April 26th 2019 brought to light the highly-anticipated new album, A Rock Supreme, by the acclaimed Canadian hard rock group Danko Jones. Produced by Garth “Gggarth” Richardson (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against The Machine, Rise Against, Biffy Clyro) – this is Danko Jones‘ follow-up to 2017’s acclaimed Wild Cat, which cracked the sales charts in Canada and eight European territories, achieving the group’s highest chart positions yet in Germany, France, Belgium and Switzerland.
Danko Jones has made a name for themselves over the years as a must-see live band during memorable tours with the likes of Guns N’ Roses, Motörhead and Clutch. The group’s best-known material includes “Had Enough,” which earned the group their first gold and platinum singles in Sweden and has racked up more than 14 million Spotify streams; “Gonna Be A Fight Tonight,” which WWE used as the official theme song of the 2015 Royal Rumble; and “Lovercall,” their first of seven singles to crack the U.S. Active Rock Top 40.
Sonic Perspectives collaborator Rodrigo Altaf caught up with Danko Jones and the two of them discussed highlights of A Rock Supreme, the band’s success in Scandinavia and many other interesting topics. Read all about it in the interview transcript below.
Hi Danko, it’s great to have you with us today!
Danko Jones: Cool, it’s good to be here!
The new album A Rock Supreme has been out for some time now – how has the reception to it been so far?
So far it’s been pretty good, people like it a lot, so that’s nice and reassuring to hear!
The album was produced by Garth “Gggarth” Richardson, whom we know from his work with Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against The Machine, Rise Against, Biffy Clyro etc. – what did he bring to the table?
He brought his experience. He has years of experience, and pretty much any band you can name is probably a degree or two away from him, so for us that was the main thing
I love the artwork, with a reference to your other albums – did you have the concept for it and give input to the artist, or was it 100% his doing?
It was mainly from him. The artist was Ulf Lunden, and he did the last couple of Graveyard album covers, and we like those covers a lot. We asked him if he would do it and he was kinda busy, but he had this artwork that was made for another band that kinda fell through, so we liked it a lot. He kinda changed what he did for the other band, put the figurines as us and our album covers in there, old images and all that, there’s an SG there as well. But that was all him, we didn’t tell him what to do on the cover. He did it all on his own, and I think it turned out great. I’m glad we took that artwork. I guess it was really meant for us at the end of the day, even though it was made for another band.
I love how you kinda break the fourth wall on the first song “I’m in a band”, which is something you do a lot in your songs. How much of your lyrics come from your personal experience?
I think it would be weird if I referred to myself in the third person! [laughs]. I do that because I feel it’s the right thing to do. People who refer to themselves in the third person, to me are kinda off [laughs]. But the lyrics are very based on my personal experience for sure. “I’m in a Band” is kind of an anthem of mine, so that’s definitely culled from experience.
Let’s talk about the video for “Dance Dance Dance”, which has the three girls dancing – it seems to have taken them not more than the actual song duration to record it, because there are no cuts on the camera, right? Who came up with that concept?
The director’s name is Amir Chamdin. He did all The Hellacopters videos, and we’ve been wanting to work with Amir for a few years now, but the schedules never lined up. He’s in Stockholm and we’re in Toronto, and we saw him at a Hellacopters concert last summer in Stockholm, so we ended up hanging out for the whole night and kinda reconnected. So it was time to record this video, we asked Amir. He had this idea of doing this “one shot, one take” kinda thing which you saw. We loved the idea of this concept, and we’re really happy with the outcome, so that’s how this came about. I don’t know if you’ve seen The Hellacopters videos, but Amir has done all of them. Plus he’s done videos for other Swedish bands that are really good. He did one for this band called The Ark, a Cardigans video too…he’s really great, and he’s also an understudy of Jonas Åkerlund.
You’ve always put a lot of thought into your videos, even at the start of your career. Did you come up with concepts of some of them, or was it primarily the directors’ ideas?
In the beginning it was more like a partnership between the director and us, but over the years we just kinda let the directors do what they want. Music videos just don’t have the cache anymore, there’s no real medium to showcase them other than online. We’ve done over thirty, maybe close to forty music videos, so I gotta be honest with you, at this point I’m pretty tired of doing them, and that’s why, for the last five videos we haven’t really been in them. Or we had live videos, where we’d take three cameras to film us live and we’d cut a video out of it, but we’re not doing anything extra. I’m just so tired of lip-synching in front of a camera, and the results are always kind of ok, just never really mind-blowing, you know?
