BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
In 2003, a song featuring the serrated guitar and falsetto vocals of brothers Dan and Justin Hawkins, respectively, blasted onto rock radio.
“I Believe in a Thing Called Love” was both revolutionary and nostalgic, a pounding stomp of a song delivered by guys with an affinity for spandex and showmanship.
The Darkness had arrived.
And for a few years, the British quartet earned a mighty following in their native U.K., while garnering plenty of attention Stateside with songs such as “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” and “One Way Ticket to Hell…and Back.”
The inevitabilities of fame took its toll on Justin Hawkins and the flamboyant frontman broke from the band to complete rehab for alcohol and cocaine abuse.
In 2011, the gang reunited (with bassist Frankie Poullain and original drummer Ed Graham, since replaced by Rufus Tiger Taylor) and released a trio of albums, most recently 2017’s “Pinewood Smile.”
The Darkness is nearing the end of its five-week “Tour de Prance” to promote the album in the U.S., including a sold-out show Saturday at Terminal West.
Recently, a candid and funny Dan Hawkins called from a tour stop in Vancouver to talk about brotherly love, the Clermont Lounge and drummers.
Q: How has the road been treating you?
A: It’s been great! We know a gig is going well when random weird s*** happens. Justin started getting people’s names right in the audience that he never knew – like hypnotists do – and he got three people’s names! That’s a nightly occurrence for him. I’m a bit of a control freak and like things to run smoothly and orderly and he’s the opposite. He likes when things go wrong.
Q: There are lots of stories about brothers in music who feud, so how do you and Justin keep it together?
A: I think it’s because we’re so different, really. A lot of them seem like they have the same temperament and that’s where things go wrong. We’re different characters and not fighting for the same stuff. I never thought I’d even be a guitarist; I wanted to be a drummer or bassist and sit in the back and make a living doing that. I was quite shy as a kid, and had a ton of stage fright when I moved to London at 17, 18. The only reason I ever got over it was because of Justin. When we started a band, there was someone on stage drawing attention from me. When we started this band, we said, this is it, for better or worse, we’re going to stick with it.
Q: What do you guys want to bring to people on this Tour de Prance?
A: People are LITERALLY going to s*** themselves! If it’s all possible, if you can get to a toilet and empty yourselves, that’s probably a good idea. It’s just the whole experience watching four blokes running around stage. And I have to say, I love Atlanta. That show sold out way, way in advance. I think one of the most memorable nights of touring the last 10 years was when we went to this club that had, shall we say, ladies of a slightly older age.
Q: Ah, the Clermont Lounge!
A: Yes! What a blast. I think they were playing loads of Rick James.
Q: You got a new drummer (Rufus Tiger Taylor, son of Queen’s Roger Taylor) in 2015. How has he fit in?
A: He’s awesome. I’m very anal about tempo, and I’ve also felt that I don’t want to rock too hard visually. When you’re really fighting the tempo, you head bang more than you need to and you hurt your neck and Rufus really has allowed us to luxuriate in the rock rather than pounding it. It’s amazing to be able to trust a drummer that much. THE most important thing (in this band) is a sense of humor. After the various issues we’ve had with drummers in the past, the drumming obviously is important, but it’s almost not as important as getting on with the person, right? I knew the chemistry was there with Rufus within 20 seconds of the first phone call.
Q: A lot of people regarded The Darkness as a novelty act when you first started. Do you feel as if you’ve gotten the last laugh?
A: We always felt like we were under a lot of pressure. Although we’re ambitious and would one day like to play sheds and sell millions of albums, it’s not the end of the world. What keeps us coming out, we were lucky enough to pick up a million or so hardcore fans who always turn up at the shows. They buy just enough albums. We have this kinda cult base and the thing we’re most proud of is when we go out and play, it’s not like with the other rock bands that from the back of the stage you see a sea of bald heads (in the crowd). Nothing against bald heads – I’m going to have one myself one day! – but when we look out at our show, it’s a lot of young people, it’s a really broad spectrum. I’d say 70 percent of the crowd is under 35.
Q: It feels as if a lot of the fun and glamour have gone missing from rock ‘n’ roll, but then you see a band like The Struts and hope that maybe they’ve taken a cue from you.
A: I’ve always said it would be great if there were a lot of bands like us around. It never really happened, and I wish that it had. You find a lot of bands still that they’re influenced by us, but they haven’t got the balls to go and do the full thing, to risk everything and put on ridiculous clothes and a show regardless of health and safety issues.
With Diarrhea Planet. 8 p.m. Saturday. $25-$30. Terminal West, 887 W. Marietta St. NW, Atlanta. 404-876-5566, terminalwestatl.com.