and realises they like it. My story is, I did drugs when I was younger and then I stopped as I’d gotten everything I wanted out if it, it’s not my thing, and when I say drugs I mean marijuana, just the regular old youth stuff, nothing hard, just everything you’d expect, mushrooms, hash, marijuana… acid *laughs* and I got older and said you know, it’s not for me, I don’t need it. Nothing against anyone who does, I’m pro legalisation of marijuana, but besides that… so I hadn’t done it in years, but recently… while we were writing the record I actually did smoke a joint *laughs* so intertwine that with this experience and in order to kind of drive the square peg into the hole, I made it so it’s this guy who’s never done drugs… so there’s a little bit of truth in there and a little made up.
In what I consider awesome, you’ve got your second track to be featured on a WWE pay per view, ‘Gonna Be A Fight Tonight’ for the Royal Rumble, how did that come about?
They came to us and Royal Rumble was happening and we made it happen and when announced it aired on RAW, social media blew up and everything and it was cool but it happened really quickly. People who don’t know that story people think that because the word rumble is in the song, they think that maybe did they write it for the Royal Rumble? Not at all, because in my head it was The Warriors meets West Side Story, those two movies meshed together trying to like describe an old time gang brawl in some park in the middle of the night with knives and baseball bats and stuff like that. So that was the kind of story that the song was trying to make, but the lyrics and just the title, yeah it’s kind of like a seamless connection to the WWE, so it was easy that they knew that they could use that song, but no, we didn’t write it for the Royal Rumble.
Now it gets to be etched in history…
Yeah, it seems so you know, it’s a big deal… when it was announced when we were allowed to announce it, friends of mine on email and texts going ‘HOLY SHIT MAN!’ *laughs* and I was like, wow, I didn’t know you were in to wrestling and I didn’t know it was this big… it’s a massive worldwide popular thing.
We saw you in Australia back in 2013 for Soundwave, when do you think we can expect to see you back?
Hey, the moment anyone from Australia calls, we’re there! It’s just a matter of Soundwave asking us back or promoters in Australia asking us back or people wanting us to come there and a promoter making it happen. It has nothing to do with the fans not wanting to be there, like I loved Soundwave, I had a fucking blast man, the fact that there were four bands all connected to Toronto and we were all there, Fucked Up!, Gallows has Wade MacNeil singing, he’s from Toronto, The Cancer Bats and Billy Talent were there and we were there, so first there’s the Toronto connection so we felt a little bit at home while we were so far away. Then there’s all these bands that I love and then all these bands that we toured with who we’re friends with , I mean it was all just a little overwhelming but it was so much fun.
I was at your show in Sydney when you played with Loaded, man what a night that was…
Oh yeah and we ended up touring with Duff’s other band ‘The Walking Papers’ that same year later on in August and Duff brought me on to sing ‘You’re Crazy’ for Loaded’s set and stuff, and it was all just a big hang, it was great. I’d love to do it again, man, I seriously would, I would love to.
You have been here prior to that also, do you have a specific standout memory from an Australian tour besides Soundwave that you can share with us?
Well we’ve only been to Australia one time before that, and I had a good time, I thought the crowds were appreciative even though we didn’t have enough time to build up what we were about but I was just glad people showed up. I’ve always heard about the Australian music scene loving rock music… I mean Rose Tattoo and AC/DC and of course now Airbourne are obvious ones, but there’s The Saints and The Birthday Party and I’m sure half a dozen other bands I’m forgetting at the moment, but I mean Australia has got such a great history of music that I love, so it’s just cool. Then you see North American bands do really well in Australia to, and we’re from Toronto and The Tea Party we were always told they did well in Australia, like they do well in Canada and Australia, so I always kind of knew that there’s that part of the world that is really receptive to rock.
You’re heading out again to play some European festivals which is now standard for you, what can fans expect in the way of touring in 2015?
At this point it’s just the songs man, we just come out, play the songs and see what happens… I mean I’ve got a pretty loud mouth and I like to talk, so it’s all dependant on the audience or whatever I think on the spot. I walk on stage with a blank slate, I don’t know what I’m gonna say and let the chips fly where they may, you shoot yourself in the foot when you think you can prepare for that, that’s just something that you’ve got to get into a zone for. I think the more you think you’re preparing, the more you’re actually psyching yourself out and the only way to do it is if you walk on stage with confidence in yourself to know that look, I don’t know what’s gonna happen, but something’s gonna happen… *laughs* some shit is gonna trickle down.
So in 2015, and eighteen years making music, what’s the biggest thing you’ve learned that you didn’t expect about being in a band?
Actually there’s a lot of things… you learn a lot about life and you learn a lot about people that you might not have before. Sometime being in a band depending on how successful you are puts you in these kind of hyper reality situations that you would never go through in any other kind of job and you watch people and how they behave and yeah, I’ve learned a lot about people in general and I can read them better than I could before, maybe that’s what it is that I’ve learned. I think I can say that’s what I’ve learned the most.
Let’s predict the future, so finish this sentence for me, by the end of 2015, Danko Jones will…
Be on tour *laughs* that’s probably a real truth, but a wish version of that would probably be ’10 million sold!’ *laughs* 10 times platinum… *laughs*
From: Toronto, Canada
Band members: Danko Jones, John Calabrese, Rich Knox
Latest release: Fire Music – (Out Now – Cooking Vinyl / Dine Alone / New Damage records)