08 Mar 2016

Danko Jones

On the other side of the phone line is the often "over the top" rocker from Canada Danko Jones to talk about the recent live CD/DVD "Live At Wacken", as well as whatever is thrown its way. What made an impression during this chat was his seriousness in every answer, his modesty and precision in every answer, something that surely didn't bare lot of resemblance with the rockstar someone sees on stage. Danko is a workaholic with several collaborations every year, live shows, column in magazines and so on. Maybe, when he is doing interviews is not at his best, but make no mistake he surely knows pretty well what he is doing with his band! Interview: Yiannis Dolas

Rockpages.gr: Your current release is “Live At Wacken” and the first question that popped into my mind while watching it was this: how is it to play in a festival on broad daylight? DankoJones01

Danko Jones: Aahhh, fine. We’ve done it for 15 years. Hahaha! They usually start at broad daylight, at noon and they go up to 1 in the morning!

Rockpages.gr: How do you introduce your band to a group of people that are gathered there maybe not to see you band, but the headliner or some others? What do you do to win them over?

Danko Jones: You just put on a show, I mean that’s all you can do. What else can you do? If they don’t like it, they don’t like it. You just play the show and hopefully they like the music and the performance and you go from there.

Rockpages.gr: Can you remember your first show ever, the first time you played live?

Danko Jones: Yeah, we played a warm-up gig, actually we played a couple of warm up gigs in Montreal and Toronto, and in Ottawa with a band called the Station, which eventually became King Kong… we played a home gig in Toronto opening with the New Von Turks, so there where a few first shows before we started playing regularly…

Rockpages.gr: Were you feeling nervous? Did you feel scared?

Danko Jones: I guess so, you feel a little nervous… that was 20 years ago, I think! I don’t know! What did you do 20 years ago?

Rockpages.gr: Well, I can’t remember…

Danko Jones: There you go! That’s my answer.

Rockpages.gr: Actually, this year, 2016, marks the band’s 20th anniversary. Do you have something special in store for that?

Danko Jones: Well, this DVD is one of them. Hopefully, we are planning to do a special release of our record on vinyl this year and I am currently working on a book that should be released by the end of this year.

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Rockpages.gr: You also recently released a new version of “Wild Woman” with Christina Scabbia. This is one of your several collaborations you’ve done in your career. Which ones did you enjoy the most, which were the most special and why?

Danko Jones: Ahhmm… I just did a really really huge collaboration that I am not allowed to speak about! That would be one of my favorite ones. Obviously, working with Marty Friedman on his “inferno” album was a thrill, because I am a huge fan of Marty for years and to be in one of the only tracks that have vocals on his album was pretty amazing. That was a lot of fun. I got to sing on three tracks on his album, two of them were released on a domestic release and one of them was released in Japan. And then, I got to work with him in the studio as well, for one session. That was a thrill! I’ve collaborated with Annihilator, I’ve done some stuff with Jeff Waters a few years back and Angela Gossow from Arch Enemy on a track but that was a lot of fun! Ahhm, I’ve done a huge collaboration recently, and I've done a few collaborations last year that haven’t been released yet either that I am very excited about and I can’t talk about those either! I am just trying to think which is one is my favorite… I love collaborating with other people… Oh, I’ve got one that just got released on iTunes, it’s a cover of David Bowie song called “Heroes” and it’s interesting because David Bowie has passed away. I recorded it six days before he died and it is for the victims of terrorism in France with the Paris attacks recently and all the terrorism that has been going in France in the last 2-3 years. I did “Heroes” with a whole bunch of other people like Bumblefoot, Rudy Sarzo, Vinny Appice, Paul Di’Anno, Michael Sweet, Mitch Malloy… it’s a pretty incredible song with a whole lot bunch of people on it that is pretty cool. We all sung the song together and it’s a benefit for the victims of terrorism in France.

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Rockpages.gr: Is there any collaboration that you’d wish you do? What’s on your wish list?

Danko Jones: Yeah, of course! There is so many people I wish I’d work with and I’ve only done a few. It’s so many people… you name it! I’d love to do something with them…

Rockpages.gr: I know that you are a massive KISS fan. Have you met the guys?

