Interview: Danko Jones Talks New Album & Oz Tour

Nobody rocks like Toronto-based rock and rollers Danko Jones. They are bringing their authenticity and rock-fuelled energy back to Australian shores for the first time since Soundwave Festival 2013 to celebrate the release of their latest anthem-packed record A Rock Supreme. Hailed as one of the best live shows you will ever see, this is one live show you won’t want to miss!

Thanks to John Howarth and Silverback touring, we got to chat with the man himself Danko Jones about their big return! 

SR: You were last here in 2013 and it’s your first headline tour here in fifteen years, how are you guys feeling about being back and headlining Australia again? 

DJ: Well, the first time we went to Australia was the first headline tour. We’d never been there before, we didn’t have too many expectations, didn’t really know if anyone would even bother to come. And I gotta say – the shows, they weren’t packed, or there wasn’t a line up around the block, but they weren’t empty either, so that told me that we could come back. But unfortunately, we never did [laughs]. Until 2013 Soundwave Festival. So, I think building on what happened at Soundwave and maybe, hopefully just being a presence on the internet – hopefully will bring people out for these shows in May and we can at least equal if not top what we did back in 2004.

SR: I think leaving everyone waiting could be a good idea, it might build the suspense more.  

DJ: Yeah [laughs] well, there’s that, but also with these days a lot of people have short attention spans and they just forget you know? The trick is just to keep going back and we haven’t been able to do that with Australia so hopefully this will be the beginning of a new way of touring Australia, meaning we’ll be back more regularly.

SR: I’ve often heard Australia and Canada compared to one another. Coming from Canada, do you think that’s true?  

DJ: It was around –8 [degrees] today, it’s freezing cold and it’s been –40 this winter, so unless you guys can match that I don’t see the similarities [laughs]. But it does get hot in the summer and humid, so it can match Australia sometimes, but I think Australia’s got us beat in terms of weather and yeah, I don’t know. I’m from Toronto so … I know that there’s some crazy animals in Australia too [laughs]. We have Moose and Beavers.

SR: Do you think the people have a similar vibe?  

DJ: I don’t really know. I’ve been there twice but I didn’t really get to hang out too much. And besides, my experience with people when I tour are really ‘rock people’ and often they’re all very similar, it’s what brings us together. No matter where you are. Whether you’re in Australia or you’re in Spain or you’re in Brazil or you’re in Texas, you know, if you’re at a rock show, you know you’re with someone who – at least you’ve got this one thing that you guys have in common and you can build from there. 

SR: It’s been said that your show is one of the best live shows ever and that no one does rock and roll better than you. That they stay etched in the memory for a long time afterwards. So, what can Australia expect from this latest tour?  

DJ: Exactly what you said! [laughs] Cut and paste what you said! [laughs] Yeah, what we do is: nothing planned except for the songs. We rehearse only the songs and what happens during the show happens. If I do say something during the show that just came into my head at that moment. And I think the audience when they see it they can kind of feel that this thing is happening right in front of us, this isn’t this rehearsed thing. Of course, the songs, like I said, are rehearsed or else it would just be a clown show. But everything that happens in between, and sometimes during the songs is a spontaneous thing. We can’t plan who shows up. Maybe someone’s gonna say something or do something that throws us off and if we’re on this scripted conveyor belt, anything like that will throw us off course. So, we can’t be on a conveyor belt, we’ve just gotta roll with whatever happens.  And I think people can feel that. This is live. This is not gonna happen tomorrow night is what I am saying. 

SR: Fantastic! I think that’s probably the best way to experience live music, not knowing what is going to come next.

DJ: Yeah, but you’d be surprised, I’m not gonna mention names, but we’ve been on tour with bands where night after night the singer says the same thing. And that’s cool. To a certain respect I will, I’ll say good evening [laughs] but after that whatever comes into my head is happening as you see it. 

SR: Sounds like a very authentic experience with you guys, then!

DJ: Yeah, I mean I’ll have a thought that comes into my head and I’ll just say it.

SR: You’re clearly doing very well, but the success hasn’t gone to your heads yet. How do you stay so grounded?

DJ: Because when we come home … we’re from Canada and in Canada Hard Rock music isn’t really valued here like it is … my impression of Australia is Australia has a very deep sense of Hard Rock music and a reverence and respect for it. But I don’t feel the same for Canadians. We, as Canadians I think because of the success of Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene people have their heads tuned more towards Indie Rock and Indie Pop and Grassroots music with acoustic guitars and stuff like that. So that’s the kind of music that gets more attention and is more revered. So being a Hard Rock band in Canada, you know, you have to go outside to get any sort of attention and that’s what we did. Luckily there was an opening and we just jumped right through it because nothing was happening in Canada. So, what keeps us grounded is we can finish a tour – like we did last November – in front of maybe a thousand or two thousand people, cheering and singing along to the lyrics and two days later I’ll be home in Toronto and someone will come up to me and go “what are you guys up to these days? Are you in a band?” [laughs].

That’s very grounding. It’s not like we’re unknown here, but it’s just … we’re in a weird kind of limbo in Canada. We’ve got Canadian dates booked, we haven’t played our hometown of Toronto in two years but we’re gonna play in May, right before the Australian dates. So, that’s how it is over here. And when we do now, I think people come because now word has gone out that we’re just never around and when we are we’re not gonna play. So, a Toronto show is a rare occurrence and that’s happening in May about a couple of weeks before we head over to Australia. And I think that works in our favour as well. But that’s what keeps us grounded, to answer your question.

