Dan Hawkins is not just a great guitarist and producer he’s also an enthusiastic cook. This year it’s a possibly faux-Vegan beef stew, last year it was roast potatoes… On the eve of the highly anticipated and almost completely sold out Australian Tour Mark chats with Dan Hawkins about cooking, painting, dusting, the supernatural and the prevalence of great falsettos in a Darkness live audience. Oh and also some stuff about The Darkness Australian Tour and the last album ‘Motorheart’ too.
You can catch The Darkness in Australia in October (If there are any tickets left) and if you all go out and buy the record Dan can summon me to cook for him when he gets home…
Dan: Hello! How’s it going Mark?
Mark: Not too bad Dan, we do get to talk every couple of years so it must be that time!
Dan: If it’s not a tour it’s a record! (laughs) It comes around so fast! (laughs)
Mark: (laughs) I know, I think it’s both this time! I know you always answer any question put to you so today’s question is why does almost every Rock Star I talk to these days have an i-phone?
Dan: Well it’s Apple I think, Apple made a beeline for musicians and creatives way back in the 80’s and it’s stuck ever since. It’s because their musical interfaces are idiot proof! That’s musicians for you, we’re idiots! Easy to hook! (There’s a clanking of pans in the background)
Mark: Are you tidying up or washing up?
Dan: Sorry about that Mark, I was just getting a dish out, I’m just cooking a beef stew! I must add though, it’s a Vegan beef stew.
Mark: A Vegan beef stew? Sounds good, I’ll have a go at that one. I remember last time we almost managed to get your perfect roast potatoes recipe but not quite.
Dan: (laughs) Oh no! Oh God history is repeating itself! I seem to remember that three years ago I was painting the kitchen while doing a heap of interviews and looking around now I might get the paint brush out!
Mark: (laughs) Go on for old times’ sake!
Dan: (laughs) By the looks of it, it hasn’t been cleaned in three years either, there’s loads of cobwebs up there. In fact I’ve never actually looked up there before.
Mark: (laughs) Well I’ll just jot that down, ‘remind Dan to look up at the ceiling next time’ there’s it’s locked in.
Dan: (laughs) Please!
Mark: ‘Motorheart’ was one of my albums of 2021 and you’re finally bringing it Downunder! Before we get to that though there is talk over here of The Darkness being some sort of prophets, or harbingers of doom?
Dan: Is that because of your theory of the ‘Easter is Cancelled’ thing?
Mark: (laughs) Yes, and I’m still trying to work out what ‘Motorheart’ means for us all, but I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough!
Dan: Yeah, maybe! (laughs) The weird thing with Easter is Cancelled is that we were out touring in the very, very early days of Covid. I think we might have even gone through Italy when it first kicked off in Milan so in a way we feel like we might have been the superspreading event that kind of took it all over Europe the first time round.
Dan: So it’s not that we saw it in our minds, it’s more that we probably actually made it happen. Sorry everyone.
Mark: That does bring in all kinds of other space-time continuum theories too.
Mark: You have already been pretty busy this year, you’re certainly packing it all in and making up for the lean times of Covid. I can’t think of a European Summer Festival you haven’t been on!
Dan: Yeah this has been one of the busiest Festival seasons we’ve ever had, and it’s still going, we’ve still got Festivals, though not Summer Festivals admittedly, booked all the way to November! It’s been relentless, but then we’ve got three years to make up for. (Dan is definitely peeling something, at a push I’d say potatoes)
Mark: Certainly a lot happening!
Dan: (A little chopping in the background)
Mark: I love the production on ‘Motorheart’ I think you’ve done a wonderful job there channeling your inner Mutt Lange I think!
Dan: Thank you, he’s a hero of mine. He’s one of those producers who leaves no stone unturned production-wise – he’s definitely of the ‘kitchen sink’ mentality and one of my other heroes Roy Thomas Baker was a bit like that as well. So I guess I’m trying to follow in their footsteps somewhat, trying to anyway. (laughs)
Mark: You got to work with Roy back in the day didn’t you?
