Interview: Frankie Poullain of The Darkness talks new album and Oz tour

    Rock majesty in the form of THE DARKNESS returns to our shores at the end of this month, so gird your loins and prepare to party harder than ever before. Down Under for the Groovin the Moo festival, the lads will also be playing a set of unmissable headlining dates in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth. The yet-to-be named fifth album drops this September and lucky punters will be able to catch a preview of the new tracks at these upcoming shows. Promising ‘relentless rifferama, effortless haute couture, ridiculously loud noises and bright things that flash on and off’, let it be known that this is a band to catch live. Thanks to our good friend, John Howarth of Nuclear Blast, we got to have a chat with the band’s very funny, very, very talented, and very candid bass player, Frankie Poullain, who talked to us of touring, influences, stage costumes, and cricket. Enjoy!

    SR: You’ve got an album coming out in September. What can you tell us about the new stuff? Will Aussie fans be getting any previews?

    FP: Yeah, correct. The album’s coming out in September. I think we’ll try to introduce some new ones now and then – road test some of these songs live for the first time. I can’t stress enough how exciting it is – it’s just such an eclectic album, and having Rufus as our new drummer has really been a catalyst for us to be at the top of our game.

    SR: It’s so far untitled, which is tantalising. Can you tell us a bit about the inspirations behind it and its themes?

    FP: The themes are copulation and death.

    SR: I read that Adrian Bushby (Foo Fighters, Muse) is producing this one. What made you go with him this time?

    FP: Dan had an instinct about him. Dan has a good nose for things, as you can probably tell from the photographs of the band. Dan wanted to work with Adrian because he makes the guitars really loud, so it’s purely for selfish reasons. He’s actually great for the hard rock stuff, because a lot of our stuff is drum and guitar based, obviously – Dan and Rufus riffing off each other – so we wanted to capture that energy. And nobody pushes that quite like Adrian Bushby does; that’s his trademark. But also, we wanted to take people’s heads off, basically, and he’s the man for that. And also, we wanted to record in an old countryside studio again, with a bit of history – an old country house. It’s a converted chapel where we recorded everything. Our first album was recorded in a very similar place. We also wanted to record the backing tracks live to capture the energy, the blistering energy of the three of us – the guitar, bass, and drums.

    SR: I know you had a fairly rocky experience on the second album with your then producer, Roy Thomas Baker. Was it smoother sailing this time?

    FP: Yeah, exactly. You really have done your research. For me it was quite turbulent, yes, as you say. That’s where the wheels really came off. It was a tough time, you know? I don’t think we were really prepared to go into the studio anyway. The songs really hadn’t been shaped enough. It was all wrong. It was the people around us, the support network. Now we have a smaller group, a more tight-knit group, and it’s much more harmonious. But back then, in the early noughties, there was still a fair bit of decadence and people going through the motions and expressing opinions without your best interests at heart; whereas now, we’ve surrounded ourselves with people who only have our best interests at heart.

    SR: I understand you’re well into making a feature-length documentary. What can you tell us about that at this stage?

    FP: Well what I can tell you is that it’s warts and all. It’s got to the stage now where they’re shooting all kinds of things, and occasionally we get a little bit scared because we may find ourselves saying things that aren’t very politically correct. But we’re the kind of people who are happy to make fools of ourselves, so it could be that it turns into something interesting. It’s quite surreal.

    SR: Surreal? How so?

    FP: Simon Emmett, the director, comes from a fashion background and he’s shot documentaries before. This was very much experimental – he’s trying out something else, you know?

    SR: I heard Justin describing the band’s trajectory as a series of ‘peaks and troughs’. Is that how you see it, and does that make it difficult to decide what stays in and what gets cut out?

    FP: Yeah, well we always egg each other on when it comes to that side of things. We’re very competitive. If we have a game of tennis or play football together, we’re super-competitive—we don’t wrap each other, or ourselves, in cotton wool. I think it’s probably more barbed wire.

    SR: I got to speak to you a couple of years ago and back then, you were talking about people like John Entwhistle as influences. Who and what else has shaped you creatively, personally?

    FP: Yeah, it’s probably not so much musicians. It’s probably just maverick individuals who’ve had the courage to go their own way – people like Francis Bacon, for example. Another is Prince – he’s an obvious one. And then writers, too. I read a lot of Russian 19th Century stuff and American 20th Century stuff.

    SR: Any favourites?

    FP: Henry Miller was a big influence on me, just because of his way of thinking – his philosophy of life was one of not trying too hard, you know? In life, if you have to try too hard and focus too much. I think we’ve lost our interests now, haven’t we? Certainly Western man has lost his instincts. I think women are more in touch with their instincts now than men are because men don’t hunt or fight wars anymore – Western man I’m talking about – whereas women still give birth. I think that’s one of the problems, actually, with Western culture.

