Interview – Danko Jones about ‘A Rock Supreme’

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Danko Jones is has been a solid live band for over twenty years and manages to complement that reputation by putting out some pretty strongs albums as well. Last week the band released their 9th studio album ‘A Rock Supreme’ and we had the honor of having a little chat with The Mango Kid himself about it that kinda turned into a depth interview about all things music.

First things first: What’s the album generally about besides the recurring themes?

Every one of our albums pretty much has the same themes:
Of course songs about women, stages in a relationship whether you’re in love with her or you get dumped, you’re singing her praises, … It revolves around a relationship – in my case with a woman. Or songs about revenge when someone’s done you wrong.

A theme that I started to adapt recently is “songs about rock”. A rock song about rock. I love that theme! I Gotta Rock, Do You Wanna Rock, I’m In A Band, … These self reflexive songs I enjoy. It’s actually celebrating what we’re doing and the ritual of rock music whether that ritual involves going to a show, being in a band, listening to albums, … That kind of thing.

These songs about revenge, what inspires them?

Those songs usually come out from our experiences in the music industry and working with certain people. Sometimes you feel like you’ve been taken advantage of or you’ve gotten ripped of or you feel someone’s mistreated you so you know, I kind of bottle those feelings up and boom! let it all out when it’s song writing time.

The album starts of with a very strong opener: I’m In A Band with a distinct cowbell rhythm. You sing “I’m in a band and I love it. All I wanna do is play my guitar and rock ‘n’ roll!”. Do you genuinely still have that feeling after playing for almost twenty five years?

Yeah man! I don’t even have to answer that question ’cause the proof is in the song. If I didn’t feel that way I could never have come up with that lyrics placed in that chord pattern and melody ’cause I just wouldn’t feel it. You only come up with something that you feel.

When I sing a song about some woman and I have strong feelings for her. Well, if I didn’t like any women I would have nothing to use as a muse or something to take from. So i sing about how i like to rock and I’m in a band and play guitar and all that because I do. I don’t have to struggle with lyrics for that. It just comes out naturally.

That actually shows in your live shows. You guys always seem to enjoy yourselves on stage.

Yeah, we do, we genuinely do! Earlier someone had the nerve to ask me about money and it’s not about the money. It’s about the desire to do it! In today’s music industry no one’s buying records anymore. Labels aren’t signing bands, there’s no record stores, … Who’s gonna stick around? we’re gonna stick around! Obviously we gotta pay the rent and put food on the table and clothes on our back, but if we can do that we’ll keep doing it! I’ve got friends back home that make a lot of money but I’m doing what I love most all the time.

Danko Jones-43
Danko Jones live @ Zappa, Antwerp (Belgium)

Does that trend of regression in album sales worry you?

Well, a lot of people aren’t making music because it doesn’t sell, so if downloading and streaming did one good thing it’s weeding them all out. That’s cool. But at the same time we never went gold or platinum. So I’m fine. I’ve never even really felt that much of a difference because when people till used to buy Cd’s and records they didn’t buy ours laughs. So now that nobody’s buying anybody’s albums what’s the change? We just tour.

That’s a very positive outlook.

But it’s the truth! Some bands sold a million copies of an album. And then they sold half a million copies of their next album. And then only a hundred thousand of their next album. To them shit is fucking tanking! They don’t know how to survive! But a band that never sold anything – like us! – we just go on! It’s like the story of the tortoise and the hare. That’s how I feel. We’re still here and I think with A Rock Supreme we come out stronger than ever.

I thought your last album Wild Cat was pretty strong already and actually several before that as well and A Rock Supreme is another power house indeed. You guys are very consistent in song writing. Is that something you really aim for?

