England’s most distinctive, multiple award-winning, platinum-selling, hugely entertaining rock gods and one-time saviors of rock n’ roll turned international pleasures The Darkness – Justin Hawkins (vocals / guitar), Dan Hawkins (guitar), Frankie Poullain (bass), Rufus Tiger Taylor (drums) – will unleash their highly anticipated fifth studio album, ‘Pinewood Smile,’ on October 6th through Cooking Vinyl. Written in Putney and recorded in Cornwall, England, ‘Pinewood Smile’ was produced by Grammy Award-winning Adrian Bushby (Foo Fighters, Muse). The compositions have all the crucial elements of classic Darkness fare, but with added layers for the ears to peel away at…like a sonic onion, but a lot tastier. The album also features the drumming and vocal talents of gorgeous new band member Rufus Tiger Taylor, son of Queen legend Roger Taylor.
‘Pinewood Smile’ finds The Darkness in electrifying form, delivering some of the most sharp-witted, infectious, humorous and downright brilliant songs of their career. In addition to the glorious, hard-rockin’, autobiographical album opener “All The Pretty Girls” that intellectually examines the fact that when you’re a rock star you get a lot of attention from ladies and discussing the ethical conundrums that come with that, the album boasts the swashbuckling “Buccaneers Of Hispaniola,” the expletive-strewn howl of frustration that is “Southern Trains,” the hugely emotional “Why Don’t The Beautiful Cry?,” the globally anthemic “Japanese Prisoner Of Love” and the ode to pumping out smash hit after smash hit “Solid Gold,” which finds The Darkness addressing the turbulent nature of the music industry and how they have enjoyed its flamboyant highs and spectacular lows.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with The Darkness’ Frankie Poullain to discuss his life in music, the making of ‘Pinewood Smile’ and what the future might hold for these rock ‘n’ roll legends!
How did music first come into your life and what went into finding your creative voice early on in life?
In the back of my Mum’s car 1977, she taught Italian classes on Saturday afternoons and took us there because she couldn’t afford a babysitter. I remember hearing The Carpenters “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” and being blown away by the voice, the melodies, the arrangement and the words. Though of course at the time I didn’t break it down into those components, I just felt my young impressionable brain melt.
What made you want to pursue your passion professionally?
The deep feelings that music gives people, the ability to transport us and forget for a moment the horror show that we are as a species.
You’ve come a long way from the early years as a musician. Looking back, what are your fondest memories of your leaner years as a professional musician and how did these experiences impact the artist we see today?
I had many lean years. Those years made me less precious, blocked and fearful, as I witnessed many talented friends and acquaintances who fell by the wayside because of those traits. Sacrifice is key, sacrifice and courage, mainly of an emotional kind. Physical courage is overrated in my opinion, unless we’re talking about defending your country against Nazis.
The Darkness continues to explore new musical territory. What fuels your creative fire and keeps you so driven?
Our values, both musical and as people. The Hawkins brothers have a strong work ethic when they are fired up. We also have a sense of duty to do what we do best, which is to inject a sense of euphoric abandon into a sterile joyless world that takes itself way too seriously.
To what do you attribute the longevity of the band?
Propecia. Gym induced endorphins. Dolphins. Hawk The Slayer. Brotherly Love. Ice Eyes. Gibson. Erectile Dysfunction. Dementia. Death. Rebirth. The small of a woman’s back.
What got the ball rolling for ‘Pinewood Smile’ and made now the right time for a new record?
What were your aspirations or goals for this album as you started the process of creating this new album?
No goals as such, just to be true to our exacting standards. We are all tough on each other. Rufus Taylor was making his first album with us and we encouraged him to sing two duets with Justin – in at the deep end as they say.
How did what you envisioned this album differ from what you have ultimately achieved?
Interesting question. It’s never what you imagine it will be. Bands will always like to say ‘this is our Detroit soul album’ or our ‘White album’, but it usually sounds like just any other album by that band. However we are different, this really is our techno ‘Astral Weeks’. Finally.
For those haven’t heard the new record, how does it compare and contrast to the work The Darkness has done in the past?
It’s denser. And yet wetter somehow. It’s also exceedingly thick.
What can you tell us about the songwriting process for the album and gathering the right mix of tunes?
The process began in Alicante, on Spain’s Costa del Hell, and then Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland, before a couple of visits to Cornwall on England’s South West peninsula. The locations always seem to leave an imprint on the material. In this case they made them more watery and touristy. Tunes is the right word. The mix isn’t so important, more that each song has an identity.
The Darkness teamed up with producer Adrian Bushby for ‘Pinewood Smile.’ What did he bring to the table for a project like this one?
He brought two hard rock balls and a metal banana, plonked them on the table and said ‘Let’s do this’.
You have been working with the other guys in the band for many years now. What do they bring out in your creatively?
I’ve learnt so much from them – they don’t fuck around. Well they do sometimes, clearly, but whiny whimpery nonsense will not be tolerated. Neither will feeling sorry for yourself or ripping other people off; unless those people go by the name of AC/DC.
What were the biggest challenges you encountered while bringing the album to life?
Stacking up harmonies while waiting for the Cornish pasties to arrive. Recording the backing tracks with Ru and Dan live, we had to do up to 50 takes sometimes, just to get the right feel but it was worth it.
They say you learn something from each album you put out. Does that hold true with this one?
Yes. We learned that a stitch in time saves nine. And to look before we leap. But most of all that a Rolling Stone gathers no Kate Moss. Not yet anyway.
The majority of music fans don’t give much thought to the business side of the music industry. What does it take to keep a band like The Darkness on the rails and moving forward in ever-changing climate like we see today?
Smoke and mirrors. Almonds. Ginger. A compass. An umbrella. A corporate slave trader cracking the whip behind us.
I’m sure the way you viewed rock ‘n’ roll as a kid differs slightly from the way you see things today. What does rock ‘n’ roll mean to you?
Good question. Making up the rules as you go along, to suit yourself and no one else. Trying to be rock ‘n’ roll is pathetic and should be kicked in the bollocks with steel toe capped boots.
How do you feel you have most evolved as an artist through the years?
I now play the cowbell with the thicker handle end of the drum stick as someone told me it would sound better.
Last year, The Darkness was joined on stage by Tim Cappello, the legendary sexy saxman from ‘Lost Boys.’ By all accounts, he is an awesome guy! What is your recollection of the epic meet up and performance? (Check out the performance here!)
He’s such a pro and like a lot of talented musicians who don’t give a shit, he’s unintentionally funny. Sheer attitude, class and dedication. When he thrust his hips towards me I was in heaven.
You have a lot of productive years ahead of you. Where do you see yourself headed musically in the future, both short and long term?
Thank you for the faith. Short term – explode into our pants. Long term – explode into oblivion.
‘Pinewood Smile’ is due out on October 6th. Pre-order the album at https://thedarkness.lnk.to/PS. Follow the continuing adventures of The Darkness on social media via Facebook and Twitter. For all the latest news and tour dates, visit the band’s official website at www.thedarknesslive.com.
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.