The Darkness - Manchester, December 2015

Justin Hawkins

Few bands can boast to have achieved the same rapid rise to fame that The Darkness experienced following their debut in 2002. Their success was reinforced by the fact that they played everywhere. Incredibly effective management ensured that not only were they constantly gigging but they were opening for the biggest acts in rock including Def Leppard, Alice cooper and Knebworth slots with Robbie Williams. And they grabbed those opportunities by the balls. Getting a gig is one thing. Making sure people remember it is another. From the outset they made sure people took notice. Shrieking vocals, catsuits and Angus Young shoulder rides through the audience cemented a strong fan base who simply couldn't get enough of this Lowestoft band. Less than 2 years later they were headlining arenas. But it was smart business decisions that ensured their financial success. They kept the publishing rights to their debut album Permission to Land  which went on to sell 1.5 million copies in the UK alone. Like so many bands, they felt the impact of that ‘difficult second album’ phenomenon. Whilst One Way Ticket To Hell and Back registered at number 11 in the album charts on its release, for many it failed to deliver on the expectations raised by their debut. Various other problems meant that The Darkness officially called it a day in 2008 with the various members embarking new projects such as Stone Gods and Hot Leg. But you can't keep a good thing down. In 2011, The Darkness reconvened and released their 3rd album Hot Cakes the following year, a record demonstrating a blistering return to form. Extensive touring followed including a run of shows that would see The Darkness play Permission To Land in its entirety. Fast forward to 2015, the departure of drummer Ed Harris resulted in Emily Dolan Davies picking up the sticks for the recording of the latest album Last of Our Kind. Whilst Emily was recruited as a full member of the band, she made the decision to leave shortly after it was in the can. However, within weeks, Rufus Taylor, son of Queen’s Roger Taylor, was confirmed as her replacement. Rufus is without question an amazing drummer, his skills clearly coming from a fine example of both nature and nurture. Yes, Rufus comes from good stock but he has clearly worked incredibly hard to reach the standard he exhibits today. With the band now enjoying a stable line-up, and having just released a deluxe version of Last of Our Kind, it's on the Manchester date of the UK tour that we catch up brothers Justin and Dan Hawkins.

Dan Hawkins

Justin, you now live in Switzerland. Clearly there are no alpine horns or yodelling on the new album but how has your new home influenced your song writing? Also, how on a practical level do you bridge the distance to ensure the band operates effectively in terms of song writing, rehearsing and generally staying on top of your game?

Well when we're finished working, we don't tend to see much of each other because we've all got our own stuff going on and it's good to decompress so it doesn't really matter where we all are. But having said that, living in Manilla for example might be a bit awkward because then you'd have a twelve hour thing but for me it's just a 2 hour thing on a plane. I haven't done too many flights this year, but it hasn't affected the writing because we all go to different places together to write like Spain, Ireland or whatever, so it hasn't made any difference to that I would say. But it has made a difference to my tax position (laughs). Obviously you're going to hear a lot more joy in the song writing!

Frankie Poullain

You have treated us to a new Christmas song 'I Am Santa'. After the enormous success of your 2004 single 'Christmas Time (Don't Let the Bells End)', how did you come to the decision to write another Christmas song? Also can we now expect you to do a 'Cliff Richard' and bring us a new Christmas song every year?

Dan - I would love to do a new song every year.  I would love to have a Darkness Christmas album. We'll see! The reason we did it was because we were asked for some tracks for the deluxe album and it was the only one really of the batch of songs we'd just written with Rufus that fits into the Last of Out Kind bracket because we're moving into a different kind of thing on the next record. And also I asked them when it was going to be released and they said just before Christmas, so it was a no brainer.

Dan, you've been faithful to the Gibson Les Paul and Marshall combination. Have any other companies ever tried to entice you?

Yes. I like to try out new gear and I always seem to come back to the same kind of set up really. I used a Wizard for a while. Wizards are really great and Justin's used Wizards. It's funny but I always come back to the same thing really. I've tried different types of gear and tried to get the feel and it just doesn't do the same thing. So there's something about Marshalls and Les Pauls I keep coming back to.

As we part company, we reflect on the most important aspect of what The Darkness delivers: the music. Throughout their career they have produced the pride of British classic rock and it is with the strongest of recommendations that we invite you to check out the new album Last Of Our Kind. In the meantime enjoy the videos for the album’s opening track Barbarian and their festive offering I Am Santa.