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INTERVIEW – Danko Jones, December 2012

| 17 December 2012 | 1 Reply

Just a week before Danko Jones is to storm into Flint, Michigan for the Banana End Of The World Party, I got the opportunity to speak with Danko Jones and discuss Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue, Happy Birthday, and the labeling of Rock.

Danko Jones Promo Shoot

ToddStar: I’d like to thank you so much for taking time out for 100% Rock today and we really appreciate you carving a few minutes out for us.

Danko: Cool.

ToddStar: If it’s okay I’d like to talk about your release Rock and Roll is Black and Blue.

Danko: Yep.

ToddStar: This thing is awesome and I’m keeping it in my normal rotation of albums since I first heard it. What can you briefly tell us about the disc that some people might not know at first glance or first listen through?

Danko: I don’t know. I don’t know what else I have left to say that I haven’t said already. I mean other than… I don’t know. It’s a bunch of rock songs that we wrote and we put a lot of work into them, and those were the best ones that we could come up with at the time. The next one will probably be a continuation of that. I don’t know.

ToddStar: So it’s simple and good straight to the point comment because in going through all of your earlier releases… because this is your sixth full release; you had a bunch of EPs and stuff along the way but you seem to have a lot of the basics and components that since, like you said, it’s just a good rock and roll album with a bunch of good rock and roll songs. In what ways do you feel this varies from some of your earlier releases?

Danko: Well I mean… you know, last couple of records before this one it was really… let’s say the last three records, it’s just JC and I in a room, and this time with Atom and the band we were the three of us in a room together, bashing the songs out again like a band. So that was very reminiscent of how we started… when we first started the band and we would just stand in a room together… sit in a room together and look at each other and not say a word and just jam, riff after riff until something sparked. As time has gone by it’s quite hard to do that because of touring commitments. And now there’s the distance between us and Atom lives in LA and we live in Toronto but over time when you start a band, usually it’s just your friends in a room and you can play whenever you guys want and then as the band has become the main priority in everybody’s lives, there is a lot of touring involved. And when you’re not touring, you’re not jamming because you’ve been touring. You’re rehearsing the songs, you’re pretty much rehearsed. So what ends up happening is the rehearsal room becomes the song writing room and it’s only used when there’s a deadline to meet for an album. And so albums get written as huge projects rather than piecemeal when the band is young or starting up like we did. Hell, we wrote a song last week which put it in the set this week when we play at some club in town or a club an hour away. When touring became the priority rather than rehearsing, we would just… now we just kind of like section off a period of time to write and that becomes delayed, the band works. So the way we did this album, even though Atom lives in LA, we would have these sectioned off pieces of time but it was done in a way that we hadn’t felt like since the beginning days: us in a room, jamming it out.


ToddStar: Several of the songs from the release are very strong; I find that there are certain ones that I really dig. Are there any that you find yourselves going back to and listening to time and time again?

Danko: Well what ends up happening is when we make a record, you’re inundated by every bit of minutia of the song and you can’t really see the light at the end of the tunnel, but when you do and you can hear the song as a living kind of thing, you immerse yourself in the recordings for a couple of months and you listen to it non-stop. But that was more than a couple of months ago; I’m done with it. I don’t listen to the record unless I have to. I’ve listened to the songs probably a few thousand times. Enough, you know? There’s songs that I like that are favorites of mine after all is said and done but I’m not listening to it like I’m listening to my favorite records by other bands. The weird thing is it’s so connected to you that you don’t need to listen to it.

ToddStar: Well what are some of your favorites from the disc?

Danko: I really like the opening cut, Terrified, and I love playing it live… like it’s my favorite song to play live. Not that it’s downhill from there but I Believed in God, the last song on the record I love, and Legs I love. I like each song for various reasons but I would say those are probably my standout tracks. I would say that I would use in my mind when I want somebody to hear it, in my head well I’m probably going, “Well wait until they get to listen to this song or this song.”

ToddStar: You hit my favorite which is Terrified, but I also dig Conceited and Masochist.

Danko: Right, a lot of people like Conceited as well.  I like playing that song too, actually. Live… that really kind of came out live. I didn’t really… it’s so wordy; it’s got so many lyrics to it. Initially I was really worried about remembering all of them and then as I settled into the song as the tour went on and I really got used to it, I just really loved playing it live. Then you can just forget about remembering every word that comes after each other and get tongue tied on that. You can just kind of like hang back and enjoy the song and enjoy playing it, that’s when you really kind of get into it.

ToddStar: Well regarding Rock and Roll is Black and Blue, any of the songs that you feel just kind of wrote themselves? You kind of sat down and the song was just there?

