DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN
Sex, drugs and rock and roll are all unsurprisingly on the agenda as Justin Hawkins, frontman of pomp-rock gods The Darkness, reflects on past excesses. “I miss being able to drive my boob chariot into arenas,” he tells Pat Carty.
In the opening line of your comeback single, ‘Solid Gold’ – imagine a particularly lascivious Rolling Stones covering Queen’s ‘Hammer To Fall’ – you predict that people are “going to shit themselves”. Justin Hawkins, I put it to you that you’re foot shooting and this is never going to make daytime radio playlists. “I think our best work is us shooting ourselves in the foot, but that’s a good point. The last three albums, we have tried to second guess ourselves a bit, but once we started thinking we know how to do this, we stopped being able to do it.” Is a hit single even that important anymore? “We’re more concerned about our fan base and having another album of great material that we enjoy playing live.”
We sat down with Hawkins to discuss the return of The Darkness, their dynamite new album Pinewood Smile - recorded live with famed producer Adrian Busby (Foo Fighters) – “the main thing was his energy” - and their mini Irish tour, part of The Tour De Prance campaign. Hot Press’ genuine malapropism, Tour De Ponce, raises approving guffaws, Hawkins filing it for future use.
Their line up has changed since the last visit; the magnificently monikered Rufus Tiger Taylor has replaced Emily Dolan Davis - “We had different philosophies with regard to live work” - on drums. “He’s made it so much fun to be out and about, a hilarious guy and a brilliant player”. He’s a handsome bastard too. “It’s just a relief not to be the best looking one anymore. At last, someone else can carry that weight!” Was his being the son of Queen’s Roger Taylor part of the attraction? “It was for me, yeah, but he had to be even more amazing to get past that.”
Hawkins’ lyrics – “I write most of them as I have to get up and sing them” - seem to be coming from some magical place where Bon Scott and Steven
Tyler combine. “Those two, along with Freddie (Mercury) are my favourites. Freddie had the sophistication to use unusual words, Tyler’s got the innuendo, and Bon is just one of my favourite poets of all time. I listened to Led Zeppelin and The Doors too”. The Doors seem a long way from what he’s doing. “Yeah, lyrically it is, I always thought that was high school, Native American horseshit really.” Like reading your teenage diary, and scratching your head? “Exactly, but I love the music”
Other records from your youth that still mean a lot? “Queen’s Jazz, which just has my favourite songs on it, AC/DC’s Powerage, something from Aerosmith’s revival, Pump, or Permanent Vacation, The Cult’s Electric or Sonic Temple, or both, and Tom Petty’s Damn The Torpedoes. That was the recent celebrity death that affected me the most. I still listen to Van Halen in the car too” Which version of Van Halen? I demand. “Van Halen Van Halen!” Good man.
Aerosmith are still going, just about, could you see yourself doing it at that age? “Depends how you feel, I spoke to someone recently, who despite being older still feels like he’s twenty five, but when he looks in the mirror he goes ‘Who The fuck is that?’ I’m already too old to be doing what I do, but if you felt your age, it wouldn’t work”
There’s a major documentary coming – “they filmed us in Limerick yesterday. They’re also including archive footage” An earlier one, The Darklings, featuring our own megastar Olaf Tyaransen, focused on their more obsessive fans. “We received fairly serious stuff in the post – broken glass, nondescript powders, cakes with pubic hair”. Jaysus.
Talking of powders, there were some outrageous figures quoted about Justin’s power flour expenses back in the before - he’s completely clean now. “I did some very crude maths, rounding it up to £150,000, a massive exaggeration, the real total was closer to £149,000! People said they’d never seen anyone do that much drugs and survive, so I do feel quite lucky” Are things better now? “I do miss the success, of being able to drive my boob chariot into arenas, but yes, things are good” The boob chariot was, obviously, a massive set of ladies’ how-are-ya’s that Hawkins would ride above the crowd at gigs past. Hot Press remembers them fondly. As always Justin, thanks for the mammaries.