Rock and Roll is Black and Blue
“The only ‘real’ bands that make it anymore in the current music business are the Pit Bulls, the ones that are tenacious, stubborn and uncompromising.” ~ Danko Jones
Canadian rock trio Danko Jones are a juggernaut of melodic hooks, intense riffing and …a keen sense of humor. Led by Toronto native Danko Jones (vocals/guitar) with John ‘JC’ Calabrese (bass guitar) and drummer Atom Willard (who replaced original drummer Dan Cornelius in 2011 and has jammed with Rocket From The Crypt, The Offspring and Social Distortion), the three-piece have forged a bond of unrelenting hard rock that just may save the planet. Since the band’s formation in 1996 they have earned their street cred the old fashion way, through constant touring playing every dive from north to south and east to west. Sharing the stage with The Rolling Stones, Backyard Babies, Turbonegro, Motörhead and Death Angel (just to name a few) have busted down doors and made the group legions of fans. Recently adding a US tour supporting Sweden’s Volbeat gives the Canadians a chance to strut their stuff while pushing their current LP Rock and Roll is Black and Blue. Also, making waves with their new video “Just A Beautiful Day,” gives the band a steady shot in the arm and gets ‘em primed and ready to storm America and give us the kick in the ass we deserve.
The Canadian equivalent to the Grammy is the Juno Award and Danko Jones have been nominated for four of them including “Best Rock Album” (twice), “Best Video” and “Best Alternative Album”. Along the way they have also played some of the biggest stages in the world including Rock Am Ring (Germany), Hellfest (France), Sweden Rock Fest (Sweden), Pinkpop (Netherlands) and Wacken Open Air (Germany). This summer we crossed paths with Danko Jones (the man) after performing his Spoken Word set at Wacken 2012 in which he discussed (in a most hilarious way) all things KISS. “Yeah, I love doing the spoken word thing,” Danko told us recently over the phone. “It gave me a chance to go out there by myself, without a band, and just go through my lectures on Kiss, things I always wanted to say about them. I have a few theories about Kiss, a few fandum moments, like how I wanted to be their drummer.” It’s been 8 years since Jones performed as a spoken word artist and having witnessed the second day on Wacken’s Headbanger Stage, he went over pretty well with the death metal crowd.
“If you liked the last album we did your gonna like this one too,” Jones continues as we discuss the subtle nuances of Rock and Roll is Black and Blue. “It’s basically twelve hard rock songs that represent what we stand for and how we like to play. We’re very satisfied with the kind of hard rock music we play - sometime we want to make it groovier, sometimes faster, sometimes harder but those changes are minor. Our music doesn’t change all that much from album to album.” Danko’s first record Born A Lion (2002) was called “a loud guitar rifforama” where the trio “swapped damaged high-test soul music for Detroit blues oriented rock”. The band has since released six albums that range from “loud boogie-soaked riffs” to “swagger, muscle, and street smarts”. Says Danko, “The song we’ve writing have gotten better but it’s nothing too deep or socially conscience. If anything, you have to check your political correctness at the door. We try not to write anything too dumb or that takes itself too serious.”
As with 2010’s Below the Belt LP, Danko Jones put together a number of video “previews” with ad-lib commentary posted on YouYube as Rock and Roll is Black and Blue was being constructed. In a train station somewhere in Europe The lead singer singled out third track “Legs” as an essential track that captures the inspiration of the band - bad boys meeting bad women with bad attitudes. “The main riff and chorus were written around the Below The Belt period,” says Danko, “but it never got finished. When we started working on Rock and Roll is Black and Blue, the three of us got together in the rehearsal room and finally finished it off. The subject of ‘legs’ has come up time and again in our songs. I just really like women’s legs, what can I say. I love songs that have chants. You can just picture 10,000 people chanting along to the song and I wanna be one of those guys in the crowd too. When you’re chanting you really have to believe in it really get behind it. I really believe in women’s legs.”
There’s plenty of “chants” packed into the new LP kicking off with the amped-up breakup song “Terrified”. Jones keeps his guitar tone somewhere between Johnny Ramone and Bad Brains’ guitarist Dr. Know melodic with a lot of crunch. By the second track “Get Up” Jones has dumped the old girlfriend and is “with the hottest girl in the club” singing “hot sauce, she’s the boss” over a thumping dance beat. The parade goes on through an adrenaline injection of riff-laden power chords and catchy rhythms as in “Type Of Girl”, “You Wear Me Down” and “Conceited”. Jones has an uncanny way of describing the familiar with relatable honesty that makes friends quick. On the darker side, the overblown “Masochist” builds tension around the lyric “I’m always pissed off” Sad songs get me down / I love ‘em to death!” A sarcastic yet honest snapshot of himself or the average testosterone fueled fan banging his head at the show.
No, Danko Jones isn’t really for chicks. It’s Neanderthal, bitch-slapping, tough-assed, motherfucking music for guys who dig foot-stomping rock. It’s distasteful, incorrect and offensive perfect for the rebellious soul. However the band offer redemption in the final song “I Believe In God”. Although somewhat irreverent, it has a point to make. “When she walked out in the middle of the room / I believed in God, when she turned ‘round and was bathed in light / I believed in God…but she didn’t want me.” Says Jones about writing the song, “It started off as a simple punk rock song. Everyone in the band heard this kind of church motif so we decided to bring some gospel singers into the studio. The only problem was the lyrics were somewhat blasphemous. The day the gospel singers came into the studio I got a little nervous. I showed up in a suit and tie anything to make them feel more comfortable - anything to win them over. They knocked it out of the park and made a Misfits-inspired punk song into an epic classic.”
You can pick up a copy of the record on vinyl as well as CD and enjoy for yourself what Maxim is calling, “Like AC/DC sniffing glue with Motley Crue”. Like so many things, Jones had an opinion about today’s music business. “I love vinyl but this thing about a vinyl renaissance is way over done. Sure, there are collectors out there that live and breathe vinyl, like me, but it will never be what it was in the seventies. There are a number of different outlets to get music were just trying to scrape our bit off the top and keep doing what were doing.” Rock and Roll is Black and Blue follows the release of Bring On The Mountain a two-disc DVD featuring a 90-minute documentary, a short film, exclusive live clips from around the world and all the music videos they have ever done. “I honestly don’t believe to this day, were a successful band,” says Jones in the documentary. “I walk on stage every night, do every tour wondering if it’s all going to fall apart. But, were always going to be a hard rock band so if it all fell apart tomorrow at least we had a good time.”
Words: TK Smith
Website: Danko Jones