SR: in saying that, what’s that craziest, most “rock and roll” thing you’ve done on a tour?

DJ: What is a “rock and roll” thing, you know? My definition beyond rock and roll – beyond the music – is freedom. Freedom to do what you need to do. It’s the whole ‘lone wolf’ thing, you can whatever you want kind of thing. And that’s rock and roll to me. I don’t subscribe to you know, all the usual sex, drugs and rock and roll type of thing. Not to say I haven’t partaken. But I just don’t believe in the uniform that people think you’re supposed to wear when it comes to rock and roll, ‘cause to me that’s the most un-rock and roll thing you could do – to put on a uniform. So, I do whatever I want. For me, I enjoy record shopping on tour if there’s a record store nearby. I’m not going to travel to it. I will walk a block to it. But if there is one nearby I always want to go – does that qualify as rock and roll? And just playing the show I think is enough. That would be enough. I mean I’m playing a rock and roll show and singing rock and roll tunes, do I need to top myself by doing something that’s probably been done by another band better ten, twenty years ago. 

SR: The music videos for Full of Regret and Had Enough are really entertaining, epic; they’re like a big movie. Was filing them as fun as it looks?  

DJ: Yeah, it was actually really fun. It’s part of a trilogy that included a video there for another a song called I think Bad Thoughts and so it started with Full of Regret as a music video and it was gonna be – the video was gonna be like a trailer for a movie. And the directors, these two brothers Josh and Jason Diamond they just happened to be friends with Elijah Wood and they turned Elijah on to our band years before the video and we’ve known the Diamond Brothers for years before they directed that video. So, it was all just buddies. So, they contacted Elijah and they said “hey, you wanna do this? We’re gonna do this video” and he said yes and once Elijah got on board, then everybody started to like think bigger and so we filmed Full of Regret. We got Selma Blair on board because she was friends with the producer of the video and she wanted to work with Elijah. And then you know we got Mike Watt to come down and be the bartender/narrator [laughs] of the video, because Watt’s the man and … we just emailed Watt because we’re friends with him and we’d played with him in the past and he nailed it, hit it out of the park. And so, it just became this thing. And then Lemmy came down [laughs] ‘cause we shot it in Los Angeles. And so, we were filming this video and I believe I said to Jason “how are we going to top this? How do you top this?” I said “we’ve gotta get the Karate Kid” just as a joke and then we had a production meeting to do the second video and the Diamond brothers and our manager reached out to Ralph Macchio and we made contact with him and he said yes! And so, he was in the Had Enough video and the I Think Bad Thoughts video – with Elijah on that third video. But when he came down to the set for the Had Enough video we were giving him his space, we kept giving him his space and he was really down to earth and cool he’s like “guys come on over, let’s talk” so we talked, and he said the reason that he did the video was because his son knew our songs! Because he played EA Sports hockey on his PlayStation or Xbox and we had a song that year on one of the video games and I guess when you play those video games you hear that song like a million times. So, he knew our band and he said to his dad “you have to do this video”.

It was so wild! It was wild! And then everybody came back for the final video I Think Bad Thoughts: Elijah, Mike Watt, Ralph Macchio. Selma couldn’t do it, so we got Jenna Malone to come in and it looks like some sort of movie – it makes no sense to me – but it was just so much fun to shoot.

SR: It’s so much fun to watch too. I’ve never been so creeped out by Elijah Wood!  

DJ: Yeah, he really nailed it! I think he really liked it because it was out of character for him.

SR: What movie do you wish you were on the soundtrack for?  

DJ: Um … geez … Star Wars!  [laughs]

SR: I’ve been reading about your columns. Does being a musician affect how you write about other bands? Or do you put yourself in a different mindset to write?

DJ: I always write from my perspective on things. So, it’s easier to write that way for me. I mean I’m not a writer, I just used writing as a way to kill time on the road and it just kept going and going. Another thing is my editors don’t apply any pressure on me to write something objectively. I always write something personal, even if it’s about a band like I don’t know … Kiss or The Misfits or something, it’s always from a personal standpoint, so it’s easier to write. There’s only been a couple of times where I’ve gotten a request “can you write –”. I think there was one time an editor asked me to write two thousand words on a Metallica album. But even then, I wrote from a very personal point of view. 

SR: I wondered whether it was sometimes a case of “oh, I’d hate if someone said that about me so I’d better I’d better be nicer” [laughs].  

DJ: Oh, yeah, there’s certain things I don’t say, because I understand what the band was thinking or where they were coming from, more so than someone who’s not in the industry but I don’t hesitate to give my opinion on something. I also criticise the bands that I love the most, so that happens too. And I’ve burned bridges because of it for sure.

SR: Did you have any final messages for your fans over here looking forward to seeing you?  

DJ: I’m really bad at that, like I don’t have anything other than we’ve got a new album called A Rock Supreme. Come out to the show, I’ve heard it’s a good one. That’s about it.   

A Rock Supreme will be available April 26th 

And you can catch them at one of these shows:

Thursday May 30th – Melbourne, Stay Gold

Friday May 31st – Brisbane, Crowbar

Saturday 1st June – Sydney, Crowbar

Sunday 2nd June – Adelaide, Enigma Bar

Get your tickets now: