Latest release: A Rock Supreme (Indica)
Perennially under-rated Canadian hard rock trio Danko Jones are set to return to Australia for the first time since Soundwave 2013. It’s also their first headlining run Down Under in 15 years. Loud spoke to vocalist/guitarist Jones about their new record A Rock Supreme, which he says is, “really just a reference to A Love Supreme by John Coltrane. It’s arguably the most successful and most beloved jazz album of all time. Referencing it and twisting the title I think’s a little sacrilegious. That’s kinda rock ‘n’ roll to me. I think it would piss off a lot of jazz heads, and that would amuse me,” he laughs. “But we’re also very big John Coltrane fans, so it’s half taking the piss and half being a tribute.”
We also spoke about his long-running podcast (The Official Danko Jones Podcast), recent book I’ve Got Something to Say, as well as thoughts on the KISS farewell tour and Greta Van Fleet’s success.
Q: It’s interesting you referenced “taking the piss” there. I say that because to me, it’s evident the band has a real reverence for rock music, but there also seems to be a light-hearted sensibility, a tongue-in-cheek attitude towards some of the tropes of rock.
A: Yeah, sure. It comes from maybe a punk rock background where we don’t buy into it as readily as some. There’s an irreverent approach to us playing rock ‘n’ roll. We don’t have any of the accouterments of a rock band; none of us have tattoos, I definitely don’t have long hair or a handlebar moustache. We don’t really wear leather pants or ride motorcycles, etc, etc, etc. Like a lot of the things that have come to be known, or associated with rock ‘n’ roll. Which is fine. We like to play with some of those images, for sure. But it doesn’t mean we have a lack of respect for it. I love the music so much.
Q: I’ve been told in jest that I’m a terrible heavy music fan because I have short hair and no ink either (laughs).
A: It’s fine to have all that, and it’s fine to look the part, so to speak. But it’s also fine to just listen to it, and not have to wear the uniform.
Q: Indeed. I’ve been listening to the new album, and it’s obvious the influence of acts like Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, ZZ Top and others remain. Do you tend to have a staple set of influences, or does new music seep through into the Danko Jones sound as well?
A: Well, when it comes to rock, I think any new rock bands are taking from the same sources that we are. I don’t know if new bands are finding an influence in our music. We like to just put a fresh twist on, let’s say a Lizzy-esque type song. We’re never going to sound exactly like Thin Lizzy, because I don’t sound like Phil (Lynott), I can’t play two guitars at once and I definitely can’t play like Gary Moore. So I think just taking a stab at a Lizzy-sounding song is enough separation, and we will come up with something fresh automatically.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t listen to a lot of new rock bands on the scene. I prop them up, I try to promote them any way I can on social media whenever I can, and we take them out on tour. But I don’t think they’re influencing us, because a band that I love, I usually love them because, I don’t know, they sound like Sweet. Or Cheap Trick, I love it! That’s usually how I would describe a new band that I love. In terms of like, new sounds and something finding its way into our music, at this point I don’t think so. But you never know, sometimes there are some things. And usually it comes from, maybe hip-hop or another genre entirely.
Q: What’s your take on a young band like Greta Van Fleet’s success then?
A: Well, listen, I don’t fault them. They’re young guys, they’re doing their… They’re a rock band and it’s great that a rock band is getting some sort of attention. Because God knows no one else is on that level. There’s Volbeat, but there’s a huge drop-off after Volbeat and Greta Van Fleet. But Greta Van Fleet has attracted a real divisive crowd; you either love ’em or you hate ’em.
The only criticism I would level at them is the fact that they refuse to acknowledge the influence that Zeppelin has on their music. And I think that’s what is pissing a lot of people off. Just say you sound like Zeppelin, and all is cool.
Another thing that bugs me about Greta Van Fleet, and it’s not about the band, it’s more to do with the fans and the music listeners in general. There was a band called Kingdom Come from Germany, and they sounded exactly like Led Zeppelin. Exactly like them. They did the same thing, where they refused to acknowledge that Zeppelin was an influence, and they got roasted alive. And they ended up disbanding, (although) I think they’re back together in some form. But that’s what I mean. And I also feel that people should get into Kingdom Come if they’re going to get into Greta Van Fleet. I mean, come on. So I created a hashtag, called #justiceforkingdomcome.
That’s pretty much my take on the whole thing. It’s like, hey, if you sound like Zeppelin and you guys can pull it off and you’ve got the chops, and you’re coming up with original, new songs, just say you listen… Say Zeppelin’s a big influence. For us, I’ll say it, I’ll do it – AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, the Misfits. These are all heavy influences on us. Right off the top, there. I did it, boom, done, let’s move on. See how easy it is? (laughs)
Q: (Laughs) Well said. Now, Danko Jones is headed back to Australia for the first time in several years. What are your recollections of previous tours?
