Danko Jones - JC: The silent half of the rock n roll machineOne of the ultimate ways of staying in touch with your teenage years is meeting rock n roll hero's. When the Danko Jones interview got confirmed last month, I was dancing around for hours and happy for weeks. This was going to be one of the coolest things in my life. After the phoner interview I had with the frontman of my favorite touring band of the past years, there was only one thing that could possibly top that: meeting the guy in person. But in comes mr. Murphy with his stupid law. About an hour before I was to have the interview with the Mango Kid himself, Daniel from Suburban (who arrange the distribution for a shitload of bands, including Danko Jones) called me, and said Danko's plane was delayed. Interview cancelled. I was so bummed out, man. you wouldn't believe it. But not all was lost, because Daniel from Suburban played around with the shedules, and I got a chance to interview JC, bassplayer and manager of the band. I straightened my back again, and turned that frown upside down considering that this could also become quite a cool interview. And so it did.
Around three 'o clock, I met up with Daniel from Suburban and JC before heading upstairs of the Melkweg venue to do the interview. As we walked past the big stage with all the noise of soundchecking going on, there was this sleepy and grumpy dude in a huge coat with the hood up behind me. I paid no further attention to it, untill me, JC and Daniel got to the top floor and I decided to hold the door for the grumpy sleepy dude in his eskimo outfit. And then it happened: the dude took off his hood. And completely stunned, dare I say nailed to the floor, a very sleepy and grumpy Danko Jones took over the door and said: "thanks man". I couldn't believe it. Danko Jones actually said "thanks man". How cool was that! My mood of dissapointment turned in to the cheerfullness. I was more then ready to do the interview with JC now, I had my moment. JC turns out to be a very positive, charismatic and fun person to talk to. He's got a lot of love for rock and metal, and he's an honest and intelligent guy. All the more reason for y'all to read this interview!
How's the tour, you're back from the Scandanavian part of the tour.
Yeah, we just did Copenhagen. We have a hardcore following there, cause our label Bad Taste is from Scandinavia. They've done a really great job in promoting the new record, and getting us out there. And the shows we did there were really good.
The new album, Sleep Is The Enemy, is quite different than We Sweat Blood, your last album. It's less dark and more melodic, how's the recording been?
I could see that, there's more melody in the singing and what not. I think the songs are still intense, we haven't vered off from what Danko Jones is all about. The one big difference with this record is that we were able to spend a bit more time making. For We Sweat Blood we were somewhat put under the gun inbetween touring and getting the record done. Back then we weren't able to spend as much time on the songs that are on Sleep Is The Enemy. Having said that we also had more time to live with the new songs cause we went on tour through holland at the beginning of last year (the Jack Daniels Rock Night tour with Peter Pan Speedrock and El Guapo Stuntteam -lex). That gave us time to listen to the tracks we recorded, play some songs whilst on the road and pick the best material. After that we went on tour in America, basicly touring the older record (Born A Lion -lex). Inbetween that we went back and forth from recording it.
The whole tour I had my laptop with Protools on it. It's handy when you get a good idea, you know riffs, or complete songs. You just go into the studio and plug your harddrive in. You just think about the picture you want to paint and then modify it untill you're satisfied. It's a great process.
You mentioned America, the last time I interviewed Danko was back in 2003 right before an American tour. He wasn't so excited about going there, with the exeption of playing the shows and meeting the fans. What's your take on the US now that you've been there quite often?
Yeah we did some shows with Turbo Negro over there, which was pretty cool. But yeah, I don't mean to generalise or stereotype all Americans. But unfortunately the stereotype stands strong when you go there. It's the land of arrogance. They don't know anything else than what's going on outside their country. Even that's speaking in generalisation, some Americans don't even know where Toronto is. And that's their neighbouring country. It's a very sheltered culture. And it's the culture of the immediate. Everything is and has to be now. There's no nurturing to the long term. It's a very hostile enviroment to go on tour. I grew up in Italy, a different culture from Canada. But in Canada people are open and much more aware of the world. That is a better situation for me.
On the other hand, it is one of the rock n roll nations.
Oh yeah, I agree. It's also a great place to play shows. On the west coast we did some amazing shows, for instance we played the Fillmore in San Francisco. And you walk in and you see posters of The Who, Jimmy Hendrix and Gratefull Dead everywhere. Those places are living and breathing music in time. It's fantastic. And when you play the Fillmore you have to put on a bigger show. We played a show there with Floggin Molly. That part of touring the US is really cool. And as far as succes in the US it's also really good right now. We had to wait for We Sweat Blood to happen there, that was more of an introduction of Danko Jones to them. We put two songs from the Born A Lion on there (Lovercall and Sound Of Love -lex). So it did good for intoducing the band. The only thing is that the label there is a bit more scrambled than here in Europe. It's not like Bad Taste who are commited to you and would work twentyfourseven for you. In the US it's more of a job, Monday to Friday, nine to five. You're more a product, everything is a product over there.
Are you afraid of a big market such as the US one, to use you as a product and forget about Danko Jones in a years time?
Well the beautiful thing now is: we can go to America but there's the option of going "I don't feel like it, let's stay home" haha. Ofcourse you want to take your shot at going there cause there's a big audience that you want to be able to reach. But we're allready doing really good in Europe and Canada so we're cool.
Who writes the album, is it a threepiece affair or is it just Danko?
No, it's mostly me and Danko. It's been that way from the beginning. We're really good at pushing each other but we don't second guess each other. We work hard, you know. We Sweat Blood, you know. A little while ago my whole hand was filled with blood.
