Pinewood Smile, 6 October
With a new album, followed by a tour and even a film, The Darkness are coming back in a big way. We talk to Dan Hawkins about why the band is in the best place it’s ever been now, and his love of the Marshall Super Lead… It seems like the band is in a really good place, but what’s it been like for The Darkness since the reunion in 2011? “When we got back together, the manager, label and band thought it was going to be a ‘Ta da!’ kind of moment and it kind of misfired a bit. But I was talking to someone today and he was comparing our last three albums to the three albums Aerosmith did when they got back together. And it’s interesting how they mapped ours with this latest one being our Pump. And I love Pump, so I was happy with that comparison.
“It’s cool, but we’ve had so many different issues – things not related to the actual music and the element of the Darkness that is about fun. More legal stuff, management issues and drummers departing… just so much crap. We’re now in a place where we’ve finally got through it all. All the people we didn’t want to work with have gone forever, all of the lawyers who were chasing us for this that and God knows what have all been paid and have gone away. We’ve got the ultimate line-up and we all get on so well. Plus we’ve got an awesome management team and a great label.” Apart from the Pump comparison, how would you describe your new album, Pinewood Smile? “It’s like for the last [two] albums we’ve been looking back at what we liked about what we’ve done in the past and trying to take elements of that and redo it. But this album is so not like that. Let’s do whatever, let’s have a laugh and not worry about whether we’re going to have any hits. I think you can hear that. The album doesn’t really care!” It sounds like your chemistry is branching out as a band on this record… “Definitely, and Rufus [Taylor, drums] is heavily involved in the writing on this record. The stuff that he’s singing on the album is generally lyrics he’s written. I’d say he and I were the nucleus of the music. We would work on riffs and musical arrangements, get them up to a point while the other guys were doing the flowery stuff and working out where it’s going to go. He and I worked incredibly close together on all the music. So I guess we are branching out because there’s a new writer in the band.” Is it still Gibson/Marshall for you? “I’ve been on this sonic experiment for God knows how many years now. I started working with this guitar technician called Ian Norfolk, and it’s terrible, really – he eggs me on because he’s an into experimenting with amps as I am, just trying to find that perfect tone. We’ve gone through mountains of gear in the last couple of years, but the one thing I keep coming back to is the Marshall Super Lead. I made a real breakthrough in that department recently. I tried boutique versions and hand-wired versions or Marshalls and modded Marshalls. I tried every different make you can imagine trying to find the tone in my head, and the unequivocal thing I’ve found is that – unfortunately for me and the first five rows – is the sound in my head is a 100-watt Plexi with no power break or attenuation through four 4x12 Greenbacks. That’s it and there’s nothing on this planet that beats that sound for me. But it’s so loud I can’t have it facing towards me; I now have to have it facing off towards the monitor guy! And it’s amazing how versatile that amp is, just with you volume control.” There’s a Darkness documentary coming next year, too… “Yes, with this guy Simon Emmett, who is an award-winning photographer who’s shot everyone from Jay Z to supermodels. He also made this film about his local football club Barnet FC called Underhill. What he does is kind of like human interest stories and focuses on underdogs and the commitment of fans, things like that. Then he asked if he could do one on us. We were very flattered.
“That was about three years ago and the cameras haven’t really stopped rolling since. It’s one almighty editing job. That’s the main element of the crowdfunding campaign, to find someone worth their salt to go through the footage and pull the film together. We’re hoping it will be finished next year.” [Read more about the Indiegogo campaign at http://bit.ly/darknessfilm.]
The Darkness’s powerful new dynamic is being captured on film for a forthcoming documentary