Scarlet Page is well known for her image-defining photo shoots with The Darkness. Despite being horrendously busy, she was kind enough to note down a few memories:
Rob Shaw is well known to Darklings ‘first time round’ for being in charge of the Official forum on the band’s own website. A fan first and foremost, he’s as passionate about them as any of us. We met up in a London pub on a warm June evening to drink drinks, eat pie, and try and out-talk each other. He won, this time, because I’d lost my voice the week before! There was a LOT of Darkness discussion that night, mostly completely irrelevant to this project, AND we didn’t tape anything – but we did manage to cobble something together!
OI: When did you first hear about The Darkness?
Rob: On the Stay Beautiful (Simon Price’s night club night) message board, the punning (of Grandmaster Flash) “The Mess-age”. He had obviously seen them before and talked about their forthcoming show at the club night Uncle Bob’s Wedding Reception at The Water Rats pub. I’d been to UBWR many times before as bands I’d liked had either played there (David Devant and His Spirit Wife) or DJed there (Kenickie). I have no idea what he said but clearly it did the trick because after England demolished Germany 5-1 in the football (for it was that fateful day – 1st September 2001) I rallied two work colleagues and headed down there.
OI: Did they blow you away straight away?
Rob: In a word, yes. I was really more of an indie kid than a rocker so in spite of having an MP3 copy of the Virgin compilation The Best Rock Album in the World… Ever! that contained such chestnuts as Rainbow’s Since You’ve Been Gone and Thin Lizzy’s The Boys Are Back In Town which I both knew and loved intimately, The Darkness weren’t really what you would have expected me to love and yet it was instant. Naturally given the events of that day drink had been taken and there was some wholly understandable euphoria but that wouldn’t…couldn’t explain how strong my – our – reaction to The Darkness was. My colleague Chris who was there with me admits to being a self-described “full music snob” said something to me (and bear in mind nearly 12 years have elapsed, so I’m paraphrasing) “how can something so wrong feel so right?!” And that half-remembered comment sums it up – fist-pumping twin-lead-guitaring ’80s influenced hair rock was so far from being what was fashionable (the relatively minimalist Strokes were the band du jour) and yet…and yet… this was clearly so well done, so *honestly* done, by people who knew their milieu and knew their instruments that it simply blew any preconceptions that you might have had away. I knew immediately that I had to see this band again. I was in luck, because they were playing again the next Saturday at The Monarch in Camden.
OI: How did you end up working for them? Was that before PTL was recorded?
Rob: I didn’t miss a single gig after that. They were playing a lot in those days… after 1st September I saw them another eight times in 2001 alone. My opportunity came in 2002, around the time they went to SXSW. Justin was running the website www.thedarknessrock.co.uk: he was a bit handy with Photoshop – still is I expect – and had put together what was in 2001 a very creditable band website – well ahead of what their contemporaries on the toilet circuit would have been doing.
As a by then professional web producer (working an extended sandwich year placement for a computing firm out in Camberley, Surrey) that piqued my interest and along with the Stay Beautiful: The Mess-age forum, The Darkness website became a regular destination for me. When the boys went to SXSW 2002 in March (where, according to Spinner.com they played Maggie Mae’s to “little fanfare” – a year later they tore the roof of the Blender Bar, but that’s a story for another time) the updates to the website, not unreasonably, dried up.
So it must have been at one of the two shows they played in London in April that I spoke to Justin – having introduced myself, heart racing and voice quavering, months earlier during the load-out after a show at the Monarch, and by then being on at least nodding terms with all of the band even if only because they would have seen me in the front row at every London show – and told him that I’d noticed that the website wasn’t being updated recently and perhaps I could help them out with that, allowing him to devote all of his time to the UK’s hardest rocking rockers™.
I would have met Sue before then too, but if I remember correctly (and there’s every possibility that I don’t), we discussed it and I agreed that I would help out – obviously on a for-the-love-of-it basis. In memory, I started working for them in May 2002; as I look at the Wayback Machine my new design for the website (and ostentatious credit in the website footer) don’t appear until September that year, but I *think* there were updates before that.
PTL was recorded in October 2002, so I was working for them for a few months before that.
OI: What was your exact job?
Rob: Webmaster / gig photographer (with a 2.1 megapixel Nikon digital camera and no skills whatsoever) / phone answerer / general factotum / fan wrangler.
OI: Was there anything that wasn’t pleasant?
Rob: Running the forum was, sometimes. I didn’t like the way some fans spoke about Sue, and getting rid of her. People also forgot that I was a fan as well, sometimes, and I was as affected as they were by what went on – good or bad. I did stay in touch with one or two people, as friends.
OI: What’s your favourite office memory?
Rob: Ridiculously, I suppose at some point during 2004 when things were going particularly swimmingly and the band could do no wrong, we were convinced that somebody should make a movie of the rise and rise of The Darkness (with all of us hirelings in it too, of course) and we worked out the cast for the whole thing. Sue was going to be played by Fay Ripley and Simon Pegg was going to be me – because he *is* a strawberry blond, irrespective of what he told me at the One Way Ticket to Hell…and Back launch party!
OI: Do you prefer PTL live or on CD?
Rob: The live set that I knew and loved pre-PTL and the PTL tracklist (and hence the the post-PTL live set) were actually quite different. Growing On Me, for instance, which is unquestionably one of the highlights of PTL, I don’t remember being part of the live set before the album was recorded. And Nothin’s Gonna Stop Us and Live ‘Til I Die and The Best of Me were, yet they in time made way for others.
OI: What is your favourite track? Has that changed over the years?
Rob: If I’m honest, not really. It was always Love Is Only A Feeling, right from the earliest days. I remember Justin gave me a signed CD-R copy of what would become the I Believe In a Thing Called Love EP after the show at The Castle, Tooting in November 2001 – to my eternal regret I lost it a couple of house moves ago – and I went straight home and tried to transcribe the lyrics into a notepad, the better for singing along. I wrote down “and I saw my defensive system adequately fail to withstand” (instead of “an assault my defences systematically failed to withstand”) and if I’m honest I probably still sing it that way at least half of the time.
Dan and Justin played the whole show on only one guitar each in the early days (Dune, Dan’s 1998 sunburst Les Paul Standard and Black Shuck, Justin’s 1998 black Les Paul Standard) and when Dan brought the capo out you knew it was Love Is Only A Feeling time. That solo practically brought me to my knees then, it still does now. The amazing video that Alex Smith made out in the Blue Mountains of Australia only served to burnish the song’s legend as far as I am concerned. The gestures that Justin makes in the cave (here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGPyUSVtpZM&t=1m46s) – he used to do those on stage and the intro to the track was always heralded by Justin crossing his arms and doing air drums. I later discovered he stole that particular move from Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap.
OI: What would you have loved to have happened to mark the anniversary?
Rob: I have one cherished, unachievable dream… For The Darkness to have released a 10 year anniversary Edition of PTL, and for them to have let me choose the tracklist. There are rarities galore: demos, radio sessions, videos that never got a proper release (like Friday Night, which inexplicably leaked on the Internet, through an Italian broadcaster if I remember correctly) – definitely enough to have made a great package for fans. Maybe they can do it for the 20th instead!
OI: Any regrets?
Rob: That I didn’t go to America to see them play there. There turned out not to be all the time in the world.
Rob was, as always, a joy to talk with. We could have done with another few days just to talk about PTL. The pie is on me next time.
Years ago, two young Darklings from different countries and time zones met in cyberspace. Love wasn’t just Only A Feeling… they got married only a few weeks ago.
OI: Morning, everyone!
OI: Is everyone comfy? Right then… How did both of you discover The Darkness? Or was it less of a discovery and more of a running into a wall of Rock?
Hedda: I heard/saw IBIATCL on TV, thought it was a great song and didn’t actually think much more of it. Then I went on holiday to London with a friend and TD was on the cover of Kerrang. She thought they looked awesome (they did, in their circus gear) but hadn’t heard them. I had, of course but couldn’t remember the song properly, so we looked them up when we got home and that was it. Hooked!
Ben: The person who introduced me to the delights of Tenacious D recommended them (and their forum) to me, so I had a listen, and signed up. Wasn’t long before I was hooked .
OI: What was the thing that really jumped out at you first?
Ben: Justin’s crotch. But I tried not to let that put me off.
Hedda: Justin’s lyrca clad bum and the opening riff to IBIATCL .
OI: They’re prominent sort of Darkness features So, Hedda had good reasons to stay around, but what about you, Ben?
Ben: After that, it was the sheer ROCK of it all, plus the humour… I like my music with some funny in it, especially puns and double entendres.
OI: I think they’re everywhere in Darkness being. Once you had PTL in your own hands, what happened to your lives?
Hedda: I went to see them in February 2004 and joined the forum in the summer (didn’t have internet access in my old flat).
OI: Ben was already there, I believe
Ben: I had Justin’s falsetto ringing in my ears pretty much 24-7, and spent long hours squinting at their forum, getting to know the lovely Darklings.
Hedda: He was indeed! I did notice 😉
OI: I think everyone noticed Ben! There was a large but tight-knit community spirit back then.
Ben: There was, it was a very good crowd of people, united by epic rock, and emoticons .
Hedda: Yes, everyone was very welcoming to newbies!
OI: The forum was exploding then. It was the golden age of fora.
Hedda: It was awesome .
Ben: It was…. The Dampness, The TPBs, plus puns, banter and the spirit of friendly rock n roll.
OI: It was a great place! As, indeed, you two found out.
Ben: Yep. It’s where we met. I believe the word “thunk” may have been involved.
Hedda: Indeed! Aaaah had forgotten about thunk .
OI: What happened to attract two anonymous people from different countries into a corner? ’Thud’ was also quite prevalent, I understand .
Ben: The Darkness happened, and the power of rock brought us together.
Hedda: And you were funny. And I saw your photo.
Ben: And it was so funny I saw your photo, and thunk.
OI: Which TD event finally saw the physical meeting of thunks?
Hedda: We’ve never actually been to a TD event together!
OI: Pardon? HOW?
