THE ORGAN INTERVIEW...  DANKO JONES  - November 2008, Hammersmith...    HOME
        I live by the code of the road, city by city, night after night... 

Danko Jones on the pure art of old school hard rock, touring with Motorhead, love for Thin Lizzy, not much for Oasis... 

DANKO JONES are a three piece band led by a man called Danko Jones. We tell you this even though they're on their forth album now, we suspect a lot of people would still say who? Danko Jones are a road band, not a hyped band, a real old school hard rock road band... 

           Danko handles guitar and vocals, JC (some call him John Calabrese) plays a no nonsense bass, Dan Cornelius is the man at the back holding ir all down with his drums. The Canadian band (who some think are Swedish) are touring in support of their latest album Never Too Loud. Said album isnít out in the UK until January 2009, said album is out already in other places (which caused a little look of confusion when we asked Danko about the forthcoming album...). 

    Never To Loud is Danko Jones as classic 70ís sounding, sometimes very radio friendly in an old school North American kind of way, hard rock band  Ė Kiss, Cheap Trick, Hellacopters... 

     Quite a way on from that defiant band who formed in 1996 and declared they wouldnít ever release records and instead just tour and tour and build it up just as a live band. Those early days saw them out on the North American road with bands like The New Bomb Turks, Blonde Redhead, The Make-Up, The Dirtbombs, Chrome Cranks and such. Eventually the trio relented and put out an EP in 1998 on Canadian indie label Sonic Unyon. They followed it with a self financed release in í99, the My Love Is Bold EP that eventually surfaced over here in Europe (in 2001) on an album called I'm Alive And On Fire - an album made up of those of the two singles, demo tracks and such released on Swedenís Bad Taste Records Ė the label that has pretty much been the bandís home ever since... 

Weíve dragged Danko away from his food and before the bandís soundcheck, up in to a back room of the labyrinth-like Hammy O. (we on this occasion being Sean and Marina O). Danko Jones are touring Europe with Motorhead and the tour has hit London tonight at the end of November... Seats are grabbed in the cold empty dress room, ice is broken with an awkward first question and off we go... 
 

So do you want to start by telling us whatís happening then?

Whatís happening in general you mean? 

Well whatís happening in general for you guys yes, thatís as good a place to start as any isnít it, youíre touring ahead of the forth album thatís coming out here arenít you?

Well I guess so, I mean right now weíre on a European tour with Motorhead and Saxon and tonight in London this is the last show of the UK leg and we get one day off tomorrow to travel then we hook back up with it in Holland and head on in to December...

You never really stop do you? 

Well with this one, things are kind of dictated by Motorhead

No, I mean in general, youíre forever out there, do you ever stop? I mean, thereís a track on the new album called Code of The Road, does that pretty much sum up what youíre about?

Yeah, pretty much, I guess now weíve earned the right to call ourselves road dogs, weíve been on the road for many years now... And a not so busy year would still have a few tours thrown in there you know. I mean we took some time off last year, took two months out in LA and made the album, we did a short tour of California just to keep our hand in though and then went up and toured Canada a little but that was a batch of time off....

So now youíre just kicking in to the promotion of the new album then?

Well kind of, it feels a little old to us already

But it isnít out until January 2009? 

D: Ummm... well yeah, in England, but it has come already in other places, it first came out in some places back in March and we did out first tour to promote it in April, weíve been on the road since then to promote it, weíre getting to England (Danko has that North American habit of referring to touring the UK as ďEnglandĒ, seems it got him trouble on stage in Cardiff a few nights ago Ė we let it slip...) Ė weíre getting to England last of all, weíve been touring and playing festivals all summer, I donít even know what the status is over here, we donít bother with all that, once the record is made we leave all that to the labels, I donít even know when the album will happen here...

Well how have the UK dates been going? Most people wonít know the material here, you donít get that much media exposure and stuff? 

