If you don't like the Darkness, then you don't really like rock'n'roll. Or you're just a miserable, joyless bastard. Either way, I don't want to be your friend. Here's our extended Q&A with guitarist Dan Hawkins, in which he discusses his reconciliation with his brother Justin and the rest of the band, touring sober, the differing (or not) perceptions of the Darkness on the opposing sides of the Atlantic, and getting attacked by a Thin Lizzy-loving rat.
WW: What led to the band getting back together?
Dan Hawkins: Well, my brother and I had a really big falling out. Things had gotten ridiculous, really. I think we really needed a break, more than anything else. We just bit off more than we could chew, in every sense of the word. Instead of burning the candle from both ends, we sort of took a fucking torch to it. So I had a big falling out with my brother, and we went off and did our own separate stuff. Then he showed up at a gig I was doing with my band Stone Gods, and I though that was pretty amicable. It was like extending a hand in friendship. So I went to see his band, Hot Leg, and then the next thing was, it got around Christmastime, and we were getting on a bit better. I think a lot of it has to do with the birth of my first child as well. It was like, "C'mon, what are we doing here? Family is more important than anything." It just sort of developed from there, really. We didn't really plan on doing the Darkness again necessarily, because we were both in other bands, but then we realized that's what we wanted to do more than anything else. It's like coming home, really. There's something great about getting back to just playing two or three chords and having a riot. We're all blessed to be in a band where it's a necessity not to take yourself too seriously. It's a bit dull being in a serious band.
What have you learned about what you need to do to keep the band together this time?
Not get hammered every night. [Laughs] We're sober on tour now, and it's a whole new experience. That's one of the main things. You get lost in your own little world, and touring becomes the challenge of getting over the night before. When you take that out of the equation, everyone's a lot happier to see each other each day, and people communicate a lot more, and it becomes more about the fun side of playing music rather than the challenge of getting over a hangover.
It seemed like America never really understood the Darkness the way Britain did.
I don't necessarily agree with that. In the U.K., we were going for fucking years before anyone would take us seriously enough to allow us to release a single or anything, for that exact reason. People couldn't work out where the fuck we were coming from. We had a rough struggle in the U.K. It was just through hard work and touring [that the Darkness became popular]. Obviously there's a lot of luck involved, but I think it's a matter of getting out there and touring and showing people it's not just a gimmick, we are a proper rock'n'roll band.
So you don't think the Darkness is perceived differently in America than in the U.K.?
If anything, I've found that in America, at the shows, people just take it for what it is. There's more rock'n'roll heritage, in a way, in America. We're coming from the angle of Aerosmith and KISS and putting on a fucking great show, [and there's more of that in America] than there is in the U.K. So the reference points for us are a little more ingrained [in the U.S.]. In the U.K., there are things coming in and out all the time, and it's very fashion-based. There is a hard rock audience there, but not to the extent that there is in America. I feel quite at home here, y'know? People can actually let go and have a good time here whereas sometimes in the U.K., there's a too cool for school kind of thing. And in many ways we're possibly the most uncool band that's ever existed. We're our own worst enemy sometimes. With our videos, it could've been so much easier to just throw on an old band T-shirt and jeans and try to have a cool haircut, but no, we're showering ourselves in glitter and running around like idiots and building spaceships and shit. We could've done ourselves a favor. I must add, though, a lot of the things we do, we really like. Some people, if they say, "Oh god, that's like Flash Gordon," for us, that means it's cool.
Looking back, what are your feelings about One Way Ticket?
It's a miracle that album even got made. We were splitting up during it, really. It was only for [producer] Roy Thomas Baker's perseverance that we actually ended up with an album. I'm proud of it for the fact it even exists. It exists as it's own entity. When I think about that record, for better or worse, I think about the sound of it. It has such a particular sound, which some people don't actually like, but I'm quite proud of it. There are great songs on there, too, like "Hazel Eyes"; "Is It Just Me" has a great riff; and "One Way Ticket" is up there with the best-received songs when we play it live. Over time, people have grown to really like it.
On One Way Ticket, Justin's lyrics got slightly more sincere. Will that sincerity carry over to the next album?
That's a tricky one, really. There are some really heartfelt songs on this record, but there's also some ridiculous stuff, and probably a return to the stupidly rocking kind of stuff. [Laughs] I definitely think the songs on this next album, if you weigh them up, they're the best songs on an album we've written. But we've been careful not to to avoid that trap of trying to write the best song ever written every time. We can't forget that a lot of what we do is fiddle around with [simple] riffs and tunes about good times.
Calling your comeback single "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us" is quite a heavy declaration.
That song is relevant to us because it's the first song we ever did, way back in the day. That's the first thing we demoed, and the first thing I heard Justin sing on, way back in the day. I remember I was on a session at the time, and he phoned me up and said, "I've done it! I've done it! I put the vocal on, and I think I like it." Up to that point, I'd never heard him sing properly. And I heard it back and went, "Fuck yes! This is actually going to work, I think." So that was the first thing we pulled out and worked on when we got back with the guys. What better place to start than the very beginning?
What's your Thin Lizzy T-shirt collection up to now?
It's diminished over the years. Originally, I started out with one and wore the same T-shirt for about two years. Then we made some money, and there was a budget to get clothes for the stage. At that point, it was like, "Well, I can either get fancy clothes made, or get about 50 Thin Lizzy shirts made," which is what I did. I've given them away or lost some along the way. Others just got worn out. But I was rummaging through my shed before we went out on our U.K. tour, and I found a big suitcase of them. I was rummaging around and saw the one I always used to wear. I went, "Fuck yeah! I found it! This is the one I want to wear!" And I pulled it out, and a fucking rat jumped out and tried to bite me. This rat had been living in my suitcase of Thin Lizzy T-shirts, probably for years. Obviously, I got them dry cleaned, and now I'm wearing them on tour. But you know how you can buy shirts that look like they've been chewed up by rats? Well, mine actually has. I'd advise against it if someone wanted to get the same look, though. We don't want to start the plague again.