Ben: Strangely we’ve only ever seen them separately, pesky scheduling issues have stopped us both getting to see them at the same time!
OI: This has to stop!
Hedda: It will in november, we’re seeing them in Plymouth .
OI: Thank the Gods of Rock for that!
Ben: It’s lucky they got back to together, I think it was probably just so that they could perform for both of us at the same time .
Hedda: I think so.
OI: Two Darklings, brought together by the power of PTL… never seen them perform it together! Of course. They’re very good at doing stuff for their fans.
Hedda: They are, as we noticed the day after the wedding!
Ben: Maybe you could ask the gods of rock to get them to perform at Exmouth Pavilion for our anniversary?
Hedda Don’t push it darling.
OI: I will offer up a prayer
Ben: Rock Master, who art in Lowestoft, Justin be thy name..”
OI: Right, so you were bought together by the power of Rock, Spandex and Justin’s Bum (the Holy Trinity), in the physical form of PTL. Which little bit of PTL grabbed you by the bum most?
Hedda: IBIATCL and Friday night are my favourite tracks off that album I think. Closely followed by Growing On Me .
Ben: Every bit of it was pure rock gold, but Growing On Me was probably the track that got me the most .
Hedda: And I love the Friday Night video .
OI: It is a gem that needs to be seen more often! Over the last ten years, do you think you’ve shifted towards other tracks?
Ben: I’ve shifted more to IBIATCL, as the love of my life is here thanks to The Darkness We used it at our wedding, so it has special sentimental value now. Plus it rocks. Hedda: Not really, they’re all good but those ones have always been my favourites.
OI: I guess you two have had your lives changed more than most by this band/album.
Ben: Yes, the Darkness bought us together, despite us never having seen them together. The powers of love and rock are great indeed, but together, nothing can stop us now.
Hedda: Yeah it’s pretty changed but for the better!
OI: I’d hope so What’s your favourite memory from that time?
Hedda: From when we met?
OI: Any of the PTL era .
Hedda: When I went to Oslo to see them with a friend, The Wildhearts were the warm up, and we were at the very front. That must have been February 2004 I think .
Ben: Seeing the Darkness at Wembley was pretty amazing, a whole bunch of Darklings met up at the hotel before going basking in the power of rock, was great to meet them all, and them, well…..Justin on a flying tiger is a sight I’ll never forget.
OI: Do you have anything to say to The Darkness on this great occasion?
Hedda: Don’t. EVER. Stop! And thank you for bringing us together .
Ben: Thanks for believing in a thing called love, and rock the f*ck on.
Ben has planned to make new, slightly larger version of his ‘The Dampness’ T for November and Hedda has a purple Frankie T from that there America. Look out for them!
Steel Panther quite frankly are a band that need to be seen and heard – Rock and Sex at their headiest mix. To be nice to their old muckers The Darkness, they recorded this message from Las Vegas.
Thanks to Michael, Lexxi, Satchel and especially Stix for making it happen. Nick deserves a special mention for beating the file size until it was small enough. Dudes, you rock harder than a hard thing, and I love you for it.
The Webb Brothers go WAY back with The Darkness, as you’ll see:
The moment we laid eyes on the Darkness in a dingy little bar in Austin Texas we knew they were going to be stars. They were insanely good, had great songs and most importantly they were absolutely fearless. The next year we met randomly at the same festival and learned that they were also true gentlemen. Dan and I agreed to guitar tech for each other since we were both touring with skeleton crews. I only hope I came close to doing as good a job for him as he did for me. Later they gave us the privilege of accompanying them on one of the great adventures of our lives, their first major tour after the release of ‘Permission to Land.’ I could write a whole edition here with the stories from that tour but I’m gonna do you all a favor and keep it neat. A giant congratulations from The Webb brothers on 10 years of great music and fearlessness. Thank you. The Darkness Rock!
The Webb Brothers were most charming – thank you for your help!
One Monday evening in The Lucas Arms, three Darklings of long standing and high audience participation met to discuss The Darkness. Or, rather, I promised beer if they turned up at 7ish and gave me an indepth interview on the ‘Old Days’. What follows is basically a pub chat between three old timers – memories, banter, opinion, anecdotes and a high regard for silliness in the quest to record a large amount of little known Darkness-related bollocks. We did that admirably.
OI: Right then, Dave, your turn first. When and where was the first time?
Dave: The first time I heard about The Darkness was when Justin approached me at 3 o’clock in the morning outside Stay Beautiful Club.
Karl: This story’s already better than mine!
OI: That’s a good place to start!
Dave: Because they were playing upstairs in a pub the night after, so he just handed over a flyer. You meet someone at 3am, and think brilliant, we can do something tomorrow now! I think we ended up helping him hand out the flyers for some reason, because that’s the kind of thing you do at 3 in the morning.
OI: It is!
Dave: So we went to see them play, it was September 2001, and that was at the Barfly in Camden, back in the days when the Barfly literally was just the upstairs room of a pub where bands played sometimes. And they were brilliant! Ridiculous amounts of fun, really.
OI: Was that it, then? When the love affair started?
Dave: Well, it wasn’t so much of an immediate love affair of ‘This is my new favourite band’. It was that kind of thing where you see a band in a pub and think ‘Fuck, that was good, and we’ll go again next week’.
OI: Was that when they were doing the weekly Barfly?
Dave: They weren’t doing anything weekly at that point. Every couple of weeks.
Karl: Was that the thing called ‘Uncle Bob’s Wedding Reception’ or something like that?
Dave: Uncle Bob’s Wedding Reception was when they were doing gigs at the Verge, which was slightly less well known than the Barfly. I can never remember what they’re calling it these days. It literally was just that. I saw them in a pub, thought they were a good band, saw them a couple of weeks later, and again, and it just goes from there really.
OI: and you never thought ‘Actually, this isn’t as good as it promised to be, at the beginning?
Dave: How do you mean?
OI: You know when you go and see a band the first couple of times and then start to get bored of it. Clearly not…
Dave: Certainly going through the Camden pub days, at no point did the joke ever show signs of wearing thin.
OI: Best joke in Camden at the time?
Dave: It’s funny, they must have been doing reasonably well, because they were able to headline a Saturday night in a Camden pub. Its not like they spent an awful lot of time toiling around playing third on, on a Thursday.
Karl: It always seems that some don’t have the talent, though, headlining, just be in the right place at the right time.
Dave: I’m sure there were plenty of bills back then where they were headlining because everyone else wanted to get on, get off and get pissed.
Karl: I guess so, but they evolved out of Empire as well, who had a following as such.
Dave: They were a known pubbing band.
Karl: Yeah, there were people in that band that were known around, in Dan and Frankie’s case. And they had management kind of pre-attached to them in some form, didn’t they.
Dave: And also, as well as Empire, there was Thirteen:13…
Karl: And two members of the Britpop band Catch…
Dave: So obviously there were some connections from that. In fact, I remember a couple of months after I first saw them, I bumped into them at a Thirteen:13 gig. The stated reason at the time was that Dan wanted to check up on his bass amp, cos he did still want it back at some point. I don’t know if he did get it back.
Karl: Were you around for the buffet?
Dave: There was more than one buffet!
Karl: There was one where they cut their fingers.
OI: That was Dan.
Dave: I don’t remember any bloody buffet! I do remember them playing at the Verge in Camden, they had a nice little trestle table up at the back with breadsticks and dip and little bowls of Smarties.
OI: Oh, to go back to those days.. do you think they’ll do that again at the end of the year?
Karl: I don’t think they’ll cook, no.
Dave: They didn’t cook then! It was mainly cold.
Karl: Disgraceful, really…
Dave: To be fair, it’s not bad for £4.50 in…
OI: A gig, and all the finger food
Karl: You can look at
OI: And think ‘I wonder who sneezed on that’
Karl: Is it my turn now?
OI: You’ve already chipped in, but yes.
Karl: Mine was a while after that – about 11 months. I wasn’t in London, I was a country boy.
Dave: You still are a country boy!
Karl: I was in the back of beyond in Lincolnshire. I used to go to the record shop on a Saturday (a non work day), the big old Virgin Megastore in Grimsby… no, I tell a lie, I used to go to WH Smith, look at the magazines, and picked up an issue of Kerrang. It was full of the usual bollocks of around that time. Long goatee beards and cut off jeans – Limp Biskit and Korn and that kinda stuff. There was a little half page picture from the same shoot as the I Believe EP. I remember looking at it and reading about the band – Justin saying his biggest influences were Bon Scott from AC/DC or something like that. It was round the same time as The Datsuns as well, who were getting a lot of hype in the NME. You look at these bands who say they love AC/DC or wear an Iron Maiden tshirt, and when you come to hear the actual music you won’t hear fuck all of it. I saw all this, didn’t think any more of it. Went to Virgin, bought a couple of albums and as I was queueing up I was standing next to the singles section. Sure enough, right down there in the top 200 was a little EP for about £1.79, so I thought I might as well get that! When I got home I listened to the albums and was about to throw the bag out and remembered the EP. I was a bit different to Dave. As soon as I heard the opening riff on the EP version I’ve got, I just thought ‘Hello, there’s something here. The sound of someone who likes AC/DC and can sound like AC/DC’. I played that EP to death for about a month or so. Being stuck in the middle of nowhere I went to the internet and found the website that Webbie had then – the old guestbook. I wanted to go to a gig but London was a million miles away at that time. I remember the I Believe EP getting airplay on Jo Whiley. Not a lot happened for a while apart from listening to it until November/December time – 2002. Darklings happened before my first gig. You remember the guestbook?
Dave: I remember it. I remember you harvesting me off that guestbook!
Karl: I prefer the term ‘grooming…’ There were a few names around on that guestbook – Graham Burgess, the guy from Bandannaman, Helen, Rada and Mike turned up with a load of photos. Anyway.. it got to the point where.. you can’t really have a conversation on a guestbook. I could see that people wanted to do a bit more talking with each other rather than just going ‘I went to this gig, it was great’. Being a bit of a sad geek stuck out in the countryside without many friends, I was familiar with web forums.
