An Interview With Danko Jones

An Interview With Danko Jones
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Having spoken intermittently with Danko Jones a handful of times over his 22-year career, I’m not sure there’s another artist that beams with as much excitement about music, that of his own creation or otherwise, than Canada’s finest rock ’n’ roll export.

Danko Jones, the man and the band, have been a celebration of all-things music and specifically rock ’n’ roll since their inception in 1996. He plays rock, talks rock, writes rock, collects rock, supports rock and walks the rock walk perhaps as well as anyone that’s ever done it.

Fittingly, the band’s latest release, another 11-track collection of reliable, rabble rousing, cock of the walk rock ’n’ roll, is titled “A Rock Supreme.”

“Every band says that their newest album is their best, but really, I think ‘A Rock Supreme’ topped (2017’s) ‘Wild Cat’ and (2014’s) ‘Fire Music,’ and if not, it matched it,” Danko said in a recent telephone conversation. “Personally, I think it bested it.”

It’s hard to argue with his assessment. From the opening salvo of the declarative and ham-fisted “I’m In A Band,” to the fast and frantic album closer “You Can’t Keep Us Down,” guitarist/vocalist Danko, bassist John Calabrese and drummer Rich Knox have created another solid album that fits well within the band’s ever-growing catalog. A pair of videos/singles preceded the album’s release — the groovy “Dance Dance Dance” and the country music-meets-Queen “Burn In Hell.” Recently to coincide with their European tour, the band released a video for the ham-fisted anthem, and arguably the album’s best song, “Fists Up High.”

Danko said producer Garth Richardson (Rage Against The Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rise Against, Biffy Clyro) was the “big factor on this album.”

“We did ‘A Rock Supreme’ in Vancouver,” Danko explained. “The last four we’ve done in Toronto. We heard a few years back that he wanted to produce us. We’re a big fan of his albums and the artists he’s produced and worked with. The only thing is that to fly out there and record with him was kind of like a gigantic blind date. It was a bit of a gamble that way.”

Danko said it was a gamble that paid off.

“Garth has been in the game for so long, he just knows how to get tones,” he said. “I don’t know what it is, but those guitar tones sound awesome to me. Then if you’re talking about singing, it was a really laid back way of doing it. It allowed me to take vocals at a slower pace and devote more time to them. The whole experience was great.”

Danko Jones has spent the better part of the last two decades touring the world as a headline act and also as support for the likes of Guns ’N’ Roses, Motorhead, Nickelback, Volbeat, Backyard Babies and numerous others. The band recently wrapped up a West Coast tour of America with Nashville Pussy and now armed with a proper American record label hopes to make the trek to the East Coast early next year.
Here, Danko talked all things “A Rock Supreme” ahead of the band’s European tour with Volbeat and Baroness.

Q. Lyrically and musically, you’ve included homages to various influences on past records whether it was Ike and Tina Turner or Metallica. Is there any of that you can reveal on ‘A Rock Supreme?’
A. “The title itself Rich came up with. it’s a reference to John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme.’ We’re all Coltrane fans. He said it almost as a joke as it was coming down to the 11th hour, and we still didn’t have an album title. No one knows this, but ‘Fire Music’ was a direct lift of an Archie Shepp record called ‘Fire Music.’ So when we were trying to come up with an album title, J.C. said why don’t we just take ‘Fire Music.’ No one is gonna know, and sure enough, I never got asked about the title. So to continue the tradition for ‘A Rock Supreme,’ we started to throw out jazz titles. Rich said it out almost as a joke, but then we all paused. ‘A Love Supreme’ is arguably the biggest mainstream jazz album ever released, so it’s kind of like naming your rap album, ‘Sgt. Peters Lonely Hearts Club Band.’ It’s almost sacrilege. So in that sense, I thought it was cool we were taking from such a hallowed album. You don’t touch Coltrane in a sense, and here we are kind of soiling it almost with our low-brow rock ’n’ roll.”

“(As far as the songs) ‘Fists Up High’ is a variation on a UFO riff. The verses on ‘Burn in Hell’ were directly influenced by Queen’s ‘Stone Cold Crazy.’ ‘You Got Today’ is definitely a Van Halen-inspired lyric. There’s a part where I say, ‘When you take your punches, you gotta make sure that you roll,’ and the song kind of stops, and Rich plays a drum roll. That’s a direct nod to ‘Unchained,’ where David Lee Roth says, ‘One break coming up,’ and then the song just stops. I always thought that was so smart, and I still do. That’s why I think it’s one of the greatest songs ever written. He linked the lyrics up with the song and the actual arrangement, which i thought was awesome. So I did that, and I (expletive) patted myself on the back with that lyric!” (laughs)

Q. Speaking of Rich, it’s his third album with Danko Jones, and it sounds like he’s really come into his own. I found myself picking out drum parts more with this record than ever before.
A. “When we started to work on this album with Garth, Garth didn’t know us personally. He only knew us from what he had heard. He met Rich, and he didn’t really know what he was working with. After I did vocals, he realized he could be hands off, like ‘This guy can actually sing.’ And it was the same with Rich. I think Garth was on Rich at first, but then he stepped back. Once we were in the studio, Rich was nailing every part with ease. The hardest part of recording for a producer is getting the drums down. If you have a good drummer who comes up with good parts and who can nail all the parts, your job as a producer and as the band is immediately eased up. That’s what made the session so enjoyable. Everybody can play their instrument, and the producer doesn’t have to go in and fix everything. Rich is playing without a rack tom, which is the same setup he does live. When he first joined the band, he never had played without a rack tom, but he was game for everything. The thing about Rich is that he was studying our older drummers like Damon Richardson and Gavin Brown. He’s a real student of music and the drums. He’s great.”

