DANKO JONES – “A Shock To The System That Keeps On Giving”
October 18, 2023, a month ago
Toronto rockers Danko Jones released their latest slab of Canucklehead rock ‘n' roll, Electric Sounds, in September, but frontman and namesake Danko Jones will tell you things definitely didn't go as planned. Promotion began in May, which seemed early for a fall release, but the opening salvo of 'Guess who's back? Me motherfucker!' immediately punched things into high gear and gave the album momentum the band never expected. The song went to #1 on Germany's rock radio charts - the country has historically been one their best markets - to be followed suit by the second single, “Good Time”, a couple months later. It also landed at #1. Twenty-seven years into their career, Jones feels the band has finally arrived.
"We released 'Guess Who's Back' as a teaser thinking it was just an announcement for the new album, and suddenly radio stations started playing it and it went #1," recaps Jones. "That screwed up the whole planned rollout of the album, because it was going to be the 'Good Time' single, and then 'Get High?', and then 'Shake Your City', but because 'Guess Who's Back' was still on the charts in August, it screwed everything up (laughs). It's a good problem to have, but it went against my and JC's (Calabrese / bass) instincts when it comes to rolling out an album. But hey, it's a new world out there with streaming an all that, so I leave it up to the fans."
"With this album, I've noticed it got a more immediate positive reaction. Everybody liked (previous album) Power Trio, too, but with Electric Sounds it was right off the bat from the first teaser, 1000% positive feedback. We're not used to that. It's been good for the last few albums, but I've noticed this one has definitely been received quicker and unanimously positive."
"Guess Who's Back" is a trademark Danko Jones attitude song. "Good Time" takes things to the next level with the infectious profanity-laden chorus, 'I came here to fuck shit up and have a good time.' It gave Electric Sounds even more of a push, but Jones reveals there was a shove by producer Eric Ratz to change the lyrics.
"We were doing drums and I visited the studio, and Eric said 'We've gotta fix these songs, there's too much swearing.' I told him that if he could come up with something to make them sound better, to make the songs have more impact without the swear words, I was game. But he couldn't. In fact, for 'Good Time', I ended up going back into the studio and used different words instead of 'fuck shit up' in the chorus. There's three versions of it because there are certain places that said right off the bat, 'We're not going to play this song.' When I went back into the studio in Toronto two or three months later to record the censored versions, Eric said, 'You see? I told you we were going to hit a wall...' (laughs). There's no denying, however, that the swear words are properly placed."
As a longtime collaborator, Ratz has earned Danko Jones' trust, having worked on Power Trio, Fire Music in 2015, and Wild Cat in 2017. In 2019 the band decided to work with Garth Richardson (Devin Townsend, Testament, Rage Against The Machine) for A Rock Supreme.
"We're in a lucky position where we have two great producers that want to work with us," says Jones. "We have a great working relationship and we have a lot of fun with both of them. We had such a blast working with Garth, but there was the sacrifice of being away from home for all that time, whereas Eric is in Toronto and we do great work with him as well."
Electric Sounds marks the second time Danko Jones has put an album together remotely. Bassist JC moved from Toronto to Finland two years ago, and prior to that drummer Rich Knox made the move to Prince Edward Island.
"Power Trio was 60% or 70% made apart from one another, and that showed us we could be apart and still make this work. This album showed us that, okay, we're not in an room jamming together for two hours on one riff like we used to, which was painful. We trim the fat at home and show each other what we really want to show, which is different from trying to find stuff together. That can be great, don't get me wrong, but that's if the sparks happen, and they don't happen every time we jam. It doesn't even happen when we've jammed 10 times, so this being apart really trims the fat. I think you can hear that on the record."
Asked how being separated from his bandmates, particularly after working side-by-side with Calabrese for over 20 years, Jones admits he had his doubts about being able to move forward.
"It went against every instinct I had. I wasn't sure if we could make it work. It was a big change that started on the last album. The first song where Rich laid down his drums was 'Blue Jean Denim Jumpsuit', and when I heard that demo I was thinking 'Holy shit, we can do this, because this song sounds awesome!' We wrote a song apart from one another, beginning to end. The main riff was by myself in a room, and I sent it to JC - he arranges all the songs - who put it together, and it was kinda there. I could hear where it could go, and when Rich sent his drum tracks I was blown away. So, we did the same for this album."
This new formula worked so well that the success of Electric Sounds has been reflected through ticket sales. Some shows for Danko Jones' European tour in December 2023 were sold out in August, and tickets sales continue to be strong during the time of this writing.
"It's a great problem to have; I'm not complaining," says Jones. "We haven't had to move venues due to increased ticket sales since 2006. It's always been full, or we get by, or sometimes we have to move to a smaller room, but it's never been like we're moving upwards. Now, twenty-seven years in, we're moving upwards and I'm really happy about that."
"We've been very lucky in that the shows have been selling really well," he adds, "whereas we've heard nightmare stories from really successful bands having to cancel their tours. I thought all last year that we were probably going to have to cancel something, but that never happened. And now, because of 'Guess Who's Back' we're expanding, so I can't complain. Things are going well right now, and we just want to ride that wave."