Dave: You still are, to this day!
Karl: I though ‘hang on a minute, there’s a gap in the market here’ so when I had a bit of time off at Christmas I sat round one evening and registered a web board, thinking ‘I don’t want to call it the Darkness Web Board’ because they might get a bit angry that I’ve stolen their name. So I thought ‘what can I say that’s a bit like The Darkness
All: but isn’t!
Karl: So I made up some random bollocks, and the board was born round about Christmas Eve 2002.
OI: Your present to the world!
Karl: I like to think Christmas morning, but most likely Boxing Day, I woke up, went on to see how my little baby was growing and found some oik had followed me from the guestbook… And there was a ‘Justin’ who had registered. I though someone was taking the piss and that I should have put a block on those names. About 13 people had registered by then. No. 6 was Justin, and No 7 was someone called Justin’s Dad. I was a bit dubious and challenged this man by DM. He said no, it really was him and it really was his dad. Apparently got a bit excited that someone had done something for them fanwise and gone and shown his parents over turkey sandwiches on Boxing Day, which is always my favourite memory. I like the idea that I penetrated the Hawkins’ Christmas.
OI: It is an image. ‘DAD! MUM! Someone’s built me a forum!’ Oh heck, I can just see an overexcited Justin bouncing around with a laptop!
Karl: I dunno what this old timer thought of this upstart and his ideas?
Dave: I’ve seen worse – it just seemed like a logical step at the time.
Karl: That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me!
Dave: What, you being a logical step?
OI: Karl’s logical?
Dave: It made sense. There was enough of a buzz that people wanted to start talking about it. Not just with their mates around a pub table, but with other people who’d seen the same things that they’d seen.
Karl: Two of the nice things that I remember over the first three months – a good six months before they got signed and three or four before Growing on Me – was that you’d get new people every day. It was a slow process but steady. It was really friendly because everyone kind of knew each other. Another nice thing was – whereas now, your ‘typical’ Darkness fan is heavily locked into Steel Panther or other rock bands, in those days a lot of the people signing in were from indie backgrounds. There were some from metal backgrounds, but people like Helen and Colin were more indie. There was a real mix of people.
Dave: Without wanting to put them down, they WERE an indie band at the time, playing the indie circuit. The idea of doing something like that didn’t exist on a circuit that was really alive at that time. There wasn’t a Classic Rock circuit that was getting any real exposure at the time so they were playing on an indie circuit.
Karl: I’m guessing from what I was told later that year, there weren’t many bands doing anything like that. Some, but it was a bleak time.
Dave: I think that at that time, that sort of music was looked on as a bikers’ dark alley.
Karl: In terms of rock, you’d gone from grunge to post grunge to your pop punk stuff around that time. In terms of rock and metal bands, old school, it was dire.
Dave: There wasn’t a grass roots rock circuit, not enough for anyone to take any notice of it.
Karl: The previous generation was dying on its arse around that time.
Dave: The nostalgia trip hadn’t kicked in yet.
Karl: I think Radiohead and Coldplay were the biggest bands at the time, you can imagine why they didn’t really fit in.
Dave: They drove their own wedge into proceedings on that score, really!
OI: I remember when I first started seeing them – from radio to seeing the videos – I never thought of placing them. It never occurred to me to place them anywhere because I didn’t think they were actually anything (in terms of genre). Which was good for attracting those indie Goths. Indie Goths? Sorry, mixing my genres!
Karl: I guess my next chronological incident was – preamble is that I had spent 12 months getting massively into Def Leppard. In those days if you were signed up, you used to get mailouts from Sue Whitehouse. I was very excited because Leppard were touring. This email dropped in at Christmas to say that The Darkness had been chosen, which was very bizarre as it started off a chain of events where if I like two bands they end up playing on the same bill. Like Gaga – who would have thought that The Darkness would have opened for her?
Dave: A genius move though!
Karl: So that happened, and at the end of January Justin came back on the board for the first time in a while to say ‘This seems like a logical place to put this, we need a load of people to come down to film a video’ which was the GYHOMW video. Now I couldn’t go because I was still a country bumpkin and had my factory job in Lincolnshire, but this slender hipped Brett Anderson/Brian Malko lookalike here (fresh off his Japanese centrefold modelling career) went to that, and Dave can carry on.
Dave: Yeah, they put up they were doing this thing and they wanted people to come. They essentially did it in two stages. They had an evening gig where they wanted a big crowd and everything else like that, and filmed all these lead up scenes to go and set a little story. We had to go to the LA2 under what used to be the Astoria at 10 o’clock on a fucking Saturday morning which was fairly difficult. We spent the whole day filming all these little cutaway scenes an other bollocks like that – I think about 3 got used in the end. It was an LA club scene vibe with people dancing on the tables. For part of one scene someone was supposed to come and whisper something in my ear to draw me away to do something or other, and it turned out to be Helen from the boards, who I’d never met before. So she whispered ‘I’m Helen, you’re Dave, aren’t you, how are you doing?’ right in the middle of the scene. She’s probably the only person I’ve ever met live on camera. That was a fucking long day, and by the end of that day, I tell you we fucking hated GYHOMW. We had listened to it 30-40 times on repeat over the course of the day, and been told to go mental on cue each time. I’ve just about made my peace with it now. It’s a great song.
OI: It’s been ten years!
Karl: You never see the video much any more these days.
Dave: I can’t find it on YouTube, I think there’s been some legal reason they had to delete it or something.
Karl: You probably can’t find it on YouTube, but if you google it, it turns up on French YouTube or something. It’s out there.
Dave: There must have been some legal reason why they couldn’t show it.
Karl: You’re in it.
Dave: I have a horrible feeling I didn’t have very many clothes on at the time.
Karl: (moving on swiftly) At that point I should point out that Dave had been posting on the board and we hadn’t got into picture sharing yet. No one knew what anyone looked like.
Dave: People didn’t share then, they stayed anonymous on the internet at that time.
Karl: Dave did. We knew who he was but I had no idea what he looked like and wouldn’t, for about another 11 months. Hence he became the very nearly mythical Sexy Dave, to many of us.
Dave: Have we got to your first gig yet?
Dave: See, I never realised you’d been so involved in this without ever seeing the fucking band!
Karl: From that point on, for the next 12 months, there was basically something happening every week or fortnight. We’re talking about the 10 year anniversary here. Basically it feels like 10 years worth of memories happening in about a year.
Dave: So much happened in such a short space of time.
OI: My first year was a bit like that.
Karl: It came up to the Leppard tour, and I went of to see them at Sheffield Arena with my best mate from school. I was at his house a week or two before we were going back to see them. He loves AC/DC, so I thought I’d give him this CD. I warned him that he’d love it but might not like it so much when the singer starts. I didn’t know if he’d like it, but it was the band opening for Def Leppard so I gave it to him. Randomly one night I got a text out of the blue going ‘These are fucking amazing!’ so we both got very excited. I didn’t tell him I’d got this message board.
Dave: He kept it a Dark secret!
Karl: Yup, a Dark secret. Anyway, on that board there was a message saying they were doing a warm up gig at the Peterborough Met Lounge, one of my favourite venues. That was my first gig, round about Valentine’s Day in 2003. Even though they were on the up, they had so many tickets to give away. The Met Lounge was about 80-100 people. I remember Graham Burgess had won about 13 pairs of tickets! He was giving them away to everybody left right and centre. So even though I was going to see them with Def Leppard, I wanted to see them on their own first. I came home, said hello, found out I’d won these tickets, jumped on the train of to Peterborough. The gipsy rock and roll lifestyle began! I got to the Met Lounge hours fucking early, stupidly not wearing a coat.
Dave: As prepared as you ever are!
Karl: The doors were half an hour to an hour late being opened, in February, in Peterborough High Street, freezing fucking cold. There was one other guy I was talking to, his mate had mentioned this band so he’d decided to come and see them. I remember him saying ‘I haven’t listened to a rock band in 15 years’ even though he looked younger than me. He would have been 5! There were two local support bands. The first one was called ‘The Dark’.
Dave: Promoter logic!
Karl: I don’t know what happened to the Dark, they were very heavy. There was a VIP bit upstairs, Justin wandered down in his catsuit to watch one of the supports. I was standing at the bottom of the stairs looking across, thinking ‘that’s a famous person!’ even back then. Didn’t try and talk to him though. I loved everything they did. By that point we only knew three songs, from the EP and GYHOMW. They only knew about 7! The famous bit about that gig is that it had one of those false ceilings, fantastic gig but at the end Justin jumped up to grab something off the ceiling. He ended up swinging off it, his weight made it give way. He didn’t land on his arse but was back on the ground and the ceiling started to fall in on him. This dry ice cloud of dust from behind the false ceiling smothered them all at the end and it looked very dramatic.
OI: He’s not learned anything since!
Karl: The story I was told was that they were so impressed that they didn’t bother putting in for damage! So that was my first gig and I loved it. I then went to see Def Leppard. Unfortunately in the intervening four days, I had basically caught mild pneumonia or hypothermia. I was shaking and couldn’t breathe, really ill, but no way was I missing Leppard! They were very important to me at that time. I dosed myself up on packets of Beechams (well into hardcore drugs). The only things I remember from the gig was when The Darkness came on, the only people in the crowd who knew any of their songs were me and my mate who were singing merrily along. We didn’t actually know the lyrics because we couldn’t make them out, but we could mouth the right sounds. I think they came out to Arrival, even then. They did Bareback. Everyone loved it, 7-8000 people milling around thinking the support band were gonna be shit – heads rocking, really going for it. People were obviously surprised that there was a decent support band. And then – I guess they would have gone into Best of Me next – opening riff, everyone’s loving it. As soon as Justin opened his mouth with those high pitched vocals coming out, the audience literally halved down the middle. People either loved it or hated it, literally ‘what the fuck is that?’. But I don’t remember much else of that gig because all the cold remedies had kicked in. My brother and Wayne insist it was a fucking brilliant gig, I can’t remember fuck all about it. I was so pissed off that I went and got another train to Manchester Apollo to see them there. One of my favourite gigs I’ve ever been to. The Darkness were brilliant, Leppard were brilliant. Suddenly from seeing no Darkness gigs I’d seen three in a row, something that would continue for much of that year.