Things have been awesome, things have been awesome every night. I got to say a lot of people were worried, friends of ours were saying youíre gonna get killed over there, Motorheadís audience will give you a real hard time and Iíve been saying no they wonít, not over here. Maybe if we tried touring at home in Canada opening for Motorhead weíd be in for a hard time but then Canadians are kind of backwards when it comes to hard rock and metal and stuff. I mean they donít know how to think, everything has to be in a little compartment and you canít like that if you like this and the same in America, if you like black metal then you canít like hard rock and vice versa, and if you like this kind of hard rock then you canít like that kind of hard rock and then youíve got radio rock that everybody gets to hear and that becomes the general publicís idea of what rock is...  So no,  I wasnít worried about touring England, the English crowds are going to know where weíre coming from, I mean for fuck sakes man, half of our influences are old rocking English bands anyway, so no I wasnít worried, I knew it would be cool and it has been very cool...

Well Motorhead are one of those band that donít fit anywhere, Motorhead are just Motorhead, a loud fast rock band... 

Well thatís why I wasnít worried, I mean we play hard rock níroll and thatís what they do, so no problem Ė every night Lemmy walks on stage and says ďHello, weíre Motorhead and we play rock and rollĒ , he doesnít walk out there and say weíre this or that, I wasnít worried. And the one thing thatís great about the crowd on this Motorhead tour of England is that they give you a chance, they give you a few songs and thatís all we ask....

It has always been a Motorhead tradition, introducing bands to their audience, bands like Tank or Saxon or Girlschool or the early days of Twisted Sister when no one knew who the hell they were, Motorhead's hardcore following kind of expect it, support bands mean a little more on a Motorhead tour...

Oh yes, Iím well aware of Lemmyís role in introducing all these bands and thatís why this is a real honour, especially to be chosen to be on the English leg of a Motorhead world tour and especially with Saxon on the bill, two pioneers Ė to be on tour with the two of them, in England is an honour and we are well aware of that...

and Wales, Scotland and Ireland Danko.... I suppose these bands are part of the reason you started playing in the first place? 

Well yeah, Motorhead for sure, I remember when I was learning how to play guitar there was a show called Rockschool that got shown in Canada and they had a metal episode that had The Chase Is Better Than The Catch and that really got me and then I heard Iron Fist and...

A moment of revelation?

Well no, but it was the moment when I realised who they were and really got them... 

So before that were you coming from a more hardcore punky area? I hear all kinds of things in your music, but some of the earlier stuff I hear bands like Black Flag in there in your earlier material...

Yeah, thereís definitely some of that in there and Iíve gone through phases in my life where Iíve been more in to this or that or Iíve discovered this thing, but the one thing all the way through that Iíve always fallen back on has been hard rock. Whatever music I was in to at the time, wherever I was in my life Iíd still go back and spend whole days listening to nothing but Kiss. I mean all that stuff is just fashions and tags and things are so that people can feel wanted or feel part of something...

They can also be good signposts when youíre talking about music though, I mean you wouldnít want people to get the idea that youíre just another Motorhead or Saxon type hard rock band, thereís other elements to what you do isnít there, youíve got some real pop rock in there and...

Well yeah, that true but on the other hand over the years Iíve actually just come to be thankful to whoever is in to us. I mean you can say this is the right tour for us and you can say that weíre one of those newer bands who have reverence for the old school hard rock bands but you know in other places, especially at home in Canada they just thing weíre like some radio rock band...

Well you are quite radio friendly at times, extremely so with songs like Take Me Home on this new album

D: Yeah, I guess so, but we also have tracks on our albums that none of those people get to hear and we really wear our record collections and our influences on our sleeves on some of those album tracks, more so than maybe with some of the singles we release. I suspect that casual music listeners donít really have any real idea where weíre coming from, the new record for example, there was one guy really moaning about the song City Streets and saying this and that about it being so slow and such and Iím thinking, hey thatís my favourite song on the record! That song just wears our Lizzy influence so much, Iím so pleased that it feels so Lizzy, he hated it, where as some older people who are really familiar with (Thin) Lizzy are saying things like wow, I canít believe you did that song, that is so Lizzy man... Some people love it, some people really get it, it really is all down to the way people listening and where theyíve come from themselves. But weíre not making music thatís just for the radio you know and anyway on most classic old hard rock records thereís always that ballad or the slow song, far more than a hard rock band would put on a record these days. If you go back and listen to some of those old hard rock records, jezzz man, there like three of four songs in a row that are really slow and ballads and such, I mean if a band like Lizzy did some of the things they did in the 70ís today theyíd never get called a hard rock band, theyíd be seen as some sort of soft radio rock band! 

Well yes Thin Lizzyís early to mid 70ís albums would be the classic example... Fighting or Bad Reputation and such

Exactly...

Iíd argue that Thin Lizzy were one of the most influential rock bands there has ever been, they donít really get the credit they should... 

Probably on England, on English bands, probably not on American bands though, I think weíre starting to catch on in bigger numbers now, people are finding them again

Iíd argue those guys in Oasis owe Thin Lizzy a lot...

I canít stand that band! Iím not a big Oasis fan...

Canít you hear it in there?

Never really listened enough to that shit to hear it, I just donít listen to them, I canít stand them, I turn the radio off if they come on, I know what their damn awful voices sound like and when I hear it on the radio I just have to turn off! Man I hate that band! I was working in a record store when that album with Wonderwall came out everyone kept playing it all the time and oh god, I hate them!

OK, thatís understandable, it was nauseating when they were being rammed down throats here in the mid 90ís, hard not to hate them here then, and they are full of shit. I can see why working in a record shop through that would get to you. Point I was making though is that you can hear that influence Thin Lizzy had on all kinds of rock over here...

No! Stop it! I heard enough in that record store, I donít even want to think about it, shut up about Oasis sounding anything like Lizzy, I love Lizzy, donít put that idea in my head....

So when you worked in that store was that when the band was starting out, weíre you pulling it together then? 

Thinking about it, yeah.. Thinking and starting to play and such yeah...

So when you were in that store back in Canada being tortured by Lizzy influenced guitar of that 70's sounding hard rock band Oasis did you even dream that one day youíd be on the other side of the world playing one of the legendary rock venues?

Oh god no! No...! Me and J.C, our biggest goal was to get over the border out of Canada and play some gigs in the U.S, maybe do a little tour there or maybe put out a single on a label like In The Red or Crypt. I remember one of my big ambitions was to actually meet the guys from Rocket From The Crypt and that was pretty much it...

And was there a moment when you though hey this is happening?

Well no not really, it just slowly built up, I mean weíre not a media creation, weíve never had any hype to it or anything, we donít get affected by the whole downloading thing because we never went gold or platinum, we did it the hard way, the old fashioned way...

Did you at one point declare you didnít ever want to record, you just wanted to be a road band?

Yeah, we did, we were just doing things like that and being pricks in the early days, but it kind of worked in our favour because people kind of pricked up their ears to some of the things we were saying back then and as dickish as that sounds it did get us attention. And we did put our money where our mouths were, we toured and didnít put anything out for the first two years...

 Were you playing lots of gigs back then?

We were! We did a whole tour of Canada without having any record out and thatís one of the toughest tours a band can do. Thatís a tour circuit that just breaks up bands - the road journeys are so long, I mean it is the second biggest country in the world, I mean in England youíre at the next gig in about three hours - thereís one twenty hour drive in Canada where thereís nowhere to stop to play a gig even if you wanted to, thereís just nothing, thatís really tough touring and we did that without any release that would tell people who we were and such...

A lot of people would look back on something like that and think it was tough but it was great, wish it was still like that...

I hated it! I fucking hated it! We did tours with no records, no merch no nothing, we just had this crazy idea of taking the music out there

But it must have worked, it must have paid off? Did you see it working?

