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...
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...
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...
do you want to start by telling us whatís happening then?
happening in general you mean?
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?
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...
never really stop do you?
with this one, things are kind of dictated by Motorhead
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?
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....
now youíre just kicking in to the promotion of the new album then?
kind of, it feels a little old to us already
it isnít out until January 2009?
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...
how have the UK dates been going? Most people wonít know the material here,
you donít get that much media exposure and stuff?
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...
Motorhead are one of those band that donít fit anywhere, Motorhead are
just Motorhead, a loud fast rock band...
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....
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...
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...
Wales, Scotland and Ireland Danko.... I suppose these bands are part of
the reason you started playing in the first place?
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...
moment of revelation?
no, but it was the moment when I realised who they were and really got
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...
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...
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...
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
you are quite radio friendly at times, extremely so with songs like Take
Me Home on this new album
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!
yes Thin Lizzyís early to mid 70ís albums would be the classic example...
Fighting or Bad Reputation and such
argue that Thin Lizzy were one of the most influential rock bands there
has ever been, they donít really get the credit they should...
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
argue those guys in Oasis owe Thin Lizzy a lot...
stand that band! Iím not a big Oasis fan...
you hear it in there?
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!
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...
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....
when you worked in that store was that when the band was starting out,
weíre you pulling it together then?
about it, yeah.. Thinking and starting to play and such yeah...
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
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...
was there a moment when you though hey this is happening?
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...
you at one point declare you didnít ever want to record, you just wanted
to be a road band?
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
you playing lots of gigs back then?
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...
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...
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
it must have worked, it must have paid off? Did you see it working?
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?
people follow bands around Canada then?
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...
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
weíre an album band...
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...
you get an idea of what's going to be radio friendly from your radio work
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.
you want to tell us about it?
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...
what you choose to play on the show surprise people?
yeah I guess is would... well if you donít really know me it would, if
you only know the bandís music then maybe?
say it definitely is surprising what you find being played on your shows...
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....
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
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
band is taking up all the time again now?
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...
you a bigger band in Europe, mainland Europe especially, than you are back
home in Canada?
yes we definitely are, much bigger, weíve done like twenty or so big tours,
mostly mainland Europe, some over here in England...
mean a lot of people seem to think youíre one of those Swedish band...
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...
seem to have lots of German fansites
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...
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?
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
are youíre nota fan of live albums then?
not a big fan, no...
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?
people say that, I donít...
the musician and songwriter in you
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...
arenít your songs better once youíve had them out on the road for a year
and theyíve become part of you?
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...
you never just rolled tape at a gig and them listened back and though,
hey we caught a special moment there?
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
with that, the call of the soundcheck and the code of the road once more...