That excludes Damon (the drummer that recently left the band). Has that got anything to do with his departure?
He was just a particular guy. He liked to stay at home, which is not very handy when you want to play drums in a band. For the recording of Sleep Is The Enemy, he was home watching the Micheal Jackson trial. We've had five drummers, and he had the most input for the last records. But I think he just go burnt out from being on the road. He wasn't happy and you have someone that's not happy around you it's just negative energy.
How did you and Danko meet up?
We met up in school. We both had our own bands in Toronto. We just hit it off really well me and Danko and were friends ever since university. He was always telling me I shouldn't be in the band I was playing in, and that the two of us should begin a band. And one day his band fell apart and we spoke over the phone about really starting that band. He said "I want to call in Danko Jones, and I said "okay", and the rest is history!
You didn't mind being in a band named after the singer?
Oh no, that was absolutely no problem for me at all. I'd seen him on stage with all his intensity. I agreed right away.
There's this rock n roll cliché that the bass player is always the most frustrated about being out of the spotlight all the time.
Yeah, that's great hahaha!
You don't mind?
No I love it man haha
This is really becoming a boring interview this way. You're not frustrated about that? No apirations on becoming a serial killer?
Haha, no man. Me, I'm a happy guy, you can tell. I totally prefer being in the background. I'm really comfortable with it. Like every other band, you need to have this one focal point. And he's the satyr. He called himself and the band Danko Jones. It's totally cool. He's the man for the job, he's an entertainer.
That's why I never read interviews with you but only with Danko?
Well there's a few interviews with me. But most of the people just want to talk to Danko. And besides that, I organise his presstours. So when he's flying off to do promotion, I'm in Toronto working. He'll be calling me up saying "man, I just did four hours of interviews", and I'd reply "that's nice, I just did fourteen hours of work, and only slept three..". But I'm okay with that.
Danko Jones is becoming more and more a phenomena here in Holland. Your first real breakthrough was the Lowlands festival (biggest festival in Holland), playing the smallest stage. I remember Danko saying that night "we'll be back in two years to play the main stage!". And you guys did. In two years you've played all the big festivals, and started selling out venues. Now, you've sold out three large venues in Holland.
Yeah that show at the Alpha stage at Lowlands was great. We played before Soulwax and White Stripes. I love Soulwax, they're a really good band. I remember being kicked out the dressing room, 'cause Jack White wanted us gone. But gigs like that are great, It's what we always wanted to be, a live band.
Is it fun though, playing those 20.000 capacity festival tents?
Yeah, it's great! It's a rush, really. You feel all the energy, the excitement. And on the other hand it's great to be backstage off those festivals. I'm a big music fan, I still get amazed when I see Frank Black or PJ Harvey walking by. In a way I feel the same as anyone of those 20.000 people in the crowd, and I apreciate that experience. For a lot of them, it's the one big event of the year. Going to Pinkpop, Lowlands or Werchter and living it hard. It's great.
How hard is it to play a 20 or 30.000 audience one day, and playing a small club the next?
Not at all, you can totally do it. Like our first shows in America. You play small venues, 30 people show up. But it doesn't take a toll on you mentally. The one thing that's hard about touring in general is the fisical exhaustion. We never say no any offer, we actually sat down this year and said to ourselves: we have to make sure we have a week off this year. Which is kind of what normal people with normal jobs do, you know haha. So you need that time off if you want to play on the top of your game. On this tour for instance we had a day off, and me and Danko flew from Bergen to Lund to records material for five hours. After that we went for dinner and looked at each other and said 'I'm exhausted'. Than you go in the car, work some more, reply some e-mails and before you know it it's two a clock in the morning, you go to sleep. You wake up and continue the tour. It's great! I wouldn't want it any other way. And besides the tour, I'm also manager. I do the money, the accounting all the books. I hire the people who work for us. I also did the executive production for this record. My brain doesn't stop, it's constantly going twentyfour seven. I'm on my cellphone and my laptop all the time. And on my bass inbetween, haha. It's a lot of work, but it's satisfying. In the beginning people said: 'it's a good band, but guys are going nowhere'. And now that the hard work has payed off, I'd say the best revenge is sucess. We have drive, we have focus and that carries us on.
Can you live off all that hard work?
Yeah, I haven't had a job besides Danko Jones for about six years now.
So no financial problems caused by global cd market that is crashing down as we speak?
I know, people don't buy cd's. Which is fine, you'll just have to come to the show and see the band play. Before anything we wanted to be a live touring band. That's what we wanted to establish and that's what we are. And I think there's a big word-to-mouth movement going on on-line. In the old days people would give each other a mix-tape. Nowadays it's online through messenger going "here, check out my playlist".
Last question, heard any good heavy music lately that you'll recommend?
I know the new Haunted is great. If you haven't heard of them, think about At The Gates. They're a bit like them. And oh yeah, I'd plug Danko's radioshow that you can hear on www.magicalworldofrock.com. He's done a show on Dutch rock which was cool. And soon he's going to do a show on Canadian metal.
There is such a thing as 'Canadian Metal'? Besides Strapping Young Lad?
Yeah there aren't too many bands, but don't forget Annihilator! Jeff Waters is actually a fan of our band. We hung out and he told us. We were just blown away. He's hanging out with Danko lately, playing solos, going "this is not heavy enough for Annihilator, maybe this could be a Danko Jones song. And then you'd listen to it and it would sound like Pantera haha. That's the thing, we're music fans. Big metal fans. And if you ever start listening to it, it sticks with you for the rest of your life, you cling on to it, right? All the hypes come and go, but stuff like metal always survives.
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