The Darkness will be releasing their newest album, “Motorheart,” on November 19th via Cooking Vinyl. The band consists of Justin Hawkins on vocals/guitars, Dan Hawkins on guitars/backing vocals, Frankie Poullain on bass, and Rufus Taylor on drums.
There is everything a fan of The Darkness could possibly want on “Motorheart,” pumping riffs, punchy drums, infectious hooks, and huge choruses. All of that and more are found within these glorious 11-tracks. There is also a heartfelt quality to compositions such as “Jussy’s Girl” and “The Speed of Nite Time.” The utterly moving “Nobody Can See Me Cry” is a touching songs that always brings a tear to my eye. Paying homage to a devoted sex robot named “Motorheart,” the album growls, pounds, and stomps with Rufus Taylor‘s drums, Frankie Poullain‘s bass, and Justin & Dan Hawkins‘ guitars all turned up to 11. At the same time, Justin‘s trademark vocals soar to ever more earth-quaking levels.
The Darkness are skilled masters at songwriting, going beyond the thunderous riffs or the catchy hooks; each song is laced with intricate guitar fills and nuances that bring each song to life. Combine that with Justin‘s falsetto voice and lyrics that strike a perfect balance of double entendres with tongue & cheek humor. When it all comes together, it’s explosive! “Motorheart,” pre-orders are available at the band’s official store.
Correspondent Robert Cavuoto spoke to bassist Frankie Poullain about the importance of how musical diversity, experimentation, and humor all come into play with The Darkness on “Motorheart”. Check out their conversation transcript below, and remember that for more interviews and other daily content, make sure to follow Sonic Perspectives on Facebook, Flipboard and Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel to be notified about new content we publish on a daily basis.
The album opens with a very cool bass riff on “Welcome Tae Glasgow.” I wondered if that was a homage to Lemmy of Motorhead?
I take that as a compliment. How it came about was I hadn’t seen my fellow band-mates in quite a while because of the pandemic. Rufus arranged for Dan and me to get together for a few days away in Carmel and jam. They let me set up my rig in a beautiful room with a view of the harbor and across a gardens. We jammed for two days, and within those two days, we created seven of the backing tracking for the album, one of them being “Welcome Tae Glasgae.” It was funny because I just started playing that bass pattern, and Dan said, “Don’t move, just keep playing that!” It was like he was holding me up with a pistol in my back [laughing]. I can see what he meant, as it is so important to keep doing that as Rufus came up with some different drum patterns, and Dan could do things over it. That song started with that bass pattern, and Dan came up with the great riff. The drums and guitar take that song somewhere. The hard part was making it into a song! The first time I saw Justin in person was at Dan‘s studio during the songwriting process; we sat there wondering how to make it work. Somehow during our conversation, someone said, ‘Welcome to Glasgow,” and Justin thought that was a great idea. It felt right since so many musicians have an affinity for Glasgow because people are up for anything there as there are no rules. The audiences are always unhinged. He created a homage to Glasgow, which is our “Welcome to the Jungle.”
The songs on this album are quite diverse yet still kick ass. Tell me about the importance of applying those different dimensions to your music?
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to avoid cliches. We are happy to embrace cliches when it comes to styling and looks. We are not scared to wear catsuits and bandanas. When it comes to music and concepts of songs, we like to do things that other bands might feel are in bad taste or a bit silly. We are not scared of being silly; that’s obvious. That is where a song like “Welcome Tae Glasgae” comes from. It might be a song that another band would shy away from because it’s not tasteful, but we are not shy in exploring bad taste. That is where we find a lot of the juiciest material. On the last album, we came up with “Rock and Roll Deserves to Die,” and as soon as the band said that, we thought it was a good challenge. We were not only laying down the gauntlet for ourselves but for other bands. If we were to do it, it had to be good, and we like to think it is good. What do you think is the equivalent of that song on this album?
I would have to say “Jussy’s Girl” would be the equivalent, plus it’s my favorite track on the album.
That’s a good call! I would say that’s a homage to 80s rock and the closest we have gotten to a Def Leppard song, not necessarily with the vocals but with the sonic template, delays, reverbs, and roominess. It’s the luxury of sound; that is why we piped in the sound of helicopters on that song. We wanted to create that feeling of a huge stadium rock show in the 80s with the way people dancing in the aisle dancing in that 80s way which was a bit cringy at the time. It came back now, and it has a bit of charm to it.
I was thinking also of similarities with Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl,” not with the music but with the play-on-words in the title and storyline.
I hear you! Without that song, Justin would never have been able to play off of it with his words. It is the most blatant and unashamed use of words [laughing]. He likes to do things like that take things too far. I think it works. We completed a video for it, which I’m very excited about. It was shot in the village where I live in Somerset. I co-wrote and co-produced the video with Arepo Films, run by the Italian filmmaker Alberto Bona.
