By Courtney Grimes
Just when you thought you saw the light…. The Darkness comes again with their second album, a followup to their smash debut, Permission to Land (Atlantic). Members Justin Hawkins (vocals), Dan Hawkins (guitar), Frankie Poullain (bass) and Ed Graham (drums) have reached legendary status as their ‘80s rock revival continues to take the world by storm. The Darkness, originating in Lowestoft, England, has been one of the elite few British bands who have had such immediate U.S. success. With singles like “Get Your Hands Off My Woman,” and “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” topping international charts, The Darkness has set on the U.S. as well as the U.K.
In preparation for world domination, The Darkness is in full-swing, already in pre-production for their next album, due out this summer. In the meantime, the guys have been busy with an arena tour, a 2004 Christmas single, “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End),” and donating possessions to The Sun Tsunami Appeal Auction. The auction raised money for the Disasters Emergency Committee which aides Tsunami victims. Items donated by The Darkness included Justin’s signature red silver burst Les Paul, and his white catsuit, worn in the video for “I Believe in a Thing Called Love.” Guitarist Dan Hawkins donated his sunburst Les Paul, which he used on the arena tour.
Dan took some time out from the studio for a quick chat with Gibson.com about his new Les Paul Jr. amp, his fortune telling abilities, and his quest to take over the world.
CG: I know you guys were heavily involved with the Tsunami Relief Fund. Tell me about that.
DH: Well, I think we raised about 20,000 pounds ($40,000) and donated a few guitars. We are in the middle of recording our album at the moment. There was a live performance thing so we thought we’d donate the equipment for an online charity in Britain. It did alright, it made 20,000 pounds. I hated to part with my guitar, though, but it was for such a great cause.
CG: Tell me about your Gibsons.
DH: My favorite is still the one that I started off with, which is a Les Paul Standard. I think it’s from ‘98 or something like that. And its pre-BurstBuckers®. To be honest I prefer the pickups that were in before BurstBuckers. The BurstBuckers definitely are more genuine and they hark back to the glory days of Gibson. But I prefer my Les Paul- with the ones they made when the Les Paul Standards were being made in the late ‘90s.
The one I gave away actually was one of my favorites. We stuck a Seymour Duncan on the back of it. I do mainly play the Les Paul Standard. I’ve played that at every gig I’ve ever had. And that’s my starting point in the studio. You can muck around with different guitars for certain bits, but you have to have your own sound, especially because you’ve been playing for three to four years. You get used to that sound and that’s your benchmark, that’s your sound. When you muck around with different guitars, you always come back to the same one. I also play a Black Beauty. I played it in one of our videos. It sounds amazing. I use it in the studio sometimes.
CG: How do you like your Les Paul Jr. Amp?
DH: Yeah, it’s nice! We’ve already used it a couple times in the studio. According to my producer it’s pretty accurate, according to the original. It really can deliver a cutting sound.
CG: It probably really helps in vintage type recording…
DH: Yeah, it’s good for mainly lead things, sound just jumps out of the speakers. I have had it for about three weeks now. In the studio you sort of go, “Alright, what have we got that can make this sound?” Probably jazz players would be able to use it as well as their main amp. But we basically put effects in front of it and drive it, and do leads and bits like that.
CG: How is it for a tour bus amp?
DH: Yeah it’s fantastic. It’s so portable so it’s great for the road but it’s one of those things where it’s actually good enough to use in the studio. It’s got a really good sound to it. I just crank it and it just cuts through everything basically. Say you’ve got layers of guitars and you want something to pierce through it, on the top end. You put that in the mix and it does a good job. The size definitely makes it a tour bus amp. It’s easy to get around. But it’s even better in the studio I think.
CG: I have to ask…. you were once hailed as East Anglia’s youngest soothsayer, and that you could accurately predict the size, sex, weight and distinct markings of unborn cattle…
DH: (Laughing) No comment! There’s a new secret society of people just like me and I’ve been told not to talk about it anymore. (Continues laughing…)
CG: What projects do you have coming up?
DH: We’ve been in pre-production and laying tracks down for the next album, which should be out in the summer. We’re planning the entire next year in the next two weeks. It’s looking good, obviously the album is the most important thing. But we’ve written a hell of a lot of songs for it now. We did the first album and got so much better and there’s so many more of them for us. I reckon it will be a pretty impossible thing not to blow the first one out of the water. Now, we’re set up. But that’s all the first album was really… we’re set up now. This is when it gets good.
CG: What does “good” mean for you? When, in your mind, will you have “arrived?”
DH: (laughing) My initial thing was taking over the entire world… We’ve done a really good job. The thing is you have to keep going. The main attention is for us to stay alive and for us to stay a band. You only really become very successful when you stick together. Just keep going and reaching bigger and better. We still haven’t played Madison Square Garden. That’s a benchmark. Something will have gone seriously wrong if we don’t play Madison Square Garden for this album…