The festival season has started once again! Time for us at RMP to have a talk with some artists performing on those festivals. We were at Graspop Metal Meeting and could get a hold of the one and only Danko Jones. With a fresh beer in our hand we sat down to talk to with the charismatic frontman about playing festivals, his latest albums, growing up in Toronto, Canada and his eye surgery.
- How is it to play at a metal festival as rock ‘n’ roll band?
I think the audience is open-minded enough. We’ve done it before on Wacken, With Full Force, Hellfest and Metal Town. Usually when we’re booked we’re almost relieved for an audience because they’ve been listening to metal for the last day and a half or two days so a lot of times we get a good reaction.
- I remember you playing at Pukkelpop festival a couple of years back and your show really blew me away. Today it just felt the same. What makes your live shows so memorable?
I don’t know, I mean, we’re just a three-piece band. Maybe there is like a connection… no, not a connection but we don’t take the audience for granted. For a lot of bands it could be any crowd. Yesterday’s crowd could be the same as today’s crowd. I think the audience can really understand that the show they’re watching is the same show as yesterday and will be the same show tomorrow and the songs might be the same but really anything that happens in the crowd or like for example today. It’s not going to happen tomorrow. So today has brought other things to the show than yesterday.
- Do you like playing festivals better than playing venue shows?
The AB in Brussels in a great venue. We like that venue a lot. They know how to treat a touring band and the room is nice. But I will admit playing Graspop with all the bands today and as a fan of music it’s really fun to meet everyone and see every band and so. It’s nice that when we play the AB, everyone’s there to see us, but also here at Graspop with Alice Cooper or Judas Priest it’s really cool to be able to see such big bands in just a couple of days.
- You just mentioned that you are three-piece band. You and John (Calabrese, red.), also known as J.C., are the real core of Danko Jones. Do you think you two are the dream team of rock ‘n’ roll? Because you’ve been so long together and you changed your drummer a couple of times.
No, no, there is no dream team. But I think we have the same goal and are on the same page with where we want the band to be and everything. And it looks on paper that we’ve been through a lot of drummers… I know how it looks to people but really… whoever is in the drum seat, is in the band. We treat them like they’ve always been in the band. Rich (Knox, red.) is in the band for almost two years now and I don’t think he feels like he’s been overlooked or anything. He’s definitely brought in into the discussions that you have as a band. I can’t really go into past drummers because it’ll be not fair to them. But we’re very happy with Rich!
- Last year you released a compilation album ‘Garage Rock! – A collection of lost songs from 1996-1998’. How did you feel when you first found those recordings again?
It was a trip down memory lane. Like some of the songs we even forget we even wrote. There’s a song on the album called “Rock ‘n’ roll is black and blue”. We had the title but we forget we had a song and named it that. I did a whole press tour saying ‘Yeah, it’s an old title we had.’ And then we found the song and I wouldn’t have known how we named it if J.C. hadn’t written it down on the cassette. Then I heard the lyrics and I remembered everything about it. So yeah it was definitely a chance to relive our memories and remember some songs we forgot we wrote.
- Were there songs on those recordings that you really disliked? Or did you release every song you found?
Oh yes, they never even made it to that stage we’re I got to… I transferred them. I transferred about thirty or forty songs. I played it for J.C. and then we played it for a few of our friends and people from the label. We got a great reaction from the songs and an even greater reaction from certain songs so we knew which ones were definitely going to make it. And then we got into a point of quality. We wanted to keep the quality up so we had to get rid of a few songs. There’s still about ten that can be released. And they weren’t released only because we couldn’t put more on a vinyl for the quality to endure. So maybe they see the light of day another time.
- Well, I’m really looking forward to that day. This year you released a whole new album, ‘Fire Music’. How has the response been?
I think it’s been good. I got a lot a positive response of what I gathered from Twitter and social media but I don’t really read record reviews anymore.
- Why don’t you do that anymore ?
I just don’t like it anymore but from what I hear, people really like the new album so… It already had a better response than our previous album.
- What bands are your biggest influences? What bands do you really look up to?
Kiss, AC/DC, Black Flag, ZZ Top. A lot of band, I mean Judas Priest, Alice Cooper. They’re playing here today and they found their way into our music somehow. I mean you live with the better music so… I mean punk rock influences and heavy metal or hard rock obviously found their way into our sound. We came about in the mid-late-nineties when there was the garage rock scene, and garage punk scene. Since then I think that scene had really died out. There’s no real thing anymore like it was back then. And we’ve changed. We’re not a garage punk band anymore; we became a hard rock band. That was through, I think, necessity and coming out here and seeing the scene here in Europe. And also you naturally get better at your instrument and to play dumb and try to play garage punk is a joke. The essence of garage punk is people who can’t play but have the passion to play and that appeal to the music. So once you get better at playing your instrument you naturally can’t play that easy anymore. That’s where we come from and those are all our influences.
- You grew up in or around Toronto, Canada. Is it a good place for starting bands to do their first steps or is it a real struggle?
Yeah, in Toronto there is a really big music scene, even more so from when we started. Mainly because more from an indie rock perspective, there’ve been a lot of worldwide success stories from Toronto, like Feist, Peaches and I’m forgetting a few. But I mean in that whole scene they were a big deal. And so a lot of people kind of followed them.
- You had an emergency eye surgery a while back. Can you tell us something about the whole situation? And are there still complications or has everything been fine so far?
I was actually playing Pinkpop and I started to get flashes in my right eye. I thought it was just because I was very tired. It was like someone was shining a flashlight in your eye every other minute. I told someone that I they said ‘You have to see the eye doctor!’.And I was like ‘No, no, I just need a good rest. I just need a good night sleep and then I’ll be fine.’ But they insisted, they really got angry so I went to the eye doctor and I didn’t come home that night. He sent me straight to the hospital. My retina had detached and if you don’t fix it you will go blind. There’s no other option, that’s the end of it. So I had to stay on my side so the liquid in my eye didn’t do something, I don’t know what. Anyway I had to stay there for three days and then there was a delay so eventually I got to the operating room. It left me near-sighted on the right side and I was already going far-sighted on the left side so. I’m okay but at the end of the night if I have to read something it looks like a funhouse. I can’t focus so I need glasses. I have glasses with me but I don’t wear them all the time because at festivals like this I cut my hear really short and the pair that I’m wearing now kind of indents my ears [laughs].
- Last question we are obliged to ask: Do you kiss on first dates?
Yeah, of course. But only girls!
– Frederik Geuvens