I guess we did, when we put out the first EP, not the very first 7Ē but the first six track EP, our second ever release, the build up and the word of mouth had built up so much that yes it did work, just word of mouth and such and radio stations started adding us to playlists and giving us, a little band on a little label with n opromotional budget or anything, priority over major bands on major labels, and that really got others asking who we were and checking us out, so it did work I guess? 

Do people follow bands around Canada then?

No! It just isnít possible, I see people doing it here on this tour, but thatís not something weíve ever seen at home. Actually we donít tour Canada too much now just because of the time and distance involved, if we do play now then we fly, weíre donít bother touring Canada unless it happens to be something really good. Last time we did it it was an across Canada tour with Nickleback Ė I mean touring with them in Canada, theyíre huge there so it was a great tour to be on. We played every big hockey arena, for us being from Canada thatís a really big deal, hockey is our national sport so it was kind of cool to be in the dressing rooms and halls of these places. But hey, weíre not a media creation, were werenít born in some management company board room, I say that because paying your dues isnít something a lot of bands do these days - youíre in one day and out the next, labels donít really give bands enough of a chance to grow now.  I donít think weíre going to see labels that will stick with an artist and develop them like we have had. Labels sticking with bands through thick and thin, the days of people making three albums before they blossom are gone, youíre never going to see a Neil Young or a Tom Waits or artists that have a body of works that has developed or a back catalogue that organically forms like a track of a personís life as opposed to hey, we got a new band here, they got some singles, just get them to write some filler and the debut album will be massive and then theyíre gone again Ė thatís all weíre really going to get now, instant bands rather than developing a great back catalogue album after album... 

 Are you feeling youíre still getting away with doing it that way then? Is the industry youíre part of allowing that? I mean you are definitely an album band...

Yeah weíre an album band...

 And a word of mouth band as well?

    Yeah, weíve got singles and yeah we get played on the radio, but I donít take part in that, I donít deliberately try to write singles and I donít choose what the singles will be. We just write an album and deliver it and let the label choose - I never pick the singles, I never think about it like that, I mean the three of us make albums, we make records, it really is for someone else to decide what to pull off that album for a single. If you were to ask me then Iíd probably pick the wrong one, I really donít know, I canít distinguish between which one is radio friendly and which isnít, thatís not how we write, it might just happen that we write something thatís radio friendly or has a hook, but we didnít set out to, I donít think I could write like that...

Donít you get an idea of what's going to be radio friendly from your radio work yourself?

Oh that came after the fact, even though Iíve been doing it for an age now, the radio stuff I do came well after the band. This month will be five years since I started doing it but I havenít really done anything since the summer and since we kicked in with this tour.

Do you want to tell us about it? 

Well we have a show called the Magical World Of Rock and we have a website with the same name and I play pretty much anything thatís on my i-pod, Iím not a DJ playing of a radio station playlist and such...

Would what you choose to play on the show surprise people? 

Um... yeah I guess is would... well if you donít really know me it would, if you only know the bandís music then maybe? 

Iíd say it definitely is surprising what you find being played on your shows...

I guess so but I donít really have your perspective, or that of any listeners. It mostly is just the music that I love - the only real rule I have is that I only play music that has guitars in it, not to say that guitar music is the only kind of music I listen to. If you were to really go through my i-pod youíd find jazz and hip-hop and soul, but I donít play that on the radio show because Iíve already put that limit on my self, the showís tittle is the pigeonhole, it is the magic world of rock and I stick to that and play metal and classic rock and some punk and anything that falls between those cracks Ė hardcore and crossover stuff and such... we do theme based shows, but it does take up so much time. Iíd be coming off stage and other bands would be playing and people would be partying and Iíd be on my computer in the corner of the dressing room thinking about the next radio show and doing research and such... I kind of stopped doing those themed shows now, they want me to do more but it took up so much time, now I just play what I want Ė bit of Lizzy, bit of Ratt or Black Flag or Mastodon, or Aerosmith or Satyricon or whatever....

