Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now – The Darkness In Interview
For a good few years there, not so long back, The Darkness were the biggest band in the UK. Top ten singles, multi-platinum records, arena tours – they did the lot, stunning the world with their quirky British charm and hard-rocking anthems. But, like so many before them, somewhere along the way, it all went wrong. Ahead of the London date of their first big comeback tour, Ed and Frankie tell us the whole story, from end to beginning – in that order.
So to start, the obvious question you’ve no doubt answered ad infinitum by now, what prompted the reformation?
Ed: After The Darkness split up the first time, I was in The Stone Gods with Dan, and Justin went off to do Hot Leg, and we did that for a few years with varying levels of success, but they were never going to be as big. Then at some point last year Dan and Justin decided they wanted to work together again and started writing songs…
Frankie: In terms of what prompted it, it probably because it ended in such a negative way. It ended so sourly, and it was stupid for something as sweet and joyous as The Darkness to end in such a sour way. So I guess in a way it was to rectify all that bad energy.
So Frankie, you left the band in 2005…
Frankie: I was sacked.
Sacked then. How hard has it been for you personally coming back?
Frankie: It was hard for all of us. By the end it was all dysfunctional, one big dysfunctional mess. That’s why I spoke up, and that’s what got me in trouble. It wasn’t a case of anyone being right or wrong really, we just did everything to the max, we’re that kind of band and it was that kind of mentality, and when that happens things get very intense.
We all celebrated too much, we flogged that album too much. We should have stood up to the record company around February 2004 and stopped, when we peaked with the Brit awards and everything that was happening. We peaked there and you could see in the performance after that that the edge had gone – we’ve got quite a short attention span, so once we’d played those songs for the three thousandth time it gets tough!
Did you blame the record company for not telling you that you’d run your course with that album?
Frankie: No, we don’t blame them, there’s no point in blaming anyone, it was all of us really. It was the chemistry we had at the time – the management, the record company, the various stimulants that people were taking, and our strong personalities too. We’re all four of us very different characters and when it’s positive, it’s a great thing and it really clicks. Unfortunately, when it’s negative, it’s a chain reaction and it just gets worse and worse. And that’s what happened.
Looking back, what are your thoughts on how it all ended?
Frankie: It’s the nature of the beast, that’s just how we did it. I’ve said it already, but we had fun with the clichés, and the clichés came back and bit us in the arse.
Ed: When we had the phone call from Justin saying he wanted to leave, I was really disappointed that we hadn’t made another album to come back from the second one. We hadn’t enjoyed the process of making the second album, with all the things that had gone on and how we’d lost our way. I really felt it was a shame we hadn’t made another album, and a shame to leave it on that note.
So has it been quite cathartic coming back together at last?
Frankie: That’s exactly the word, completely cathartic. I think we’re better than ever, we’re fresh, mean, lean and doubly focused. We haven’t got that foggy vision any more that you get when you’ve been lost in the eye of the storm. We’re in charge now and we’re not going to let anyone tell us what to do.
There was a lot of well documented excess in general with The Darkness by the end. Given your time again, what would you have done differently?
Ed: We drank far too much. We toured the first album for too long, we should’ve stopped earlier. The whole thing went with so much momentum that we did all sorts of things to keep it going, without thinking if they were the right thing to do.
Frankie: I don’t really agree with hypothetical questions. There’s no point looking at things like that, we wouldn’t be here now doing this interview if we hadn’t done what we did.
There’s a reason why everything happens, and it’s all built into the chemistry that we have, and the people that we are. I think it’s great that we’re here now with something to prove, I’m really glad of the way it worked out. With the highs and the lows, you appreciate everything so much more.
Many have commented that the new shows are a lot more stripped down and balls-to-the wall than what a Darkness show had become by the end of the second album, is this consciously going back to basics?
Ed: At some points during the second album tours, we had more money than sense, and were compensating for the fact that we’d lost our edge. There were all kinds of props and things, flying tigers and breast chariots, and all kinds of gimmicks that we don’t need now. This time we’ve just spent time getting the right set together.
Frankie: Next year we’re definitely going to have stuff like that and do some crazy stage shows, but it’s going to have to be for a reason this time, within a concept and a coherent idea for the show. It’s hard to realise a concept for a show, to have a concept that means something, and gives the show a certain poetry, takes a lot of working together. And that’s a lot easier when we’re in a good frame of mind and not arguing.
You’ve done a few smaller and special shows this year getting yourselves roadworthy again, but this tour is the first headline event. How has it been playing to crowds this size again?
Ed: It’s been exciting. It’s a nice size for us to play. We’re more comfortable in a bigger place than a small club, but then we’re more comfortable doing these than arenas. A few thousand people is a nice size, big, but still a bit intimate.
Frankie: In many ways, we’re a theatre band; Vaudeville as James Dean Bradfield described us, which is a compliment – I think!
Having seen some of the smaller shows, it’s certainly a lot tighter and a lot more head on than you were at, shall we say, the tail end…
Frankie: You don’t notice it at the time, but when you’re going through the motions, you may think you’re playing the song as it should be played, but really, it’s lacking that vitality. When you play rock n roll, you shouldn’t be in your comfort zone, because it’s not about the comfort zone. It’s good to be playing right to the edge of your capability, that’s where it works best, and I think that’s what we’re doing now.
There’s been a few ‘old’ new songs reintroduced to the set recently, notably Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us, which we’ve not seen since you were playing the bars. What made you decide to bring that back?
Ed: When Dan and Justin started working together again, their starting point was to revisit some of the old ideas. We used to play it in pubs in Camden a long time ago, but it didn’t stay in the set.
Frankie: It’s really fast and it’s really tight, and we couldn’t really carry it off back in the day. It’s quite a warm-hearted song too, and it comes from a good place, and that’s one of the things that we’ve figured out, our best songs come from a good place.
That song’s a very positive vibe for a reunion isn’t it?
Frankie: It is. And the song is quite nice, it’s a childhood thing about Justin cycling around and has a real happiness to it. That’s the thing, very few of our songs are the ‘cock rock’ we’re often painted to be, they’ve normally got quite warm sentiments. That’s why the vibe at our gigs is quite warm, rather than a macho thing with guys posturing and throwing their fists.
Can you tell us much about the new album?
Frankie: Only that we’re really excited about it – they’re great songs and it’s a big sound. We’re definitely touching places we’ve not touched before. It’s very melodic, Justin and Dan’s guitar playing has really come on, and rhythmically there’s more interesting things going on.
Do you think this is the best album you can come out with now, as more experienced musicians, rather than the ‘controversial’ second album?
Frankie: It’s definitely more like a Darkness album, hopefully the definitive Darkness album. That’s what it feels like at the moment.
Ed: We’re aiming to have it out next spring.
You’ve been away, you’ve come back, and you’re finding a new energy for the band. Where do you see the band going, do you think you’ll be around a long time from this point?
Frankie: I do, it’s like a big family now. We’ve got an amazing crew around us now, some of the old guys we worked with who we liked, and new guys who are bringing something new to it. We have a responsibility to them as well to make this work. We have people that enjoy working with us because we’re different to other bands, so we’ve got to keep it going. We’re going to go global, and hit some places we’ve not hit before, even a continent we’ve never hit before!