DANKO JONES - The Annihilator Principle

February 25, 2007, 10 years ago

Special Report By Carl Begai

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Suggest to a Canadian or American metalhead that his or her CD collection could do with an infusion of Canada’s own Danko Jones and chances are they’ll either laugh in your face or dismiss you as clinically insane. Assuming they know who you’re talking about. European metal fans, on the other hand, come out in droves when The Jones hits town, and seeing Danko on a festival bill amongst the likes of Nevermore, Kataklysm and Children Of Bodom is considered business as usual. With all this in mind, Danko’s appearance on Annihilator’s forthcoming Metal album – on a track with Arch Enemy vocalist Angela Gossow, no less – is guaranteed to result in a fair bit of head scratching or screams of denial on this side of the pond. Europe’s metal contingent, meanwhile, will likely consider it a logical and brilliant move on the part of Annihilator founder/guitarist Jeff Waters due to the fact Danko has long been known on that side of the world as a diehard metalhead in spite of his feelgood rock sound.

“A lot of people here in Canada don’t realize that there are heavy rock roots in what we do,” says Danko of his band’s sound. “I don’t why they don’t realize it, but they don’t. To get to metal you start with lullabyes. You work your way through kids songs, of course, and the people that eventually end up being metal fans always look for something harder. On your way to getting into, I don’t know, Dimmu Borgir or Emperor, you had to have gone through a phase of listening to Motley Crue and stuff like that depending on the time and place you were at, and that’s why I don’t understand why metalheads in Canada and the U.S. don’t look at us and get what’s going on. I feel that a lot of metal fans in North America are very insecure. They don’t want to admit that they like the Kanye West album or the new Audioslave record, and that’s really been a wall for us. In Europe…man, it’s a fucking free-for-all. I don’t think it’ll be weird for the European fans hearing me on the Annihilator record, but I’m just waiting for all the comments from North America, like ‘What the hell is he doing on there?’ But that’s fine. I don’t mind.”

No question, Danko is the odd man out in Metal’s all-star-guest, which includes the likes of Lips (Anvil), Jeff Loomis (Nevermore), Alexi Laiho (Children Of Bodom), Jesper Stromblad (In Flames), Angela Gossow and Michael Amott (Arch Enemy), Corey Beaulieu (Trivium), William Adler (Lamb Of God), Anders Bjørler (The Haunted), Mike Mangini (Steve Vai, Extreme) and Jacob Lynam (Lynam). His appearance isn’t the result of Waters taking recreational drugs or going soft, however. Danko explains:

“We were opening for Nickelback across Canada and that’s actually how I got to meet Jeff. The last show of the tour was in Ottawa, Nickelback was about to go on and Jeff was just hanging out backstage talking to them, and I just freaked. I got the Nickelback guys to introduce me to him, and it turned out Jeff knew of our band and had kept up with us, and we just kept in touch from there. He just came back to me one day and said ‘I’ve got this song, I don’t know if it’ll be on the record or not, but maybe you’d be interested in doing something for it…’ We’re always on tour, but fortunately I was able to get to his studio and lay down some vocals. And lo and behold, Angela from Arch Enemy – who I’m a huge fan of as well – laid vocals down on it, too. I was really flattered that Angela would agree to it and that Jeff kept my performance.”

For the record, Danko’s reverence for Annihilator, Arch Enemy and all things metal isn’t window dressing or a case of trying to look like Big Man On Campus. In fact, it’s fair to say he’d give BW&BK; scribe Mark Gromen a run for his money in a game of head-to-head Metal Trivial Pursuit.

“If you had told me I was going to be on an Annihilator track two years ago I would have freaked,” he admits. “I’m still freaking out because it’s pretty cool, and I never thought these worlds would meet. I’ve been an Annihilator fan since Alice In Hell, and Never Neverland is my favourite Annihilator record, so I’ve always been aware of what Jeff has been up to. Annihilator doesn’t get the same respect here at home that it does on a European level, and when we started tour Europe I became aware of just how active Jeff has been all this time. I started to reacquaint myself with Annihilator back in 2001 after I’d seen a tour poster in Germany. I’d go into the European record stores and find all kinds of Annihilator albums that we couldn’t get here at home. I was like, ‘What the hell is this..?’ Jeff has been very consistent over the years even though there’s been a give and take, like with any band that’s around for a long time, but he never went off and did his Load and Reload.”