Dave: It’s a shame actually because when they did Brixton Academy on that tour I got offered guestlist but ‘I actually can’t take this’.
Karl: I think as well, that would have been before the first Carling Astoria gig, in March, they definitely opened for an old school rock band – Deep Purple or someone like that, because I remember people coming onto the board on the back on that. 70’s rock people, not 80’s rock like me, so you suddenly had more diversity.
The board became more of a website as people posted stuff and we organised different threads.
Dave: It needed a lot of management.
Karl: I was there one night changing the background, noting that only me, SexyDave and Justin were online. Just the three of us.
OI/Dave: The Unholy Trinity!
Karl: It was changing to the GYHOMW sleeve cover and I messaged Justin because he was online, and he messaged back moaning cos there was a giant picture of his face staring back at him.
Dave: Well, if you will visit your own fansite!
Karl: So I changed that, then he made some comment about two blokes in the front rows at Sheffield who seemed to know all the lyrics. I was famous!
After that they did what I think was their first UK headline tour – Brixton Academy, Stoke Sugarmill etc, and I think it was at the end of that tour that they did the Astoria Homecoming. No, not the Homecoming, the.. umm.. Upcoming one.
OI: The ‘Leaving Home’ one?
Dave: The one where they said ‘Yeah, it’s totally sold out’ and it was very busy, but you couldn’t shift the tickets for more than £3 apiece.
Karl: They were supposedly the first unsigned band to have sold it out, which is what they claimed at the time. It was on Wikipedia, it must be true.
Dave: It was definitely going that way but I wouldn’t give you odds.
Karl: I converted my mate into ‘Let’s go and see this band a lot’ so we went to Stoke Sugarmill when they supported a band called Livid.
Dave: I remember Livid, that was about 7 years before they got that record out!
Karl: There was a lot of waiting around in the cold and rain for the doors to open
OI: We’ve done a lot of that together!
Dave: What is it about certain bands where you never seem to turn up at the right time? Always hours before? I used to do that with Placebo a lot.
Karl: We waited for about an hour to get in. The first thing we saw was this guy in a multicoloured coat screaming into the mic ‘Hello, we’re Livid’ and the crowd shouting back ‘YOU’RE fucking Livid, we’ve been outside for an hour!’ For The Darkness, the mics kept failing, and during Best of Me Justin decided to have a little hand puppet to sing into the mic. During the crowd participation bits, he would put the mic forward – not that it worked. We decided to hang about to see if we could talk to them. We sat on the stage watching Justin, trying to work out who Robert Shaw was because we knew he was going to be there. Suddenly there was some bloke on our right hand side going ‘Do you guys want a beer?’ Sounds generous, let’s see who it.. oh. Frankie! He was basically giving away the rider crate of beer.
OI: I think the first thing Ed ever said to me was ‘Would you like some champagne?’
Karl: The second thing Frankie said to us was ‘I haven’t got a bottle opener’ so there we were with bottles we couldn’t open. Being the sad bastards that we were, we’d already been to the merch stall and bought those little lighters with bottle openers on the back. So suddenly we were the band’s designated bottle openers
Dave: With their own merch!
Karl: So we talked to Frankie, talked to Justin and there was lots of talk about ‘we’ll have to do something more official, maybe integrate the board’ but I think they were only being friendly at the time. It was nice to finally actually talk to them. Dan couldn’t talk to us because Dan was always hounded by ridiculously attractive women, constantly. They weren’t even at the gig, they just appeared when Dan walked into a room. That was March, and it can’t have been long after that, that Growing on Me came out.
Dave: I forget that one.
Karl: It was a couple of months before the album, definitely April time.
(Check google on phones time!)
Karl: Oh no, June! It was announced in April, then, that GOM was the single. I distinctly remember the reaction on the board being ‘What the fuck are they doing releasing that as a single? ‘Best of Me’ should be the single.’ People weren’t particularly.. the majority weren’t happy with that.
Dave: ‘Best of Me’ was already a B-side, though, yeah?
Karl: There was other stuff – ‘Stuck in a Rut’ – GOM didn’t seem that popular and it seemed really weird.
Dave: It’s strange that because I remember when they first started playing that one, and everyone – by everyone I mean the three people that came to all the shows, me Rob and Simon Price – were standing in a huddle at the back of the pub thinking ‘not sure about this one’.
Karl: It was definitely their most poppy radio friendly one. Even more than IBIATCL, because that was quite raw. Graham Burgess said it should be GOM, and he was clearly right.
Dave: Mr Burgess has a lot of pop sensibilties!
Karl: From that point on the build up and support slots had won them a lot of fans. I think they supported Disturbed which was weird, at a big gig in London. They supported everyone in those first few months! All credit to them, they just went everywhere. Didn’t care what stick they got, if they won a couple of fans. They were winning them, not losing them. I always thought ‘good on ‘em’. I wouldn’t go to see Disturbed, but Im glad they went to that audience, getting airplay where they can.
Dave: Again, it’s back to the fact that there wasn’t a ready-made place where they should be.
OI: So they were everywhere.
Dave: They might as well play with Disturbed, as much as they might well play with the Libertines at the Barfly, which they did a couple of times.
Karl: That was the XFM Xmas show! I had the bootleg of that, it was 2002. Was it The Libertines, or Pete?
Dave: No, it was The Libertines headlining, supported by The Darkness. Sponsored by Jameson’s whisky. I’ve got that bootleg too.
Karl: Can you do me another copy? I’ve only got it on minidisc! As you say, there wasn’t a readymade scene for them, but they had a groundswell of support in certain places. Simon Price, for instance, was well on them by then. I was told they got a lot of airplay from Stay Beautiful.
Dave: They used to DJ at Stay Beautiful (Simon’s club night). Lots of the people doing the early shows and videos were Stay Beautiful people.
Karl: There was nothing in places like Classic Rock Magazine though.
Dave: Classic Rock didn’t touch new bands then, because there wasn’t a classic rock scene.
Karl: You’d open it and there’d be a 20 page Hawkwind special. For me, everything exploded when they got video and GOM turned up. I remember that being the first time that there was hardcore fan activity. People ringing up to get a video played at a certain time. If there was a daily top ten show, making sure that they got their votes in all on the same day. It did the trick, it got them on, and we were aiming to get them on at peak times. We cared about shit like that. I was excited to see the video the first time and realising it was us that did that. It was so busy – everything that happened between April and August, I’d be very jumbled up on. Every other week something happened. Did you go to the album launch?
Dave: Where was it?
Karl: Basically, it was over there (points over his left shoulder).
Dave: What, at La Scala?
Karl: Well, we walked round the back of St Pancras over some waste ground somewhere over the back there. Where they had the album launch – I assume it was a venue of some description as it obviously had a proper bar and different rooms, and a marquee erected outside and stuff. From my memory, it was in a mini field, not in a building in a row of buildings.
Dave: If I did go to that one I don’t recall. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. Ah! Yes! I was visiting my gran that week so I missed all that!
Karl: There was the XFM breakfast show on one day. We drove down at stupid o’clock, trying to find the Swiss Centre near Leicester Square. AS we turned up, as big white van turned up next to us and four recognisable men fell out. Dan immedicately put a fag in his mouth and muttered something about it being too early to rock. He was just so instinctively cool in those days. Justin was chanting the line ‘We’re the band that brings you rock before breakfast’. Later that day there was an instore at the big HMV on Oxford Street. Someonewas saying that there were three times the number of people they normally got for instores. A lot of people got turned away. Rada and Mike turned up and couldn’t get in, so we got Justin and the otheres on the phones to talk to them – they’d just got married. After the signing we went to the pub, had a few, left, and bumped into them going to the pub we’d just been in. I felt someone grab my arse and swung round angrily to find it was the man who wears a catsuit…
Dave: He used to do that you as well? He did have a habit of doing that though. He would introduce himself to you by either squeezing your bum or putting his hand between your legs and giving it a yank!
Karl: We spent the rest of the evening boring the band senseless, which they were very nice about.
Dave: Probably doesn’t hurt too bad when people are adoring you!
Karl: There was a girl called Kitten who was a drummer. She had got all the drums down pat except for one bit at the start of ‘Holding My Own’ where she couldn’t get the timing right. She gleaned from Ed that the reason for that was because it wasn’t right on the record. We always wondered if that’s why they didn’t play it live for so long! She told the story much better…
There was the time at Download where we got to meet them and had a bit picture taken – four of them, 6-7 of us – only to find out later that Justin’s mum had that picure on her kitchen matelpiece or wall of something. That was weird!
Dave: It was chaos after that.
Karl: Did you have any more questions?
Dave: That was all off the back of the first one!
(We had been talking for an hour and a half by then.)
OI: I told you I didn’t need any questions!
Dave goes to get a round in. OI has vodka and coke on the rocks with no ice. Dave comes back to confess he has no money, and to borrow some from Karl to buy his round. Ha!
Karl: I remember the board getting so big that there were arguments happening that didn’t include me! And stupidly, there were vigilante attacks between mine and the official one.
OI: I never understood that. Or why people would bother.
Karl: I went on the official board too, I was friends with Webbie! But you’d get things like people asking where the term ‘Darklings’ came from, and some authority answering with a load of bollocks that they’d made up and second hand rumours. People would start putting words into your mouth that weren’t yours. On the official board people would say ‘Oh, they get funny about people using that term’ – bollocks! It’s my board, and that ain’t right!
OI: I didn’t even know about the Darklings, because I came straight into the official board.
Karl: That was it, the one you knew first was probably determined by when you got into the band. The majority of people up to ‘Growing on Me’ went that way to Darklings, and after, to the official board. Which had it’s own heritage by then.
Dave (to OI): Are there any questions in your book?
OI: No! But what I’ve asked other people is about favourite tracks, has that changed over the years, and how PTL has changed your life? Has it been been a constant background to your life, or really done something to turn it upside down?
