Danko Jones are a phenomenon: The guys from Canada are playing a timeless mixture of high energy Rock(‘n’Roll), no attempt to follow trends blindly, no compromises, no bullshit! The straight sound appeals to fans from all genres, no matter if Rock, Metal or even mainstream, and they had impressed STALKER with their energetic live-show before (Ankkarock 2010). Their new album “Rock’n’Roll is Black and Blue” is out on the market. Sept 21, 2012. Enough reasons to take the chance at Wacken Open Air for a chat with band mastermind Danko himself!
How much Heavy Metal is Danko Jones?
And how much Rock’n’Roll is Danko Jones?
And how much sex is Danko Jones?
Well, Rock’n’Roll is an old fashioned term for having sex. So I would also say 100%. People call it different things over the years. Sometimes “Getting busys” or “Doing the nasty”, which is an old ladies term, and also “Rock’n’Roll”.
Despite you are not playing typical headbanger`s music, you are having an high reputation in the Metal scene…
That non headbangers music is called Rock `n Roll. We just play Rock `n Roll, man!
What do you think, why do you have such an high reputation with the headbanger`s?
Because I think that there is a seemless line between Heavy Metal and Rock’n’Roll music, which is an easy bridge to cross. There are more guys in Metal bands, listening to bands like AC/DC than you think. Metal is only one kind of music and you can`t listen to only one kind of music. Do you listen to only one kind of music?
Well, basically only Heavy Metal, but sometimes also stuff like AC/DC, as you mentioned.
Yeah, right! And all those guys in Heavy Metal bands kind not listen Heavy Metal all day without loosing their mind. So the best thing is to clear your mind sometimes, maybe with Rock’n’Roll.
People say that you have a lot of knowledge about Hard Rock music. Is that correct?
I don’t know! I just like what I like, man! There are a many people who know a lot more than I do.
I just want to give it a try and give you some quotes from famous Rock songs…
Oh! I am really bad on lyrics. I will actually get 0 out of 10. I don`t read lyric sheets and if I would get away with it, I would even not write down our lyrics. Writing lyric sheets is the last thing that I would like to do for our records, maybe beside foto shoots which I don`t like and video recordings, which I can`t stand. I actually like writing lyrics, but I like it when only I know what they are about and I don`t care if anybody else knows. The same goes for other bands: Everytime that I read lyrics of a song, it ruined it for me. So I don`t like reading lyrics, but go ahead with what you have written down!
I give you a quote and please tell me than what comes to your mind. Maybe you guess the song…
When you can sing it like the singer, I will get it! So when you quote a Judas Priest song, sing like Rob Halford for me!
That will actually be difficult. Let us trying it without singing. Here is the first one: “If you like to gamble, I tell you I`m your man!”…
That is “Ace of Spades”! That was actually an easy song. But do you know what? I don`t think that I would have gotten either if you had picked another line of the song.
This one will be more difficult: “You are the star of the masquerade, no need to looks o afraid”…
I have no idea!
“Holy Diver”, Dio
Dio`s lyrics are sometimes really descriptive, so I don`t really get it what he says. Please go on!
“Sleep with one eye open, ripping your pillow tight”…
That is like Happy Birthday, man! That is of course “Enter Sandman”! I am really surprised that I know already the second song. I think that “Enter Sandman” is like Happy Birthday because everybody heard it so many times.
“Begging mercy for their sins, Satan`s laughing spread his wings”…
I know that… I do know that… Can you sing it for me? Is it “War Pigs”? That wasn`t easy. I tell you, that I need Ozzy´s singing.
The next one is easy again: “Feel as though nobody cares, if I live or die”…
(singing) Feel as though nobody cares, if I live or die, nanana… “Breaking the Law”!
“Can I believe that what I saw that night was real and not just fantasy”…
Can you please hum that for me? (I try to sing it) That`s like the worst… That`s horrible! But I still don`t know… Come on, man! Is it Maiden? But when you were singing it didn`t sound like Maiden!
Well, I am not the vocalist of Iron Maiden. But you are right. It was “The Number of the Beast”.
That was really hard, man! If you played the song, I would have gotten it on the second note. But if you call me a line of the song, I can`t do it. But go on!
“You`ll drive us wild, we`ll drive you crazy”…
(sings the lyrics with different melodies) That`s the song, right? Oh, it`s fuckin` Kiss! Holy shit, “Rock’n’Roll all Night”! Who hasn`t heard that song as often as “Enter Sandman”? Do you see how bad I am at this?
Now for the last one: “No colours anymore, I want to turn them black”…
I don`t know. Can you sing it for me? (I sum it) Oh, it`s “Paint it black”!
Let`s finish this right now! Please describe a typical day in your life!
I wake up at 06:30 in the morning. Over the day I am pretty much on the computer and I am constantly cleaning my house. I don`t really play guitar unless we are writing new songs. I don`t feel like a guitarist like Yngwie Malmsteen, I like to put it aside. So when I pick it up, it feels fresh again. That stimulates the excitement again and that stimulates my riffs. So I keep it away when we are off road and not writing. I amusually on the computer all day doing different kinds of stuff that are band related. I am working on our podcast or on my column that I write for those magazines. That`s what I usually do when I am off the road.
What would you do today if you had not become a professional musician?
