DANKO JONES - Confessions Of A Metal Misfit
February 12, 2015, 5 years ago
Toronto-based rocker Danko Jones is as multi-faceted a personality as they come, to the point that people unfamiliar with his work might consider him schizophrenic. His soft-spoken, articulate and almost geek-like demeanor during interviews is a stark contrast to the obnoxious mouthpiece dedicated to ripping up the stage night after night with guitar in hand. And if he's not attending to the next episode of his long-running official podcast, Danko is known for penning articles on everything from the pros and cons of social media, to music he bought on a Christmas shopping binge, to ripping Gene Simmons to shreds for his now infamous "rock is dead" comment. And that's when he's not making guest appearances on stage or in the studio. In the end Danko Jones gives Slipknot / Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor a serious run for his money when it comes to keeping people guessing on the next trick up his sleeve.
The band that bears Danko's name echoes his diversity. Sure, every album since the Born A Lion debut in 2002 is based on the three piece of vocals/guitars/bass/drums rock formula, but each one has presented a slightly different side of the band's persona. New record Fire Music keeps this tradition alive, and the initial buzz suggests it could well be one of the trio's finest moments. It's certainly the heaviest kick to the teeth in their catalogue."I think a lot of that has to do with the last record," Danko begins, referring to Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue. "I don't really want to get in the dynamic that we had in the band at the time, but Atom (Willard/drums) lived in LA. We had to have these massive week long writing sessions, seven or eight hours a day, because he was in Toronto for a limited amount of time. We thought it was time well spent then and I thought it yielded some really good songs, but overall I think it was a little disjointed. There was another dynamic going on in the studio between some people that didn't really make for a very comfortable easygoing session. There was a real sense of freedom in doing Fire Music."
"Our new drummer Rich (Knox) lives in Toronto and we're all really comfortable with each other. We all like each other, and I'm seeing now that it's a really big thing because it yielded one of our strongest albums to date. When we put out Born A Lion with Damon (Richardson) on drums we were all on the same page. By the time Sleep Is The Enemy came around there were times that Damon didn't even show up at the studio. I think Sleep Is The Enemy is a good album, but I think there's a direct correlation between the band getting along and the type of album we end up putting out."
Fire Music is, quite simply, a hell of a lot of fun to listen to. It helps if you're partial to the punk side of no bells/no whistles high energy rock, but anyone who enjoyed Danko Jones' Sleep Is The Enemy (2006) and Below The Belt (2010) will get off on Fire Music at potentially unhealthy levels."We've kind of hinted at it over the last couple records; me and JC (bassist John Calabrese) are big Danzig fans, his whole legacy of bands," says Danko. "For this record, I don't know, the switch was flicked and I just said 'Fuck it, let's wear it on our sleeves a little bit more.' Songs like 'Gonna Be A Fight Tonight', 'Body Bags' and even 'I Will Break Your Heart' pointed the direction of Fire Music. 'Body Bags' was one of the first songs I wrote for the album and I remember composing the verse and chorus one morning, then working on it with JC later that day. That set the tone for the whole record, we were off to the races. I said that if we could get 10 of those songs I'd be a happy camper because I still listen to the Misfits."
"I'll bring stuff in and if JC gravitates towards it we'll move forward, and he'll put the sheen on it. He's the one that has a head for arranging things - doubling a chorus or whatever - while I bring in the verses, chorus and melodies. JC is great at arranging the songs, I'm just good at shitting them out (laughs)."
There's a noteworthy metal-ness to Fire Music that hasn't been heard from the Jones trio on a studio album until now. "Watch You Slide", for example, features vocal acrobatics reminiscent of Judas Priest's "Freewheel Burnin'", perhaps a tip of the sunglasses to Halford's "Lookbeforeyouleap..." machine gun delivery."(Laughs) I see what you mean, and that was a lot of takes that day I must admit. It was a case of practicing it with (Eric (Ratz/producer) at the console, and I'd get it. Then I'd go in front of the mic and I'd screw it up. It was like, 'What the fuck? I've gotta go for a walk...' (laughs)."
And there's the memorable solo break in "She Ain't Comin' Home"..."Two words inspired the solo section of that song; Smith/Murray."
In spite of the punk attitude of several of the new tracks, there's no lack of curves thrown on Fire Music. In the end there's something to be had for every Danko Jones fan.
"As I said, 'Body Bags' and the Misfits set the tone, but it was clear we were going to veer off because there are other things we like to touch on. 'Watch You Slide' has the pick-off guitar, 'Wild Woman' is a pretty standard song for us but we needed one of those. 'The Twisting Knife' is another one that came in along with 'Body Bags' and 'Gonna Be A Fight Tonight' in the span of a week."
The band's drummer issues have become something of a cosmic joke at this point, with Rich Knox being the seventh skinbasher behind the Danko Jones kit since 2002 (replacing Atom Willard after only one album). It stands to reason Danko would play up Knox as the greatest thing since maple-flavoured bacon, but he admits Knox wasn't a sure thing coming in. In the end their new drummer won him over with his enthusiasm for the music."JC knew from the first audition that Rich was our guy, but he had to convince me. Now I'm convinced that he's probably the best overall drummer we've had in the band. I've never really said that before. Rich has been with us for about two years now, and when he first came in he said he wanted to strip the drum kit back down to where Damon had it. He was studying Damon a lot and I saw we were on the same page in terms of drumming. Then he just took it to a whole new level.
"I was talking to Rich just off-handedly when we were writing the new record, and I said that I wanted to do a song that incorporates cowbell the way 'Full Of Regret' did. He, on his own - something no drummer has ever done in this band - went back to the rehearsal space without telling us and recorded some drum patterns, then sent them to me and JC. I could see he was really into it, and one of those patterns ended up being the drum pattern for 'Do You Wanna Rock'."
Going back to the band's tried and true rock formula, Danko offers his thoughts on why they've been able to consistently present something slightly different from album to album since 2002, neatly avoiding falling into a career-slogging rut. It has nothing to do with the revolving staff of drummers."I've distilled it down to the fact me and JC are very stubborn, and I'm very quick to anger (laughs). That's the one thing I've managed to hone as I've gotten older and I've pointed my anger in the right direction. Now I can funnel it in a more positive way; before I was just 'Waaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!!!' (laughs). I can channel that anger when I need to, like when I'm on stage because you need some of that to rev up the energy for a show. That flame hasn't dissipated or died out."
"I think a lot of people, when they're doing high energy rock as they get older, they either go through the motions trying to recall what it was like before or they give up and get into softer, more mellow music. 'Mellowing with age' has become a phrase because it's kind of a truth with a lot of people. For me, I get up in the morning and I'm like 'Godammit!' (laughs). That's the first thing I say. I'm ready to go."