Danko Jones (the band, not the man) are like the outlaw bikers of rock ‘n’ roll. They don’t care what you think. They don’t care what you say. Mr. Jones has a simple philosophy – have fun and have it loud. Hailing from Canada, a place that in his view is unjustly renowned for Bryan Adams and Rush in terms of rock and metal music, Danko Jones is almost an anathema to the press up there that indulges in staid, pretentious art rock and turns its nose up at anything with a bit of bravado. Danko Jones’s music is almost nothing but; masculine, powerful and freewheeling.
A rocker by trade, Danko speaks his mind about the scene in the Great White North. Exasperated, he takes a deep breath to express just how much disdain he has for the corporate rock scene up there.
“Well,” he sighs, “I get asked this question a lot up there in Canada. ‘Oh, your lyrics are all about sex and blah blah blah,’ so I go, ‘What the fuck else is supposed to match the riffs that we’ve written?’ You can’t really hear those riffs and think ‘Oh yeah, this song is about the oil crisis.’ I mean, it can only be about Friday night wanting to go out with some girl. That’s just what the music calls for. I find that in their question the [journalists] reveal themselves. It’s just this whole thing about how music is supposed to be intellectually stimulating. Why?” He asks, dumbfounded.
“Do I really need to know what a dude in a rock band thinks about the Middle East crisis? No! I’d rather read the newspaper. Or read TIME Magazine or read a book or go online. I really don’t feel the need to know why that guy in a rock band thinks about politics or social issues. I don’t need to listen to music to be intellectually fed. God, who does? You gotta be a moron.”
Jones’s music isn’t cerebral but it is crackling with fierce bravado and masculine energy and he’s proud of the fact that his music doesn’t stimulate brain cells but something a bit more primal; yet it still doesn’t sit well with the mainstream music press.
“My music stirs emotions that are beyond words. You can’t get that from other things – I don’t know. It frustrates the shit out of me. I mean I’m not Bono. Just shut up and play the songs! I applaud his effort and everything but I don’t think it should go for every band. I don’t feel we need to do that. I also think we shouldn’t be penalised because we don’t feel that need. But we do. But we are.
“Our music alongside indie rock would seem low-brow, knuckle-dragging kind of music. Don’t get me wrong, I do like indie rock and different kinds of music that would be deemed ‘Okay’ by Pitchfork or Wire Magazine, but it’s not the be all and end all of what I listen to. I also like AC/DC and Thin Lizzy. As much as I like Sonic Youth and the Boredoms, I listen to as much Whitesnake and Slayer. If you don’t listen to something because it’s old is a really close-minded way to view music. They’re the only ones missing out.”
Their latest record entitled Below the Belt is nothing but pure Danko – full of chicks, beer and rock n’ roll. The recording was a case of the ole in-out, with not even any time to check the meter, to borrow an expression.
“We made the record fairly quickly,” he recalls. “We wrote the songs within a period of two or three months last summer; we just wrote the song and moved on to the next one. Not a lot of deliberating or thinking went on; we just wanted to catch the initial spark. We found we had about thirty ideas in various states and we took the best sixteen and went into the studio and took the best eleven out of that.”
Danko is an old school rock n’ roller in the fact that he still is a fan of the B-side, even in the age where the medium it’s being played from has no discernible side to them.
“Yeah, I love doing b-sides and bonus tracks. It’s not a conscious decision or effort when you’re recording it – ‘this will be a B-side’ – it’s when its all done you realise that ‘well, that track didn’t turn out as cool or as heavy as we thought it would.’ Well, at least not cool enough to make it on the album so it becomes a B-side. I also like it when bands – and with us included – when we put one of the strongest songs off the record and keep it as a B-side. I think it shows a lot of balls on the part of the band. I love it when a band’s B-sides are as good as or even better than some of the album cuts.”
Though not a B-side, Danko’s latest video for Full of Regret features a Hollywood cast as well as a God amongst men; the one and only – the legendary Lemmy Kilmeister. Set in the style of a 70s gangster chase flick, the video sees Elijah Wood as a pimped out hitman and a smoldering Selma Blair as a femme fatale. How do you get such a stellar cast assembled for a music video? (Click here to view it.)
“It was easier on our part to get Lemmy because we’ve toured with Motorhead and played a bunch of one off shows with them so it was just a manner of calling management up and Motorhead just happened to be in Los Angeles when we shooting and they were working on their next record. Getting Mike Watt [of Iggy Pop and the Stooges] to be in it was easy – all it took was an email. Elijah Wood we’ve known to be a fan of the band for a few years and we had some mutual friends so we asked him to be in the video and he said yes. Selma Blair was the one we actually had no connection to except that she was a friend of the producers. Since Elijah was on board she got on board. Suddenly it became this celebrity all-star video,” he chuckles.
How is he going to top it? Well, that’s for him to know and us to find out.
“We’re shooting the next video in New York and that’s got…” he almost lets the names slip. “…some people too. I can’t say who they are yet! But it’s pretty heavy. I can tell you the song we're doing it for; it's for Had Enough.”
Danko has always wanted to come back to Australia since their last tour in 2004 but after meetings and scheduling conflicts it hasn’t materialised – yet. Danko however remains optimistic and very enthusiastic about the prospects of a return Down Under.
“There’s two places that bug the shit out of me where we haven’t played enough,” he says. “That’s Australia and Japan. It really bugs me that we haven’t been back to Australia. Because I know Australia is a place where rock is readily appreciated without having it spoon-fed. We get all these responses from Australia on our MySpace page and our website saying ‘come to Australia’ and I just feel like saying – ‘bring us to Australia!’ I’ve got my passport here and my bags are always packed and I’m ready to go! I was talking about this to my manager last week – ‘why aren’t we in Australia?’”
Danko, unsurprisingly, was the subject of a “tell-all confessional” book entitled Sex Tips from Rock Stars, in which rock stars… well... give sex tips to fans. He downplays his role, saying it was ‘just another interview’ he did with the author, Paul Miles.
“I’ve been asked that so many times! I didn’t know the book would make the rounds. I gave no tips!” he insists. “I just answered questions. I didn’t have any tips, to be honest with you. Basically the book is cut into different categories like lingerie, oral sex, fetishes, blah blah blah. You know, whatever you can imagine. He just asked me about it and I talked about it. But there were no tips given – I have no tips. I’m looking for tips! I answered his questions pretty honestly and it sounds pretty boring, I think.”
I’m sure his fans would say otherwise – but we’ll keep the mystique alive for now.