Dark Days Are Over: LnL Chats To The Darkness.


LoudNLocal recently caught up with Darkness guitarist Dan Hawkins ahead of the release of their hugely anticipated third album later this year.

For a dude who made his name pounding guitar strings in one of the more over-the-top bands of the last decade, Dan Hawkins is stupidly, almost disappointingly normal. Delightful even.

I had been considering slaughtering a six pack pre-interview just to get into the mood, but as soon as Hawkins begins to talk any allusion of having to fight my way through a thick drug/booze haze into his brain vanishes quicker than you can say ‘cock rock’.

“I’ve been staring out the window at the rain falling” says Hawkins. “It’s really miserable”.

So there is the scoop. No illicit substances. Just reliably shit British weather.

While the meteorological outlook may have been a bit crap, the same cannot be said for Hawkins’ ‘new band’. The Darkness are in the midst of a pretty remarkable comeback, releasing their first new material in six years, headlining Download Festival in the UK, and returning to Australia for a series of very well received shows.

“It’s been good” Hawkins tells me. “We’ve been at it for a bit over a year. It’s great to be taking the band out on the road again.”

At the height of their powers in the mid 2000s, The Darkness were a fierce proposition. Their debut album Permission To Land was a smash, spawning heavily rotated hits such as ‘Growing On Me’, ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ and ‘Love Is Only A Feeling’.

All of sudden, glam rock was back and I wanted to grow my hair long and air guitar the fuck out of every dance floor I came across. And for the time between Permission To Land and follow up One Way Ticket To Hell…And Back The Darkness were strong contenders for the unanswerable ‘biggest band in the world’ conundrum.

But during the recording of the sophomore record things began to go a little awry. Bassist Frankie Poullain exited (through a recording studio window if one version of events is to be believed). The album didn’t reach the heights of their debut, although it did sell well, and tickets sales for their subsequent tour were sluggish.

“We were just drinking and taking too much” explains Dan. “Going without sleep for weeks on end. You could probably say we were just having an amazing time, but when you do it like we did, you start to lose it a bit”.

Then in 2006 Dan’s brother and frontman Justin was admitted into a rehab clinic and The Darkness appeared to be dead. However, in the ensuing years all members of the band released music under different names. Dan, along with Richie Edwards, Toby MacFarlaine and Ed Graham formed Stone Gods. Following his recuperative stint, Justin began to play again with Hot Leg. Neither of these bands could ever match the success of the Darkness.

When Hot Leg and Stone Gods both announced they were going on hiatus, rumours of a Darkness reunion began to circulate. In 2011, this was confirmed, with all original members reuniting. In 2012 came new music and an Australian tour.

And just like that, The Darkness were back.

“Well, we have been at it, writing and recording, for a bit over a year now” Hawkins tells me over the phone from his house in the UK.

“It’s all been pretty familiar, to tell you the truth. No one’s really changed.”

While that might be true, they have been through an awful lot in the past few years, including a reasonably public falling out between brothers Justin and Dan. But when Dan joined Hot Leg on stage for a rendition of I Believe In A Thing Called Love, The Darkness was back on the agenda.

Justin got himself healthy and Dan started a family.

“He (Justin) is possibly one of the fittest men on the planet. On a Sunday he will play two competitive football matches back to back, and then go to them. It sounds like I’m exaggerating but I’m not” says Dan.

“It’s great to see him back on top form. It took him a few gigs to find his feet again. For us to do our best thing live, everyone has to put their arse on the line.”

But did they survive the writing and recording process?

“We (Justin and I) have been writing songs together since we were kids. And it’s just like, if you spend enough time together, it starts to just happen, and it takes off from there.”

“We argued, but we always argued. It’s good to have those kinds of discussions. We were all fighting for things, and I think in the end that’s really helped us make this record”.

What is becoming much clearer is that the hard partying ways of the old days seem to be behind them. And this is never more obvious than when our interview is interrupted by Dan’s one year entering the room and almost self combusting with laughter.

Dan has his hands full, not just with his young family, but also his Leeder Farms recording studios in the UK. Music production is something that Dan says he has always been ‘obsessed’ with, even converting the old backyard dunny into a makeshift studio.

“It’s something I’ve been obsessed with since I was young.  We had one of those outside toilets, and me and my dad converted that into a studio when I was 13 years old. It wasn’t very high tech. But it’s something that I’ve been intrigued with all my life.”

This obsession has translated into a hands on role in the production of the new Darkness material, with both Dan and Justin playing key roles.

“Very much so. The album is primarily produced by myself. My brother got involved in the production of a few tracks as well. We worked in a few different studios including his studio and mine.”

But did this lead to any old school classic Darkness tension or tantrums? Not really, Dan explained. If anything, it enhanced the writing and recording process for everyone involved.

“Yeah definitely. It’s difficult for a band to do that and remain objective, which is why some bands struggle to do that.”

“You are in the band when you’re writing, you’re in the band when you’re rehearsing, and arranging, you’re in the band when you are mixing and mastering.”

“It’s very much self-produced. And it’s all very much been a band effort this time.”

As for the material itself, anyone who has the new tracks Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us, Every Inch Of You or latest single Everybody Have A Good Time will be aware that not a whole lot has changed in terms of the bands epic glam rock sound. On Good Time, Justin channels Freddie Mercury in such a way that the song wouldn’t sound out of place in between Don’t Stop Me Now and Bohemian Rhapsody.

As for the rest of the material, we will have to wait until August to hear it when The Darkness release Hot Cakes, their third album. And although they have just toured Australia, hopefully it won’t be too long before we see them down here again.


Everybody Have A Good Time is now available on iTunes. Hot Cakes will be released later this year.