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A Rocker Supreme: An Exclusive Interview With DANKO JONES

By Ruben Mosqueda, We Go To 11
Friday, February 8, 2019 @ 9:01 AM

"Rock ‘n’ roll music is underground now. It was ‘top of the heap’ for decades but time marches on, you can’t be ‘top dog’ forever."

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Danko Jones Solo Photo Credit - Linda Akerberg

DANKO JONES caught up with KNAC.COM on the eve of their first show of their U.S. tour, “If you’re familiar with DANKO JONES, you know what A Rock Supreme [their new album, due April 26th] will sound like. We have a sound, that we don’t drift far away from. I think it’s kind of arrogant of a band to drag their fanbase through some ‘experimental’ phase, with a symphony, a guest rapper or some electronic beat song, and think that the audience will ‘blindly’ follow. I also subscribe to bands that stick to the ‘script’, like THE RAMONES, MOTORHEAD, SLAYER and AC/DC, these are four band when they put out a new record, people will pretty much have an idea what it will sound like”. No question, DANKO JONES fans will snatch this record up at their local mom and pop shop, online or wherever or however they consume music. If you haven’t experienced a DANKO JONES show, you must, as Jones goes from the mild mannered, soft spoken guy that he is and morphs into this larger than life, confident, at times cocky rock ‘n’ roll frontman and the rest of the band is pretty killer too. They’re currently on tour supported by NASHVILLE PUSSY and PRIMA DONNA.

KNAC.COM: The tour starts tonight, it’s been a while since you made it out to Portland. We got you in December of 2010, then again in the summer of 2013 in Ridgefield, WA.

How frustrating has it been for you to break the U.S. market? Back in 2010 you were working Below The Belt which had received critical acclaim and it was great record from top to bottom. There’s been three [studio] records since and there’s not been any offers in some markets. That kills momentum, doesn’t it?

JONES: [long pause] Right, I don’t know how to explain it. All I can do is write, record and put the records out and then see what happens. I can point fingers and put the blame on certain things, but I honestly don’t know. I don’t have an definitive answer for that. If I knew the answer, I’d solve it! [laughs]

KNAC.COM: Do you subscribe to the thought that rock music is dying off? There’s some high profile and lesser profile musicians that think that it is.

JONES: I don’t think that it’s dead or dying, it’s just going underground. I truly feel that it will go underground like jazz music has done. To paraphrase SPINAL TAP’s manager,”It’s audience is becoming more selective”! [laughs] Rock ‘n’ roll music is underground now. It was ‘top of the heap’ for decades but time marches on, you can’t be ‘top dog’ forever. Genres like, EMD, pop music, indie rock music have crept up on rock ‘n’ roll, it’s not even in the top 5 or 10 genres of music anymore. I think in the future rock ‘n’ roll will take its place alongside jazz, where its audience will find it if it wants to. I don’t think it’s going to be consumed massively, like it has been in the past and I think we have to learn to be okay with that. I personally am, I love underground music, I feel that the music that I play has joined its ranks. I’m not sad by this new distinction, I’m quite satisfied with it.

KNAC.COM: Are you saying that the playing field has been leveled?

JONES: I wouldn’t go that far, because there’s a huge leap between let’s say THE FOO FIGHTERS and everybody else. [laughs] There’s not a band that remotely follows THE FOO FIGHTERS to the B-Level. There isn’t a band that’s one tier below THE FOO FIGHTERS, then that band and that band, it’s just THE FOO FIGHTERS! [laughs] The gap is just so wide, that there’s not really anything there to make anyone else a ‘real’ contender. It’s not a sad thing, I think it’s a good thing, it’s just that we need everyone on board with this. People are clinging and hanging on for dear life, but I think that has to do with ‘rock ‘n’ roll arrogance’. It was ‘top dog’ for so long that people didn’t see all the other genres quietly sneaking up on it.

KNAC.COM: You start this winter tour, you’ve got NASHVILLE PUSSY in the middle slot, you have history with them and you have PRIMA DONNA in the opening slot. It’s a solid triple bill, and the album doesn’t come out till April. You haven’t hit some of these markets in a few years, any apprehension in touring behind a record that isn’t out for a couple of months?

JONES: I just read a tweet today that read “Who is DANKO JONES?!” [laughs] Well, whether they know us or not, we’re hitting the road regardless! [laughs] We’re not a new band, we have a 20 year history and 8 records. If you don’t know our music you’ve never heard of us. I’ts going to be if you haven’t heard our music, I’m including the guy that tweeted, they’ve heard of us, I mean he tweeted about us?! [laughs]

KNAC.COM: With two decades worth of material, you must be feeling the squeeze when it comes time to pick a setlist?

JONES: Yeah, the setlist is a tightrope to walk. We try to please ourselves and then please the audience, the people who buy our records, while trying to win over people that have never seen us, then trying to perform a set which fans would consider ‘the hits’. With our 9th album coming soon it does get harder and harder, that’s the hardest part, because no one is completely satisfied. You’re always going to hear the person who's going to say,”You didn’t play this, you didn’t play that”. That’s okay, we just have to live with it and do the best you can.