Karl: It has absolutely changed things. I have a social life! I’ve completely corrupted some of my friends. Ian even commented at meetups ‘these people really like Karl!’
OI: A shock!
Karl: It confused me for a long time! That band changed my life completely. I made a point of telling Justin that a lot… there was a drunken, deep and profound moment at the album launch party. It changed things in a way that nothing probably will ever again. As a kid you grow up with a band that turns you on to something musically – more than one. Blur were probably my first passion as a teenager. Leppard were the first I obsessively collected B-sides and knew trivia for. The Darkness were the ones I actually got to meet.
Dave: There are important bands, and important bands you’re involved with.
Karl: Even if none of that had happened, they’d still be one of my favourite bands of all time because I loved what they did musically and changed the landscape of what was going on. It’s weird sometimes to think that if Justin was walking on the other side of the road, he would know who you were and and cross over to speak to you. That’s an honour that kinda blows my mind.
Dave: It’s a strange thing, and I do think it’s a thing that won’t happen again as a phenomena. The Darkness were probably the last band that started out playing pubs and went to playing arenas after that.
Karl: ‘Taking the pubs to the stadiums and stadiums to the pubs’ or something.
Dave: Yeah! They must be the last band to start in a pub and become a household name. Lots of bands started small and got big, but they’re the last band I’m aware of that did that without being an industry creation.
Karl: They did it through gigging and through word of mouth. Everyone who has done it since has done it through MySpace, Facebook or YouTube. The web has broken them.
Dave: They’ve not had to do the hours.
OI: Or the sleeping on floors, etc.
Karl: They achieved the level of fame and stardom that ended up with them on the front page of The Sun more than once in a week. There are no rock bands that have gne through the process and ended up there, now.
Karl: The next band that got even near the hype – more, because the NME were involved – were the Arctic Monkeys. They were worshipped by industry people. Everyone was telling you tha they were the best thing.
Dave: With them it was the ‘novelty’ of ‘here’s a band that started small’!
OI: Funny, we’ve done that…
Dave: They were sold on that for so long.
Karl: There’s a tradition in this country for indie guitar music. Rock music isn’t worshipped in the same way as it is in America, wher you get 24/7 rock stations.
Dave: Do you remember the time they went to America for the frst time to do SxSW, and blew the entire budget on a stupid car?
OI: Wasn’t it a donkey?
Dave: No, a Cadillac!
OI: Oh, no, the donkey was for New York Fashion Week!
Karl: Rock and metal was never as big, here. Even Leppard, Whitesnake, Sabbath. In America it was huge. Here, you had the Rock Show for a coupel of hours a week. It was like a little club. It wasn’t played for the rest of the day. It wasn’t until 2004-5 ish – when Guitar Hero came out – that there was a seismic shift. I was in a Game Station and there were two 11 year olds who ere having an argument about a song. One of them hummed this tune, and it was Hocus Pocus by Focus! I knew something had musically had changed! I think all of that owes a debt to The Darkness. There was this whole thing about whether they were a joke band. They were an indie in-joke, was the thing for the first six months, because they came up that way. There are still hardcore rock fans who think they’re a joke, because they have fun with rock music.
OI: I said before that I couldn’t place them, and I’m not a rock girl. None of the comments about riffs or influences from thius band or that meant anything to me. It was all over my head, and I just accepted them for what they were. I dodn’t care about the rock heritage, it’s not my thing, though I’ve learned a bit over time.
Karl: I always thought that if you aw them live you would see far more rock than the image promoted necessarily had. The image for some people made them think ‘It’s Spinal Tap, and we’ve had that, so why do we need The Darkness?’
Dave: Because Spinal Tap stopped touring?
Kar;: Out of everything they’ve ever done, put on ‘Love on the Rocks’ live version – ‘We’ve only got one song left, but don’t worry, it’s 12 minutes long’ – that’s my fave live song. Crowd participation, crowd walk. It’s just so powerful. Anyone who can see that live and say they’re a novelty band- WHAT? It’s rock opera. There’s more in that song than most bands ever put out.
OI: Where were we? The favourite track thing. I’ve said that I don’t have a favourite track because I like them all for different things and there’s a vast difference between hearing on them on CD and seeing them live. Live, they are different, and they shift. They’re not the same song, almost. There are different things attached to live and CD – where you were, who with, what happened on stage, how you felt at the time. There’s a different reaction to them, live.
Karl: Good point. After the album came out, on the October tour, they were still doing small places, but £10 tickets were going for £50-60.
OI: The UEA gig, they were going for £175. I couldn’t get to that one.
Karl: It was in Sheffield that during LOTR that the crowd randomly decided to do the clap from ‘We Will Rock You’ and break into the chorus. I’d love to have a bootleg of that! It was the first time I’d heard it.
OI: They don’t do it any more.
Karl: They need a live album. They’ve got three albums of material, for nostalgia and memories. You hear musical progressions. I think they do stuff nowadays faster on some tracks.
OI: That first comeback gig was the fastest I’ve ever heard – manic.
Dave: I don’t have a favourite song to be honest, when you invest so much of yourself in a band, over so much time, the idea of a favourite song is ridiculous. Favourite month, maybe?
OI: The people I’ve spoken to have all said that if they had to choose, it would be ‘this, because I attach this to it’. Not because it’s a musically better song, it’s an emotional response.
Karl: What I like is just the sheer diversity, even around the PTL era. IF you include the B-sides, you have a greatest hits off one album. Every type of song, though I don’t think it was written this way.
OI: There’s ‘Best of Me’, ‘Physical Sex’, LOTR – are these the same band, you could ask.
Karl: When you randomly listen to B-sides there are rock songs next to completely different genres. I loved Christmas Time at the Astoria when they brought on the children’s choir. That was a beautiful moment. If they’d never nade a comeback, I would have smiled for the rest of my life every Christmas because of that.
Dave: It was a genius step to write a NEW Christmas song, a proper one. We are so fed up of recycling the 70’s ones.
OI: Dave, you;ve not answered this one – talk about how they’ve changed your life.
Karl: They introduced you to a lot of strange people?
Dave: When I first started seeing them is was 16. I ended up drinking with them on my 17th birthday. They were buying me cider on Steve Lamacq’s theory that if you only drank cider you would never get fat. For that reason they bought me a lot of it, The whole time they were having their meteoric rise and all the rest of it, I was in my teens and early twenties. That’s going to be an important and changeable time anyway. The stupid thing is, at the time I thought it was perfectly normal and what everyone did was follow a band who would end up on the front page of The Sun. This is a totally normal thing to do when you’re 18.
OI: Is it a totally normal thing to do when you’re 35?
Dave: This is the alarming thing. This is the thing that happens to other people!
Karl: Yes, I know people who’ve gone to their first gig to see The Darkness and met them, and been incredibly excited. I still am! But then I remember that nearly everyone I know has met them and got pissed with them, and I’m incredibly lucky.
Dave: It’s only when I look back on it that I realise that it’s not a normal turn of events.
Karl: In terms of venue size, I’m for selfish reasons bloody glad we’re going back to small ones in the winter.
OI: I can’r wait for that. That’s kind of where they’re at their best.
Dave: You look back to then and think about all the ridiculous things that you’ve done that you never would have got anywhere near, without that band.
OI: I certainly wouldn’t have put my skirt on upside down in the back of a French taxi…
Karl: We’ve all done that.
Dave: I distinctly remember what was possibly The Darkness’ most Spinal Tap moment where they got lost on the way to their own aftershow, in the same building. It was the first time they did Hammersmith, we ended up with half the band and people they recognised from outside, wlaking up and down, backwards and forwards, across the stage three times at the Spollo. Trying to find the party. Everyone had a bottle of champagne in their hand going ‘YEAAHHHHH!’.
Karl: Wasn’t that perfectly normal at the time?
Dave: It’s been quite striking to realise that life isn’t that exciting normally.
Karl: Everyone goes to see bands they really like and get passionate about and want to get big – and they split up 2 weeks later. But The Darkness were the band that you told everyone about, and it DID happen. Even them splitting up and getting back together was part of the essential experience.
Dave: How could be a classic rock opera without it?
OI: It’s like being in a rock theme park -we’ll go on this ride now!
Karl: I knew in my heart that when they broke up in 2006 that they’d get back together, however long it took.
OI: I didn’t think about it – probably on purpose, really. Didn’t want to get my hopes up. And not worth thinking about toomuch because at the time it just wasn’t happening. Playing a waiting game, and seeing what happened in the meantime.
Karl: One of the weirdest things about them getting back together was seeing people you hadn’t seen for years and them calling ‘Switch’ at you! (userid of long standing)!
There was the most random discussion about daybeds here. Bizarre.
Karl: Anyway, back to the band. I felt that it all started to go wrong when they signed to Atlantic. If you look at the singles – GOM, etc – and what came after except the Christmas song, it never felt right.
OI: No, they don’t suit it. They’re too independent.
Karl: Like in Frankie’s book when he talks about the video for LIOAF, and what they did at the Brit Awards – that was the maverick streak.
OI They need to do things their own way. There’s a danger of actually sticking someone in charge of them.
Karl: The only thing a big label could bring them was marketing. The real strength is the music. If they’d put out a shit album, the hardcore fans would have left, but that hasn’t happened. We’ve stayed around, right from the beginning.
Dave: I don’t know how we ended up not going to the same gigs for so long. Between us, we have a coherent history.
After that, we agreed that we had had amazing, lucky times, going to places that wouldn’t have been possible, otherwise. We are all grateful for the experiences we’ve had, friends we’ve made and the things we’ve achieved. All thanks to one band. Naturally, our agreement was more long winded than that, but we clinked our glasses at the end of three great hours.
The ‘NOT FOR TAPE’ bits were very funny, too. 😀
Ian Johnsen of the Must Destroy label was, and is, a major figure in the life of The Darkness. A man busier than you can possibly imagine, he managed to find a few minutes to answer one or two questions:
OI: At what point did you become aware of The Darkness?
Ian: March 2001. a show at the Barfly.
