What started as a series DIY laptop recording sessions in a busy London share house …
Masters of Rock’n’Roll, Danko Jones, will return to Australian shores for the first time since 2013’s Soundwave Festival.
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The band have just released their ninth studio album, A Rock Supreme which is a perfect collection of songs exemplifying what they do best, straight up energetic and fun, dirty rock’n’roll. Experiencing Danko Jones live has been hailed as a live masterclass, a pure rock experience and one filled with anthemic tracks and a stage show that will remain etched in your memory for a long time to come. Speaking with the frontman himself, it is certainly clear that the band are itching to school Australian audiences on what what an authentic Rock show should be.
Danko caught up with Hysteria during a short break between tour dates. “We just came back from Germany. On Sunday, we did a couple of record release parties cos our album came out on Friday. We’re home for the week and then we start doing a few Canadian shows.” On the reception of A Rock Supreme so far, Danko says “So far it’s been pretty positive. There’s been a couple of bum reviews, but it’s OK. It’s impossible to have somebody like everything.” he then laughs, “There’s people who hate Led Zeppelin and The Beatles, so …”
Danko is very excited to be returning to Australia after five years. “I wanna play in front of Australian Rock and Roller’s! Rock bands who are able to get down there have only good things to say. We’ve been there two times before but I really wanna make it a regular thing like we do in other countries! It should have happened way before! Hopefully this trip can help kickstart that!”
Danko makes it absolutely clear that he is not here for fun and games like sightseeing, but is on a clear mission to rock our socks off! “Even if we did have time to sight see, I don’t sight see. I’m here to play the rock shows! I think any kind of sight seeing takes my mind and energy away from the rock shows that I’m there to play. I’ve always wondered why bands go on these sight seeing things. They post about it and talk about it … I’m like ‘Dude! How about the show? That’s the reason you’re there!’”.
Danko attributes the ‘success’ of the bands rock shows to spontaneity. “We just gotta make sure the songs are played the way they are supposed to be played and hopefully the crowd that shows up will like it. Anything else that happens is up to the audience that shows up that night! There’s nothing scripted, whatever happens happens!” he continues, “I think that’s why people see us over and over again when they get into us because there is a feeling that this is all happening just for tonight and this didn’t happen last night and If I see them again, it will be a different show. The songs are always going to be the same, but it’s up to whoever shows up in the crowd, anything can happen.”
No band, who actually does this full time as their career, unless you’ve got 10 million bucks in the bank, you fly private jets and you have all the time in the world, no real band has all the time in the world to live with the songs and play them live and re-work those.
[ Danko Jones ]
With nine studio albums and three compilation albums, settling on the set list is no easy task. “Yeah, it’s a bit of a tightrope to walk. I’m not in charge of that, JC is the one in charge of the set lists. But even still, we all look it over and talk about it. With 12 albums to choose from and we can only play for a certain amount of time, it does get to be tight! We don’t play for five hours! You gotta play the songs that people know. You gotta play the songs off the new record, which is why you’re touring. You gotta play songs for people who’ve maybe seen us more than two times and don’t wanna hear the same old stuff. Finally, you gotta play a song or two that pleases yourself. Trying to juggle all that in a setlist can be a struggle sometimes. Sometimes there will be sets that people say ‘Hey! Why didn’t you play this song or that song?’ It’s like ‘Well, we only have this amount of time and we can’t play all the songs!’ Danko continues “ We’re not a one hit song band. Like, we didn’t have one big, huge hit that defines us and that people know. So, chances are, if you are into our band, you’ve listened to the whole album! We’re more of an album oriented type band. So, it gets easier that way because we can choose any of the songs and chances are people will know it.”
With 23 years worth of live shows under his belt, Danko has had some very memorable experiences. “The times that I remember most are the times meeting people in bands or singing with other bands. I’ve sung with Gun’s N Roses and Saxon. I’ve sung with Motörhead over a dozen times and less than 20 times … there’s a number in the middle of that. Those are really magic moments when I get up on stage with Motörhead.” He laughs, “I could never have thought that would happen, but it did! More than once!”.
When you listen to a Danko Jones record, you know exactly what you are going to get: Good, fun rock ’n’ roll. “I think that’s because we’re a band that took a cue from bands like Motörhead, The Ramones, AC/DC and Slayer, bands that kind of stuck to the script.” Danko explains “A lot of people could say that they lack creativity or artistry doing that, but I argue the opposite, that that is were the art lies! In trying to come up with another version of what you’re known for, that’s where it gets interesting and exciting as you go through the discography and the catalogue of these bands. It requires nuance and you really need to clue into the band to understand the changes because every album IS different. It’s just not DRASTICALLY different. So, in order to understand the differences album to album with a band that does stick to the script, you need a bit of nuance and you need a bit of sensitivity.” Danko laments “These days, people don’t listen to music that intently, that’s the problem. That’s why when I read a review that says ‘Oh, this band just does the same old thing!’ that tells me that that person hasn’t really listened to our band intently and no matter what we came up with, they wouldn’t have liked it.”