Dan: I did (He’s definitely doing the onions now) I would say he was my mentor for about a year and a half, and he helped me design and build my studio in Norfolk that we record in. He taught me how to EQ, he taught me so much stuff and we became really good friends and I even stayed with him at his house after we mixed the second album ‘One Way Ticket’ out near some Lake in L.A. and he was teaching me how to listen really to the finished masterings (Yep, definitely slicing more onions) and what to look out for and the importance of those last steps of adjustment on the record. And he was actually one of Mutt Lange’s mentors back in the day, I think they were at the same label or something?
Mark: And you’re really like the next generation coming through.
Mark: Well I’m going to call it, feel free to be self-effacing, but the record does sound great.
Dan: Thank you.
Mark: There’s some great ‘Progtastic’ moments on the record that I imagine came at least in part from an excess of time in the studio? I read a few stories about how you worked on this one – you on guitar and Rufus drumming in the other room working up the tunes? Is that how it came about.
Dan: (There’s a pause, I imagine Dan is spicing the mix now) Very much so. We wanted to make an album but I knew right from the off it was going to be a real challenge with not being able to see each other during the making of it. And we were under real time pressure to finish it too because there was such a long lead time for vinyl that we were told the final mastered version would need to be handed in at least eight months before release date! So we’re going hell for leather trying to get it done trying to gauge roughly what the release window would be – the earliest one after Covid we could release in.
Mark: That’s crazy.
Dan: I know. We were kind of fighting for our lives a bit really because a small business like ours that loses all business for two years is a real challenge, and we’re quite often we’re sailing close to the wind as it is. So we knew we needed something good and that people didn’t want a bunch of blokes whingeing about being stuck indoors. So it was a case of saying “Right, we’ll only do really rocking stuff on this one. let’s not get over emotional on this one, it just needs to Rock really” So what we did was Rufus would come over – there was an entrance for the drum/live room that he would go in and I would stay in the control room and look through the glass. And literally I’d start riffing and he’d start playing, and after maybe six hours we’d have a couple of songs – backing tracks really. I like to arrange backing tracks without knowing what the song is about, it’s fun that way and then Justin interprets it and does his thing and that’s it you know. And pretty much the whole album was that, I don’t think we even re-did too much. ‘Nobody Can See me Cry’ – that was the first take we did of that one Rufus and I and then most of them were like first half of this take, second of that. Then we’d sent them to Justin as a ‘rough’ and he’d sing on them and that would be it. (laughs) Literally it! (He’s going through the cutlery drawer now)
Mark: Sounds productive.
Dan: And because we didn’t have any lyrical themes to work on as musicians and there was no lyrical feedback all we could do was make it interesting enough (He’s at the sink now) to inspire ourselves to finish these tunes. So we wanted to make them as interesting as possible and that’s where the ‘Prog’ element came in.
Mark: It’s worked out so well. I notice that one tour you’re playing ‘Welcome Tae Glasgae’…
Dan: Can you say that again I loved it! (laughs)
Mark: ‘It’s Love Jim’ and ‘Motorheart’ live, are you thinking of adding anything else in there, I love hearing the new stuff and I think ‘Sticky Situations’ is one I’d love to hear on the Tour.
Dan: Yeah, you know what that’s actually one of the ones I love, that’s one of my favourite ones to play live. That one comes across really good. When we were touring ‘Motorheart’ in the UK we would switch it up quite a lot so sometimes we would do five or six, and other times less, it all depended on the night, it was really suck it and see. (There’s a strange regular clanking I’m not sure what it is, definitely stew related though).
Mark: It’s always hard you always have to play the ones that venues get torn up for if you don’t.
Dan: (laughs) That’s right we have to admit and understand that a large portion of our audience, they don’t buy the records. If everyone that came to see us play live on Festivals and tours bought the record, well Mark, I’ll just say I wouldn’t be making my own beef stew now, I’d have someone in to do that for me!
Mark: You could fly me in to make you mine!
Mark: My beef stew is legendary.
Dan: (laughs) I had heard that, what’s the secret? Any tips?
Mark: Good stock Dan. It all boils down to that, good beef stock, not exactly great for the Vegans though, that’s hard. Maybe beet stock for Vegans?
