INTERVIEW: The Darkness

The Darkness are bringing back glam rock in a bold, authentic and glittery way. With their sixth studio album ‘Easter Is Cancelled’ slated for a October 4 release, the British rock band are ready to show a tighter and more personal side to their cheeky antics.

With the addition of new drummer of Rufus ‘Tiger’ Taylor who is the son of Roger Taylor from Queen into the band, they’ve found a new dynamic within their creativity that has unleashed a new side of them. ‘Easter Is Cancelled’ is an empowering collection of tracks that dives into lead singer Justin Hawkins’ childhood and insecurities that he hasn’t been so upfront with in the past. One of these personal tracks is a song that he’s been working on for 20 years and hasn’t felt completed until Taylor tried his own unique take on the drum structure. 

With this new album in tow, the band will return to Australia in March 2020 for a massive national tour that will see them playing these new songs live as well as their massive hits ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ and ‘Love Is Only A Feeling’.

I recently chatted to Rufus ‘Tiger’ Taylor from The Darkness about the transition from touring with his father in Queen to joining The Darkness as a permanent member, to the creative processes behind their new album ‘Easter Is Cancelled’ and the revival of glam rock. Check out the chat HERE;

TB: The Darkness’s new album ‘Easter Is Cancelled’ will be released on October 4 and it really is a high energy record full of epic guitar riffs and big drums. So when you decided as a band that you were going to start working on a new record what was the creative goal you all wanted to strive towards to make the album feel as a body of work?

RT: Well this is the second album that I’ve worked on with the band after joining them and there was a new dynamic that we had to work out together. When we recorded ‘Pinewood Smile’ I was pretty new to the band and while we did immediately click there was still so much growing and self discovery that we had to endure. So that album really did originate from us just moulding the original ideas we had together in the band room and embracing the new really quickly. 

Where as with this record we really took the time to figure out what we wanted to say as a band. We sat in Dan’s kitchen and played out the arrangements as much as we could and would start working on the original production and figure out where we wanted to take it. Then we went into the studio and would hash out all of the other bits. 

So I feel like by taking that time we have grown a lot and has really paid off for us. You can hear the difference major between the two records. You can hear the care in these songs. They are a lot more intricate. 

TB: ’How Can I Lose Your Love’ is a nostalgic glam rock song that’s heart really lays in the 80’s. So what was influencing you guys as a band during the recording and writing process of this record and where were you drawing inspiration from? 

RT: Justin really pulled out some magic for this album lyrically. A lot of the time me and Dan would work out the arrangements with the drums and guitars and then we would take it to Justin and he would be like “I fucking love it! Give me a few minutes to write some lyrics”, and he went away and would come back with these epic storylines. Some came from thin air and some were speaking towards his recent experiences and childhood. I think he’s done a really masterful job. 

TB: ’Live Til I Die’ was immediately one of my standout favourites from ‘Easter Is Cancelled’. So do you mind if we dive into the creative process behind this song for a moment because I would love to know how it all came together?

RT: That’s an interesting one because it’s actually one of my favourites on the album too. It’s about Justin’s childhood and how his dad used to work his ass off to make a living for his family. He even explores how he was treated in school as he was ridiculed a bit. So It’s just a good life affirming song, I think. It has an empowering sentiment to it that shows his growth. 

Justin said he wrote it like 20 years ago and they just haven’t been able to pull it together sonically in the past. Every time they’ve pulled it from the vault they just haven’t been able to get it right. But this time around Dan was like, “I think Ru can do this. If he likes it, I think we could finally put this on an album”. So Dan played it on acoustic guitar for me and Justin sang the two verses and I just fell in love with it. I thought the riff was fantastic, so I was all in. We nailed it in a couple of takes and we all looked at each other and was like “yes, it finally works”. 

TB: The whole aesthetic of The Darkness as a band is very playful and has this epic glam rock energy to it. But behind all the schtick’s you guys are very thoughtful and in depth with your concepts and take that vision very seriously. So where did the concept for ‘Easter Is Cancelled’ come from? Because you’ve had a bit of fun with it already with the promo videos. 

RT: *Laughs*. Yeah, the promo videos are just us at Dan’s house trying to think of some unique way of promoting the record. We had a lot of fun with it. We don’t take ourselves too seriously as you can tell *laughs*. 

But the actual ‘Easter Is Cancelled’ title and concept just came from us throwing ides around at each other. Every album The Darkness does, we just pass around a million really shit ideas for the title with a couple of good ones thrown in the mix and we just go for the best one that is bold, has a couple of meanings and makes us smile or laugh. ‘Easter Is Cancelled’ ended up winning because it just stood out.

When we had the general gist for the cover it just fitted the title so well and it felt strong as a collective. 

TB: What is one of your worst Easter memories growing up as a kid that would make you want to cancel Easter? 

RT: Look, that’s a good question! There was one Easter when I was a kid and we were searching for those miniature easter eggs and basically I found a bunch of them and suddenly one of my friends lodged a rock at my head which ended up in quite a few stitches *laughs*. 

TB: For the chocolate eggs?!

RT: Yeah, he went from the chocolate eggs to the rock!

TB: Yeah, that would not be a great Easter memory for sure 

RT: Yeah, I don’t remember too much of it to be honest. 

