PTL 10th Anniversary – Dave Ashworth and Karl Eisenhauer

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!

General agreement

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?

Karl: No!

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.

Agreement!

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. 😀

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