The Darkness: "We were always legendary!"
Peter White on 11 November 2003
Not exactly the new Nu-Acoustic Movement, then...
"I don't like Bon Jovi because they're so corporate. You go see them now and it's fucking Ally McBeal music. He's had his teeth changed and his hair cut and looks like a cunt."
Justin Hawkins has just upset me. Monstrously pissed me off, in fact. Fortunately the man is responsible for one of the greatest festival summers since 'Tallica played Reading drunk and charlied to high heaven. I don't usually accept this kind of behaviour, but it's ok because The Darkness and me have been on a ride together over the past 18 months and it kicked serious rock n roll ass.
It started in a dank, cavernous rock tank somewhere below Notting Hill's peaceful, upper-middle class, Hoegarden sipping, surburbia. 'I Believe In A Thing Called Love''s appearance hadn't left my beat up, cock rock sipping, treble infested boombox for weeks and I was starting to smell the return of a Motley Crue bringin', brownstone aspiring gang. Something akin to a movement, if you will. This club may have been low on members at the time, but everyone in on the joke (fuck off) knew the anonymity would soon be swallowed up by the perches of potential proven right.
By now the band were sitting sweetly under the wing of Tremendous Mike and his inspired Must Destroy indie label; creating catsuit controversy as the club planned the inception of mainstream approval. 'Get Your Hands Off My Woman' illustrated the Kurt Cobain swangling genius on top of a cunt filled, Radio One bothering lyric. And it worked because the future kings of million selling chart success got where they wanted without one of those baby eating, major label record deals OR mainstream inkie approval. Case in point was selling out London's Astoria without a single baggie of snow white magic powder hastily being biked to the flaked out advertorial masses.
"We had a reputation for being a good live act and people talking about us was priceless," notes Frankie P., the stone-cool, cockduster-adorned bassist.
Justin adds: "We were always a legendary band and people came to see us out of curiosity. It wasn't big and it wasn't clever but we kept on doing it. Then it became fashionable and when that dies out we'll still be here behaving like bell ends. The Hoxtonites will die out, if they haven't already."
How many A&R men does it take to change a lightbulb? Twelve. One to screw it and 11 to say they'd put an offer in first. And therein lies the story of The Darkness' dealings with the underbelly of society, otherwise known as the music biz. While originally the Parkway soul stealers thought it was just a joke, the jesters had the last laugh as they managed to advance the original offer of four pints of lager and a bag of bacon bits. DiS' resident rumour monger, Gary Guestlist, was only on the phone ten minutes ago to suggest $750,000 was transferred to The Darkness' Cayman Islands offshore account.
Most thought Sony had the deal sewn up, and the band still have a soft spot for UK chairman Rob Stringer, but eventually the points went to AOL Time Warner subsidiary Atlantic/East West, supplemented by some handy DiS spying by big cheese Korda Marshall. "They were the company that agreed to take on the team that were working for us [often for free] up to the point of us getting a record deal. We sold out without selling out." laughs Justin.
'Permission To Land' didn't make it to number one on release. But Lord praise ye 'cos they've held on to the top spot for more weeks than a Courtney Love hangover. But despite rusty ramblings still doing the rounds, the beauty of the band isn't a novelty; it isn't a rush of pop quelled bohemian rhapsodies or a feeling of nostalgia. It is the knowledge that the four Lowestoft lads will be upending the system by continuing to write agnostic anthems, each better than the last, selling enough records to jettison them into the helicopter crashing world usually exclusively adorned by the likes of the aforementioned 'Jovi and U2 and most importantly lasting until we are surviving in our kingdom of the post-apocolyptic pensioner.
"We'll be headlining arenas by next year. They can't wait, it's going to be fucking Beatlemania," warns Mr. J. Hawkins esq. He ain't wrong, either, if their Reading Festival trick of moving days so they could climb significantly up the bill is anything to go by. Mean Fiddler even changed the rules for them. "This year at Reading was basically a stepping stone to headlining next year. We had the condition that kids who bought day tickets to see us could swap days."
Headlining Reading? But without co-operating with the UK's biggest selling weekly rock rag? What a novel idea; a band with morals and sticking to them. But screwing the NME hasn't done them any harm. The level of influence the recently shrunk rag may soon start to will worry the suits at IPC. "The editor of the NME calls me up and I keep telling him to fuck off," rages Justin, "but then he called our press bloke and said that was the most rock n roll thing that had ever happened to him. You wouldn't think the NME would sell their readers short by putting a band on the cover [four times in a row, no doubt] without an interview. We're boycotting them. They have no chance with any of us ever co-operating with them. I don't care if we're cutting off our noses to spite our faces, I'd rather not have a face at all. They're a bunch of inadequate journalists that know nothing. This is war."
Now, of course, The Darkness are the most overexposed band in Britain. They make Terris' early press coverage look like a mention in the Lowestoft Chronicle's classifieds. But this is a fantastic thing. Bands that make records as important and zeitgeist puking as 'Permission To Land' need to find their way in to the homes of every stereo owning, Jeep driving, David Gray humming, soccer mom shagging, coffee table accountant in the country. Only then will things change. Thankfully things are almost there.