I look forward to seeing it when it comes out on YouTube.
I hope you like it!
With most songwriters, by the time they get out of their thirties, all the good songs have all been written, but you’re actually getting better. What’s The Darkness’ secret?
Thank you kindly! That’s very generous to you! I think the secret sadly in rock is irreverence. People think the way to make great rock is to referential the past. I believe it’s to be irreverent towards the past. I think it is more important to be transgressive and occasionally go too far. I believe being tasteful is a mistake people make because being tasteful is safe today, and when you listen back to it in a year’s time. If you are prepared not to be tasteful, then the song has a chance of aging well because people’s taste changes all the time.
Because of that, The Darkness’ music is not confined to a particular sound or style where every album needs to sound the same. You have room to be flexible and experiment.
Thanks for noticing. We can’t say that we always get it right. We explore genres that we are not necessarily experts in, but we like to do it. We had our adventures through the 70s and 80s and even dipped a toe into the 90s. With the song “Its Love, Jim,” you can almost say it’s punk. As I said, we like to dip a toe into different things, and the challenge is to get it right. It’s scary and wonderful to get into a genre that you have never done before.
The last album, Easter is Canceled, was recorded in Dan studio. Was this album recorded there as well?
Yes, but Justin did some vocals in Switzerland, which make it sound like an 80s platinum album [laughing]. It’s because he happens to live there and has a daughter there. He wanted to be there during the lockdown, so that is where he did the vocal. He has a nice studio, as that is why you can hear him yodeling on the song “Nobody Can See Me Cry.” It might not be authentic yodel, but it is something in the yodel family, like on the chorus of “Love On The Rocks With No Ice,” which has a yodeling quality as well. I think he revisited it in the chorus of “Nobody Can See Me Cry.”
The Darkness mix hard rock and solid riffs with lyrics that can be humorous at times. How important is it to inject humor into your music as well as your videos?
When you go back into history, playfulness is very important in all art forms. If an art form is completely humorless, it is very hard to digest. If you think about The Beatles with all the documentaries that have been created about them, you can see they were always playful. There is a lot of humor in their music. Without it, a huge part of their appeal would be missing. I think there is humor in The Rolling Stones music as well. It is so campy and a homage to African-American Blues music coming from white guys living in Richmond. Grunge heralded in the lack of humor in music and different melodic sequences. It changed rock, and I think a lot of bad rock music stems from it. Grunge fans are going to hate me for saying that. There was some humor in Nirvana‘s music as a lot of Kurt‘s lyrics were quite playful and almost “punky.” So I wouldn’t say that Nirvana was without humor, but a majority of the other Grunge bands were.
I don’t see any tour dates for the United States as of yet. Can you give us a hint when you might be coming here?
We are missing the States. It’s the longest time since we have been ever been there, as we are there every two years or so. I think it will happen next Autumn, perhaps October.
I vaguely recall you were supposed to play in New Jersey during the Spring of 2020. Were you in the States went the pandemic and lockdown hit?
We never made it to the States. We were in Australia happily on tour when we had to come back. We had to abandon Australia and try to get back home. It was pretty hairy flying back through Singapore and certainly a very dark time. We lost money and now just finding a chance to have fun again and make money which is a bonus [laughing].
Tell me about the exact moment when you said I wanted to be a bass player, and what was the inspiration?
It was when I was a dropout in Bath, England. I came there from Scotland when I was 18 years old and dropped out of college. I was into the 80s Alternative music and inspired by Joy Division, The Cure, Sisters of Mercy, and Killing Joke. I was quite late to pick up the bass; I was a late bloomer. I was always in bands with people younger than me. I was 35-36 years old when The Darkness made it! A lot of people in my family and my friends were telling me that it wasn’t going to happen and I should get a normal job. But, when I met Justin and Dan, I knew something was going to happen. With the brother’s thing, the two of them made one complete person. They each compensated for any weaknesses the other had, plus they are lovely people.
I’m sure you look fondly back on those early days.
It was quite a heavy time in terms of partying. We all drank back then. We all look back fondly as they were magical times.
What song would you say had your biggest imprint on it?
The closing track, “Speed of the Nite Time.” It was the first time that I had a chance to revisit those 80s influential bands I mentioned earlier. It’s the first Goth, LA Goth, and English Goth-influenced track The Darkness has ever done. I came up with the backing track with Diane Birch, my partner who is a great singer and songwriter. We came up with the bass, drums, and keyboards. I wasn’t sure what the guys would think because normally, we’d only had a couple of outside collaborators. I took it to Dan, who changed a few bits and pieces here and there, then presented it to Justin for the vocals. There was quite a lot of climbing. Now it’s the closing track on the album and something we have never done before.