OI: How did you get involved in working with them?
Ian: They approached us when they heard that Alan and I had started a label. I believe it was at a Datsuns show at the Garage when first moves were made… maybe around eight months after that initial Barfly sighting. Although, we had previously put them on at a night we were doing at Notting Hill Arts Club at the time, so there was prior contact before talk of releasing anything.
OI: Was their potential immediately obvious to you?
Ian: They appealed to us. That was what mattered.
OI: What made you want to work with them?
Ian: They were / are a good music band.
OI: What made them want to work with you?
Ian: Kindred spirits? No other options?
OI: Was PTL under way before or after you got involved?
Ian: Not at the time, no. They had the three ‘Love’ songs recorded… ‘…On The Rocks’, ‘…Is Only A Feeling’ and ‘I Believe In A Thing Called…’.
OI:How knowledgeable about the music business were they, back then?
Ian: Probably more than we were.
OI:What impact did the album have on you, both in a business and personal sense?
Ian: Its an album I still listen to and enjoy. Business-wise, the whole experience opened some doors, introduced us to some people that would influence our lives greatly, and allowed us to do what we did as a job.
OI: What are your favourite tracks, and why?
Ian: ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ – instantly recognisable as a killer pop song from the opening line. ‘Planning Permission’ (is a B-side allowed?) – lyrically perfect.
OI: Has that changed over the years?
Ian: Not really.
OI: From inside the music business, what impact can you say The Darkness had in 2003, and have you seen any lasting effects?
Ian: They made a mockery of the media’s notions of ‘cool’ and made bands that take themselves too seriously look a bit stupid. Lasting effects? Well, in media-land, not really… perceived ‘cool’ is back on top as the most important thing, regardless of whether the artist has anything approaching even one decent song in them or not. Luckily, there’s not much of a media left that anyone takes any notice of.
OI: Was there alternative artwork for the cover? What was that like?
Ian: No.. there was never time for an alternate cover! It was super last minute as it is… Bruce hardly slept during the time he was finishing it off.
OI: What is it that gives both the band and PTL their special something?
Ian: An incredible sense of melody. A lack of fear of the word ‘pop’. A sense of humour. Not giving a fuck what anyone says about them, good or bad.
Thanks to Ian for his time.
Colin Murray was a Radio 1 DJ in 2003. He was the first person I ever heard play The Darkness, or talk about them. It’s all his fault that I’m doing this for today!
I remember clearly hearing Get Your Hands Off My Woman for the first time. You have to put it in context, and consider the other British music around at the time. Along came this fucking headcase in a jumpsuit singing about love and sexually transmitted diseases, tattooing L and R on the soles of his feet.It was a breath of fresh air and, beyond the outlandishness and pantomime, here was a band who were super tight, talented and had a singer with such a brilliant voice and range. When I first started playing it on Radio 1 in the evenings I remember someone senior saying to me ”They’ll go on the playlist over my dead body”. That was red rag to a bull for me.
History can be rewritten but truth is they weren’t originally industry favourites and most people wrote them off or made fun of them, but the good people of UK agreed to disagree and bought the music. It was after ‘real’ people embraced them that the media luvvies caught up. Before long they were on ‘the playlist’ and opening the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury. They finished with Get Your Hands Off My Woman and just before the last two words they stopped dead and Justin said “Thanks to Colin Murray, by the way”, and it was one of the proudest moments of my life.
Fast forward a little bit and they were successfully headlining Leeds/Reading, rolling out that ridiculous sparkly logo thing at the end.
I don’t look back through rose tinted glasses though. The next album didn’t deliver as it should have and after such an amazing impact it was hard to recover. Most bands would have been forgiven for the cliched difficult second album but you either loved or hated the darkness and the sharpened knives struck deep and hard after ‘One Way Ticket…’ came out.
I will alway think of The Darkness as the band who dreamt of conquering the world without needing the right haircut or the right jeans or a certain image and, for a while, they did just that and it was a beautiful thing.
Thanks to Colin for this and kickstarting it all.
Darklove – How it all began:
Some time in May 2003, I was on holiday with the inlaws in deepest Wales. On one of those days, I was in a car between Aberystwyth and the back of beyond listening to Radio 1. Colin Murray was on, and he was talking about some band called The Darkness. ‘Funny name for a non-goth band’ I mused, listening to him enthuse about them, and the album launch party he’d been to. Dressed as pirates? Definitely not goths… The party sounded like good fun, and the band a set of nutters, so I listened with more than my usual Radio 1 quota of attention. A divine version of ‘Street Spirit’ ripped through the air. I knew that song inside out already, so I can say that it really was something else. It was a purer yet dirtier sounding version, soaring vocals that Thom Yorker never managed, somehow tinged with an innocence and simplicity that the original never had. My attention was caught. ‘Hmm… Will keep an eye out for them’ I thought.
The weeks after that were filled with the most boring exams related to Pensions and Finance that you could ever imagine. I missed the actual release of Permission To Land, which was on my 35th birthday. That year from then on was filled with one stressful and life changing event after another, but I found time to potter round the music channels. Ohh… Look, there’s that band. Excalibur guitars? Marshalls? WTF pink catsuit? And lo… another video, with stripes and crowds and a pink satin shirt. I was definitely smiling and humming. Magazine articles appeared under my radar. And then… The video that captured everyone’s attention. I Believe In A Thing Called Love. I was entertained before, but never had I been so ensnared by a video’s silliness, charm, riffs and purple towelsmonster. THAT really was IT. I was a FAN.
One night, I had a dream that bizarrely involved the band standing by the canal in a Venice that looked suspiciously like Liverpool. The next day was spent googling for photos, and I came across the official website. And a forum. I joined. My first post was advising some girl that Justin’s teeth were perfectly ok as they were, and no, he did not need them fixed just because some Americans were obsessed with perfection… As I remember she was insinuating that he’d never make it over there because of them. Pfft. From then on, I haven’t failed to be a member of a Darkness related forum or community of some kind.
I didn’t get the album until the end of October – not my own copy, anyway. I’d heard it. I’d been singing it, and I have been ever since. My car had its own copy. I never have had a favourite track because they all have different ideas, injokes, reactions and emotions attached to them. When they’re played live, the sound, the crowd and the stage action all bring their own nuances to each track. They are changed and redefined in my experience of them, and become something more organic. There isn’t a single track I don’t love in some way. The joyous IBIATCL, the growling of Black Shuck, defiance of Stuck In A Rut and Givin Up. Anger, love, laughter, desperation, sadness and a great big two fingers up to whomever it may concern. I just loved it. The Darkness were clever, rock , funny and really didn’t give a shit. What’s not to like? Maybe quite possibly a certain bottom had a tiny part to play, but I wasn’t so smitten by it that I couldn’t see the brains and talent behind the marrying of word and note.
Permission To Land has changed my life. That sounds bloody stupid. It has! Here I am, ten years later, celebrating this anniversary. Nine years of that has been spent with this fanzine in my life, which led to other TD related projects and sites during the Darkless Ages. I’ve made friends and enemies, and had fun to last a few more lifetimes. I’ve even put my skirt on upside down in the back of a French taxi for the cause. Without The Darkness, I’d be truly still stuck in the rut I was in.
Thank you to them, to Colin Murray, and to all Darklings, everywhere.
A chat with our man in Norway:
OI: Do you remember your first encounter with The Darkness clearly, or is it a blur?
Benny: I clearly remember sitting in the back seat of our car listening to PTL right after my dad bought it, but before that, I remember seeing the IBIATCL music video on TV a couple of times. I was very young at the moment, so I kind of mixed up The Darkness and Queen because of Justin’s voice.
OI: Did you have to stop and look again at that video?
Benny: It was showing on some kind of video jukebox on TV, so I basically had that on in the background while doing other stuff, but I was absolutely stunned by the long haired man’s high voice, so I had to watch the video. I liked how that video was totally different than anything else, and how goofy it was with the huge obviously fake alien creature. It was rather amusing!
OI: I think it was a lot of people’s first experience! I know I went looking round the music channels to see it again. Was that song causing a stir there, like here?
Benny: Yeah, absolutely! It was a huge hit and was showing quite often on that video jukebox and was probably played a lot on the radio too. I didn’t listen to radio at the time, but I assume it was. If you ask the average Joe on the street in 2013 if he has heard of The Darkness, you’ll most likely get “Oh, they were the band that did I Believe In A Thing Called Love, weren’t they?” as an answer.
OI: Always nice to know! Here, the other videos, for GYHOMW and GOM were showing a lot too. Did they surface there too?
Benny: I don’t remember those being shown in Norway, but Love Is Only a Feeling was on TV for a while. I think IBIATCL was the song and video that was most popular and got the most attention here around the release of PTL .
OI: You said your dad bought it – was it on non-stop the moment he got it out of the shop?
Benny: He put it in the CD player in the car as soon as we were out of the shop, but my mom wasn’t too happy about that. I remember telling my dad to turn up the volume while Black Shuck was playing, and my mom just sighed and complained.
OI: Whilst the two of you were headbanging madly? What struck you about it right from that drive home?
Benny: Oh, definitely! I grew up listening to my dad’s old Alice Cooper, Cheap Trick, Elvis and The Who records, so to listen to that hard rocking masterpiece at the age of 8 really rocked my foundations! I think that was the main thing that struck me – just the fact that I had never heard anything that hard before. Swearing was also new to me, so when listening to GYHOMW, my dad made up new words for me to sing: “Get your hands off my woman, feather plucker!”
OI: Responsible parenting. And that was that. A lifetime (well, to 18 so far) love affair with the band. Did their image mean a lot to you, back then? Or does spandex not register with an 8 year old?
Benny: I really liked looking through the pictures in the booklet, and I especially liked the little kids dressed up as the band, so the image certainly caught my attention. I think Frankie’s moustache and Justin’s cat suits caught most of my attention, though
OI: Not much new there then! Do you have a favourite track? Has that changed as you’ve got older?