Dan: Good stock…. I’m not going to lie to you Mark, this one might not actually be Vegan. (There’s a splashing) This doesn’t look… yeah, this is not a Vegan stew…
Mark: (laughs) Did you not follow the recipe?
Dan: Yeah, that’s what’s happened.
Mark: Parts of it might be Dan? Bits of it could be Vegan?
Dan: Yeah, the leek, I think the leek might not have been… you know round an animal…
Mark: So the Australian Tour is round the corner – you’re sounding great, Rufus is sounding great, Justin is sounding great and Frankie, he’s…
Dan: Sounding great?
Mark: I was going to say looking great, but he probably sounds great too!
Mark: You’re selling out too, you sold out Perth the other day which is nice.
Dan: It always surprises me, you always hope that these things will happen and that you’re promoted well and when that actually happens it’s really cool. We are going to be buzzing like we always are, but every time we come to Australia I can’t put my finger on it there’s just a thing… it’s almost as if we’re more Australian that we are… you know English I suppose.
Mark: (laughs) You’ll always be that little taste of England for me. I remember the first time you came over and played The Corner Hotel in Richmond, and we’re so glad you’ve been coming back ever since. I think you’re getting better as you age like a fine wine or… a good beef stew.
Dan: (laughs) There’s time yet.
Mark: I did read somewhere that during the VIP Soundchecks you were getting people from the audience to come up on stage and play on a song. Is the quality a bit variable?
Dan: You know what we have had some great singer, it’s quite incredible how many powerful falsettos there are out there, I just wait and most of the time when they start I’m thinking “My God they can actually sing!” A lot of powerful falsettos out there.
Mark: Our postman is one that comes to mind.
Dan: You’ll have to bring him down.
Mark: What’s the worst thing that can or has happened in that scenario?
Dan: I think the worst is when someone gets up to drum and they can’t play drums at all, they’ve maybe been to a few shows and they think it looks sort of easy and they’ll give it a go. But as any musician will tell you if the drums are all over the place, the whole thing is all over the place – that’s happened a few times. I’m stood there thinking ‘surely we’re playing different songs here?’
Mark: I’m sure it’s all good fun whatever happens!
Dan: We do try to make everyone feel comfortable on stage.
Mark: And we did all that whilst you made a beef stew!
Dan: I know. Can you hear it sizzling away? Can you hear it?
Mark: I can (I’m pretty sure Dan is holding the phone to the stew) I think I was there for the entire creation of that stew, you’ll have to save me a bit.
Dan: If you see a news report of a guitarist dying of food poisoning you’ll know what it was! I wasn’t paying attention (laughs) I might have put a can of bleach in there not beef stock! (laughs)
Mark: (laughs) It’s an easy mistake to make Dan, so many guitarists have gone that way!
Dan: (laughing) Bizarre cooking accidents!
Mark: We’re on the same page. (laughs) Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to The Rockpit, Dan, I’ll talk to you in another couple of years… actually no I won’t I’ll see you in a few weeks!
Dan: If I make it past second helpings I’ll see you at the gig Mark! Just remind me about those cobwebs in a couple of years’ time.
Mark: I’ll will, take care of yourself and stay safe!
Dan: Cheers, thank you, bye!
AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND TOUR OCTOBER 2022
Tuesday, Oct 11: Forum, Melbourne
Wednesday, Oct 12: Forum, Melbourne SOLD OUT
Friday, Oct 14: Astor, Perth 100 TIX LEFT!
Saturday, Oct 15: Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide
Sunday, Oct 16: Enmore Theatre, Sydney
Tuesday, Oct 18: Kambri, Canberra 200 TIX LEFT!
Wednesday Oct 19: Tivoli, Brisbane 50 TIX LEFT!
Friday, Oct 21: Hunter Lounge, Wellington 200 TIX LEFT!
Saturday, Oct 22: Powerstation, Auckland
Get them before they are gone at
THE DARKNESS VIP EXPERIENCE
Don’t miss your chance to come and hang out with the band before the show!
VIP EXPERIENCE INCLUDES:
Q&A interrogation session
Dashing photo with the band
Chance to perform a song with them on stage!
Strictly limited number of VIP tickets per show