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Friday 12 November 2021

Interview: Justin Hawkins Of The Darkness Chats Ahead Of The Band's Show @ Brighton Dome

The last couple of years have been tough, but as restrictions lift and artists return to what they do best, there's no better time for the return of The Darkness
Credit Simon Emmet

The English four-piece - brothers Justin and Dan Hawkins, Frankie Poullain and Rufus Tiger Taylor - have been the UK"s prime purveyors of feel-good rock 'n' roll for nearly 20 years now, so who else is better suited to kick off the party we've all been dreaming of for so long? 

Their new album Motorheart is the soundtrack for good times, being a collection of songs that soar as much as they rock, full of monster riffs and massive singalong choruses. 

They could have gone all introspective and serious like so many have recently, but the only thing The Darkness are serious about is rocking and giving people a good time, something they are very, very good at indeed. 

For frontman Justin Hawkins, that's what it's all about and they were determined that their new album would do that more than ever...

A lot of artists of late have been releasing very lockdown-inspired albums, dealing with some serious thoughts on what has been a very difficult time for everyone. 

Q/ You weren't immune from what had been going on, but that kind of thing just wasn't right for The Darkness as you saw it, was it? 

Justin Hawkins (JH): "I had a lot of time to think about what I wanted to do with the words and the whole atmosphere of the tracks. 

"All of the stuff we have done is really feel-good and although I've written sad stuff in the past, none of that felt appropriate this time around. 

"It's not that The Darkness didn't experience Covid, we all did, but we didn't feel like it was necessary to make a lockdown album, or one that reflected the despair, uncertainty and suffering that has been so all-pervasive these last 18 months or so. It's not our job to do that. 

"The important thing for us is to make rock music that makes everyone smile. That's all we have ever wanted to do. Now it feels like our moment and neither our fans or ourselves want to hear us moaning. We just want to rock."

The Darkness - It's Love, Jim

Q/ The Darkness' last album, 2019's Easter Is Cancelled had a real What's Going On? social commentary side to it, but you've steered away from that this time to deliver a more goodtime rock 'n' roll record, but there's still some subtle observations on tracks like Motorheart, which is both dark and funny but also feels like commentary by stealth? 

(JH): "Yeah, we didn't want to follow Easter Is Cancelled with an album called We Told You So! as nobody likes those kinds of people, eh?  On Motorheart, I'm singing from the perspective of someone you can best describe as a total idiot. 

"There's some really subtle misogyny in there and a lot of outdated sexual attitudes. Those things are lying under the surface of what he's saying, as he's pretty much in denial about his faults and blaming everyone else but himself. 

"The title track sees him having no luck in his relationships, so buys himself a robot companion, only for the same problems he has had in all his other relationships start to manifest themselves with the robot, but he still doesn't realise that it"s him at fault. 

"It's saying that if you can't learn from your mistakes and look at yourself, you can't really expect the world to treat you any differently than what it does. Change is growth, so hopefully this can help some people at least recognise that those attitudes are only held onto by idiots."

Q/ There's always a real playfulness to your lyrics, but this time around, it feels more refined and natural than ever, while calling to mind AC/DC"s Bon Scott at times. How much of an influence is he on you as a writer as well as a singer? 

JH: "I try to go as overt as I can with Bon Scott without actually quoting him! He's one of my favourite lyricists of all time. That period of AC/DC is probably the music I listen to the most and a massive part of why that is, is Bon's lyrics. He probably invented that style of writing and nobody has done it better either before or since."

Q/ Motorheart is The Darkness' 7th album, how conscious are you of not repeating yourselves while still not losing sight of who the band are? 

JH: "We don't think about that any more in all honesty. We did for an album or two after Permission To Land, as it was so successful it became a bit like a blueprint album, so we were always looking for a song that correlated with Friday Night, say, songs that were a bit different but in the same way that they were different on that first record. We stopped doing that though, especially on the last two albums. 

We just write 100% from the heart and don't worry about what we've done in the past. That's a good place to be I think and also, no two songs are exactly the same anyway and if you do rip yourself off without realising it, it's going to be more to do with the aesthetics and the playing than anything else. 

It's important to keep that voice, but you can"t worry about the past, just like you can't worry about the future. You just have to live in the moment and trust that the gods of rock will bless you with a bit of inspiration and let you chase it down in it's own right."

Q/ You must still be really champing at the bit to get back out on stage doing what you do best, though? 

JH: "We did a streaming show and a couple of festivals in the summer. The first one was a bit edgy, but by the second one it just felt that everything was back to normal. Once the ball is rolling, it's just a matter of keeping up with it. Once we're on the actual tour we'll be laughing though, I think. It'll hopefully feel like business as usual. I really can't wait to get going, I really can't."

The Darkness play Brighton Dome on Wednesday 17th November 2021. CLICK HERE for tickets.

by: Mike Cobley




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