Danko: Oh right, like it just kind of wrote itself?

ToddStar: Yeah, you hear about that sometimes. I’m just wondering whether you had any of those experiences with this disc.

Danko: Yeah, I mean I Don’t Care, maybe. Beautiful Day was actually just a beautiful day, which is the first solo off the album, was written quite quickly. It was written quite quickly and with no kind of redrafting and drafting and drafting, and nothing like that. Whereas a song like Legs was… part of it was written, the chorus was written for the last album but we just couldn’t finish it. And so I thought it was such a strong idea that I brought it back in to the session and I go, “Well guys I don’t know if you’re… what do you think of this?” Atom wasn’t in the band at the point in time when we brought it in but I said, you know, “This is an old idea. I don’t know if it’s still working but in my head I think this really should be finished.” And so that’s what happened with that song. And then a song like I Believed in God, we went into the studio with it done the way it is but then the idea was hatched to try and see if we can bring in gospel singers and really ramp up the whole gospel vibe. The song, I think, king of calls for although we didn’t have any intention of that when we were going in with it to the studio; we thought it would just be like a real quick punk rock song. And then it just kind of bloomed as we added all this extra stuff that wasn’t originally intended. Gospel singers were brought in and an organ was laid down, and then we released like, “wow”, we went from a simple punk rock song to making it the anchor of the album that ends the record.

ToddStar: After going back and checking… after I really dug into your back catalog… I’m familiar with the last couple of albums but after really digging into the older stuff, when I got into this, sonically you guys are about the same but there are some subtle changes. Do you find after more than 10 years of this and 6 albums that you’re still seeing some of the growth in the band?

Danko: I really don’t care about growth in a band. I hope not. The only thing that is getting easier is being self-assured as to what you want and what sounds good to your ears, and being able to get those riffs down on tape. But I’m not really a person who really kind of applauds what people call like growth in a band or progression; I like bands who stick to the story. Sure, there’s different… I’m sure the first album sounds different than this new album; it’s definitely close but it’s not intentional.

ToddStar: Okay. Just kind of a meshing of you and the other players and like you said, you and John have been together a long time. So just kind of you guys just gelling more as a band, you think?

Danko: Maybe but that also just comes with experience. Whether you’re in a rock band together or you work in an office together on projects or you sell cars together, you know? That just comes with experience with anything. A boyfriend and girlfriend get to know each other better; kids growing up know each other. I don’t know but it has… hopefully there’s no intention of like, “Oh we’re becoming musicians and are artistes now.” I really avoid all of that [laughs]; I find it pretentious.

ToddStar: Very cool. Well if you had to describe the sound of Danko Jones to someone who didn’t have a clue, how would you describe yourself?

Danko: Just hard rock. I would even say rock because “hard rock” is kind of redundant to me. There’s no such thing as soft rock because rock is hard [laughs]. Hard music. Heavy music, it’s hard music, whatever you want to use to describe rock. It’s definitely hard and heavy. So rock is what I would just say. But hard rock is a term that our webmaster uses on our Twitter page. I’ll go with that.

ToddStar: [laughs] Alright. You’ve got some live dates coming up. More specifically you’ve got the End of the World Party in Flint, Michigan next Friday on December 21st. End of the World, I mean come on, who wouldn’t want to end the world with Danko Jones, right?

Danko: I guess. I think it would be more like Paul McCartney fronting Nirvana. Sure. To me it’s just another gig like I don’t care if it’s the end of the world or not. I really… I mean if it is the end of the world then nothing matters but we do live in a computer simulated world so it doesn’t matter either way.


ToddStar: True. Michigan loves you guys, Flint certainly loves you guys, I know they’re excited to have you guys coming out. Regarding the live performances…

Danko: Yeah, I mean we’re definitely excited to play in Flint. It’s close to home so it will be an easy trip over. Yeah, definitely, it will be fun.

ToddStar: Certainly. Now when performing live, especially with the new disc, do you find that you’re mixing material evenly between this and earlier releases or are you guys really putting some focus on the newer material?

Danko: Well for this last few… like the last couple of tours we did in Europe and in Canada, we’re we doing four songs off the new record. So I think that’s a lot considering as your discography builds and the band keeps going, it really gets hard to just do like, “Oh yeah, here’s seven songs off the new album.” And you know, you don’t want to bore the crowd in terms of length of set and also a lot of people want to hear or came to the show to hear some songs that they’re very familiar with. So it’s just a fine balance and a tightrope you’ve got to walk where you want to entertain yourself because you want to play the new stuff, because that’s what’s fun to you, and also entertain the audience with songs. So we try to cherry pick it with songs that will… older songs but older songs that entertain us as well. So if it’s a song that like we’ve played a million times and I’m bored with it or one of us is bored with it, you put it away for a while. We’re six albums in so there are other songs, you know. So it’s an enviable position but at the same time it’s also kind of… not annoying but it gets tedious. You don’t want to stick to the same stuff you played the last time you played the city, you know? Then the people will go, “Well fuck, this is the same damn god damned show I saw last time!” So there’s also that to consider as well. It becomes this big to-do.