A: I think the first time we came to Australia was on our own in ’04, I want to say? Something like that. I’d never been, so I had a great time. It was fun, I had a blast. Not too many people knew who we were, there were not too many people at the shows, although they weren’t empty. We had a good time.
And then we returned finally in 2013 on the Soundwave Festival, which was definitely more higher-profile. We had an even greater time, because that festival was amazing. Whoever curated that festival, it was amazing; we had friends there and I was a fan of many bands. We got paired up with Duff McKagan and his band Loaded (for side shows), and that was amazing. I met a lot of people and made a couple of new friends, so that was a lot of fun.
And that is my last memory of Australia. So now we’re returning, hopefully people will remember us from Soundwave, maybe the internet has helped us have our music travel to Australian ears. And we’re looking forward to it.
Q: I wanted to ask about your podcast. How has it grown during the past several years?
A: I started it in 2011, so it’s been going almost eight years. I started the podcast when podcasts were a glint in peoples’ eyes. I actually had a podcast in ’04, before anybody had a podcast, because our webmaster at the time told me to do one. He said, ‘this is the new thing’. Now, he was so ahead of the curve. But by around 2009-2010, the medium started to take off, so in 2011 I started my own. It’s been a bi-weekly podcast ever since.
Q: A lot of musicians, journalists and other assorted personalities host podcasts these days. It’s such a saturated market – how do you ensure your show stands apart from all of the others?
A: Oh, it’s easy – I don’t care. I do little promotion, but I put so much work into it. If you find it, you find it, and if you listen to it, you listen to it, and if you like it, you like it. I’m so busy with the band, I don’t have time to put 100 per cent behind the podcast. But I see it as a great time-killer for me on the road. I edit it on the road, and I chase down people and do interviews, and I love talking to people that I’m interested in. I do a five to eight-minute write-up, which ends up being like a 1200 to 1500-word essay for every episode. So I love writing about them.
So it’s more for me. And you’re right, the market is saturated with an everyone’s got a podcast kind of thing. I realise that I’m part of that, but the moment I stopped caring, that was when I really started to just get into it. So I will post an episode; I will post the episode, I will post about it on Instagram and Twitter, and then the next week, seven days later, I’ll do it again. I’ll just remind everyone. For example, this episode, the latest one was with Devin Townsend. So I said, ‘hey, Devin’s on the podcast’.
And these are conversations with friends of mine. They’re more loose than just like a straight-up interview. So it’s like that. So, if you find it, you find it, and if you don’t, you don’t. I’m not gonna wave my hands up in the air, going, ‘you’ve gotta listen to my podcast’. I’m not even going to lead with any interviews about it. You brought it up, and maybe I mentioned it in passing when we first started talking, but I’m not going to try and drive it home to you that (mock yells), ‘I’ve got a podcast’ (laughs). In fact, I’ve got two. This stuff is what keeps me busy and I enjoy it, so I don’t want to ruin it by putting so much pressure on it, and having it turn into a job.
Q: You have joked on the show about how it could moonlight as a KISS podcast, given you’re a lifelong fan of the band and have often discussed them at length. One KISS-related question for you – do you think the ‘End of the Road’ tour really will be their swansong?
A: I really do think it’s the end of the road. It’s like a three-year tour, so it’s not as if it’s a quick grab for money because then for sure they’ll do it again. It’s three years, and they’re all old; they’re all really old. And I think they’re done. This one for sure, more than the one from 19 years ago saying that it was their farewell tour. I think this one might be the one.
I’m the biggest skeptic; I am a KISS fan/heel, meaning I am a ‘KISS Kontrarian’, spelled with a ‘k’. I’m always the guy who’s shaking my head going, ‘oh my God’ when it comes to KISS. But I really do think this is a genuine tour, a genuine farewell tour.
Q: Changing topics again, I wanted to ask about your recent book, I’ve Got Something to Say. How’s the reception been there?
A: That was something that I was most nervous about; more than releasing an album. Maybe it’s just a little insecurity on my part. Because it was on Feral House, which is an imprint that I’ve been reading since I was out of high school. I love that book company. So I was so proud to repped by and have the book out on Feral House. So I used that as my shield. But when it came out, I have to say, it’s been almost a year and it’s been pretty much 100 per cent positive feedback. Maybe the people who didn’t like it just didn’t tell me, or I didn’t hear about it or read about it.
But it’s been pretty cool. I think everybody takes it for what it is; I’m not trying to be deep, I’m not trying to sound intellectual. It’s just a fun read, light-hearted, nothing to take too seriously. It’s my thoughts on rock music, and it’s a compilation of rock articles from various rock magazines over a ten-year period. I got friends who illustrated it, and people that I’m a fan of their illustrations to contribute. Duff McKagan wrote the foreword. It’s a fun little book, and I’m so proud of it.
Q: Any famous last words?
A: Oh, I’m so bad at that (laughs). I would say come to the show, and check out A Rock Supreme.