Benny: My favorite tracks on that album has always leaned towards the first half of the album, since I always started listening from the beginning and didn’t always finish the whole album. I loved LIOAF, GOM and Black Shuck a lot when I was younger, but now I have realized that GYHOMW is one of the most awesome songs ever to be made. So, GYHOMW and GOM are the ones I listen to the most as of today. Not that I DON’T like LIOAF, GOM or Black Shuck anymore – I love the whole album.
OI: The lyrics are engraved on your brain, right?
Benny: Of course! I know the lyrics, but sometimes I just sing along like I used to when I was little, making up random words that don’t exist, but sound like the real words, haha! However, when the chorus kicks in, lord have mercy on me, because I will belt out those bad words like there’s no tomorrow!
OI: That’s the point when the cat runs away in this house! Compared to other music there at the time, were there any rivals, or did TD destroy all the opposition?
Benny: I remember the Moldovan pop group ‘O-zone’ being quite popular around 2002-2004, but more in a sarcastic way, even though everybody had ‘Dragostea din tei’ as their ringtone on their cell. Rock music never caught on like pop music did, but personally, I can’t remember any other popular rock groups at the time having such a hit in Norway like The Darkness did.
OI: Is that still the case? Has Norway caught on to rock music yet, or were TD the only rock brilliance likely to happen there?
Benny: I think The Darkness were the wakeup call everybody needed, because you can find different styles of rock music being popular in all kinds of groups of people. Coldplay and Mumford & Sons are very popular amongst the general public. Not that they are as hard rocking as The Darkness, but it’s far away from O-zone or Britney Spears!
OI: Umm… well, they’re all in the same trash can for me, I guess!
OI: Can you say, then, that The Darkness truly changed things for you?
Benny: (I’m not a part of the general public, though) They not only changed things for me, but the STARTED things for me. They were the first real hard rock band that I listened to besides old bands like Alice Cooper, The Who, Cheap Trick etc. It was like The Darkness was MY band, and not something my dad had exposed me to through my childhood. If it wasn’t for The Darkness, I have no idea what kind of person I would be today.
Benny: The Darkness was my gateway to the music I listen to today.
OI: And all because of one small collection of most excellent tunes. Do you have an Anniversary message for the band?
Benny: You could say that Permission To Land was my generations answer to Appetite for Destruction. Happy Anniversary, boys. Nothing made me happier than seeing you come together again in 2011 so we could celebrate as the original The Darkness on the special day. Thank you for changing my life and giving me so many good memories that I will have with me for the rest of my life. Permission To Land is hands down one of the five greatest albums ever to be released, and the b-sides are no less than perfect. I am proud to be a Darkling!
OI: That covers everything! Thanks, Ben. I hope you see them many more times.
Stefania, admin at the Italian fansite The Darkness Italia, sent us this:
Hi I’m Stefania Cobelli and I’m an Italian girl fan. My passion for The Darkness begin in 2004 when on 5th sept at the Independent Days Festival my eyes intersect 4 guys on the stage, especially one, Justin Hawkins, from then and onward I follow always them! I followed the band on other dates in Italy and one time in London 25th Nov 2011 at the Hammersmith Apollo, special gift for my 30th birthday! In my opinion “Permission To Land” is the best album, my favourite track is “Growin on me”. When I’m sad I listen to this song, especially before going to work in the morning. Musically my favorite track is “Holding on My own”, especially for guitars, here Dan and Justin are so perfect together. Fortunately, in March 2013 I was able to hug the band and take pictures with them, I was struck by their kindness, especially also their willingness to take pictures, sign autographs, fantastic!!! They are my “absolute” favourite band, when I talk about music with friends, also expert in music, I defend them and defend their music. In my opinion, they are unsurpassed!!! Personally, I was hoping they would come back together and I hope the band continue to write. I hope for a new album in 2014, more concerts and for them to share with fans all their energy. I love them!
Since they invaded the rock scene, this last has been enriched, unfortunately in Italy music trend is directed always at melodic music, I personally prefer to orient to rock bands. Yes, my favorite track has changed over the years, as my age, before I went crazy for “I Believe in thing called love” and “Love is only a feeling”, but now I appreciate most other tracks. The taste changed…
My message to TD is: Your songs are my mantras!
Thanks to Stefania.
Rebecca Martin is a long-time American fan, whose contribution Darkling life has been somewhat legendary.
The Darkness: Changing the World One Life At A Time
The Darkness is and always has been a band who, rather than listen to the suggestions of record company execs, prefer to heed their instincts about the kind of songs they write, the kind of music they compose, and the kind of the show they put on. Their fans around the world respond to The Darkness’ artistic autonomy.
It’s been 10 years since the release of The Darkness’ debut album Permission to Land. I didn’t hear of The Darkness until late 2004. I was 30 years old at that time, and heard the radio-friendly hit “I Believe In a Thing Called Love.” I liked the song, but I didn’t become a full convert until I heard the first song on the album, “Black Shuck,” the tale of a local legend to the band’s hometown in eastern England. A searing guitar split the silence open, jolting me out of my skin. After four measures, the guitar was joined by a loud, pounding bass drum, which was followed by the bass guitar. It seemed to grab me at the base of my spine and figuratively shake me around like a rag doll. From the moment I heard “Black Shuck,” I knew I would always be a fan.
In western culture, we’re conditioned into thinking that if life doesn’t happen for you in your 20s, you’ve lost your chance at anything ever happening. But in 2004, this English band came into my life, changing my perspective. Its members were around the same age as me, and they were making a name for themselves. Seeing that gave me hope that things could still happen for people at any age, as long as they were willing to keep their nose to the grindstone and work hard to make these things happen.
I was disappointed when the band split in 2006 because I had never seen them perform live. I discovered them after they had completed their U.S. tour for Permission to Land. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when they reformed in 2011. As soon as their U.S. tour dates were announced, my friends and I scrambled to make plans to go see them. On February 4, 2012, I finally got to see my favorite band perform live.
Since 2005, I’ve made friends with other Darkness fans and my life would not be the same without them. At this time, I’d also like to give a shout-out to all the friends I’ve made over the last year and half. Every time we meet up at gigs, it’s like a family reunion. Our passion for this band compels us to travel all over the U.S., catching the band on as many tour dates as possible. To the members of The Darkness, I want to say this: Thanks for the memories, and here’s to many more years of rocking out.
Thom Lessner is a member of the Philadelphia-based band, Sweatheart, who have opened for The Darkness on several occasions. But, there’s more to him than meets the eye. He has been a fan of TD since 2003. Since then, he has designed t-shirts for the band and served as the Art Director for Hot Cakes, the third album from TD. Lessner is the creative artist of the animation from the video for “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”, the first single from TD’s new album. As a bonus, his niece is the star of that same video. Here’s Thom’s message to the band:
A friend from Ohio mailed me a burnt CD of Permission to Land before it’d come out in the States. It was quite random; he heard it and just assumed I’d like it. I was in disbelief. It was every sound I loved in one CD; it almost didn’t seem real. This was before I’d seen what they looked like or knew anything about them. Soon after, I drove 13 hours to see them play in a smaller club in Chicago. It was so good it didn’t seem possible. I was certain I’d be thinking about this band for some time.
I’m proud to have invested so much love into Hot Cakes and the band. Coming back with the new record and constant touring really made me feel like I’d chosen the right band to truly adore. Very rewarding. Getting to know them, it’s safe to say as brilliant the record Permission to Land is, they’re equally brilliant humans. Being able to work with them has only made me love their records more. Mega cheers!
Free Energy supported The Darkness in America this year.
Congratulations to you fine gentlemen on the 10th anniversary of releasing one of the best rock ‘n roll records made by anyone, ever. The world is a better place with Permission to Land. Obviously, the world needs The Darkness.
Foxy Shazam supported The Darkness in the UK in 2011.
To our friends in The Darkness: Frankie, Justin, Ed, and Dan – congrats on the tenth anniversary of Permission To Land. We are honored to consider such talented folks as yourselves friends and collaborators. Here’s to you on this anniversary of a record that millions hold in high esteem, and here’s to many more years of great albums, great music, and great friendship. We’ll see you the next time we are in the neighborhood.
Your friends in Foxy Shazam
Marcelle is an Australian fan whom I had never spoken to before this – I seem to have found a twin!
OI: Do you remember the moment you first came across The Darkness?
Marcelle: YES!! I was watching Channel V (our pay tv music channel) & Andrew G (the VJ) was RAVING about this band. They played IBIATCL video & I was smitten! It was in 2003.
OI: One look and you were lost?
Marcelle: The look, I loved the tongue in cheek attitude & I LOVED the sound. Really awesome guitars etc. The voice was ‘unusual’ but catchy/brilliant
OI: What was Andrew G saying?
Marcelle: He pretty much was saying exactly what I just mentioned about them: Real rock n Roll, FRESH/NEW, entertaining, he was raving about the PTL album & that the whole thing was brilliant.
OI: How long did it take for you to get your copy after that?
Marcelle: Not long (maybe a week or so). Then I was addicted to them. AMAZING!
OI: That first run through – what were your immediate impressions, after having hear IBIATCL?
Marcelle: I was blown away by the sound. Very Acca Dacca with Black Shuck as the opener & his voice was hysterical/mesmerising. Hard to get the words, but when I read them thrugh I was laughing. Very clever. GYHOMW threw me with the language, but I love how he does it so ‘tongue in cheek/almost respectfully’ like he knows his mum is listening!! haha. It’s so hard to come by an album where every song rocks. LIOAF makes me cry still to this day. It was/is sublime. Beautiful guitars. And the BOOM straight into Givin’ Up. CLASSIC!!! Immediate impressions?? BRILLIANT. BEST ALBUM. IN MY TOP 3
OI: At that time, what was your favourite?
Marcelle: Ok Been listening ALL day (thank you).. umm, geesh ..BS, GOM, LIOAF, GU, FN, HMO, but they all rock. These ones move my soul Then & now.
OI: So there’s been no shift over time?
Marcelle: Not really. Since meeting my NEW hubby (who’s more ‘heavy’ than me), I appreciate LOTRWNI & SIAR more. Not that they are ‘heavy’ themselves, but I appreciate them more. I think I am more melodic/basic rock based. They do it brilliantly.
