Danko Jones has been the living embodiment of rock for over twenty years. His live shows are fast, his music furious and his stage persona is a lascivious joker. Photogroupie caught up with Danko on a recent trip to London ahead of the release of his new album Wild Cat.
PHOTOGROUPIE: (PG) THE OPENING TRACK ON THE ALBUM IS CALLED 'I GOTTA ROCK' WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING IF YOU WEREN'T ROCKING?
DANKO JONES: (DJ) I don't know, I've been doing this for so long to know if there are any options left. (Laughs) I'm really not sure. I kind of have tunnel vision and luckily it worked out ok.
PG: I SAW AN INTERVIEW WITH YOU AT WACKEN AND WHEN YOU WERE ASKED TO OFFER ADVICE FOR OTHERS YOU SAID “DON'T DO IT” – DID YOU MEAN THAT IF YOU DON'T HAVE THAT FOCUS AND CAN'T GIVE YOUR MUSIC 100% FORGET IT?
DJ: Yes, but I also meant, don't do this, it's ridiculous! It's a terrible way to make a living. You're gonna go through slings and arrows and people are going to throw cheap shots at you left and right, if you can't stand it from that point of view then don't do this. But then the only people who really can do this are the people who are dumb enough to not know any better. I always tell people don't do it because it's not worth it. You have to just love the music so much that all the negative stuff doesn't matter; most people are not willing to make that trade, or they realise it two or three years down the line...I love being around the music and it's still very much what I want to do. I'm very lucky that I'm not that interesting a person to have any extra curricular activity. You have to be very single-minded and not have any other distractions or interests. After high school, I went to film school and I loved the idea of making films, but I knew in my heart of hearts that it wasn't my number one love so that's why I didn't pursue it.
PG: YOU'RE MY WOMAN HAS A VERY THIN LIZZY FEEL, WAS THAT THE INTENTION, OR DID IT JUST HAPPEN?
DJ: It was intentional to go down that route. The riff came and it sounded like Thin Lizzy, so we thought “are we going to go for it and make it a tribute to Lizzy and not hide the influence and wear it on our sleeves? Or are we going to mask it with more of a modern chorus or sound?” And we went with the idea of wearing it on our sleeve. It's a very intentional Lizzy sounds, but it came after the riff was born. We didn't sit in a room and say “we're not coming out until we write a song that sounds like Thin Lizzy.” They're a band that we've always been compared to, so it was about time. You think we sound like Think Lizzy? So here we go. It's the most we've ever sounded like them, I've never really heard it in our music, now you can compare us to them. They've always been an influence and one of my favourite bands.
PG: MOST OF YOUR TRACKS ARE PRETTY INTENSE FULL ON ROCK, DO YOU EVER FEEL LIKE BREAKING BAD AND WRITING A TOTALLY DIFFERENT TYPE OF MUSIC?
DJ: No, not at all. I think You're My Woman is a love song, but we don't have too many. I'm ok with that. We have no desire to do any political or social songs, when you do that you can polarise audiences.
PG: WHY HAS DANKO JONES GOT THROUGH SO MANY DRUMMERS?
DJ: We've been around 21 years and not a lot of bands stick around that long. We've had 7 drummers but one of those was our booking agent who helped fill in on the dates he'd booked. The other stuck around for 6 years, another for 5 years. Richard's been in this band for 4 years and there has never been any issues. When we've let go of drummers in the past it's been a long time coming. For the first time ever the three of us get along off stage. Musically he's an amazing drummer and people are starting to find out how amazing he is with this band. There have always been bumps in the road in the past we had this drummer and we were going to do the first photo shoot together, we already had red flags from the way he was treating the photographer, the way he was treating us. I was like “I hope this is just a bad day.” But there's nothing like that with Rich.
PG: I WATCHED YOUR 'PROFESSOR DANKO' SLOT AT WACKEN WHEN YOU REVEALED YOUR PETER CRISS CONSPIRACY THEORY.* HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT? (*Danko came up with the notion AKA 'the truth' that Peter Criss died in a car accident in 1978 and the band have been covering it up ever since, but dropping hints in albums covers and songs.)
DJ: You mean when did I find out the truth?