Well, I beg to differ, because I love your videos. Actually, the first time I heard of Danko Jones was seeing the video for “First Date” on MTV years ago.
Oh, ok! [laughs]. Yeah, that one was an interesting video too. We’ve done some other interesting ones where there’s like a trilogy with Lemmy, Elijah Wood and Selma Blair, that was really the last time when we really put an effort into making music videos.
I was always curious if you took any kind of acting class, because your music seems VERY theatrical – not just in the videos, but in your lyric style and your vocal delivery!
No, I couldn’t act myself out of a paper bag! [laughs]. If you notice on the videos, for the most part I’m just playing guitar. Anything that requires back and forth between actors, I can’t do that stuff. I think I did, with Ralph Macchio and Elijah Wood in some of those videos, but that’s not my thing [laughs].
Fair enough. Let’s talk about a few songs on A Rock Supreme. I love the song “Lipstick City” – when I heard it I thought of your song “You Are My Woman” from the previous album “Wild Cat”, with an even heavier dose of Thin Lizzy – am I right in that comparison?
Not with “Lipstick City”, but I think another song off the album, called “That Girl”, feels more Lizzy-esque to me. “Lipstick City” has that stop and start kind of thing, but on “That Girl” I definitely have the same timber as Phil and try t enunciate like he does.
I always thought of Danko Jones as a fictional character, like King Diamond or Alice Cooper for example. Is that your real name?
Yeah. People think that I’m two different persons, because when I’m off stage I’m not screaming at them [laughs], but that’s just how it is.
Let’s talk gear for a minute if we can, because I’ve always seen you with a Gibson, but I understand there was a time when you used a Tele…are you sticking with the Gibson for now?
I’ve been playing Gibson since ’06. I stopped playing Teles in ‘05/’06, and kinda never looked back.
Danko Jones has always been a trio – what’s so fascinating about that format, and did you ever consider adding a second guitar player?
In the early days we did, but it’s just another cook in the kitchen that we don’t need. We started off as a garage punk bad, and the aesthetics of that is rawness, lo-fi and minimal playing. So having ourselves as a three piece, we lent ourselves to that rawness. Also, when you think about it, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath had the same instrumentation that we do.
The drum spot seems like a hot seat in the band, but Rich seems to be in it for the long haul – why do you think you’ve had so many changes on drums?
We’ve been a band for 23 years, and most bands don’t last that long. And even within the time that they’re around, they switch players. When you think about it, the average lifespan for a name band is seven years. And in that seven years, they sometimes switch players two, three times. So we’re pretty on average there when you think about it. People tend to forget that we’ve been around for twenty three years, and in that time, drummers have stayed for five years, six years, and that’s just how it’s been. Rich Knox is on his sixth year now, and there doesn’t seem to be any chance of slowing down. Me and JC [John “JC” Calabrese, bass guitar] have been doing this together since the start, and there are people who have been working with us for 18, 20 years behind the scenes, longer than any drummer in this band. People don’t see that side of the band, they only see what’s on stage. I have long standing relationships with people beyond a five year interim of a drummer. Maybe it’s not me as much as it is them. Plus, I can’t say what I want to say about them because they’re not there to defend themselves, but maybe they were fucking assholes!
Ok, let’s move on to lighter topics. Are you 100% satisfied with Danko Jones as your outlet for music? Would you consider playing other styles in a different project?
Well, I am in a different band. In 2016, JC and I were in a side band called Iron Magazine, with two guys from the band Circle, from Finland. I don’t know if you’re aware of Circle, but they’ve been around for 30 years, and classify themselves as some sort of psychedelic indie rock heavy metal experimental ongoing project. They put out records from Pori, Finland, and they’ve been doing it since the early 90’s. I was on a promo tour for “Rock and Roll is Black and Blue” in 2012 in Helsinki, and started asking people who is Circle, because I didn’t know who these guys were, and I wanted to know them. I guess they’re not that easy to find here, but they were on the cover of Wired Magazine a couple of years ago, and you can find it in pretty much any newsstand. They’re well known in the underground, so I started to ask questions about Circle, and they put me in touch with Jussi Lehtisalo, who is the leader of the band. We struck a good friendship online and he asked me to be in a band with him. We started trading ideas, and we put out a four song EP two or three years ago, a self titled EP. Circle’s lates album came out on Southern Lord, which is a pretty good label for heavy music. They put out the Sunn 0))) records, and it’s run by the guy from Sunn 0))). Also they pout out Probot, Goatsnake and Circle’s last album was out on Southern Lord in America. So it was Tomi and Jussi from Circle, and me and JC from Danko Jones, and it’s me singing in the heavy metal style, although they aren’t really heavy metal songs. We’re working on our first LP right now, but it’s a long, long haul, because we’re kinda busy doing the Danko Jones release and tour right now.
