Dan Hawkins, song writer, guitarist and founder member of The Darkness chats with Kevin cooper about the first record that he bought, the need for another Sex Pistols, their latest album Easter Is Cancelled and their forthcoming tour of the UK.

Dan Hawkins is a song writer, rock guitarist, and the founder member of the UK band, The Darkness, a band fronted by his older brother Justin Hawkins. Also currently in the band are bass player Frankie Poullain and drummer Rufus Tiger Taylor.

From a young age, he aspired to be a musician, beginning on drums, moving on to bass and finally mastering the guitar. Back in the early days off his professional career, he worked as a session guitarist for various artists including Natalie Imbruglia. But on forming the Darkness they went on to have mainstream success, wining Brits, MTV, and Kerrang awards and they were awarded the prestigious Ivor Novello Award for song writing in 2004.

In 2005 Poullain left the band and in 2006 Justin Hawkins departed after successfully completing a course of rehabilitation from alcohol and cocaine abuse. However, in 2011 the band announced some reunion shows and then went on to release a further four studio albums, including their latest release, Easter Is Cancelled, on which Hawkins was heavily involved with the production process.

Whilst busy rehearsing for their forthcoming winter tour, Dan Hawkins took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi Dan, it is great to hear from you.

Hi Kevin, how’s it going?

I’m very well thanks; how are things with you?

I’m actually a bit poorly today. I seem to have picked up this rather nasty chest infection that is currently doing the rounds. But other than that, I’m alright thanks. I’m all Lemsipped up so if I start babbling then I do apologise.

Just an idea but perhaps you should start a sex chat line whilst you have the deep, sexy voice (laughter).

How do you know that I haven’t got one already (laughter). If I did that, then perhaps I should call it Permission To Gland (laughter). I will be thinking about that all day now, but I really should try to get it out of my mind.

So, taking aside the throat and the chest, just how is life treating you?

What can I say, life at the moment is treating me really good thank you. Everything is hotting up now as we have recently started rehearsals for the winter tour, and I have to say that I am really enjoying myself.

I suppose that we had better speak about the new album, Easter Is Cancelled, hadn’t we?

I suppose that we had now that the sex chat line is all sorted and ready to go (laughter).

Well I have to say that I have been playing the album for a few days now and I absolutely love it.

Thanks a lot for that, cheers.

I personally feel that it has got an edgier and sometimes darker feel to it than previous albums. Would you agree with that?

I would say that is probably true, yes. I personally feel that this album is weightier. I don’t know why, I guess that maybe the themes running through the album denote that. Yes, it is a concept album but a concept album in inverted commas. Yes, there are three concepts running through it, but the main one that I take from it is life, death and rebirth so, with that as a backdrop I suppose that it was always going to sound pretty heavy. I’m pretty proud of the way that it sounds.

You mention that there are three concepts running through the album. Did you set out to make a concept album?

What can I say; no but after three songs we realised that there was theme running through those three songs. Each of those three songs were sprawling epics, and we just thought ‘how are we going to dig ourselves out of this hole, the label is expecting to hear singles’ (laughter). After that, I stopped answering the phone to them for about three months (laughter). It was like ‘fuck, what are we going to do’ (laughter). Then it was, ‘okay, fuck it, let’s just turn it into a concept album’ (laughter). That was our get out of jail free card basically.

You and I spoke in 2017 prior to the release of you fifth album, Pinewood Smile and you said at that time that “the band had finally found its stride and were writing and recording some of our best stuff”. Do you feel that has carried over to the new album?

Yes, I do, most definitely. This is the thing isn’t it, whenever you release a new album, you are naturally excited about it, and at that time, you genuinely believe that it is the best thing that you have ever done (laughter). But then it takes some time and distance really to be able to look back and see it for what it is. When I look back at Pinewood Smile, bearing in mind that I wasn’t involved in the production of that album, I had basically taken that album off from the band because I had just had a child. I have to say that our producer Adrian Bushby did a fantastic job, but what I would say is that essentially Pinewood Smile is all about the rest of getting to know Rufus (Tiger Taylor) really.

We wrote the album in the rehearsal room, with the vocals being added later, and we then bashed it out in the studio as fast as we could. However, this album is a completely different approach. It was all pretty much written in the studio, and then we spent so long in the studio perfecting it. I think that just by the sheer amount of time that we spent on it, together with the fact that we all now know Rufus really well, and we can all be really brutally honest with each other. All of this means that I think that it has made for one of the best albums that we have made.

Dare I say that The Darkness have come of age?