TB: Probably cause he literally knocked it out of you with the rock *laughs* 

RT *Laughs* Probably right!

TB: Your new single ‘Heat Explodes’ is a epic heartbreak rock ballad with a twist. The thing that really stands out to me about this song is the lyrics. They are so visually indepth and have this great visualisation and feel. With my favourite lyric being “I’m trying to write a ballad that makes you wanna stay. They’re easy to come up with but they’re difficult to play”. What is your favourite lyric from the track? 

RT: For some reason “Then suddenly it hits me this isn’t my house anymore” always gets me every time. It’s a really powerful song, that one. It’s been a song that has been one of my favourites since the very beginning of the recording process. 

It’s a great driving song by the way, try listening to it in the car! Feels so epic. 

TB: This is the second album that you’ve worked on with the band, so how did you find the recording process had evolved and changed with your relationship and time with the band growing? 

RT: Oh, a big deal! We were obviously more used to playing together which is always a good thing. We are also just more comfortable as people and as mates so I think that allowed us to get more vulnerable and creative during the process. I think you can tell a massive different with the fluidity of the material. 

When you join a band you are sometimes a bit sensitive with mentioning new ideas as you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes but this time around I really did feel like I was apart of the band so I wasn’t afraid to show my opinions. 

TB: You joined the band in 2015 after Emily departed the group. So from just coming off the back off a massive world tour with Queen at the time, what was the biggest challenge you found in taking on this new roll and really embracing yourself into the world of The Darkness?

RT: Yeah it was a challenge managing that transition because I did five years playing with Queen and for the final year and a half of it I was actually touring with both bands at the same time. So that wasn’t easy *laughs*. We would finish a show in Switzerland with The Darkness and I would head straight to the airport for a flight to Russia and drive straight to the venue and play a Queen show and then get back on a flight and head back to Austria to do the next The Darkness show. It was getting manic *laughs*.  

I think the biggest challenge for me was getting through the initial nerves. The first gig in particular was so nerve wracking as I learnt the songs on a plane from Sydney and I was so unsure how I would go as I hadn’t given myself much time to practice. But shortly after then they were like “yep you’re in, we loved it” and we instantly hit the ground running. I think I learnt about 30 songs in 2 days which was so challenging within itself. 

TB: With The Darkness having a very bold 80’s glam rock style, is the off stage antics as rock n roll as the on stage personas on tour? Because Justin Hawkins is quite the eccentric lead vocalist so I could imagine you guys to get up to some trouble! 

RT: Oh yes! It’s non stop fun on stage and off stage. Whether it’s recording in the studio or touring the world, we will always find something funny or something really stupid to do *laughs*.

TB: I mean, it’s probably different to what it would be like touring with Queen now

RT: Well I dunno about that *laughs*, they can get pretty wild still!

TB: Oh really…

RT: Yeah they are a lot of fun! They definitely still know how to have a good time on tour.

TB: You guys are returning to Australia in March next year for a massive run of dates. So how are you wanting to bring this new album to life in your energetic live show and visually represent the vibrant energy the album holds? 

RT: We are having a really big think and discussion around our production this time around. It’s going to be bigger, the sets will be a little bit longer and be really action packed. We are going to play as much, if not all of this new album as we can. 

We love it and people don’t really perform full albums anymore in their live shows. And we really do think that the songs will come across really well live. The couple we have played just randomly in soundcheck or rehearsal rooms have been so much fun, they sound so great.

TB: With each member having a very different role in the band comes different standout moments for each of you. So what do you think will be your favourite song to play drums to from this upcoming record or the most challenging to recreate in the live setting? 

RT: Ooooh, that’s a good question! We’ve already done ‘Heart Explodes’ when we opened for Ed Sheeran and that went down really well! But I think my favourite to play would probably be between ‘Rock And Roll Deserves To Die’, ‘Heart Explodes’ and the title track ‘Easter Is Cancelled’. 

And the most challenging would probably be ‘Rock And Roll Deserves To Die’ because if we open with that I’m going to be so knackered for the next song *laughs*. 

TB: Let’s play a little game of rapid fire questions where I’m going to ask you some questions that you just need to answer with the first thing that comes to mind…

RT: Let’s do it!

TB: The emoji that best describe our new album ‘Easter Is Cancelled’ is…

RT: The sunglass smiley face!

TB: Pineapple on pizza is…

RT: Disgusting!

TB: When I think of Australia I think of…

RT: Sharks!

TB: Our pre-show pump up song is…

RT:  ‘Bad Reputation’ by Thin Lizzy 

TB: The weirdest thing on our rider is…

RT: Almonds! I hate them that’s why I think they are the weirdest thing. And if they aren’t there then Frankie will lose his mind *laughs*. 

‘Easter Is Cancelled’ is out on October 4! You can pre-order a physical copy of the album from Sanity HERE; https://www.sanity.com.au/products/2432582/Easter-is-Cancelled 

The Darkness 2020 Australian Tour 

Wednesday 11 March – Metropolis Fremantle, Perth

Friday 13 March – Enmore Theatre, Sydney

Sunday 15 March – The Gov, Adelaide 

Wednesday 18 March – The Tivoli, Brisbane

Friday 20 March – The Powerstation, Auckland 

All touring information can be found at https://sbmpresents.com/tour/thedarkness/