Q. “Party” is another standout track that’s a little different for you. There’s definitely a dance vibe to it, and the music and lyrics really compliment each other.

A. “I didn’t have a song title for it. I literally had zilch. So we just keep referring to it as ‘the party song,’ because I’m singing about a party. But I’m not so happy about the title. I wish it was a little more, but the song is about leaving a party. The whole thing was to create a party vibe and have it sound like a party, but the lyric is that you don’t like parties and you want to leave.

“We have a song called ‘Just A Beautiful Day,’ and that’s about how I like to live in the dark. I never open the curtains in a room, much to the annoyance of anyone around me. I really can’t stand it when the sun is coming out and people are shedding their winter clothes and walking around. I’m just kinda like, ‘Jesus Christ’ (laughs). I’m not a beach guy. The intent was to do these kind of songs juxtaposed with an opposite intention. It gets lost, obviously, but for me as the singer, I do get a joy out of that. The same goes with ‘Party.’ I like that song a lot.”

Q. ’That Girl’ has a very Thin Lizzy vibe to it. You also did that on “Wild Cat” with ‘You Are My Woman.’ Talk a little about the Thin Lizzy influence that occasionally shows up on a Danko Jones record.

A. “We keep it occasionally, because I could do a whole album of Thin Lizzy riffs. I can do a whole album that sounds like Thin Lizzy and do it super easy. But the guys don’t want to do that, so I’m limited to one song a record! (laughs) We had never done that before. Thin Lizzy has always been a band we’ve strongly been attached to or compared to, and I’ve never known why past the fact that both Phil and I weren’t white. For ‘Wild Cat,’ we were just like ‘(screw) it.’ We’ve always been compared to them, so we said let’s just do it and show everyone we can do Lizzy better than anyone who is directly influenced by them. I could sit here and write fresh Lizzy-esque riffs at the drop of a dime, but the rest of the band doesn’t want that, and they’re right. Because all I would be doing is interviews talking about Thin Lizzy and not our band. To limit it to one song is enough for me, too, and it actually makes it more of a spotlight.”

Q. What’s on tap for the rest of 2019? Any chance of making your way to the East Coast of America?

A. “Now that we’re on M Theory Audio, an American label, it makes our access to America a little smoother than before. We get inundated on social media, ‘Why aren’t you touring the states? You hate America.’ That’s not it at all. We’ve just never had a proper American label — ever. Years ago were on Razor & Tie, a label based out of New York. They put out ‘We Sweat Blood” and ’Sleep Is The Enemy.’ At the time they were trying to branch out, but it all kind of fizzled out, and there was no other label interested in us in America. These days, when it comes to music, no one actually looks at or listens to a band. They just look at figures. Finally with M Theory Audio, and the team behind the label, they’re a big booster of the band. So we know we couldn’t be in better hands. We’re excited about it, and it can only lead to east coast dates.

“The problem with touring America, if you don’t have the budget, just becomes the vastness of it. It’s like 50 countries in one, and some countries in America are better than others. Some states are just more receptive to rock, so it can be tough. In Europe, it’s easier to tour. In North America, the rock scene now is just not as popular or successful or even known as well as it is in Europe. But I’m pretty sure this album is going to lead to East Coast dates.”

Danko Jones “A Rock Supreme” is available at DankoJones.com.

Tour dates:
9/26 – London, UK – Brixton Academy*
9/28 – Bristol, UK – Academy O2*
9/30 – Birmingham, UK – Academy*
10/1 – Manchester, UK – Apollo*
10/3 – Belfast, UK – Ulster Hall*
10/4 – Dublin, IRE – Olympia*
10/6 – Paris, FR – Olympia*
10/7 – Luxembourg, LUX – Rockhal*
10/9 – Madrid, SP – La Riviera*
10/10 – Lisbon, PT – Coliseu*
10/12 – Barcelona, SP – Razzmatazz*
10/14 – Milan, IT – Fabrique*
10/29 – Warsaw, PO – Torwar*
10/31 – Prague, CZ – O2 Universum*
11/1 – Berlin, DE – Mercedes-Benz Arena*
11/2 – Erlangen, DE – E-Werk
11/3 – Stuttgart, DE – Schleyerhalle*
11/4 – Antwerp, BE – Sportpaleis*
11/5 – Zurich, CH – Hallenstadion*
11/6 – Karlsruhe, DE – Substage
11/7 – Frankfurt, DE – Festhalle*
11/8 – Munich, DE – Olympiahalle*
11/10 – Leipzig, DE – Arena*
11/11 – Hamburg, DE – BarclayCard Arena*
11/12 – Hamburg, DE – BarclayCard Arena*
11/13 – Lingen, DE – Alter Schlachtof
11/14 – Cologne, DE – Lanxess Arena*
11/15 – Cologne, DE – Lanxess Arena*
11/17 – Vienna, AT – Stadthalle*
11/19 – Amsterdam, NL – Ziggo Dome*
11/20 – Bremen, DE – Modernes
11/21 – Dresden, DE – Tante Ju
11/22 – Kiel, DE – Max
11/23 – Herning, DK – Jyske Bank Boxen*
11/25 – Trondheim, NO – Spektrum*
11/27 – Helsinki, FI -Hartwall Arena*
11/29 – Stockholm, SE – Tele2 Arena*
12/1 – Copenhagen, DK – Royal Arena*
12/6 – Toronto, ON – Lee’s Palace
12/13 – Waterloo, ON – Maxwell’s
* with VOLBEAT & BARONESS


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