Danko Jones: Yeah, I’ve met Gene Simmons in 2005 and Eric Singer two years ago. They were both nice to me!

Rockpages.gr: Would you say that you have some piece of knowledge about the band that no one else has?

Danko Jones: Ahmm, even if I did I don’t think I’d say it publicly, or on the record! You know you hang around the music business for a long time enough and eventually you hear stories and rumors and all kinds of crazy stories that are true… hahaha! But, it doesn’t mean that you say them, and that’s what distinguishes you from… or keeps you in the fraternity, or the sorority of rock’n’roll. You don’t want to be known as the guy who blabbed his mouth all the secrets and all the stories and the myths and all that stuff. it’s not for me to say stuff about people, but I like to hear the stories. That’s why over time people have come into custody because they are not going to blab it.

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Rockpages.gr: Your last album “Fire Music” was a return to top form. Can you tell us if while making an album you can say that it’s going to be better, or even worse than your previous one? Can you be objective about that when you are working on an album?

Danko Jones: Well, when you work on an album you try to make the best album you can. We’re going to stop making it if I say that this is the worst album we ever done… let’s continue! That doesn’t make any sense! Whenever you are going to make a record you are trying to top the previous one and you always wanna make it the best record you’ve ever done. On some of the records we haven’t been the best, and there are reasons for that. Mainly the reasons being that me and JC weren’t at the helm of the ship on some of those albums. But, whenever JC and I we are at the helm and we are in charge and we are the ones who are manning the ship sort to speak, the records are great, and we get really good reviews and people really seem to dig them. But, albums like “Never Too Loud” and “Rock’n’Roll Is Black And Blue”, as much as we wrote those songs and we were there every step of the way there is always something, or somebody who stepped in and decided to interpret our band for us. Depending on the situation we allowed it because… I don’t know! There are different reasons for each situation. However, albums like “Below The Belt”, “We Sweat Blood” and the latest one “Fire Music” we were very very pointed and assured and assertive as to where we wanted to go. We have already started writing the next record and it’s going to be pretty much the same thing as “Fire Music”. We are going to write and record songs the way WE want them, and not with a third party telling us how to, or do something out of our band we know we are not. For example, on “Rock’n’Roll Is Black And Blue” there was someone in the circle that wanted us to write a lighter song and to appease that person, because he was terribly annoying we did! And it didn’t turn out the way he had expected. But, me and JC we always know where this band should go. And I am very proud of “Rock’n’Roll Is Black And Blue” I think there is a great number of songs that stick to the plot… like “Legs”, “Terrifed”… Jesus Christ I am blacking out! There are four, or five songs on that album that I think will stand the test of time. “Fire Music” on the other hand I think from beginning to end it’s a great album. I don’t think there is a weak song in there. I am very proud for “Fire Music”…

Rockpages.gr: How is your relationship with JC? You guys go a long way, you’ve been together in Danko Jones since day one and I think you’ve been together in bands before…

Danko Jones: No! The band has been together for 20 years, so me and JC are in business capacity for 20 years. Over the years you even run to work with each other, or you break up. Simple as that! So, we’ve learned to work with each other. We are very different people, but we also understand and recognize the importance of what this band is and what we want to do with this band, and what it allows us to do and we want to continue doing that. In order to do that you have to find the middle ground, you have to give and take and you have to learn to work with each other. And if you can’t do that then you have to move on and we’ve learned to work with each other, we’ve learned to accommodate one another, that goes not just being in a band, but being in any kind of business relationship. You either learn to work with that person, or you finish it, you give it up. Or in a personal relationship you break up or something… So, it’s just regular living. Some people can’t work with other people, or some people refuse to appease at a person, or meet half way. Some people are not like that, some people are very stubborn. So, we’ve recognized our differences and we can still work together and make good music and play good shows. That’s how it works… that’s how anything works if it’s going to last for 20 years! We are friends, you can’t do that if you are not friends at the end of the day!

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Rockpages.gr: Ron Wood was playing your album “Born A Lion” throughout a Rolling Stones tour. This must be some compliment! What was the greatest compliment you’ve heard for Danko Jones?

