Danko Jones

"Being in a rock band it's not all fun"
on Thu, 05/04/2017 - 15:16
Danko Jones
Having the chance to talk with Mr. Danko Jones is an opportunity you can’t really miss. Especially, when you can meet him in person and chat about music in general, with topics including life on the road, underground music, the state of rock music in America and much more interesting stuff. Cause The Mango Kid - except from a great musician himself - is a big fan of music and has a unique way to speak his truth. So, here’s another great interview with him, conducted in Dresden, Germany, a few hours before he hit the stage and turned a Saturday night to a Friday night...
Danko Jones
Chris Karadimitris: Well, it’s the first time we’ll see you playing live and we’ve been promised the time of our lives, so that’s just what we expect from tonight’s show... (laughs)
Alright! (laughs)
CK: How do you secure that the audience gets just that?
We’re just gonna play our songs... (laughs). We’ll see what happens.
CK: The new album, "Wild Cat", was recently released. How is it going so far?
Everything’s been going pretty good. It’s been almost a month and so far the reviews are good, people seem to like it and even when we’re playing the new songs live people are really digging it, more so than any other album we’ve ever done live when we put it out. They’re singing the choruses and stuff...  It’s great.
CK: What was different this time around?
Nothing really different... that’s the thing about doing this record. We used the same producer and he works at the same studios and we didn’t change our lineup from album to album, so that’s pretty consistent from the last record. 

"It’s absolutely the most widely mixed album we’ve done in the past five-six albums"

Kostas Polyzos: Well, I don’t think it has the same variety with the previous one...
I disagree, but that’s your opinion. There’s a song that’s heavily influenced by Van Halen, there’s a song that’s heavily influenced by Thin Lizzy (that we’ve never done) and there’s a couple of songs that sound like The Misfits. There’s  a song that’s kind of reminiscent of Hendrix that we’ve never done before and then there are songs that are going back to how we used to sound musical, so I think it’s absolutely the most widely mixed album we’ve done in the past five-six albums. But, it’s your opinion...
CK: Well, I also listen to some more "sophisticated" music, but when it comes to Danko Jones it’s the things you want to do on a Friday night, to go out, have nice time and stuff. Is this the essence of your music? To talk about these things that make us have a good time in our life?
I guess so. Not all the songs are about that. People seem to tend to focus on that and that’s fine. I really don’t mind. But, some of them are some of them aren’t, it just depends. I am not really trying to create a mood for Friday or Saturday night, going out or anything, although some of our songs are about that. It’s not really about creating a mood, it’s just writing songs, good or not. 
CK: Well, on "Fire Music" you were more about revenge, this time around with "Wild Cat" you’re more about having a good time I think. Does this have to do with how you are at a certain period?
Yeah, whatever we write at that moment is what the album is gonna be. That is very natural this way.  At the time that we were writing “Fire Music” we were coming out of our last drummer and that had been pretty tumultuous and pretty rocky. So, it’s just come and get all these emotions out. 
CK: You keep the power trio lineup on your live shows, but sometimes you have like double guitar melodies on your albums. You want to keep it lean and punk rock in that way?
No... We have the same instrumentation as Sabbath and Zeppelin. The same instrumentation as a lot of bands. 

"It’s just that I’m doing guitar and vocals at the same time, so people just look at it and say "oh they’re three people, so they must be one less"... But, really, it’s the same thing that Zeppelin and Sabbath had..."

CK: Of course! But there’s a Thin Lizzy song like you already mentioned, which could benefit from having a second guitar. Did you ever consider something like that for your live shows?
No. Not really. It’s not necessary. It can work for some bands, but for us I think it would muddy the sound. One of the things that we like is just the rawness of the sound. But once again Led Zeppelin had the same instrumentation. People don’t really think about that. They forget about Black Sabbath that had the same instrumentation and I can probably name ten other bands that had the same instrumentation that we do. It’s just that I’m doing guitar and vocals at the same time, so people just look at it and say “oh they’re three people, so they must be one less"... (laughs). But, really, by singing and playing guitar it’s the same thing that Zeppelin had, Sabbath had...

"I wanted to have a band as soon as possible. Asking two people was quicker than asking three."

