DANKO JONES - On The Count Of Three...
April 30, 2019, 20 days ago
Nine studio albums into the band's career, folks can look at A Rock Supreme from Canadian rock three-piece outfit Danko Jones as business-as-usual, but that should not be equated with them phoning in the new music or rehashing blueprints. Active since 1996, they have released albums and toured consistently, honing their craft as a no-nonsense heavy rock band and leaving some mighty big footprints on European soil while they (still) wait for their homeland and the U.S. to catch up. Frontman and namesake Danko Jones is proud of the trio's accomplishments considering the amount of work it has taken to carve out a career, but he remains humble and grounded in spite of what the loudmouth in-your-face personality on A Rock Supreme might suggest. Settling in to discuss the new record, it's clear the sparkle and shine of putting out new music for the masses still holds an excitement for Danko, just as the process of making A Rock Supreme did once the ball got rolling. Read on...
BraveWords: The first single from A Rock Supreme, "We're Crazy", dropped back in September 2018, a full seven months before the album release. That's an unusual tactic in this day and age of immediate gratification, where fans are expecting the album to be just around the corner once a single or two goes live.
Danko: "That was management working with certain labels, because we're with three different ones. Between two of them they decided to roll out the album this way. We had nothing to do with it. I have no idea how to roll out albums anymore, if I ever did, and I don't think anybody does, really. It's kind of like the Wild West at this point. Certain bands are putting out a single a month-and-a-half before their album release, other bands like us are putting out singles months before the release date. By the time the album is out five songs have already been released. Anybody who says they're an expert on rolling out albums at this point, they have no idea what they're talking about. But, we all want the same thing; we want the album to have legs and we want it to have a long life in terms of a touring cycle. I'd like to tour off this album for two years before we even think about writing the next record, but who knows? A couple years back we were told the way to go was to release EPs, and I've seen bands that we look up to do it, so.... I have no idea which is best way to go."
BraveWords: Did it make a difference in terms of reception having this six or seven month run with four singles ("We're Crazy", "Burn In Hell", "Dance Dance Dance", "I'm In A Band") up to the album release date?
Danko: "I don't think it makes a difference with a band like us. We're not a Gold or Platinum-selling artist, we're not the Headlining-The-Main-Stage type artist. We just put our records out and go on tour, and the people that like our kind of music or like our band in particular will come out to see us. That's what we can hope for. There are so many bands and so much music out there that it's hard to break through. So, when we have online traction and 100% positive reactions, I guess that can be considered a success (laughs)."
BraveWords: A Rock Supreme is a grower from my perspective. It took me a few listens to really get locked into it, just like Wild Cat (2017), whereas Fire Music (2015) became an immediate favourite.
Danko: "Fire Music, Wild Cat and A Rock Supreme, I think they're like a trilogy of albums. Maybe we can add a couple more to that. We've turned a corner and we've started to make consistent hard rock records the way we always wanted to regardless of who is at the production helm. But, having said that, we've had some pretty stellar people at the production helm; Eric Ratz for Fire Music and Wild Cat, and now Garth Richardson for Rock Supreme. I feel this new one, even though it's a cliché, is our strongest album, and I would give it a few extra listens to just let it sink in."
BraveWords: Garth Richardson (a fellow Canadian) has worked with some major artists (Alice Cooper, Rage Against The Machine, Taylor Swift, Red Hot Chili Peppers); how was Danko Jones' experience with him?
Danko: "We got along really well because the band always walks into the studio very prepared. We've demoed the songs to the point that when a producer comes in, they know they don't have to sit down with the drummer or the singer and go through things. When we were in pre-production for A Rock Supreme and playing the songs for Garth, I wasn't going full blast with my vocals. I was more or less humming them and hitting notes here and there. When we went in to record vocals, of course I gave 100%, and JC (Calabrese / bass) told me that Garth turned to him and said 'Oh! He can sing!' (laughs). Garth had thought all the way up to that point that he was going to have to sit down with me and go through the material line by line. So, doing the vocals with Garth was one of the easiest sessions in my life. It was amazing working with him."
"And we also got along with Garth because he's originally from (Toronto's) Willowdale. He grew up a 10 minute walk from where I grew up. He went to Don Valley Public School, and the apartment that I grew up in until I was 11 looked out over the school's playground. You know what I'm talking about (laughs). Garth and I knew all these landmarks from the neighbourhood, so it was a connection that we had beyond the music. It was a lot of fun working with him."
(Photo by: Jens Nordström)
BraveWords: There are moments on A Rock Supreme that are reminiscent of your early albums Born A Lion (2002) and We Sweat Blood (2003), like "That Girl" or "You Got Today". Is that a production thing or maybe an intentional nod to the past?
Danko: "In the past we've only been able to write the songs and record them without a chance to try them out live, work on them and get used to them. We never road tested them like we did for Born A Lion, where we must have played the songs 200 times before recording them. For A Rock Supreme we had the chance to go at what we think is a leisurely pace, especially with the vocals. We were so ahead of ourselves that I could pace myself better. I was able to relax and work on the vocals and guitar solos at a slower pace than what I'm used to. I would go in and do one song a day, which is a luxury. I would be working on lyrics up until about an hour or two before I would go in to record. That was something I never had the luxury of doing before for one reason or another; we were always under the gun and always watching the clock. I found doing the vocals for this album easier than any time before. I was so at ease, and I think that bled over onto the recording."
BraveWords: That road testing is important. Take a song like "Just A Beautiful Day" from Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue (2012). I recall you having issues performing that song live because of the high notes...
Danko: "You worry about that later when you make a record, yeah. The anchor single on A Rock Supreme, 'Dance Dance Dance', it's in a register that I'm not used to, and it's hard to sing. But, it'll come... I've just got to play it 100 more times and I'll be able to sing it with relative ease. An old song of ours called 'Had Enough', when we first started playing it, I couldn't hit the notes at all, and now I don't think about it at all. It's just a matter of muscle memory and getting used to it."
BraveWords: Rich Knox is drummer #7 in Danko Jones history. What's it like having him behind the kit for more than two albums?
Danko: "(Laughs) This is our third album with Rich and it's great. There's no sign of slowing down. To be honest with you, he's a great guy and off stage is where it really counts. We're all friends, we can all hang out, and we know what's important, which is the band. No one is above the band and we all have the same agenda, which makes for a great working relationship. And then, I think Rich is the best drummer we've had in this band. I've seen it live, in the studio and the rehearsal space. He's heads above every drummer that's been in this band. Up until this point I've said that Damon Richardson (2000 - 2006) was the best drummer we've had, and it took a lot of convincing for me to say we have an even better one now. Dan Cornelius (2006 - 2011) is an astounding drummer, but he's definitely a studio guy. Rich can be as loose as Damon and as rigid and precise as Dan; combine the two together and holy cow, he's a monster behind the kit. More importantly, we can hang off stage and that comes into play for the band and crew on a long, gruelling tour. If everyone gets along it just makes things easier, and that's how it's been since Rich joined."
BraveWords: Is that why you've remained a three piece band?
Danko: "We've never really had this kind of chemistry before Rich. We've had the chance for years and years to change it up and bring someone in, but we never did because it's easier to deal with three people rather than four. I think it's a matter of keeping things really sparse sound-wise, and having fewer cooks in the kitchen. It has nothing to do with us trying to ape Rush, Motörhead or ZZ Top, but seeing how successful those bands were as a three-piece doesn't make us want to find a fourth member (laughs)."