I don’t know about that, but we are most definitely aging (laughter). I personally feel that I came of age far too long ago (laughter). Maybe, I suppose so but there is still that puerile humour in there that will never go away. It’s funny isn’t it; I don’t think that we mean to write about darker things or sound more grown up, I just think that as you go along through life, lots of great things happen but lots of shit things happen as well. They tend to inform you and your palate becomes, overall, probably a darker shade (laughter). There is a lot darker shade in it, I guess. Having said all of that, I still think that we are as immature as we ever were (laughter).

I currently have three go to tracks. They are Rock And Roll Deserves To Die, Live ‘Til I Die and the title track, Easter Is Cancelled; I think that the title track is awesome.

Thank you. You know what, I have done a lot of interviews and as you know, people will always have their favourites, and they always ask me what mine is. And I have to say that the title track is my favourite too actually. From the point of me achieving what I set out to do, as a producer and a mix engineer, that’s the one that I really felt that I had got right. I just think that it is really exciting to listen to and it makes me drive really fast (laughter).

I think that the intro to Live ‘Til I Die sounds a lot like Queen’s Now I’m Here; it has got that Queen feel to it. Would you agree?

Yes, it has and yes, I would although I have to say that I was trying to get a more Bruce Springsteen kind of thing going (laughter). But yes, I totally agree, it really does have that thing where you are waiting for the big riff to come in.

Did you ever feel that putting Rock And Roll Deserves To Die out as single was a gamble at over five minutes long?

(Laughter) the funny thing is these days, whenever you are speaking to the label, they don’t even use words like ‘single’ anymore. They use words like ‘first look’ and other such weird and wonderful terminology which only they understand (laughter). They were saying “we think that you should go with this” and we would reply “do you really want us to go with this one which is five and a half minutes long” to which all that they would say is “well, it’s your first look” (laughter). I said, “I don’t mind whatever it is, or whatever you decided to call it, it is still five and a half fucking minutes long” (laughter). So, the pressure was really on for us to make a video that was interesting enough really because when they say ‘first look’ that is what they are talking about really.

But yes, it was a bit of a gamble I suppose on their behalf, but what you have to remember is that it was never going to make it to number one anyway, so I am glad that we put something out that was really rocking, other than just trying to be a single. The record company will listen to the album, then they try to find the most melodic or annoying thing on there, and then say “that’s the single” to which you just go “fucking hell, that’s our least favourite song on the album” (laughter). So, I’m glad that they had some balls this time and went with Rock And Roll Deserves To Die. Currently, the people that can control music are basically making very bad decisions as far as I’m concerned, especially within the pop fraternity.

There are a few shining stars, who can actually write their own songs and play the guitar, like, for instance Ed Sheeran, but then there is this whole fucking plethora of just bollocks that is heavily audited, and A and R’d by big wigs who know which mnemonics are going to annoy children enough that they sing it at the second time of hearing it. I’m simply not into all of that stuff really.

I have to agree with you and say that nowadays everything sounds the same; it is so boring.

I am a dad of three, and I honestly do not want to fall into that trap that all our parents have fallen into at some time or another, saying “that’s rubbish, you want to listen to The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, that’s not real music” (laughter). I find it so hard not to be that person. Rock music desperately needs a young band to come along and shake the whole thing up again I suppose. It needs someone to do something that is vaguely original or just isn’t authentic. I am totally bored of authentic. Why does everyone think that they must be like The Rolling Stones or exactly like this or that? Why not just have some fun with the genre, express yourself and don’t worry about it.

I recently spoke to John Lydon and we agreed that since The Sex Pistols burst onto the music scene back in 1975 no one has delivered that kick up the backside that the music business so desperately needs.

Yes, that is so true. Oh my god, The Sex Pistols are so good. There is so much aggression in that sound and it is just brilliant. I think that both you and John are right there. You could say that at certain points bands like Nirvana made an impact but just not in the same way. The influences of that band were already there; it wasn’t a new sound. We could definitely do with another Sex Pistols; that would be fucking amazing or another Beatles would do wouldn’t it (laughter).

The last time that we spoke you told me that you weren’t into social media, and that you left all of that to Frankie (Poullain). Is that still the case?

(Laughter) what can I say, that is not entirely true anymore. I was recently cajoled into having a public Instagram account to which I have actually uploaded one picture to the site (laughter).

Are you now reading and hearing the positive feedback from the fans for the new album?

Yes, I am and it would appear that the fans love the album. They really are quite immersed in it. It is the first album that we have made for a while which I think includes a lot to listen to, not that it is a long album but, in the fact that the quality and the attention to detail doesn’t let up. It’s not like there are three skippers on the back end of the album. There really is quite a lot to take in. The fans initial thoughts seem to be ‘this is amazing’, they are really starting to digest the album now and are finally working out just what the fuck they are listening to (laughter).