OI: What would you say the long term impact of PTL has been on you?
Marcelle: WOW!! Big question.
Marcelle: I found rock again (it was lost for so long). It helped me through a really tough time (separating from my first hubby), it continues (to this day- all 3 albums) to make me smile/dance/just love life (happy music-my music). Don’t know what else to say. This album PTL arrived when I was 36. My life was supposed to be ‘sorted/on track’ but it wasn’t. They helped me get back to my ‘inner child with hope’. Seeing them live was INCREDIBLE!!
OI: What about the music industry side over there? What impact did they have?
Marcelle: Good question. In 2003/04 they were on tv (pay tv) all over the place. Big Day Out 2004, but the only songs that got played on ‘mainstream’ were LIOAF, GOM, IBIATCL. A radio station over here called Triple JJJ was a big instigator. ABC based, independant/new/different artist based. 2nd album got video play (OWTTHAB, IIJM), but that was all. Very tough/US reigned over here, BUT they got their toes in!! Grass roots/decent shows mean A LOT!!! They won many over with live shows. Not many…EVERYONE
OI: That’s generally the case, I think. TV and video is good, but it just doesn’t cut it next to live shows. Was the music scene there in need of a good kick up the arse?
Marcelle: YES!!! Our industry became VERY arena based. Pub bands (which I remember growing up with) just weren’t firing much. They all want the big picture. I saw TD in 2006 (Richie days). I am not kidding. I took a VERY heavy metal friend, I have seen MANY bands/concerts/arenas/pub gigs. TD were THE BEST GIG EVER!! (Even with JH not being well). F’ing amazing. I tell people (including all of my kids) you need to see this band LIVE. Absolutely the MAGIC factor. Tightest band EVER!! Music scene STILL needs a good KICK UP THE ARSE!!! Kids have forgotten what real music is!
OI: Is there any evidence that TD changed anything in that respect?
Marcelle: Mmmm not sure. I just know that anyone who has ever seen them over here is a convert. The live scene here is TOUGH. Saying that, they are brilliant in that they still get out there and do it HAPPILY. Rock n Roll in a small venue is few and far between. WE ARE HUNGRY!!
OI: Do you have a final message for the lads?
Marcelle: Oh really?? Gee, don’t know what to say except that I’m just so thrilled to see them back together, happy, HEALTHY & rocking even better than before – if possible – and all in time for the 10 year anniversary of the release of PTL. The day I bought that album is the day I knew Rock was alive & well. THANK YOU THE DARKNESS \m/
And with that, we all went for a lie down, because the edited out bits were MUCH fun 😀
Nicolai was the lead singer in Do Me Bad Things, a fantastically awesome band in many ways, who supported The Darkness in 2004.
The Darkness – Permission to Land
Getting to perform on a UK tour with the Darkness is without a doubt one of the biggest highlights of my life.
Hearing PTL and getting to hear those songs live again and again was fantastic…. I can not believe it has been 10 years since I first heard this truly classic piece of work, just thinking of that record sparks off nostalgia.
Happy Anniversary guys
Love – Nicolai Prowse x
Tatyana Kunda is a fan from Latvia, who has been a regular TD internet presence for a good few years now.
I do have a strange thing about discovering and liking new music. I somehow ‘manage’ to really get into a band/group/whatever when they cease to exist. It happens to me all the time and this was exactly what happened to my ‘The Darkness’ experience. Unfortunately, I did not really have the chance to see them in their initial full glory.
2003 was the year when I heard ‘The Darkness’ for the first time on VH1 or MTV. It was the voice that most definitely caught my attention. As a huge ‘Queen’ fan I could not help but have this ‘Wait a minute!’ moment when hearing the opening lines. Can’t explain all the feeling that you’re making me feel, indeed. Alas, at that point I was too careless/foolish/insert your own word not to find out more about the band. ‘The Darkness’ remained relatively unknown in my country, though, contrary to one interview, have never been hated (http://youtu.be/siee6ZV57s0?t=1m22s). That’s the sad part of my story as I lost a couple of years of the listening pleasure. The fun part began some years later (after the group had actually disbanded). While looking for some new stuff to listen to, I remembered about a certain group called ‘The Darkness’. Hoping there would be at least 3 new albums, I , to my horror, found out that the lead singer had left the group. The rest is a series of happy coincidences – coming across Mr Hawkin’s Myspace page, meeting a lot of wonderful people and, of course, enjoying the MUSIC! Thus, I got the album much later than a proper fan should have done it.
I can’t say I enjoyed every track on the album at once, but that’s the usual course of things, I suppose. The obvious favourites have always been ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’, ‘Love is Only a Feeling’, ‘Growing on Me’, ‘Stuck in a Rut’. Come to think of it, I’ll have to mention every song on the album, as each of them became a favourite at a certain moment. That’s actually the best thing about ‘The Darkness’, you can’t stop liking them in any kind of mood or life situation. Be it ‘Love is Only a Feeling’ for a more romantic mood or ‘Friday Night’ for a more playful one, or ‘Black Shuck’ when being under pressure. And another tricky thing about ‘The Darkness’- you can never be sure what the song is actually about. That kinda makes choosing a ‘personal anthem’ difficult but adds to the fun. Don’t get me wrong, the music is not a joke. However, this ‘do not take life too seriously, you will never get out of it alive’ attitude wasn’t hard to notice. At the same time, they managed to be the most positive band out there. Even having the darkest name.
The Darkness did change my life in a way, or even in a couple of ways. Musically? Of course! They were and still are a kind of breath of fresh air in the industry of ‘manufactured miracles’. Most importantly, they managed to create a community that has been with them at their highest and their lowest; and this adds even more value to their music. Has my attitude changed over the years? It would be wrong to assume the contrary. The blind fandom has been replaced by a more sensible (though not less positive) approach to music and everything that surrounds it. However, I am grateful for all the experience I’ve had. There surely is life after the darkness but why choose it if there are (hopefully) many more years of good music to come.
Trina’s Welsh. I met her on the Official forum years ago, and she’s never failed to impress with her entertaining ability and her passion for The Darkness. Here’s what she has to say:
Taffy and The Darkness … A Long-Term Love Affair
I didn’t know it at the time, but 7th July 2003 was an enormously important day. It was the birthday of two very important elements of my future life – firstly, a wonderful lady who has become a terrific friend/confidante/fellow minx/bit on the side (*Rolf Harris voice* “can you guess what who it is yet?”), and secondly an album from one of the most amazing rock bands of the last 20 years, and my salvation (I’m not kidding).
Trouble was, I didn’t realise the significance of this date until four months later (fashionably late, and all that). I was vaguely aware of ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’ through the summer of 2003, but was in such a miserable daze that I wasn’t paying much attention. November saw me on sick leave, on the sofa, on painkillers and swathed in duvets, bawling through flu and an infected wisdom tooth. Theres only so much daytime TV a body can stand (ok, none), so music channels were my other drug of choice. And in the run-up to Christmas, they were all playing Christmas songs, with ‘Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End)’ on heavy rotation, back to back with ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’. And I was lost. Transfixed. Laughing my (considerably skinnier than the 2013 version) ass off. It was WONDERFUL. The music. The catsuits. The bare-faced, balls-out, laughing in the face of taste and cool attitude. The can’t give a f*ck cheek of it all.
Amazing. And I was hooked. I bought Permission to Land shortly afterwards, intended as a gift for my sister … I played it to death, then regretfully wrapped it up and put it under the Christmas tree. And then bought my own copy to play to death. We tried very hard to help ‘Christmas Time’ to the Christmas number 1 slot, only for it to be held at number 2 by the most suicidally boring and un-Christmassy song in existence. After that outrage I wandered onto the band forum and fell in love with many like-minded individuals, and my fate was sealed. A full-grown Darkling blossomed shortly afterwards, and for that I’m eternally grateful. She’s a lot more confident, bossy and tattooed than the previous version.
Without the band, their music and their ridiculous antics, life would have been so different. So boring. I’d probably have never ever gone to a gig – instead, I bought spare tickets from a fellow Darkling, spent 3 weeks designing and glitterfying (it IS a word) a t-shirt, and buggered off to Paris to pop my gig cherry. I’d never have braved the mud and flying pots of p*ss at the Reading festival so I could watch them headline. I’d never have followed the band to gigs in Cardiff, Glasgow and Wembley – 5 gigs in 10 amazing days – on the 2004 Winternational Tour, and several hotel rooms would have remained glitter-free forever.
I’d never have been invited to a preview listen of their second album. I’d never have moved an entire departmental meeting by half an hour, just so I could hear the world premiere of One Way Ticket on Radio 1. I’d never have followed the band to Dubai to watch them headline a (mostly) non-sweary set at the Desert Rock festival. The gig on my birthday in 2006 would never have happened, nor would the crazy Dublin gig weekend. I wouldn’t have the Brighton hotel room memories, or the muff giggles. I’d never have won Justin’s dartboard. I’d never have discovered my inner minx, covered her in eyeliner and leopard print and unleashed her on the world, following Justin’s mantra of “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing”
All of these things would never have happened, and my life would be far poorer for it
There have been bad times and sad times during the 10 years. The tensions in the band became more obvious as time went on, and the cause was easy to guess. The split wasn’t the massive shock it could have been, the solo careers diverting but nowhere near as diverting (for me) as the main event once was. Keeping the faith became our sole occupation, living on hopes and dreams of “one day
And “one day” happened. It really did. All together again, the original line-up. Older, possibly wiser, clean and sober. With more tattoos, more facial hair, more attitude, and a determination to not f*ck it up. And a wonderful third album which gets played daily, and hasn’t yet gone stale. News of what they’d been doing during the quieter times filtered out, and made me cry in public, on a train full of people (thanks Q magazine!) – but so what. The old me would have been mortified, this version has given up giving a f*ck *grins*
So, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU for the music, the memories, the fun, the laughter, the tattoo and the eyewatering number of band t-shirts … heres to another ten years!