Canadian trio Danko Jones have enjoyed the best part of fifteen years together as a musical act thanks to their honest take on hard rock. With the band’s fifth studio album, ‘Below the Belt’ hitting Australian record stores this month, the group’s front man and namesake, Danko Jones caught up with Killyourstereo to discuss the current music scene, touring with rock royalty, and some notable guests appearances on the band’s new video clip.
G’day mate, just to get things started could you please state your name, role in the band, and your favourite concert you have ever been to?
My name is Danko Jones and I sing and play guitar. My favourite concert I’ve ever been to is a toss up between – Metallica, Rocket From The Crypt, Suicidal Tendencies, The Melvins, Motorhead and probably about 10 other bands.
You guys are currently touring Europe and Scandinavia at the moment. How are things currently going with the band?
Scandinavia is in Europe. We are in London, England today and things are well.
I guess the obvious thing to get out of the way firstly, is the new album – Below the Belt. It has been in stores overseas for the best part of two months now and is due out in Australia shortly. How has the reaction been so far?
So far, the reaction to ‘Below the Belt’ has been super positive. It was awkward for a while because all the reviews coming in were very good and that is something we’re not used to. I’m glad people are digging the album so much.
And, are the new songs being received well so far on tour?
After you release a record there’s a waiting period of about 1 or 2 months when the new songs start getting a big response back and we’re noticing it now. People are familiar with the songs, know the choruses and are singing the lyrics back to us, which always feels great.
The band as a collective has made no secret that your musical philosophy revolves around a ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ principle a la AC/DC, Black Sabbath etc. Do feel it is a strength come recording time knowing the type of sound you want instead of trying to experiment with untried styles?
Black Sabbath did try to fix it actually, if you look back at their history, and often with disastrous results. We follow the example set by bands like AC/DC, The Ramones, Motorhead and Slayer. They’re sticking to their story because the story is so good. I find it terribly arrogant on a band’s part when they think they are so faultless and assume their audience will follow them blindly through any kind of experimenting they wish to conduct. We will never drag the people who like us through an electronica phase or a rap phase. It will always be Hard Rock.
What is the Canadian music scene like in terms of finding success as a hard rock band? Is it fickle and very mainstream oriented or is there are firm place for heavier music?
Hard Rock and Heavy Metal music, aside from Rush, are much- maligned genres in Canada. No one likes it representing Canada so it gets hardly any critical attention other than genre specific music media. Anvil are a great example of a band forgotten but now displayed because they’ve received some acceptance abroad and from semi- prestigious sources. It’s posturing at its highest. If Anvil never made their movie, the Canadian music industry would have gone on ignoring them.
The video clip for new song ‘Full of Regret’ features some notable guest appearances from the likes of Lemmy (Motorhead) and Mike Watt to Hollywood stars like Elijah Wood and Selma Blair. How much interaction did you guys have with them on the set, and if so what was it like working with them?
Well we’ve been on tour with Motorhead before and we’ve also played numerous one off shows with them over the years. Lemmy is a great friend to the band. Elijah Wood was a friend of the directors and Selma was a friend of the producers. Mike Watt and I have been friends for a few years now and it just took an email to get him in the video. All of the guests were great to have on set and they were totally professional. In fact, Elijah stayed on for both days of the shoot.
Furthermore, have you found there to be more interest from mainstream music networks wanting to play the video because of the aforementioned appearances?
Definitely. MTV in America was the first to add the video to rotation.
You are approaching fifteen years together as a band. Does it get any easier being in a band the longer you get into your career or is there still trials and tribulations to be had?
If you’re around for 15 years as a band, there are most definitely trials and tribulations. We’ve been through four drummers and are on our 5th one in Dan Cornelius. He has been with us for 4 years now. JC and I have been in this band since day one. There are things that get easier and things that get harder. We’ve been doing it a long time so we know how to get through long tours on the road better than we did when we were starting out.
I know it is a loaded question and one that is hard to answer briefly, but do you think the music business is better now (in terms of surviving as a rock band) as opposed to what it was like when you first started. It seems depending on whom you speak to, some musicians are cynical about the music ‘business’ while others are positive. Do you have strong feelings/opinions either way?
Well, record labels are slowly going out of business, as are record stores. On the other hand, there is a great presence online with music through iTunes, file sharing, MySpace, Facebook etc. The industry isn’t dying it’s just transforming and we all have to get through the transition. The one thing that hasn’t changed through all this is the live show. You can’t download it and, unless you’re on the guest list because you know someone, you have to pay to get in.
Danko Jones as a band has toured with some big musical groups over your career. Any in particular that stand out and if so for what reasons?
The Backyard Babies took us out in 2001 for almost 2 months across Europe and it was one of the most memorable tours I’ve ever been on. It made us friends for life with those guys. Touring with Motorhead in 2008 was a dream and I felt like a kid in a candy store on that tour, especially getting up and singing ‘Killed by Death’ almost every other night with the band. Recent touring with Guns N’ Roses across Canada and Europe, including Russia, was a definite high too.
What albums have you been digging lately?
Currently, I’m listening to Shining – ‘Black Jazz’, Troptykon – ‘Eparistera Daimones’, Nachtmystium – ‘Addicts Black Meddle Pt. 2’, High on Fire – ‘Snakes for the Divine’, Kingdom of Sorrow – ‘Behind the Blackest Tears’.
You are very fond and influenced by many older iconic rocks bands, in comparison however, are there any new, up and coming bands whose sound you fancy?
Broken Teeth from Austin, Texas, Doomriders from Boston, Massachusetts, Supagroup from New Orleans, Louisiana, Drunkhorse from Los Angeles, Valient Thorr from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Early Man from Brooklyn, New York, Imperial State Empire from Stockholm, Sweden and Biblical from Toronto, Canada.
Any plans to come to Australia on this tour/record cycle run – perhaps later this year/early next year?
We will always want to come to Australia. We went in 2004 but we haven’t been back. Every 6 months I ask if Australia is on the itinerary and it never is. What we need is for someone in Australia to want to bring us out there and we will come.
Any final words for the Killyourstereo readers?
Get us over to Australia so we can kick your asses with our Rock Songs!
Thanks for the interview Danko.