And speaking of side projects, you also have a very cool podcast – is that still active, and where can the fans check it out?
It’s on iTunes and Spotify, it’s called The Official Danko Jones podcast, and I upload an episode every two weeks.
I listened to one of your podcasts from a few weeks ago, which had Devin Townsend as a guest, and that was really cool.
Yeah, Devin has been on before a few years ago, and I try to have friends and bands that I admire and like, and it’s pretty loose conversation.
Through the years you’ve toured and played festivals with some of your musical idols like Motorhead, ZZ Top, The Rolling Stones – did you always manage to keep cool when you met them, or was there a situation when you geeked out by meeting someone?
Yeah, sometimes you kinda geek out a bit. But they’re pretty used to it. But meeting Lemmy and hanging out with him, and meeting Billy Gibbons was pretty cool.
One of the shows that will be part of the upcoming tour is the Megacruise with Megadeth, Anthrax, Testament and other legendary bands – is this your first time on a “musical” cruise, and what’s the expectation?
We played the first ever Motörhead cruise, entitled Motörhead’s Motörboat in 2014, with Testament, Down, Iron Fire, Anthrax and many more.
What’s the typical day on a cruise like that like?
You wake up and have breakfast and just kinda wait around for your show. On Motörhead’s Motörboat there were a couple of bands I was a fan of and it was great to see them. Iron Fire played during the day and that was pretty cool. But honestly, I’m not a “sun and beach” kinda guy, so I’m just there to play the show. I don’t go to the beach or go to swim, I don’t like the sun, I just keep the drapes closed until everything is pitch black. I prefer to stay in the dark, and I know it sounds metal, but I’m not saying this to be metal, it’s just how I like things [laughs].
Let me ask you as a Torontonian – you played a show here on May 11 at the legendary Horseshoe Tavern, but you don’t seem to play a lot on the home turf – why do you think that is?
No one really comes [laughs]. We played two Swiss shows just before that, and there were more people on those two shows than all our Ontario dates we played in May.
I went to Norway a couple of times for work a few years ago, and always heard MANY people talk about Danko Jones. I realized you guys are very famous there. What do you think explains your popularity specifically in Scandinavia?
‘Cause we’re a good band [laughs]. We’ve been touring there for eighteen years. I don’t know how to explain it really, but being a good band and touring there constantly had something to do with it, for sure. As far as Canada is concerned, really nobody comes, and that’s fine…we still live here. To be honest, I’d rather play outside of Canada and be able to tour the world. It’s funny because all the accolades in Canada go to the bands that do well here, but outside of Canada, a lot of those bands play to nobody. So that’s the opposite scenario than the one we have. I’d much rather have what we have. We just played in Germany a while ago to celebrate the release of our record, and there were people who drove ten hours to see us. I found out about that just before I hit the stage, and that was really cool. It doesn’t really happen in Canada this much. People just don’t know we exist or don’t like our band. And it’s fine because we get to tour. We’re lucky in that sense. No offense, but I’d rather play in Zurich and Munich than in Toronto.
Speaking of the fans, you did a very cool video for the song “Burn in Hell” which was made of footage sent by the fans. How much footage did you receive, and how long did it take you to go through all the submissions?
Our webmaster was the one who got all the footage, but he did say he had a lot of submissions, even after the deadline people were still sending stuff.
Danko, thanks so much for your time today, I wish you all the best in the upcoming tour.
Thanks so much Rodrigo, bye!
DANKO JONES – “A Rock Supreme” track listing:
- I’m In A Band (stream)
- I Love Love
- We’re Crazy (stream | video)
- Dance Dance Dance (stream | video)
- Lipstick City (stream)
- Fists Up High
- You Got Today
- That Girl
- Burn In Hell (stream | video)
- You Can’t Keep Us Down
DANKO JONES is:
- Danko Jones / Guitar, vocals
- John “J.C.” Calabrese / Bass
- Rich Knox / Drums
For more information, please visit: