Hey Danko, welcome to Melodic.net! How are you?
You have a new album coming out next week "Rock and Roll is Black and Blue", tell me a little bit about it!
Well, we worked long and hard on it. We started writing it last year in August, in Sweden actually, in between shows because our label and our management are based out of Lund. So we did some sessions in Malmö and then we played Gröna Lund in Stockholm so that's where it started. And after the summer was over, Atom Willard, our drummer, was in Los Angeles flying to Toronto so we had this one week writing session once a month and that went on until just this March. In April we went in to the studio and got out of the studio in May with a finished album. We just finished shooting the video for "Just a Beautiful Day" this past Monday. So it's all done now!
I love writing and recording – I could do that all year long. And I love doing shows, but I don't like all that in between. It feels great having the album finished, as a finished entity in your hands. It's been such a "go, go, go!" that I haven't really had time to sit back and relax and go "Yeah, we did it!".
Your songs are a lot about sex, women, picking up women and taking them home – do I dare to ask where you get your inspiration from?
Women! They're all basically songs about women, and when it comes to women I just sing about three different situations: women that you want to be with, women that you're going out with and when you wake up with them. Those are the three stages that everybody's been through – men and women. Those are what the songs really are about. It's not about some creepy dude in a bar, wanting to pick up women, it's more about "I really like you, do you like me?" and then "we're going out, isn't this great? We're both into each other" and then "Wow, you don't like me anymore" or "I don't like you anymore!"
So do you always use your own experiences as a starting point when you write your songs?
Yeah, I can only do that because I have to sing them every night so they have to come from someplace meaningful. I really believe that the audience can sense if it's it not genuine. So with the songs that we've had, I can name you people, I can name you the places, I can name you the nights – certain things that happened. Whether that grain of truth is a big grain of truth or just a feeling that everybody's gone through, they have to come from a truthful place.
But if you're singing about slaying dragons, I've never seen anyone slay a dragon – but there are certain elements when it comes to making music. But for me, the lyrics are so straightforward so why shouldn't what's behind those lyrics and what's behind that song be as straightforward? So if I'm singing about a girl that has just broken up with me, I've been dumped, or I'm singing about a girl that I want to break up with – we've all been through that.
And the song "Legs" – was that inspiration from your last performances in Scandinavia?
Haha, well I've said it before and I'll say it again - I do enjoy women's legs, I mean what can I do? I do have eyes.
When I listened to the new album, my perception is that several tracks on this album where a bit more midtempo in comparison to some of your previous albums.
Well there are songs like "I don't care", "the Masochist", and "I believed in God" which is pretty much a misfits punk rock song. If you strip down all the organs and the gospel singing, it's just a punk rock song. Midtempo is always a great tempo to be in, I don't know how frantic it is, but songs like "I don't care" is pretty frantic. There's rock songs like "That type of girl" and "Legs" obviously, that are slower and more midtempo. But overall, that's how it's always been and I think that we sprinkle it with a lot of fast songs. It's never anything that takes over too much.
I remember your concert in Stockholm two years ago, the whole audience was dancing, jumping, singing and playing air guitar and this is of course thanks to your music but also to the fact that you guys have so much energy on stage. What do you do before you get up there? Or are you always that energetic?
I don't do anything to bring my energy up, other than the fact that we're bringing on a show tonight and I know that. For me at least, it's very natural to get excited from playing on stage, so I'm naturally energized when I'm in front of an audience. Some people can't even speak in front of and audience and they piss their pants, but I'm the opposite. On the other hand, I do keep the energy in, I don't spend it too much during the day in order to save the energy and keep it to myself. I don't do much the day of the show. You know, there was one guy who used to be in our band, and I'm not saying who, but whenever we'd go to a city and we're playing that night, he would go in to town and visit the sights and at the end of the night he'd be spent! And I'm like "We're here to fucking entertain this audience" - I would never ever sacrifice the energy just so I can see some, I don't know, war museum or church. I don't give a fuck, I'm here to entertain the people who are coming to our show – tonight! That's my number one priority. I mean, I'll go check out the city, no offense to the city, maybe when I'm on vacation and there's no show but my priority right now is not to be war memorials, or all the stuff that happened in the past, or the natural wonders of the city, but to the citizens of the city today that are coming out to see us.
Do you think you've always had that special Danko Jones-sound, even from the beginning? Comparing "We sweat blood" for example with "Rock and Roll is Black and Blue", although nine years apart you still know it's Danko Jones just by listening to it.
I don't know, I've just done what I've always done, I've been in a bubble. One thing you can see on our discography from "I'm Alive and on Fire" to "Rock and Roll is Black and Blue" is that you can kind of see the growth of the band in terms of the music, the musicianship, even recording budget. The thing is that when we started we were a garage band. My biggest wish was to play with "Rocket from the crypt", you know maybe tour the States together and play with some of the bands that we listened to like "The Dirtbombs" or "Oblivious", those were my goals. 16 years later, we've put out all these albums, we've toured the world and we can write songs like "Wear me Down", which I think is awesome. I can't believe that we did that! It's an interesting thing that you can plot from "I'm Alive and on Fire" all the way to "Rock and Roll is Black and Blue". And what it is, is that it's a real band. We didn't come out of the gate with all this music, you can track how I've learned how to play the guitar and play solo on the records. I didn't know! You can track how we brought in bridges in to our songs and real choruses in to our songs and learn how to write songs just by listening to our discography. Which I find really interesting when I do to other bands too. It just makes the body of work or the discography like a living, breathing entity that I find that I can identify myself with more.
What's the most memorable thing that has ever happened to you during a tour?
There are countless shows where we've gone off stage thinking "Shit, that was an amazing show", the audience was present, we were present, and we were feeding off each other. Those are the best shows!
There are moments on tour when a fan comes to stage and gives me a rose or when something like that happens, that's always memorable too.
If you could choose any artist to cooperate with, who would it be? And you can't say "a gospel singer" cause you've already done that.
I'll probably say Billy Gibbons because he's my favorite guitar player. I've had the chance to hang out with him a couple of times but I never got a chance to ask him. I would love to have him on our album.
Your last track on your new record is called "I believed in God" – do you believe in God?
No. I mean, I'm not an agnostic or an atheist but I don't believe in the church, let's leave it at that. Basically my whole thing when it comes to God is that life is hard to get through, and whatever you want to believe in to get through "today", be my guest. I have no right to criticize you beliefs, just don't push them on me. I feel that religion, and church as an institution and other religious institutions are really the source of all evil and war and death in the world, except disease and such. It's the source of conflict between peoples. It's such a dividing line when they spouse unity and love, they're really just dividing lines between people. I see too much conflict and hatred from religious sources for me to believe in it or subscribe to it. But to believe in God as an entity is not for me to come down on anyone if they want to believe in it. For me personally, I believe in my conscience and if you want to call that the voice of God, or God or a higher being or whatever, so be it. But you know when you're about to steal that chocolate bar in that store and there's something in side you that says "Don't do that, that's wrong", that's what I listen to.
You guys have been active since 1996, do you think that you will ever stop playing music?
I don't know. I enjoy it, I mean, it's a job but I enjoy it. People associate a job with negative things like boredom and routine and tiredness. But for me my job has a lot of positive aspects to it too, I love doing what I do. As long as I can do it and as long as people want to hear us play music, then we'll do it. We wouldn't be the first to do that. I see band like Motörhead that are still out there, every two years there's a new album. There's never like a seven-year break, then a reunion album, then a break-up tour, then a reunion tour. But you never know. If you had told me when we first started off as a band that 16 years from now, there wouldn't be any record labels, are the record stores are closing and everything is through a computer, I would have laughed at you but that's the reality. Who knows what will happen in 10, 20 years from now in terms of popular music and how it's heard and how it's accessed.
If you would, or if you could choose any other career than being a musician, what would it be?
My answer in the past to the question would have been starting up a band. But I've been writing now off and on for the past seven years for magazines and little things here and there and today (read Friday September 14th) I think they're going to upload my first blog for the Huntington Post. I really do enjoy writing. I would say writer, but writers have it worse off than guys in bands in terms of making it a living. It's hard to make a living being a writer.
I would probably do something in music because there's no way I could stay away from it.
What can we expect next from Danko Jones?
We just put out a DVD this past summer, called "Bring on the Mountains". It's got a 90 minute documentary called "Bring on the mountains", a short film called "The Ballad of Danko Jones" starring Elijah Wood, Ralph Macchio, Selma Blair, Lemmy, Mike Watt and Jena Malone. Both the documentary and short film are making the festival rounds right now. It got accepted in to Raindance in the UK and a film festival in Hamburg. It's been in the works for about a year and a half, the Diamond Brothers did it, they've done all our videos for the last album. We just shot a video for "Just a beautiful day" this past Monday in New York.
And then we have a book coming out in October - it's a biography on our band called "Too much Trouble". That's been in the works for over two years now. Stuart Berman wrote the book and it's basically storytelling with quotes from people telling the story. Stuart has spent the last two years interviewing over 70 people for the book. So everybody from Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead is in it, Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedys, Peaches, Damian Abraham from Fucked Up is in it, Dregen from the Hellacopters, Ralph Macchio, Guns n' Roses – everyone's in it. Some of them are old band members, some of them are people who are close friends but for the most part it's people who most people know and are public personas. It's a pretty cool book.
Rock bios get printed off every week and we spent a lot of time on it. The person who did the layout knocked it out of the park, it looks really awesome. We're really excited for everybody to just look at it, you don't even have to read it, just look at it!
And finally, I see that you have a free week in early November, can't you stop by Belgrade and Serbia where I'm located right now and do a gig here?
Haha We'll do that! We definitely want to get out there to Eastern Europe and we're coming back to Europe in April. We're not doing all of Europe at this time, like Spain for example, and the reason is that we're coming back in April. It's basically up to the promoters in the city that we play to approach us. For example, we come back from the European tour and after a week we go out across Canada for a week and a half. You can't cover Canada in a week and a half and in the places we don't play, well nobody asked us to do it.
Finally, is there any last thing you want to say to the Melodic.net readers?
There's a book, there's a DVD, there's of course the new album. I also do a podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud which goes up every two or three weeks and it's just me having talks with my friends or people I really like, or both. We just uploaded a podcast episode last week with Henry Rollins, before that was Jim Breuer and the next one is going to be Brendan Canning from A Broken Social Scene and Damian Abraham from Fucked Up, just hanging out.