ToddStar: Are there any bands out there that give you that excitement? Are there any bands out there doing something that you just really dig?

Danko: Yeah, totally! There are still a lot of new bands coming out and newer bands coming out with records that I do enjoy. My fandom for newer bands… I will admit it’s not as extreme and intense as it was when I was 16 years old and I lived and breathed these bands, because I’m in a band now. A lot of the time, it might sound really shitty to say but a lot of the times when I’m home from the tour, I don’t want to go out. And going to a show when I’m home from a two month tour or a four week tour is like going to the office on a Sunday. You know, the familiar smells and sounds, you’re just like, “Fuck man, I just want to get away from this for a while so I can enjoy it when I’m doing it.”

ToddStar: Sure.

Danko: I never went to bars and clubs to hang out with people and drink. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke cigarettes, and I don’t do any of that. I went to shows to see the bands. So a lot of the times going to a show now and watching a band, I don’t watch it with a fan’s eye, I watch it with a critical kind of peer perspective, going like, “Oh wow, they’re using those amps”, “He’s singing like that” or, “Wow, I can’t believe they chose that song to end.” I mean, “We wouldn’t do that”, “Oh wow, the backdrop seems pretty lame” or, “Wow, the backdrop is really impressive.” So there’s no real kind of… there are a few bands that I would probably just lose it for and become a fan again. I mean Turbonegro is one of them; Grand Magus is another, Doomriders, a band called Church of Misery. These bands I have true fandom for. I will like drive an hour out of the city… if Church of Misery ever play… we’re in Toronto so if they play Buffalo, New York and they’re not coming to Toronto, maybe I would drive to Buffalo to go see Church of Misery, you know?

ToddStar: Okay. Gotcha. What was the last CD you listened to?

Danko: The last CD I listened to?

ToddStar: Yeah, or MP3 depending on your… [laughs]

Danko: Oh, okay. Probably Diamanda Galás’s Guilty Guilty Guilty album.

ToddStar: Okay. I’ll have to look into that one; I’m not familiar.

Danko: Yeah, she’s a great singer.

ToddStar: Okay. If there was one piece of music in the history of time, Danko, that you wish you had written that isn’t yours, what would it be?

Danko: Happy Birthday.

ToddStar: Why’s that?

Danko: Because everybody sings it, every day of the year. And everybody loves to hear it because they know that gifts are coming.

ToddStar: [laughs] That’s a good perspective! We’re finishing up 2012; we’re coming up on 2013 real quick. Any personal or professional… what’s the word I’m looking for… resolutions. Any resolutions for you for 2013?

Danko: [laughs] No. I don’t believe in that garbage.

ToddStar: [laughs] Okay.

Danko: No, no. You should just start when you should start. January 1st… if you give yourself a start date rather than right now then you’re never going to follow through on it.

ToddStar: Okay, makes sense. Hey Danko, what’s the meaning of life?

Danko: I don’t know. For me I kind of just boil it down to just good music. I don’t know.

ToddStar: Awesome.

Danko: I try not to think about that too much. [laughs]

ToddStar: I just want to end with… I want to get a quote from you because between the editors and me, we’ve been compiling top 25 lists and Rock and Roll is Black and Blue has actually hit the top 10, so we’d like you to know…

Danko: Wicked, that’s good to hear.

ToddStar: [laughs] So any quotes out there for the readers or viewers of 100% Rock about the album or hitting the list or anything like that?

Danko: Sure. ‘I agree.’

ToddStar: [laughs] I love it! I love it. I wouldn’t expect anything simpler or any lengthier from you.

Danko: Right.

ToddStar: Well no, it’s just everything you do; your songs are simple, straightforward, like you said earlier, they’re just good rock and roll and that’s just a good answer. It’s straightforward. Listen, again, I appreciate your time, I appreciate you cutting some valuable time out of your schedule for us today and we look forward to you rocking the hell out of Flint next Friday for the End of the World Party, the banana show, and take care and safe travels getting here from Toronto!

Danko: Thanks a lot. Thanks Todd.

ToddStar: Thanks Danko.

Danko: Alright.

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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  1. SHANE’S 2012 ROUNDUP | 100% ROCK MAGAZINE | 27 December 2012

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