Toby has been a friend and colleague of The Darkness for many years, a talented musician, and very good with words.
“At what point did you become aware of The Darkness?”
-Well, let’s start there and just free-form, shall we?
I became aware of them when Dan asked me, pretty much rhetorically, whether he should accept the offer of becoming touring guitarist with Nathalie Imbruglia or start a rock band with his brother. We were in a pub in Camden, as we very often were, and were making each other laugh writing lyrics to an as yet unfinished song entitled “The Box Of Horror”.I think I was still in a band called Thirteen:13 at that point, and I believe we were mere days away from being dropped from our deal with Polydor Records. I answered his question as anyone would have, “Go for it! What, are you nuts?!”
Despite my sage advice, he chose to start a band with his brother.
We ought to remember that the musical landscape was a strange place then.
We were still at the dreggy, bottom-of-barrel, what’s left on the ironic shirt-rail, real tail-end of the death knell of Britpop. Camden certainly was, anyway. There was still a lot of hanging around the Good Mixer trying to convince Andy Ross to hand out deals with Food Records wearing waxed-fishing-hats and Adidas shell-toes.
The big “Arena Rock” band of that time was probably Travis. TRAVIS.
The very idea of an actual rock band who played actual rock music was faintly ludicrous and one which virtually everyone thought couldn’t possibly take off, much less become successful. Which was possibly why I thought it unlikely that they could do anything BUT become huge.
Cut to a little while later, after their first show with the finalized line-up and I thought it was glaringly obvious. Everyone in the room was grinning ear to ear. They made people happy. Fuckin’ weirdos.
I asked them to play at my wedding party.
I’d got married in Finland but we were having a little bash down at Undersolo in Inverness St (next door to The Good Mixer, naturally) for those of our friends who couldn’t make it to Finland. My mum was in charge of the door so we could give the band some money for van-hire or petrol or something. Matt Mower and Graham Coxon also did acoustic sets, I should add.
It was just a little private party for our friends but people I didn’t know kept coming down the stairs and begging to be let in to “the secret Darkness show” because they’d seen “every gig they’ve done and I CANNOT miss this one”.
It was weird. What the fuck is going on?
It didn’t really seem like an awfully long time after that, I was playing bass with Graham Coxon and we were headlining the tent at Reading festival. My mates The Darkness were headlining the main stage. I was just hugely proud that what seemed like my immediate Camden “scene”, me and my shit-kicker pals, were suddenly the main draws at Reading.
On both stages.
I’m still filled with a huge feeling of achievement when I think about that night.
They had been granted permission to land and in many ways I think we all had.
Sometime later I recall being in a cab in LA and the driver turning up the radio saying, “Hey, this is the new one from The Darkness, what do you think of those guys? CRAZY, right??” My pals, The Darkness.
Enjoyed by wedding-crashers and Los Angelean cabbies alike since 2003 (or thereabouts).
Long may it continue.