I must ask just whose idea was the title?

(Laughter) I was wondering when you were going to ask that. It was my brother’s idea, and basically it was due to an email exchange with our manager. Basically, Justin was asked to write some poems based around Easter, so Justin wrote and sent back a poem which was the worst poem that you have ever heard, on purpose. It was a piss take because he couldn’t be bothered to do it properly or take it seriously. The rest of the band was witnessing all of this on the WhatsApp group. He sends back this pathetic poem to which our Manager mailed back instantly ‘Easter is cancelled’ which Justin thought was hilarious.

After that, he started looking for pictures of a really buff Jesus and he actually found one where Jesus was actually breaking away from the cross. At that point he hatched the idea of ‘what if I was Jesus on the cross’ and the album title was Easter Is Cancelled; and as they say, the rest is history (laughter).

Have you received any negative feedback in relation to the imagery used for the album cover?

I have to be totally honest with you and say that yes, we did initially. A few people were annoyed thinking that we were trying to shock people into paying attention to the band. That wasn’t the case at all. We were coming at this very much from a Life Of Brian point of view. It certainly isn’t some Metal cover where we are trying to announce the coming of the Antichrist (laughter). We were simply trying to depict a positive image. Imagine if Jesus hadn’t been crucified by the Romans, what if he broke free from the cross, kicked some serious arse and lived amongst us as a Superhero for the rest of his life (laughter). Easter is cancelled but Christmas just got even better (laughter).

So, I have to ask you; the head that you are holding on the cover is no one in particular?

(Laughter) no, that will just be some Roman; I like a good beheading. It could have been anyone; it could have been an innocent bystander standing in the way of a Roman.

I was just thinking that it could have been someone in the PR Department?

(Hysterical laughter) yes, I can think of a few people who I would like to see like that.

Please don’t take this in any other way other than a compliment but I feel that you have made an album that Queen would have been proud to record.

Wow, do you know what, a few people have now said that, and I feel that it is most like Queen because we have completely indulged ourselves in every part of it. That is why there is The Darkness doing Jazz half way through the album on Deckchair. It is a complete oddity, it’s like Serge Gainsbourg meets Eartha Kitt with a middle eight by 10cc featuring a guitar solo by Jeff Beck (laughter). It is just totally insane. We feel that it is our right as a band to do whatever we want to do these days, I think.

You have briefly mentioned the forthcoming tour. Are you looking forward to being back out on the road here in the UK?

I really can’t wait, and you know what, I have spent months devising and planning the actual production of the tour and I must tell you that it is huge. It is so different to anything that we have ever done before. This time we will be playing the whole of the new album followed by a greatest hits show. So, we are dragging our audience kicking and screaming forward and then rewarding them with some sweets at the end sort of thing. This time around, the first half of the set is going to be more like a musical production; it is going to be like nothing that you have ever seen us do before, that’s for sure. What I will tell you, and this is just classic, is that everyone and I mean everyone has advised us not to do it (laughter).

Our agent even begged me not to do it. I was just like “look, you know this is most probably the only album, apart from maybe the first one, where we will actually be able to do this”. The reality of the situation is that a lot of people will come along to a Darkness show and they haven’t bought the last album, they come along for a bit of nostalgia, I guess. I feel that we need to breakdown those barriers. We are not here just playing the greatest hits, we are not here just peddling nostalgia, we are a band that is evolving, we are a band that is moving forward so people need to realise that, even if they don’t know it yet (laughter).

Will you be playing the tracks from the new album chronologically as they appear on the album?

That’s the plan, and I have to say that I think that it works. We have got more rehearsal time planned for this tour, because of the production we have too. I am hoping that it will work. It should do in theory, and I have mapped the whole thing out in my head, together with endless meetings with the LD and the production team so we think that it is going to work (laughter). If it doesn’t then I will have blown around fifty grand (laughter).

What was the first record that you bought?

(Laughter) that was Postman Pat the single.

Now, does that leave you open to being blackmailed I wonder? Would you like me to put something more artisitic in there instead (laughter).

Not at all, make sure that you put Postman Pat in (laughter). It had The Handyman Song on the B-side which was awesome.

Dan, on that very interesting note let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today. It’s been fantastic. Good luck with the tour and I hope to see you at the Birmingham O2 Academy on Sunday 1st December.

Thanks Kevin, it’s been a blast as usual. Take care.