KP: Was it from your very beginning that you saw yourself playing guitar and singing simultaneously. Or did it just come up like "I couldn’t find a singer, so I decided to sing"?
It wasn’t like that. I was gonna sing, right from the beginning. That’s just how it was. I just wanted to have a band as soon as possible. Asking two people was quicker than asking three. 
KP: I guess it’s also easier to get along...
Sometimes it’s harder! Because, when you’re intense you don’t have another person to go off. Bands that have eight members and two members don’t get along, they don’t have to deal with each other too much. But three piece, if one or two don’t get along, nobody gets along. It’s pretty intense that way...
KP: Last time we spoke we discussed about the curse of the drummers. So, have you solved this issue?
Yeah, Rich, he’s been in the band for four years. We’ve been around for twenty one years and we’ve had a drummer for five years, we’ve had a drummer for six years… that’s longer than bands have been around. You don’t see how they go through member changes cause they break up. We refuse to break up. So, people think they can see all the changes...
Danko Jones
CK: Is this kind of a curse in rock music, not being easy to have a steady band? There’s so much turbulence inside the bands. Why does this happen?
Because, being in a rock band it’s not all fun. You’re around each other all the time. People only see the show and the videos and the interviews or whatever, but there’s a lot of downtime and if you don’t like each other that gets amplified ten times. If you don’t like someone in your office at work, you get to go home and get away from him for twelve or fourteen hours a day. But not if you’re in a band touring. And touring is as much as we have. You see each other all day long and you sleep in the same room as them. If you’re in a bus you’re just sleeping at the other bunk. So, you’re always around each other. And if you don’t like each other that’s just gonna get amplified and multiplied and small things turn to huge things.
CK: And the way music industry goes, it pushes bands to tour more and more. Is this constant touring going to cause more problems to bands?
Not if they get along. People either get along or they don’t get along. Sometimes personalities just don’t mix. And if you go on tour with that mix or that kind of vibe once again it’s just gonna get multiplied.
KP: I believe the old fashioned way of the life of a rock start has ended. I had this discussion with a friend the other day...
Is he in a band?
KP: I don’t know...
Have they toured over a week? I’d love to hear their opinion. (laughs)

"We're never gonna play two and a half hours. I’m not Bruce Springstreen and I’m not Axl Rose"

KP: There was this new band, their members were twenty to twenty five years old, and they just played one hour and ten minutes. And we thought it was too little. We wanted at least ninety minutes or two hours. But, then, I saw their touring schedule and they were giving a show day by day by day. Having to travel 500-600 klm from city to city, from country to country. How is it possible to maintain a physical and a mental condition to perform at 100%?
I’m gonna disappoint you right now! (laughs). I’m gonna tell you we’re not going to play ninety minutes tonight. We’re gonna play around eighty to eighty five minutes... We’ve never played over ninety minutes. We always play from seventy five to eighty five minutes, whether it was our first or second year as a band or now. We’re never gonna play two and a half hours. I’ll tell you why too. I’m not Bruce Springsteen, I’m not Dave Chappelle and I’m not Axl Rose... (laughs). So, your friend will be mighty disappointed watching us...
KP: It’s not so much about time per se...
It was! You said! (laughs)
KP: Well, for him. It’s ok for me! If for 60 or 70 minutes my mind is blown away, why the fuck would I need to see one more hour for? So, my question was how you manage to keep your mind and body ready for each show when you’re constantly touring?
You wait for the whole day to play that time on stage and you let it out. I’m not going to visit sights in Dresden and spend my energy. I’m not gonna do all kinds of physical activities that’s gonna take away the energy from the show. I’m gonna save it for the show. So, that’s what I do. I don’t know... this is all I do. I can’t compare to anything else, the only thing I’ve ever done, really, is touring. 
CK: You’re an established name in rock music and the last few years it’s become kind of a trend for established names in this music to form supergroups with other well-known musicians. Have you considered something like that? Cause if I am not mistaken you’ve always been going the long, lone Danko Jones way so far...
Well, I have a side project with JC [editor: John Calabrese - bass player] and two guys from Circle. Actually, it came out last week. It’s called Iron Magazine and there are two guys from Circle. Circle are a band from Finland, they’ve been around for twenty five years, they’ve probably put out like twenty albums, thirty if you count live albums and 7inches. I started talking with Jussi from Circle two years ago, after I was asking around and I got his contact and we just went back and forth and we found out we really like each other and we have the same musical taste. He asked me to sing on these tracks that he had lining around from his other band Aktor with Chris Black. Chris Black is in Dawnbringer...
Danko Jones
KP: ...and in High Spirits
...he also used to be in Nachtmystium. So, Chris is in a band with Jussi called Aktor and he just didn’t sing on those tracks, so Jussi gave me those tracks and I sung on them and we formed a band called Iron Magazine. So, it’s Tomi and Jussi from Circle and me and JC. We put out a four song EP. We’ve got it here, it’s a 12inches, four song EP and we’re probably gonna put out an album next year.
KP: Where does it stand musically?
Jussi calls it happy metal. Every review I’ve read about it, they don’t know either... and I don’t know either. It’s like heavy rock with synthesizers... I’ll just say happy metal, cause that what Jussi call it. It is kind of happy sounding. It’s like pop meets heavy rock and heavy metal. It’s weird. Which is exactly why we started talking. Cause Jussi makes really weird, underground music and I really love whatever he’s done. So, when we started calling back and forth we found out that we really like each other...
CK: So, what music are you listening to lately? You do listen to a lot of stuff, but are you into most lately?
I listen to rock, but I listen to everything, it just depends on my mood. Lately, everyone is listening to King Gizzard, so it’s King Gizzard, Kamasi Washington, Hark, Ecstatic Vision is some of the stuff I’m listening to. I have to look at my iPhone cause there’s where I keep everything... So, my new albums I’m listening to on my iPhone are Kamasi Washington, Ecstatic Vision, Hark, King Gizzard, Kreator , His Name Is Alive, Childish Gambino...

"Metallica should have only made half an album. That would be an amazing record as opposed to be a good record"

KP: This one? [showing the "Hard Wired... To Self Destruct" t-shirt he’s wearing]
Yeah, that’s a good album... I got it! [editor: shows it on his iPhone]. But, they should have only made half an album. It has six great songs. The other ones are not that great. But, the six better on it are really-really good, like that should have just been the record. That would be an amazing record as opposed to be a good record. It would have been a fantastic record...
CK: Do some bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica tend to not know what to cut out of their music as they grow up? Iron Maiden put out a double album around 100 minutes and Metallica another long one...
I haven’t heard an Iron Maiden album since "Somewhere In Time"...

"Iron Maiden is up to "Somewhere In Time" for me..."

CK: [many laughs] That’s a long way back...
I tried to get into it. I bought a record a few years back, cause I read a review that was really good and then I gave it one listen and then I got rid of it. But, I mean, I love them all the way up to "Somewhere In Time", it’s amazing! And even "No Prayer For The Dying" had some good tracks on it and there were some good tracks on "Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son", but really it’s up to "Somewhere In Time" for me...
CK: So, how do you get along with Audrey Horne on this tour and what do you think of them?
Oh great! We asked them to tour with us for the last record, but they couldn’t cause Enslaved were on tour. So, we wanted them to tour with us for some time. So far, it’s been great.

"We can’t just show up in Greece and say "Hey, we're here! Where do we plug in?""

CK: Have you ever been close to coming to Greece for a show? Did you ever had a proposal or something?
Well, it’s not whether we’ve been close or not close to coming to Greece, it’s whether Greece wants us. So far, all these years we never had an offer. No one in Greece has wanted us. People don’t understand how this thing works. People think "You don’t like us. You’re not coming!". No! It’s the other way around. You don’t like us. Cause if someone said "Come!" we would be there. Just like the way every other country says "come". We can’t just show up in Greece and say "Hey, we’re here! Where do we plug in?" (laughs). No, we have to have someone who goes like "Let’s bring’ em here, let’s tell everyone about the show and have people show up".
CK: Well, what I’m saying is that’s a whole different story if someone made an offer and it didn’t work out and if no one ever contacted with you...
It’s not my jurisdiction. That would have been our booking agent. Maybe there has been someone from Greece and maybe it didn’t work out logistically. But, as far as I know, there’s never been an offer, a real offer or anything. 
CK: We wish we could help with that, but...
Actually, I think that’s changing... Now that I said all that. I can’t say anything, but I think there’s an offer. 
KP: A festival?
I can’t say anything. Now that I remember this, it happened a couple of weeks ago. When you’re on tour you tend to not really remember anything. You’re just so focused on tonight’s show and where you’re gonna be tomorrow. But, I can’t say that there’s never been an offer, cause I think there has been. I will say this. I think we should be in Greece by the end of this year. We should be there. Greece is one of the places that I mention on interviews when people ask where you have not gone and you want to. I say Greece...
Danko Jones
KP: India (laughs)...
Sure, India. New Zealand that we’ve never played. We’ve never played parts of South America. But, Greece is always the one place in Europe where we don’t play. We’ve played Italy, we’ve played Spain, we’ve played France, why can’t we go to Greece? But, it is that it is...
CK: I guess if you come once, with the energetic show you give, people will like it and probably you’ll come again after that. That’s how sometimes it works in Greece. If people see something that they like they stick to it. 
Sure! We got to play there. I’ve heard that for other countries and then we played there and... we played there once... (laughs). I mean, I don’t get excited with all that stuff. I’ll believe it when it’s our fourth time there. Or you’re right... (laughs)
CK: So, what are your next plans?
We’re just gonna do this tour. It ends next week. Then it’s Canada for April. We play some show on our own and some shows with Papa Roach and Sum 41. Then we’re gonna play a show in May with Hardcore Superstar and then we have festivals from June to August...
KP: Festivals in America or in Europe?
Europe! There may be a festival here and there in Canada, but mainly it’s Europe. We might do some festivals in Canada next summer. 