    SR: Are you a person who tends to listen to a stable of favourite artists, or do you actively seek out emerging music?
    FP: Friends’ recommendations, really. I’ll occasionally hear a name pop up once or twice and check it out. But not through outlets like magazines and all that sort of stuff because it’s almost always kind of bollocks and PR-sponsored stuff. So yeah, I probably don’t keep up with it all as much as I used to. There’s certainly as much that came out this year that came out 20 years ago. There’s a lot of undiscovered things from 20 years ago and 30 years ago, you know? These kinds of things happen. You’ll just find yourself somewhere and accidentally meet someone or walk into a bar and there’s a band playing, you know?

    SR: Do you go out to see much live music, or is it something you have an overload of and avoid?

    FP: I like going for back nines, you know, when it comes to comedy or music. I like to find a back street place and see someone who maybe isn’t going to be big in the next year or so, but you can see something in them that means they’re going to be big in the next four or five years, you know? It’s great to catch people at that stage.

    SR: Yeah, I’m always envious of those people who got to see Amy Winehouse play little pub gigs before she hit the bigtime.

    FP: Yeah, geeze. She was definitely the real deal for sure.

    SR: Last time we spoke, you were also talking about your brother who does the adventure trips and hikes and your time as a tour guide in Venezuela. Have you had much of a chance to get out and commune with nature?

    FP: Well, I’m in London, so not as much as I should. I tried living in the French countryside seven or eight years ago.

    SR: You’re heading down our way at the end of this month for Groovin’ the Moo and a set of your own headlining dates. Are you looking forward to it? Are you a good traveller when it comes to these long-haul flights?

    FP: Well, I can never sleep on flights for some reason. It’s something about the energy on a plane – I just can’t sleep. Too many people, I think. So I always arrive exhausted because I’ve not slept, but I adjust pretty quickly, you know? We never experience much jet lag because we just enjoy what we do so much. We just have a great time, you know? There are nerves. There’s always fear for the first couple of gigs, but that subsides pretty quickly.

    SR: Yeah? Still?

    FP: Well, just because we put demands on ourselves. We don’t really rehearse that much going into a tour. We like it when it’s a bit edgy for the first couple of gigs. It brings something out in you.

    SR: You like the adrenaline?

    FP: Well, it’s not good to be too well rehearsed, you know, because then you’re going through the motions. It’s never good to be in a comfort zone. If you want to be in a rock and roll band, you shouldn’t be in a comfort zone. You have to take risks and live dangerously…in some way, anyway. So that’s our philosophy, yeah.

    SR: What have you got lined up for these shows?

    FP: Well I’d be lying to you if I told you because, like I say, if you’re too well-prepared… Well, I’ll tell you what. We’re going to rehearse on Easter day because that’s the only day we could rehearse. So we’re all sacrificing Easter. Maybe that’s symbolic, in a way. Crucifying ourselves. So, no Easter eggs for us at all – no chocolate – because we don’t want to be in the comfort zone.

    SR: You were telling me last time we caught up that Ray Brown was doing your costumes for that tour cycle. Are you using him again this time?

    FP: No, he doesn’t like us anymore. That’s all I’m going to say. We love him, but he doesn’t like us anymore.

    SR: Oh, most un-Australian of him.

    FP: If you see him, tell him we still love him, yeah?

    SR: So what sort of look are you going with this time? Will it be retro glam, as per?

    FP: I’m probably going to look like a scarecrow without Ray dressing me. He managed to hide the fact that I’m a skinny, ragged older man for years. So now, without him, I’m just going to go back to being that. But that was actually an idea we had anyway. We had the idea of doing The Wizard of Oz, which would be Justin as Dorothy, me as the scarecrow, Dan as the tin man, and Rufus as the lion.

    SR: (Laughs). Very good. Is there anything you’re looking to do down here that you haven’t so far?

    FP: Playing cricket. We’ve got a cricket match against a bunch of journalists. It’s some kind of a challenge. I can’t remember the details but it’s some cricket game where we have to defend the honour of our nation.

    SR: Are you a good player?

    FP: Uh, well, I’m Scottish. We’re probably the worst cricket team in the world. We’re so bad that my step-brother is a comedian – Phil Kay. He’s an anarchic Scottish comedian and he actually toured Australia a couple of months ago. But anyway, the point I’m making is that this is how bad the Scottish cricket team is: he plays wicket keeper for the Scottish cricket team. Can you imagine?


    ***TICKETS ON SALE NOW via Select Touring***

    Thursday April 27 – Eatons Hill, Brisbane (18+)

    Tuesday May 2 – Max Watts, Melbourne (18+) – 3rd and FINAL Melbourne Show

    Wednesday May 3 – 170 Russell, Melbourne (18+) – sold out

    Friday  May 5 – 170 Russell, Melbourne (18+) – sold out

    Wednesday May 10 – Enmore Theatre, Sydney (Lic/Aa)

    Friday May 12 – Metro City, Perth (18+)