The Darkness

Designer Magazine first hooked up with the Darkness last October at Manchester Hop & Grape, now renamed the Academy 3. This came at a time when the music press was universally ignoring the band and to be honest neither us or the band could have foreseen what was about to happen. "Permission To Land" stayed at number 1 for weeks, they virtually became CD:UK's house band and with Xmas single "Don't Let The Bells End" being tipped for Number 1 it seems nothing can get in the bands way. After speaking to frontman Justin Hawkins last year, we decided to speak to guitar axeman and sibling Dan Hawkins about this tremendous journey.

Q: Last time we spoke was shortly after the Manchester University date at which you played to roughly 40 people. That was the last headline date you did in the city before the Apollo. How does it feel to be taking such a huge leap so quickly?
A: As far as the live shows go were not leap frogging all the smaller venues. I mean the Apollo, it is a big venue but it is still a lot smaller than what we could be playing right now. We would have bypassed these kind of shows and gone straight to the Arena shows, but we didn't want to. Although it is a very fast progression, it is a very natural one.

Q: For most bands though even a leap on this scale would be incredible. It doesn't normally happen this quickly.
A: Yeah, but you know we've put a lot of groundwork in. There's a lot of people out there who have seen us once somewhere in a pub or heard our songs late night on radio and so on and so forth. We've done four years of it before we'd even released a single on a record company. It's put us in good stead and that's why were ready for all this stuff.

Q: When I saw you last year you were one of those bands that either had massive potential or cult potential. Are you still very aware of how it could have gone the other way?
A: I think in a strange kind of way I know were really popular and probably the biggest band in the country at the moment, but at the same time there is this real cult thing going on. The people that actually get us really love us because they get us and because the people that don't get us hate us so much. There's always gonna be that love em or hate em although it seems to be a much larger percentage who love us now.

Q: You took an unusual route of supporting Def Leppard and Deep Purple and then of course they're were the Knebworth gigs where you blew Robbie offstage. Most bands would have been too cool to do these gigs wouldn't they?
A: Well within 3 weeks of playing with Robbie we supported Metallica in Dublin to 45,000 people and both gigs went off as nuts as each others. The kids and the oldies at the Robbie gig were getting into it and boogieing on down and going "Oh, look at these young men rocking" and then we go to Dublin and play with Metallica and everyone just goes absolutely mental. There's not many bands that have ever been able to do that sort of thing. Were not a niche band at all.

Q: You've always been very clear about what you wanted. For example, you'll never ever speak to the NME and you feel that In The City is trying to take undue credit for your success.
A: I don't have a problem with them saying we won In The City last year. I have a problem with the way they run it, but i'll be running that thing one day or doing my own one as soon as I time. I mean that as well. ITC has become so ridiculously money orientated that it's just like a record company showcase because they've got all the media in one place. It's not even about the unsigned bands anymore, it's just a utter f**king waste of time and I can't wait to start something up myself that is actually about giving unsigned bands the exposure they deserve, especially when they travel so far to play the smallest gig they've ever played in their lives.

We're real people and we're a band that's been playing on the scene for a long time. We've made a lot of friends and one enemy we've always had was the NME. They've always basically slated us and they've basically never ever written about the music. They've just said that we should be hung for crimes against music and while never once describing about what were actually about. Suddenly they put us on the front cover of the NME to sell more magazines because they're a really awful magazine, but as soon as were done with us and were off the scene they'll start slagging us off again. One thing we can say is that we've never spoken to them ever.

Q: The Darkness' quest was always to make rock music fashionable again. The ultimate in that is that the Smash Hits and TOTP's award have been cancelled because there's no pop acts that can compete with you guys.
A: Blimey. Were not on a mission to do anything like that. Were on a mission to play the music that we love and have as good a time personally as we can. At the same time playing to as many people as we can. The bigger we get I think the more it's changing things which is great, but we didn't set out to do that. We just wanted to be as big as we possibly could be.

Q: There were cult bands like Turbonegro, but they were always destined to be cult bands. As fans of music yourselves, did you feel that there was nothing before you guys that could entertain on a large scale.
A: It's difficult with those sort of bands. It's all about the songs really and were really big on songwriting and getting the best arrangements for songs that we can and so on and so forth. And once you've got the songs you can do whatever you want. The stage show can be really outrageous because the songs good. You can prance around like an idiot and headbang as much as you like because the song is good. There are lots of bands around that are really into the rocking side of it, they look great and are obviously enjoying themselves, but they haven't got the songs.

Q: I read in an interview recently that you're not going to stop until you get a Number 1 single and Number 1 album in America.
A: That would be ideal. It's actually my next ambition in a way. We've had a number 1 album in the UK and that was a really big thing for me. So now all we've got to do is do it in America and that will have the domino effect of doing it across the rest of the world.

The whole reason were working so hard and why we have high ambitions for this album is because it's an introduction. We really want this album to be as big as it possibly can be so the next album people will know who we are and we won't have to spend every spare second of every single day working our arses off on it. That light at the end of the tunnel of a couple weeks off at the year after next would be awesome.

Next year were going to be doing one of the biggest arena tours of the last 15 or 20 years, the next album is going to be released and we'll enter the classic albums territory rather than being this phenomena. And one of the ways you got about that is by becoming internationally massive.

Q: If we could just finish off with the Xmas single "Don't Let The Bells End". You do realize it will be the first decent Xmas single since I was born and since many of your fans were born.
A: I just cannot wait for people to hear. I'm really proud of it actually. It's one of those things that has grown into a monster and when it's finally finished we'll be like oh my god, what have we done. We'll be playing it every year for the next 20 or 30 years. But what I like about it is the fact it's quite a sad reflective song, it's got everything that a Christmas song should have...and it rocks!!!

Words: Alex McCann
Photo: Karen McBride

"Don't Let The Bells End / Friday Night" is released on December 15th
The band play a sold out tour throughout December
For more info

Post your Darkness reviews / comments on the Message Board