I would be probably in a band. But if music was off the table, I actually would try to pursue what I originally went to school for, that was film. So I might be on a film set or film crew, but eventually I would find my way on a stage somehow. I am not a good actor, but there is something in the creative process of performing. I find acting a bit stifling in terms of a creative process for me, because I am saying someone`s else words, someone else wrote the script. I like to write the script and I think there is no better place for doing what I do for living, which is being in this kind of band. It allows me to talk, because there is a lot of talking, even in our rock shows.
What is the part in music business you hate most?
Being away from home is very mentally hard. And we are away from home a lot of the time. And that is actually the hardest part for me. But I don`t hate it, it is the hardest part for me. In terms of hating, fotoshoots are the most fucking thing. I really hate them!
Let us now talk about your new album: Where do you see the differences between your last album “Below the Belt” and your new album “Rock’n’Roll is Black and Blue”?
The most obvious one is, we have a new Drummer, Adam Willard. He is now in the band for over a year and his mark is definately on the record. We wrote all songs together, while for the last record it were on me and JC (the bass player; TP) writing the songs. We are kind of a band again, which is great!
We recorded it in a different studio, but we used the same producer. We used Mike Frazier who did AC/DC, Metallica and Franz Ferdinand, to mix the record. That`s different. But at the end of the day, it is just a bunch of new hard rock songs that we wrote. We did change the script. It is just pretty hard rock.
In as far is it possible for you to bring changes to your music?
Two records ago we wrote some kind of ballad with some accoustic guitars and stuff like that. But in fact people didn`t like it, and to be quite honest, I didn`t like it either. I didn`t want it to be a single, because I knew if it was, I would have to play it every night. And I did not want to play it every fucking night. It was originally a garage rock song with me on full guitars.
The original records of “Never too loud” actually slayed the final album. I often say that! I love the songs on “Never too loud”, but it is people’s least favourite record. (Danko becomes more and more angry and shouts out loud) I agree! But I don´t agree with the songs. I think that the songs are strongs as “Sleep is the Enemy” or “Below the Belt”. This record is pretty much a continuation of “Below the Belt”. We want to hit people in the face with hard rock music. There are no acoustic guitars, there are no ballads, it is all Thin Lizzy and AC/DC, it is just wired.
You titled the record “Rock’n’Roll is Black and Blue”. What makes Rock’n’Roll black and blue?
It is an old title that we already wanted to use for our very first thing to put out back in `96 or `97. But there is a local band that put out a 7″ before we could put out anything and the called it “Real Rock’n’Roll tonight”. So just because they used “Rock’n’Roll” in the title, we said that we can not use it. It would look like we were copying them. So we filed that title away. But I always loved it and also JC. When we figuered out an album title, nobody came up with anything. So JC told that story to Adam and he just said “That`s wicked! I love it, too!”
When I came with that title in `96, it was to describe the Rock `n Roll scene back then, which was non-existing. The only Rock’n’Roll bands were underground Garage Rock bands like The Makers, The Oblivions or The Gories. These are very underground Garage Rock bands that the White Stripes came out of. There was also the very strong Detroit scene with bands like The Detroit Cobras, The Dirt Bombs and The Go scene which influenced us very much. These are all underground Garage Rock bands. When Nashville Pussy came around, it started to build and then other bands came up. Today we have Airbourne and Volbeat, which have very big Rock’n’Roll tendencies and which are very huge now. There are also Motörhead, which is our template. Motörhead are pure Rock’n’Roll band, Lemmy will say that until his dying day. But they can play Wacken, Full Force, Devil Side or any other Metal festival in the world and everybody will accept it. But when you listen to Motörhead albums, the essence is just Rock’n’Roll, 12 bar Blues. So we also love play Wacken, but also our music is just Rock’n’Roll.
Let us talk about the content of some particular songs of your new record. Let us start with the opener: What terrifies you?
You can interpret as a song about two people living in a relationship who know that it will break up. That`s what the song is really about. But the inspiration came from Natassja Kinski in the movie “Cat People” and it is just terrified by your eyes and something like that. I came up with that title while I was playing a riff and thinking about Natassja Kinski.
What makes a day a beautiful day to you?
Overcast, no sun. I prefer the sun over the rain, but I prefer cloudy over the sun. That is what the song is really about. Everybody`s idea of a beautiful day is when the sun is out and people are walking around. But my idea of a beautiful is when the sun isn`t out.
In contrast to the lyrics, the message of the song “I don´t care” sounds quite political.
It is actually NOT political. As I say in the lyrics, I don´t care about all these things.
So it is not ment ironically?
No! I am not smart enough to be ironic, haha.
What is the basic idea behind “I believed in God”?
It is not a satanic song, but it is definitely a blasphemic song because I call god evil. It is actually the closest thing I can be to Metal, haha. Everybody had these moments in life when they wanted to be with a girl or a guy that urns them on, but that other person does not respond your feelings back. And then you curse god or get mad with god. That is what this song is about.
We are running out of time and we actually have to close soon. Is their anything left that you want to say to our readers?
Yeah man, Rock’n’Roll is black and blue! That`s all! The record is in line with “Below the Belt” and “We sweat Blood”, but it has a lot of different shades to it. There is a fast one, there is a midtempo one, there is an angry one, but it all makes sense under the band`s umbrella. It is just 12 more hard rock songs. We always will put out hard Rock songs because a) it is the only thing that we can do well and b) it is the only thing I want to write. People asked over the years: “You love Metal songs, why don`t you play in a Metal band?” Well, I have Metal riffs, but what keeps my blood going is coming up with good rock songs!
Thank you for the interview!
Photos: Band, T. Pässler