After being more than 20 year in the rock and roll business already, Danko Jones have an impressive resume to show for. They have sold out headline tours across Canada and Europe and now the Canadian trio release their new album called Wild Cat. I had the chance to talk to Danko Jones (guitars, vocals) and bass player John Calabrese, so here we go.
So guys, what have you been doing since I last spoke to you on Bospop 2015?
John: “We played some more festivals and some smaller gigs in Europe and then in the beginning of 2016 we started writing new songs. In May we re-wrote a couple of tracks and we came to the conclusion that we did not have enough songs for the new album, yet… So, we wrote a couple more and in September we went into the studio to record the 11 songs which eventually ended up on the new album called Wild Cat…
Fire Music, your previous album, was your most successful album so far, any ideas, thoughts why that album was so successful?
Danko: “That album got the best reviews so far and the songs were actually very good; Fire Music really contains some great tracks and the production was super; it had an excellent sound.”
Was it a radio friendly album?
Both: “NO, definitely not!”
Danko: “ Our music is not radio friendly actually.. Fire Music really had a raw sound, really what the band is about. The production of Fire Music really hit the sound on the head and Wild Cat continues this were Fire Music left of, sonically speaking it is the same kind of album.”
You changed record labels, why?
John: “We have been working with Bad Taste Records forever, but they suddenly stopped putting out records; however it has the same distribution company as AFM, so… Also we have been working with Suburban Holland and that actually is AFM, so it is all the same partners that we have been working with. It seems like a natural place to go to for us, we know everybody there and everybody knows the band, so it is in a way going into a new relationship, but it feels very familiar.”
You used the same producer as for Fire Music?
Danko:”Yep, why change a winning team, right? It is the first time that we use the same producer and the same studio. We knew what kind of sound we liked to have for the new record and so we only used a few new guitars that were different and some new guitar pedals.”
John:”I used a new bass guitar, but the changes were really minimal as certain songs were treated a bit differently. On the song You Are My Woman, e.g. there is no distortion on my bass guitar, so it sounds more like Thin Lizzy, production-wise that is. And Wild Cat was done more on one guitar to get that certain Van Halen vibe.”
Danko: “We just built on the success and comfort level of Fire Music, which really makes a big difference when you are comfortable with everything. A relaxed atmosphere really works better, you do not have to worry about anything actually, the music and sound creates itself.”
Why did you call the album Wild Cat?
John:”The words wild cat were used in a song which was going to be called something else, but in fact Wild Cat turned out to be a great title for a song but also for the album. Further interpretations of Wild Cat are welcome of course, ha ha ha….”
So, let’s go through a couple of songs, if that is ok with you? Let’s start with my favourite track called Revolution.
Danko:”It is a great song, but you have to add: and then we make love, that is the complete title, it is John Lennon-like, right? The song is about not being very politically aware, that you have got hidden agendas; great track, love it, nice to hear that it is your favourite!”
Success In Bed, a rather trivial title?
Danko: “Love that title, that song is very related to me, ha ha…. The song makes you happy as it is a celebration of two people doing it. It is a fun title and really not vulgar or absolutely not sexist. People who label Success In Bed as sexist have not heard the song, or they did not really listen to the lyrics carefully enough. The obvious reaction of course is that reaction, but it is the absolute wrong reaction. Some people write their own lyrics to Success In Bed, ha ha.. It is in their heads and their lyrics are definitely dirtier than mine. They are missing out on the fun, period! It really is hilarious if you think about it, ha ha…”
You Are My Woman, it really sounds like a Thin Lizzy song, right?
John: “Yep, we knew when we were jamming that song, that it had all those Lizzy elements, the production, the dual guitars and the seventies bass guitar sound. We loved it and in fact You Are My Woman is a tribute to Thin Lizzy, the band we all love. We have never done the dual guitars before and You Are My Woman is also our first love song, so there you go.”
Danko: “ A real worthy title track and it is a good representation of the rest of the album. It has a real heavy Van Halen guitar vibe, think about the song Hot For Teacher. Wild Cat features a lot of guitar work which is characteristic of Van Halen, I know it is very hard to go for Van Halen but why not give it a try? Of course my guitar work is not at the ;level of Eddie Van Halen, but still this song offers a lot of nice guitar work; which I am still not used to by the way…. As you probably know we started as a garage rock band with kind of minimal guitar playing and now we are trying the Van Halen vibe. It says a lot about how far we have come as a band. Wild Cat is one of my favourite songs on the album..”
Which new songs will end up on the set list for the Wild Cat tour?
John: “All, eventually, ha ha… Even as we have a real big catalogue to choose from; actually it is very tough to pick songs. Going Out Tonight and My Little Rock And Roll are two new songs we already played actually, and You Are My Woman, Wild Cat, Let’s Start Dancing and I Gotta Rock will certainly be put in soon. On this new tour, people will not that be familiar with the new songs, so you need to find a balance with old songs.”
Danko: “We could play Fire Music and Wild Cat back to back sometime in the future, that would be great, right?”
Danko Jones have been in the rock and roll business for more than 20 years now, what are the highlights of your career so far?
Danko: “Difficult to say, actually as there will be a to more to come and go. Personally, highlights for me were opening for The Rolling Stones, one of my favourite bands of all time, meeting certain people in bands, playing with certain notorious bands and songs we are very proud of…”
Danko: “Invisible is a song I am very proud of, due to the collaboration with John Garcia on that one.”
John: “Difficult to pick…. Sometimes you have bad shows/gigs, in a bad venue and you are so far away from home and you get so disappointed then…. Most of the time you get disappointed due to external factors.”
Danko: “The changes in the band, meaning, needing to exchange the drummer too often… But in the end it turned out good as we know have the best drummer for us. Rich Knox is an easy going guy and the three of us really connect, and of course he is also a great drummer.”
Thanks for your time, guys.
Danko/John: “Cheers, mate!”
Interview by Martien Koolen