In discussing the differences between writing and recording now compared the early in the bands career, Danko shares “Well when we first started out, it was a hell of a lot different! We didn’t have any records out and people didn’t know who we were, so, we had nothing to live up to. We used to write a song on Tuesday and have our show on Saturday and play it! After that, maybe re-shape it a bit if it didn’t work at the show. That’s the luxury that we had, we had all the time in the world. But once we got on this conveyor belt of album, tour, album tour, which we’ve been on now for almost 20 years, things changed! Like, we’re given a deadline to finish the record. So, we have songs that we don’t ever take out live, until we record them. The first time we would play them live is after we have finished recording. That’s the difference. I don’t know which one is better? They’re just two different ways. For example, our record came out last Friday and we played I’m in a band, which is the opening track, for the first time. We’ve never played that live ever before. Just living with the song, the recorded version of it, for so long and finally being able to play it live is a lot of fun to do. It’s just a different way. No band, who actually does this full time as their career, unless you’ve got 10 million bucks in the bank, you fly private jets and you have all the time in the world, no real band has all the time in the world to live with the songs and play them live and re-work those. Now, people can record it live on a phone and then post it. You have to keep a lot of things secretive before you’re finished. That’s definitely something that has changed from the early days.”
I think rock is now seen like Jazz, it’s kinda old-timey, another generation of music.
[ Dank Jones ]
While recording A Rock Supreme, Danko Jones worked with music producer and engineer Garth Richardson, whose credits include Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Rage Against The Machine and Mötley Crüe. “Garth was great! I mean, he’s got so much experience under his belt. We got along so well, we laughed through the whole session.” During the recording process, an unlikely connection was soon discovered “We found out really quickly that Garth, even though he lives in Vancouver and I live in Toronto, he actually grew up 10 minutes away from me from where I grew up. So his grade school, Dawn Valley public school, was in the front of my bedroom window, from the apartment that I lived in, from when I was about three until I was 11.” Danko laughs “So, chances are, I probably saw Garth playing soccer or football or something in the playground!”
In discussing his thoughts of rock ’n’ roll today, Danko shares “Well, I think it’s not as popular as it once was. Which is just time and moving forward. Things can’t be popular for very long, all the time. I think rock is now seen like jazz, it’s kinda old-timey, another generation of music. Despite the fact that there’s … like I can name you 20 new rock bands out there that sound like a real hard rock band that are doing it and are making it happen. They’re solid and they’re good, it’s just that they don’t have the audience because either the audience isn’t aware that there is a genre called ‘rock’ or they don’t know where to find it. There is also not a network for rock music as there is for other types of guitar driven music, like metal and punk rock, these genres have a good network online and throughout the world in terms of promoters and shows and clubs and bands, there’s a network out there for metal bands and a network out there for punk bands around the globe. Every continent would have their version of a metal band or punk band. Whereas rock music, not so much. It’s been watered down and interpreted in many different ways. Nobody really knows what a rock band should look like or sound like or be like. So it’s kinda hard. Especially when there is such a drop between very successful bands and the b-level bands. Like the difference between us and The Rolling Stones or The Foo Fighters are like worlds apart. Whereas the difference between Metallica and, let’s say, Megadeth isn’t too hard. The difference between Megadeth and Lamb Of God isn’t too far either. So, there are closer steps to take between tiers. Whereas with rock music, it’s like us or Mick Jagger and that’s a million miles away! The Stones fill arenas still, so there is a crowd out there for rock music, but they just don’t know where to find it. They just don’t know it exists. There’s no media outlets, on mainstream levels, that will let it be known. Danko continues “It is a shame. It’s sucks but there is little we can do about it. We can just keep making records and hopefully someone will dig it! I mean that the reason why Greta Van Fleet, everyone is looking to that band like they’re the saviours of rock! I’m glad that they’re around to steer people and remind people that there are newer rock bands out there. But, for every Greta Van Fleet, there’s ten other band that kick some serious ass! That don’t even sound like Zepplin or sound like The Stooges, or sound like KISS or Thin Lizzy.
If you are interested in learning more about Danko’s thoughts on rock ’n’ roll, you should check out his book I’ve Got Something to Say. “It’s a compilation of all my rock articles that I wrote over a ten year period. It came out on Feral House books” says enthusiastically. “Hopefully we will have it at the merch booth, I hope people get it in Australia.”
Catch Danko Jones at the following dates:
MELBOURNE // Thursday 30 May // Stay Gold
BRISBANE // Friday 31 May // Crowbar
SYDNEY // Saturday 1 June // Crowbar
ADELAIDE // Sunday 2 June // Enigma Bar