Danko Jones: You know that I didn’t hear it from Ron himself, I heard it from someone who was doing security for the Stones in Toronto. That’s a pretty good source! But, it’s not from Ron himself. If Ron had told me that himself I’d be floored by it, but even hearing that was nice. You hear things every now and then, the fact that Lemmy let us tour and sung with them and Lemmy liked our band and he talked about our band, he told the people, that was flattering! I recently heard that Dave Mustaine listens to our music… that’s nice, that’s very flattering because he is a music innovator. Probably, if not single handedly it was one of the people who invented thrash metal, so it’s a compliment to hear that and also I’ve heard it from Angus Young, so that’s a big compliment as well! You stick around long enough and you come by it, you get people talk about your band, that’s always nice.

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Rockpages.gr: Danko Jones never played in Greece…

Danko Jones: I know! And that always bugs me, I’ve always wondered why we haven’t been there in 20 years! We had people from Greece coming to our shows in Germany and London. I don’t know! Every now and then I meet someone from Greece and they’ve traveled to see us, but we don’t travel to see them. Only, it’s not on us! We can’t just show up on Greece’s door and say: “hey, we are here to play”, we need some promoter to get us there…

Rockpages.gr: Would you be say interested in going somewhere you don’t know if there is a fan base for Danko Jones to play and see what happens?

Danko Jones: We’ve played in 36, or 37 countries and every time we played a new country it’s always been that. We don’t know if people will like us. We don’t know the reception we will get, we don’t know even if anyone will show up to the gig! That’s happened 36 times. 37 if you include our home country!

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Rockpages.gr: On stage and on the videos we watch a really wild rocker, but how is Danko Jones in his everyday life?

Danko Jones: Well, I am on stage when you see me at a show, I am in my element. This is the one chance I get to do what I love to do: play rock music and sing loud and scream! So, that’s what I want to do in that moment, I can’t do that when I am shopping food, of I am getting dry cleaning, or if I am taking the train… I’d be in jail! Just imagine if I screamed when I catch a taxi, or I scream when I meet somebody… that’s something that I don’t understand. People who think that I am going to scream on their face when I am not on stage. I am screaming at their face when I am on stage because I am excited and you’d be too if you were on stage in front of 500, 1000, 10000 sometimes pairs of eyes… that’s 20000 eyes staring at you! A lot of people have the reaction of pissing their pans, people have the reaction of not saying a word and being terrified. I have the opposite reaction… but, make no mistake your body chemistry changes when you are on stage in front of people whether it’s 2 people, or 20000 people and that’s how my body chemistry changes.

Rockpages.gr: What is the coolest thing about being Danko Jones:

Danko Jones: To be able to play rock music to people and that’s the coolest thing and the only thing that’s cool! Everything else is fun and it’s nice to get free records or something, band t-shirts every now and then, or you get someone paying you a compliment, or someone wants to take a photo with you, but the best part of the gig of being in a band is getting to play on stage, getting to play the music you love in front of an audience. Whether the audience wants to hear or not, it’s just the act of playing in front of an audience, which is a privilege!

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Rockpages.gr: What is the best advice that someone gave you and you still follow today?

Danko Jones: Ahhm… listen to music? Hahaha! I don’t know! I don’t have an anecdote story of like someone giving me advice that I follow…    

Rockpages.gr: Maybe there is a wrong advice someone gave you?

Danko Jones: Well, whether it was wrong or right, I’ve been doing what I wanted to do since I was 16 years old to the last 20 years…

Rockpages.gr: You have become a rock persona, because except from playing music you have a radio show, write in magazines, newspapers, you’ve made a short film with Ralph Macchio and Elijah Wood (ed, how cool is that?). How did you develop that rock persona?

Danko Jones: Well, first of all I front a rock band and the band is named after me! So, there it is right there! The sort film was something that got out of us while making a music video for the album “Below The Belt”. After that was done the filmmakers on their own cut a sort out of that. We had nothing to do with it, we were just making music videos. And I don’t do a radio show, I do a podcast! I used to do a radio show and stopped doing that in 2005, so that’s 11 years ago. But, I do a podcast and I do have columns in rock magazines where I talk about rock music. It’s just an extension of what I do anyways with friends, in the dressing room… you know talking about rock is what I like to do, and it’s just an extension of that in the podcast and in my columns for magazines. 

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