We never really work with a plan but that’s pretty much the idea, yeah. We’re not gonna write the new Bohemian Rhapsody for our next album. We’re not gonna tone it down either to the point where we have a rapper on there and there’s a DJ scratching or we’re not suddenly gonna make a metal album. We’re not gonna do that either. But I can already guarantee you that the album after A Rock Supreme will be another ten to twelve hard rock songs again. You can objectively look from far away and go: “What’s the difference between A Rock Supreme and this new one or Wild Cat? But when you put it under a microscope you can see the shifts and different influences, but you have to bother and be willing to put them under that microscope and go deep.

I’m really glad you can see the consistency! I’d rather have someone going: “All your albums sound the same”. I would just say: “Thank you very much” because that’s a tradition that’s been laid out by bands that I love like The Ramones and Slayer and Motörhead and AC/DC and that’s not a bad tradition to follow. Those bands did OK I think.

Beautiful and extremely detailed cover art full of easter eggs by Ulf Lunde

You said you’re not gonna make a metal album, but you did play Graspop Metal Meeting a few times. Did you feel at home there?

Oh yeah, I love Graspop! Well, we’re definitely the rock band amongst all the heavy metal bands, but since I grew up as a heavy metal kid I felt completely at home. And most people in heavy metal bands are just rockers themselves and vice versa. I think they’re two distinct genres working in tandem. Us playing Graspop goes over way easier than Coldplay playing Graspop. That wouldn’t go down well, but we went down great there. And I gotta tell ya, I love that festival! It’s one of my favorite festivals. The back stage is amazing, like all Belgian backstages are and it’s very communal too so you can actually meet other bands. It’s curated amazing and has a fantastic line up. Those are the basics, but Graspop also has a Metal Market which is really cool and then, if you want to watch a show in the audience it’s easily accessible. I like it a lot. I hope we’ll play it again soon!

What’s the story behind the song Party ?

Well, if you listen to the lyrics it’s not about the party in itself. It’s actually about leaving the party. That’s my favorite part about attending a party. I don’t really enjoy parties too much.

It’s like a few records back we had a song called Just A Beautiful Day and people thought “wow, that’s such a nice sentiment”, but it’s actually about how I like to stay inside and not have any sunshine in the room. About how I like it completely dark twenty four hours a day when I’m in a room and never want to open the curtains. That was what the whole song was about. no one got it, nor should they have. I’m not expecting anyone to just know what I’m thinking when writing these lyrics but sometimes these sentiments are the exact opposite of what people think.

When you guys announced A Rock Supreme you also released a video for Dance, Dance, Dance along with it. It has very cool style and the whole video was shot in just one take? How did that come to be?

That’s right! One shot, no cuts. It was shot by Amir Chamden who directed a bunch of Hellacopters videos and some videos for Ghost as well. We’ve known Amir since about fifteen years and we reconnected last summer when we were both at a Hellacopters show in the backstage area. We kinda reminded each other that the other one was still around and when the times came around to shoot a video we were like: “Why don’t we call Amir?” and he was like: “Yeah, that would be great! Let’s work together”. He said he had a concept and you know, he knows our band and we know his style and we trust his vision. We’re in Toronto, he’s in Stockholm so he shot it on his own and sent it over to us and we thought it was amazing! Just one take! The girls did their thing and you can really tell it’s one shot when you look at the sync and the roughness. Really rock ‘n’ roll!

Would you ever consider recording a song in just one take all together?

No man! We do that for the demos but we would never let anyone hear those! We wouldn’t want to get demo-itis or anything and our albums don’t have to be perfect but they still need to be good.

So there won’t be an obscure “Danko Jones – The Demos” album any time soon?

No no no, believe me, I’ve heard the demos.
Let’s stay with the studio albums.

Allright, we’re really looking forward to it. Thanks for the chat!

So head out to your favorite record store and get ‘A Rock Supreme’ on cd, fancy clear orange or green vinyl, NEON orange vinyl or in a limited edition box set. If you liked Danko Jones before, you’re gonna love this! Enjoy!

Want more Danko Jones? No problem!
Check out the review of their latest gig at Zappa, Antwerp
here and the pictures here!

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