The Darkness give hmv.com the lowdown on their new album Pinewood Smile...
Most band reunions are short-lived, money-maximising operations before the members go back to the new projects they really love. But in the case of The Darkness, they’ve made it stick.
It’s now been six years since they reunited and in that time they’ve recorded three studio albums, the latest of which, Pinewood Smile, drops into stores today.
As the album arrives on shelves, we spoke to guitarist Dan Hawkins about the crucial influence drummer Rufus Taylor had on the album, pissing off their old record labels and why he was shocked by the band’s new album cover...
How did you want this album to move on from Last Of Our Kind?
“It’s our first record with Rufus Taylor on drums and if we had an objective, it was to try and get across the sound we make with him. Him being a part of the band has been a big influence and he sings on a couple of the tunes. He’s written a lot and he’s a really amazing drummer who isn’t content just to keep the beat, there are lots of amazing drum fills. So I wanted it to be as live as it could be and to get across the renewed energy in the band now.”
Last time it was a bit odd because you had a drummer on the record, but Rufus did all the touring…
“Yeah, he’d been in the band for almost two years before we recorded anything with him, which must have been very frustrating for him. He’s played everyone else’s parts, but not his own. So that must have been a relief. Emily (Dolan-Davis, the band’s previous drummer) was a good drummer, but it wasn’t a great fit for us. We’ve found our man this time.”
How do you approach the start of an album? Do you feel like you’re back in the groove of just being a band who tour and make albums? Because when you reunited back in 2011 you made it clear nothing was certain…
“We get asked that question more and more as we get older. About a year ago, when we were starting to put the record together, at least one of the others said we should put everything into it, because it could be the last thing we do and I instantly went ‘What the f**k? I feel like we’re just getting into this’. I can’t imagine not making records or this band ever splitting up again. To me it’s inconceivable.”
Does that change how you approach a new album?
“These days we just aim to make the best record we can and we hope might have another hit. You don’t make records for no one to hear, we try to make the grandest gestures we can and to appeal to as many people as we can. We’re still ambitious. We don’t just work for our core fanbase. The Darkness is about more than just existing.”
Last time you produced the album yourself, but this time you’ve got an outside producer in with Adrian Busby, why was that?
“I’ve been producing and engineering since I was about eight. I’ve done our last three albums and albums for other bands in between. But for this album, we started recording in January and my son had been born in very late December, so there was no f**king way I could afford to commit to being in the studio that much, not with the sleep deprivation at home. That was why, I couldn’t do it. Take nothing away from Adrian though, we met a lot of producers and I knew he was the right guy. We wanted someone young, aggressive and not scared to mix things loudly. He’s not a traditional classic rock guy, doesn’t obsess over old gear and old sounds, which suits us perfectly. He was great, a real bundle of energy.”
What kind of album do you think it is lyrically?
“The last record was quite fighty and a bit introspective, whereas on this album every song is completely different. Justin (Hawkins, frontman) draws from loads of different places, I don’t think there’s much of a theme. The band’s going quite well and the finances, which had been a mess for a long time, are finally sorted. I think it’s more playful and really not giving a f**k.”
When did you decide it was going to be called Pinewood Smile?
“We really struggled with that, we’ve done that with every album. We always go through the process of thinking we’ll call it Rock Bottom, for the obvious front cover, but not this time.”
It’s a hell of a cover this time…
“Justin’s had some work done on his teeth and I think he wanted to show it off. He does a lot of the artwork and he’d done this drawing, I think it was in a dressing room somewhere in Australia. It was this big smile with us as bits of food stuck in the teeth. I’d imagined when it came to the actual cover it would be Naomi Campbell’s teeth or someone with much nicer teeth, but no, to my horror, Justin insisted on it being his teeth. Oh f**k.”
You’re with Cooking Vinyl this time, why did you decide to move away from releasing on your own label?
“We had a great experience with Kobalt last time and I wouldn’t rule out doing that again. But we wanted something more like a partnership than label services. When you do it that way it’s a huge amount of work and if a label can take half that burden away then that does free you up. This has been a lot less stressful. There’s a record deal to suit everyone and this one has done us proud so far. It’s a full 50/50 deal so everyone is trying really hard.”
Finally, you’re five albums deep now, how will you choose your live set?
“We always play a lot from the first album, we do appreciate that lots of people bought the first album and might not have bothered with the others, but do love seeing us live, so that’s always there. After that it’s difficult, we tend to have two from each album and at least four of five from the new album. We like to drop covers in too. It’s a lot.”
Is everything up for grabs from your catalogue?
“One thing we do make sure of is it’s the songs we love. Labels have a tendency to want you to release certain songs as singles. But we’re damned if we’re going to play them if we don’t agree. So, on Hot Cakes, I think we stopped playing the only singles from that album after two shows, drove the label mad. We just play the ones we want to play.”