PG: YEAH OK, HOW DID THAT ALL HAPPEN, IT WAS ALL VERY IMPRESSIVE.
DJ: In 2011 Wacken asked me to speak at the 2012 festival so I had a year to prepare. I didn't know what I was going to do, so I hatched this idea and the more I looked into it, the more things started to unfold.
PG: YOU LEFT NO STONE UNTURNED, WE WERE PRETTY CONVINCED.
DJ: I went through all the discography and backwards to hear the messages. I destroyed a few thousand brain cells in the process. There were endless hours going down alleys that didn't yield anything, but I managed to cobble together an hours worth of stuff to raise a few eyebrows. I never heard back from the Kiss camp...but I had a lot of fun doing it.
PG: DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER ROCK AND ROLL CONSPIRACY THEORIES?
DJ: I did this thing for Banger TV in Toronto, which is Sam Dunn's online television channel. I said to him that the first minute of Beneath The Remains by Sepultura is a tribute to Lita Ford I threw it out there on the show, I said go and listen to the first minute of Beneath The Remains, which Sepultura put out a year after Lita Ford did I Close My Eyes with Ozzy Osbourne and it is the exact same song for the first minute. I know it's a coincidence, it might have just seeped into their subconscious. Now it's like 25 years since then I can say that in fun.
PG: YOU LIVE FOR ROCK MUSIC, SO HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN GENE SIMMONS SAID ROCK IS DEAD?
DJ: I was as angry as one can be at Gene Simmons, you can't really take it to heart. It's just a headline for Gene so he can keep his name up there. I wrote a thing about it and there were two points: He lives in an ivory tower and he doesn't really know what's going on in rock music today. The reason why he doesn't know is because you can't see through the first few levels. When he was around it was big, he would say he helped make it big. It's sunk into an underground status where I think it should be, and he can't see the underground. I prefer to be making underground music now. That was my take on it.
PG: BANDS LIKE YOURSELF MONSTER TRUCK AND ANNIHILATOR HAVE HAD MUCH BETTER SUCCESS OUTSIDE CANADA, WHY IS THAT? DO THE CANADIANS JUST NOT LIKE ROCK MUSIC?
DJ: Pretty much, I do believe that. Jeff (Waters from Annihilator) didn't play in Canada for like 20 years. He finally did a show last year, but he's stayed away from Canada for so many years.
PG: WHAT MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN TO APART FROM ROCK?
DJ: All kinds of music, it would be pretty boring to just play rock and go home and listen to it. To keep our music interesting and to write music that interests you, you have to listen to other music. Anything from rap, blues, jazz, indie rock, soul music, that sort or thing...whatever sounds good to me.
PG: YOU'RE KNOWN FOR YOUR EXCITING AND GRUELLING LIVE SHOWS, HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR THE SHOWS PHYSICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY?
DJ: A little warm up maybe, you prepare mentally throughout the day. From the moment you wake up you know you have a show, so I try not to expend too much energy. You're not always thinking about it every minute, but it's in the back of your mind; it's a nervous, edginess to the day.
PG: ANY RITUALS BEFORE THE SHOW?
DJ: I try not to get caught up in the ritual thing, every show is different and in a different place. If you get caught up in a ritual what happens on the nights when you can't pull it off the way you want to? I was a bit more ritualistic in the beginning, but now I just go onstage and let the chips fall where they may. I think that comes from years and years of playing. You're only as good as your last show, but at the same time I think we've managed to carve out a little bit of a reputation, but whether it goes off that night or not is for someone else to decide. When you start thinking about things too much it falls apart.
PG: ONSTAGE YOU HAVE THIS VERY MACHO PERSONA AND YOU'VE BEEN DESCRIBED AS “LEAVING A TRAIL OF RECORD COMPANY BUSINESS CARDS AND MOIST PANTIES FROM COAST TO COAST” – LIKE THE TOM JONES OF THE ROCK WORLD – HAS ANYBODY EVER THROWN THEIR KNICKERS AT YOU?
DJ: It's happened over the years. I don't know how serious it was considering how tongue in cheek the presentation is. I'll take it in my stride. (Laughs) It's a tough job but someone has to do it.