As for his Arch Enemy connection…

“We played the Hellfest last summer and there were a few bands that I wanted to see and meet, and one of them was Arch Enemy. I’d seen Michael Amott walking around, so I eventually got the guts to go up to him and tell him I was a huge fan, that my band was playing that day, and he was like ‘Danko Jones; we’re actually going to check you guys out.’ I was blown away, and when it was our turn to play he and Angela watched the whole set from side stage. I was fucking blown away. We got to hang out afterwards and they were really cool. I’m a huge Spritual Beggars fan too, and Carcass of course, so it was really nice to meet them. And I think Angela is an incredible singer. The track we do on the Annihilator record (‘Couple Suicide’) is awesome. I think Angela and me trade off vocals twice in the song, and Dave Padden (Annihilator vocalist) is doing backing vocals with Angela as well. It’s great.”

Conversation winds back to the metal world’s love / hate relationship with Danko Jones, which seems to boil down to which side of the world you happen to be on.

“We’ve never been covered by BW&BK;, for example, and we’ve accepted that because you guys are from Canada,” says Danko. “I’m not dissing you, but…we’ve been covered in every metal magazine in the world except BW&BK;, and I’ve always kinda thrown my hands up in the air and said ‘I don’t get it’, but thanks to the Annihilator and Jeff it’s cool that I’m doing this interview. I’ve had a column in Rock Hard Magazine in Germany for a few years, for almost a year I’ve had a column in Close Up, so it does kind of bug me in the sense that we’re Canadian and we’ve never gotten exposure from BW&BK.; You do your thing and I respect that, I read it, and I’m totally fine with it. For example, we got a review in Terrorizer a few years ago and we got a 5 out of 10, and I was wondering what the hell we were doing in Terrorizer (laughs). I mean, of course we’re going to get a 5. It was actually a great review because it said ‘This sucks; it sounds like ZZ Top…’ and I love ZZ Top (laughs). But at the same time, who the hell sends one of our albums to Terrorizer? I love that magazine and I read it religiously, so even though we got dissed in my favourite magazine I understand. That’s why I get where BW&BK; is coming from.”

In our own defence, it should be noted that BW&BK;’s lack of coverage on Danko isn’t a case of his music not being heavy enough for the mag. As many industry insiders will tell you, there is often an alarming amount of red tape that has to be waded through to do even a simple job like an album review. As in, it would be nice to actually get the CDs from the label so we can review them…

“I have kind of an on-and-off hate relationship with the industry in general, especially in Canada,” says Danko. “Situations like that are embarrassing. There was a time when we had a record deal everywhere in the world including America, but not in Canada. It was embarrassing to the point that I would love to sell 50,000 albums everywhere and have it available only on import in Canada. But that’s just the fucking prick in me.”

For the future, Danko is preparing to record the follow-up to his 2006 outing Sleep Is The Enemy.

“We finished our last tour at the end of November. We worked it out, and in the last five years we’ve been home a total of 19 months, so we took a month-and-a-half off, and just last month we started to write for the next record. We’ll probably be recording some time this summer, and it should be out by the end of this year or early next year. Then we’ll be touring our asses off again.”

Fans can expect the next album to be a continuation of Danko’s crusade towards world domination in his own unique style, regardless of what the folks at home might say or think. There’s enough love out there as far as he’s concerned.

“I just want to play music that I would buy, and that’s the main thing,” he says. “If I wasn’t in this band I’d have all of our albums. I won’t do things where I think we might be compromising ourselves. We might have lighter songs, but I think it all comes down to us making music that we would buy ourselves.”

Alas, it won’t be a metal album, as much as some of us might like to hear what Danko Jones on 11 complete with blood-and-guts vocals and a wall of distortion would sound like.

“I wanted to be in a metal band when I was growing up,” Danko reveals, “but I remember seeing one of those Hard & Heavy videos from the late ‘80s or early ‘90s with Jeff on one of their thrash specials talking about how no girls go to metal shows. I actually wrote about this for the liner notes for the Metal album, that once I’d heard Jeff say that I basically started a rock band. For some reason being in a metal band didn’t appeal to me as much after that (laughs).”

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