"Most rock bands don’t do very well in America. There’s no underground scene anymore"

CK: Where is it better for Danko Jones? Europe or America?
Oh, it’s Europe! I don’t think America is good for any band. Most rock bands don’t do very well in America, unless you’re Volbeat. There’s no underground scene anymore as I see I t, like there used to be, even in the 90s. I just don’t see it happening anymore. There’s an audience for it, but there’s not enough of it to support a tour. Like we can’t tour America playing for thirty people a night. We just can’t do that. We won’t be able to feed ourselves after the third week. So, we can’t tour America as much as we’d like to. I’d love to tour America. 
But, we haven’t been to America since 2013. That was the last time we did a tour. Because that was the last tour we did and we were able to feed ourselves. People showed up, but it was a traveling festival with Alice In Chains and Jane’s Addiction. We can’t tour on our own cause there isn’t an audience. In North America, as in Canada, first of all there is no rock audiences. There’s no b-level rock audiences. They don’t know who The Hellacopters are...

"We were special guests of Volbeat. We’d get on stage and a lot people would boo us. [...] With that kind of mentality you’re left with no middle scene and no B-level bands."

KP: It’s only about Metallica...
...Volbeat, Avenged Sevenfold... Basically, there’s all the big bands and then there’s all the bands that nobody knows or wants to see. We toured with Volbeat in America in 2013. Volbeat wanted someone to open the show for the tour, so we were wanted by Volbeat, we were their special guests. We get on stage and a lot of those people would "booed" us. A lot of those people would boo us and tell us "Oh! Volbeeeeaaaat!" [editor: Danko makes the voice of an angry crowd]. 
And this isn’t our own experience, I’ve talked about this with other bands who have opened for really big bands. They had the same experience. And we both said to each other "But we were wanted by the headlining band! They should at least give us a chance, cause they wanted us on this tour, so we’re friends or they’re fans of us. So you should at least give us a chance". But that doesn’t work. It’s basically "I came here to see THAT band and any other band or any other thing is standing in my way of THAT band". But, they don’t understand that whether we’re gonna be here or not, they’re going on at ten o’ clock. (laughs). So, you can wait in silence or you can have us. You can grab a beer, go to the washroom, talk to your friend. But, don’t boo us or yell for the headline band. And that happens in America all the time! Basically, you get that kind of mentality and what you’re left with is: no middle scene. There’s no B-level bands. There’s no support for any B-level bands.

"Canadians think rock music is for idiots"

KP: Sad to hear this. America had such a great scene back in the day...
Ahh, I don’t know... It seems that everybody is so close minded. Not only in music and culture, but in everything, cross the border of their country. Same goes with Canada though... I say all this about America, but to a certain extent it’s like that in Canada too. Especially, when it comes to rock music. Canadians in the music industry and the music fans they think they’re better than the rock music. [They think] Rock music is for idiots, just stupid people, it’s stupid music. We like more fine, more intellectual music. This is how Canadians think when it comes to music. And I like the music they like but I also like rock music. I like AC/DC, I also like Audrey Horne. What does this mean to me? I personally think it makes me wiser when you have a wider scope of music that you listen to, rather than just a closed minded way of listening to music. But, that’s just me. That’s how it is back home. So, when we come to Europe and play festivals with pop bands and metal bands and rock bands and indie rock bands, all together, when I discovered that here in Europe, I was like "this is how I listen to music". Like I could go from Hatebreed to The Deers and I can go from Stereolab to Kreator and I can go from The Hellacocpters to Wu-Tang Clan. That’s how I listen to music and not everyone in Europe does, but there’s more of an open mind.