Oh yes thereís a lot of planing and thought that goes in to putting a radio show together, it isnít just about throwing a bunch of records in a bag... So what about your spoken word stuff, is that still an ongoing thing for you? 

Well yeah, I did that in 2004, and um... we did the tour and the record got released and yeah I want to do more of that. What happened was I did that one tour and we recorded some of the first shows and put the record out and what we should have done is waited. By the end of the tour things were flowing so much more, far more spontaneous, by the end the three week tour I was really in to it, nothing could phase me - cell phones going off, someone yelling at me. The first week of that tour which ended up where the record came from, I was on tightrope there during that first week.  You live and learn, been four years now, Iíd like to do more but I really donít know when 

The band is taking up all the time again now?

Yeah, we need to tour lots more with this record and I just want to stay here and tour, I just want to stay in Europe and tour and tour... not ready to go home and think about radio shows or spoken word or anything else yet, just let me get out on the road... 

Are you a bigger band in Europe, mainland Europe especially, than you are back home in Canada? 

Yeah, yes we definitely are, much bigger, weíve done like twenty or so big tours, mostly mainland Europe, some over here in England...

I mean a lot of people seem to think youíre one of those Swedish band...

Yeah, thatís because of the label weíre on and the management we have and the bands weíve toured with here, Sahara Hotknives, Backyard Babes, weíve toured with the Hives here, The Helicopters, weíve toured with the Noise Conspiracy so yeah, I can see why people would think that...

You seem to have lots of German fansites

Yeah, we do really well there, weíve played all the major festivals there, weíve toured there a lot, there arenít many towns we havenít played there over the seven or so years weíve been playing over here. Weíre going to be back here in England for more in March and April though, we need to follow up again in England after this Motorhead tour, we need to do more here...

Arenít you bursting with ideas for the next record now though if you say this one is a year old already, arenít we almost a year behind your life here?

Yeah, I guess you are, yeah, weíre ready to record again, weíll probably do that after we finish touring in April. The record is actually much older than just a year in terms of when we wrote it and such. Weíre also putting out a b-sides album in 2009, all the b-sides that you canít get hold of anymore and such Ė I donít think thereís any live stuff on there, Iím not a big fan of live songs people already have as b-sides, I want a whole new song there... When I buy a single from a band I donít want the flip side to be the same song as the last single but done live, I want a whole new song, I donít give a shit about hearing something Iíve already bought from you last time

So are youíre nota fan of live albums then?

No not a big fan, no...

But you do sound like a classic double live gatefold album type of band Ė Alive, Live And Dangerous, that kind of thing. I mean some bands best ever release was their classic double live gatefold sleeve look at all the pictures while you listen album, Thin Lizzy for instance, surely Live And Dangerous is their best ever release? 

Most people say that, I donít...

Thatís the musician and songwriter in you

Well, you know, I just want to hear songs, I like the studio version, the one they put everything in to and thought they had perfected rather than just the live version, or the supposed live version, most live albums are full of studio overdubs and such anyway...

But arenít your songs better once youíve had them out on the road for a year and theyíve become part of you? 

Arguably yeah but... maybe? More lived with... but no, I like those recordings when they were new and fresh, thatís when you get them at their best... 

Have you never just rolled tape at a gig and them listened back and though, hey we caught a special moment there? 

Yes I guess we have.... but we have something like 28 b-side songs that never made the albums, I donít think weíll make the proper follow up to Never To Loud until 2010, we still got work to do touring this one and such, maybe one day there will be a live album, who knows, more interested in new songs and hitting the road

And with that, the call of the soundcheck and the code of the road once more...
 

The new Danko Jones album Never Too Loud is out in the UK on Bad Taste on January 12th 2009, the album is probably their cleanest cut old school hard rock album yet. Girls, music, the road and that's pretty much it as far as the album goes, sometimes that's all you want from a rock band isn't it..? 

www.dankojones.com
www.myspace.com/dankojones
www.themagicalworldofrock.com

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