KNAC.COM: You hopped onstage with MARTY FRIEDMAN at the House Of Blues in Anaheim a couple weeks ago during NAMM. You guested on his record a couple years ago. What was that like and did you strap on a guitar for that performance?

JONES: I did! No guitar, though. You know not playing a guitar was so ‘liberating’. I actually enjoyed not playing guitar because it allowed me to be the singer. I use guitars as tools, and if I can do the job with one less tool, it’s more pleasurable for me! [laughs] I have NEVER considered myself a ‘guitar player’, MARTY FRIEDMAN is the ‘guitar player’, DANKO JONES is a ‘singer’, or more of ‘performer’ because I don’t think I’m a singer. I performed “I Can’t Relax”, which is one of three songs that I guested on his Inferno album. Marty lives in Japan, so it was hard to make this happen before, but when I saw that he was going to be at NAMM and I was also going to be there this year, I sent him a texted asking him, “Are we going to finally do this?”

So we talked about doing “I Can’t Relax”, and he also wanted to do one of our songs, “Piranha”, which was on our Fire Music album. I’d never played that song live, before. That was also the last song we recorded for Fire Music because I had to push myself to get what you ultimately hear on the record. So I jumped up on stage with Marty and went for it and sang two songs that I’d never done before. It was a lot of fun!

KNAC.COM: You recently tweeted that TONY ORLANDO AND DAWN’s “Tie A Yellow Ribbon” was the first song that you ever liked. Was that also your first musical memory?

JONES: That was the first song that I liked in my life! That’s what I’m told by my parents who used to play that when I was sleeping in my crib. I would wake up while the song was playing, I’d dance in my crib and when it was over I’d go back to sleep! [laughs] That’s got to be my favorite song, I really liked it as a kid. TONY ORLANDO AND DAWN have been with me my whole life! [laughs] and to be included in a tweet and to get a response was so pretty cool! [laughs] It wasn’t a ‘one on one’ personal thing, God knows if it was really him or if it was his personal assistant, his wife or one of his kids, it was still pretty cool! [laughs]

KNAC.COM: Talk about the influence of PHIL LYNOTT and THIN LIZZY on DANKO JONES.

JONES: Oh, they’re a huge influence! We regularly lift from THIN LIZZY. Listen, the songs are too close for you not to hear THIN LIZZY in there. There’s a direct musical influence, no question. In terms of what Phil meant, my God he is the lexicon of rock ‘n’ roll frontmen, he’s been a huge inspiration to me, his voice is what I consider to be one of the best voices in rock, in terms of the songs, I have said this in my book that came out last year, I’ve Got Something To Say, where I spoke about Phil. The book is a collection of essays that I have written over the years for various rock magazines, the first essay in the book is about THIN LIZZY, I went on to say that I didn’t understand the band at first beyond “The Boys Are Back In Town”. It wasn’t until I got my heart broken by a girl that I began to understand the deeper album cuts and how much emotion the songs had and how much emotion Phil’s voice had.

KNAC.COM: A couple more then I will let you go. If you could be in a band from the 70s, 80s OR 90s, what band would that be?

JONES: 70s, 80s, 90s? 70s would definitely be KISS, that was my favorite band growing up. They could arguably still be to this day, I mean I listen to the classic albums to this day. The 80s would have to be METALLICA, I think Ride The Lightning and Master Of Puppets are just incredible albums....the 90s? [long pause]

KNAC.COM: That one got a little tougher.

JONES: Yeah, but I think I will say THE BEASTIE BOYS, they’re one of my top 5 groups of all time.

KNAC.COM: How’s your dog doing?

JONES: [bursts into laughter] Ralph! [laughs] Oh, because he got attacked! Thanks for asking. He’s doing much better, he’s a rescue dog, he’s got issues. He already had issues when we got him, he was scared of certain dogs, but we got him trained and trusting other dogs. I remember we had just had the best walk with him, then I took him out again later that evening and he got attacked by another dog, totally unprovoked! Listen, dogs are dogs but the owner ran away! I saw her like a week and half later after the attack, we filed a complaint but we can’t track her down because she didn’t register her dog. When I saw her I asked her if the dog was named the name we were given, and she ran away! We’re still looking for the owner, but Ralph is getting back to where we want him to be, he’s almost to right where he was to the day of the attack. He’s getting more trusting with other dogs, he loves humans! [laughs]

Remaining DANKO JONES dates with NASHVILLE PUSSY and PRIMA DONNA supporting:

  • 2.8 - Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood, CA
  • 2.9 - Marty's on Newport in Tustin, CA
  • 2.10 - The Observatory in San Diego, CA
  • 2.13 - Alex's Bar in Long Beach, CA
  • 2.14 - Discovery Ventura in Ventura, CA
  • 2.15 - The Ritz in San Jose, CA
  • 2.16 - Slim's in San Francisco, CA
  • 2.17 - Harlow's in Sacramento, CA
  • 2.19 - Wild Buffalo House in Bellingham, WA
  • 2.20 - Dante's in Portland, OR
  • 2.21 - El Corazon in Seattle, WA
Visit the DANKO JONES online:

dankojones.com facebook.com/dankojones

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