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Interview: Danko Jones

mit John Calabrese vom 8. Mai 2013 im Posthof, Linz
Dass der Rock 'n' Roll eine launische Geliebte sein kann, spüren viele Bands nur zu gut am eigenen Leib. Manche früher, manche später, aber abbekommen tun sie es fast alle. Um so erstaunlicher ist es, dass sich das kanadische Rock-Trio Danko Jones mit ihrem namengebenden Frontmann, im Laufe der letzten 18 Jahren zu einer festen Größe im Rock-Zirkus avanciert hat.
Mag sein, dass die Anfänge der Truppe nicht leicht waren, vor allem der Schritt über den großen Teich schien zu Beginn eine unüberwindbare Hürde. Und doch, mit viel Hartnäckigkeit und Herzblut, gelang es der Formation sich auch in Europa zu etablieren. Den Kanadiern sagt man ja bekanntlich eine gewisse Nettigkeit nach, dennoch zeigen neun Studio-Alben, zwei Live DVD's, eine B-Seiten-Compilation und einige EP's von der Kompromisslosigkeit des Trios.
Die Einladung aufs Wacken Festival war dann der längst überfällige Ritterschlag für die Band. Seit dem sind sie vom Alternative-Rock nicht mehr wegzudenken und so machen sie sich - wieder einmal - auf, den Rock 'n' Roll zu predigen. Und das aktuelle Release Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue scheint dafür das richtige Werkzeug zu sein. Zum zweiten Mal besuchten sie die oberösterreichische Hauptstadt Linz, was wir uns zum Anlass nahmen, der Kombo mal auf den kanadischen Zahn zu fühlen. Nachdem mit Atom Willard ein neuer Drummer gefunden wurde, der schon bei Rocket From The Crypt, The Offspring, Social Distortion oder Angels & Airwaves die Felle massierte, gibt es alleine diesbezüglich eine Menge Fragen.
Der sympathische Bassist der Truppe, John Calabrese, erzählt wie es war, in Wacken zu spielen und welche Festival heuer sonst noch anstehen. Interessant wird es auch, wenn er seine Meinung zu dem zur Zeit um sich greifende Phänomen der Casting Shows äußerst und es für sich persönlich entschieden ablehnt. Außerdem scheint er gefallen am österreichischem Bier und Wein gefunden zu haben, aber lest am besten einfach selbst!
Viel Spaß mit dem Interview!

The Interview:

Michael Voit: Hi guys, it's Metal Trails. We're here at the Posthof in Linz and I'm talking to ...
John Calabrese: JC from Danko Jones!
Michael: How are you doing?
John: All things are great. I'm lookin forward to the show.
Michael: This is not the first time you play here in Austria, especially in Linz?
John: The last time we were in Austria, we were in Vienna, which was in November. But I think the last time we were in Linz was probably four years ago. So I think we were at Posthof as well, but in the smaller hall.
Michael: Do you have time for sightseeing?
John: Just this park in front of the venue. (laughs)
We haven't had the chance to do anything yet. Now we have just finished our soundcheck, maybe after the interview I'll go for a run to Donau-Park. Is that right?
Michael: Yes, the Donau-Park is about two kilometers from here. Did you have the chance to try our excellent beer?
John: No, but tonight of course. After the show I will try many beers. I'll do all the quality controls. (laughs)
And Austria has excellent wine as well. So that's very good.
Michael: In the last month you toured a lot and it goes on until mid September….
John: Yeah, we always tour a lot. (laughs)
Michael: Is it still fun to be on the road?
John: Oh yeah, it's great. I love being on the road. It's a pleasure, when you came to a venue like this. Everything's so organized. It's very pleasant. Not the typical rock 'n' roll club, where are no toilets and nothing's working. This is very nice.
Michael: How do you deal with the fact, that you are often far away from your friends and families?
John: It's tough but it is what I do, so … On the other side is, I can be away for many months, but then when I'm home, I'm always around.
Michael: What part of the touring job do you enjoy the most?
John: Playing. That's the best part, definitely! The part that I don't like the most is flying. I don't like flying anymore … I used to like flying, but now I hate it. Getting on the airplane, and the securities ….
Michael: But I think you have to fly a lot ...
John: Yeah, I fly all the time, that's why I don't like it, to be honest.
Michael: Does one have to be more entertainer nowadays when compared to twenty years ago? What do you think?
John: I think that there's a lot more bands today. I think that, regardless twenty years past or twenty years forward in the future, that you have to be a good band. A good live band. And so if you are a good live band and the people come to see you, and will continue to see you. If you're not as good, than you probably have a bit of trouble. And struggles doing it.
Michael: You play together for more than 16 years …
John: Yeah, almost 18 years.
Michael: Wow! What's your formular to keep the band clean of conflicts?
John: We just work hard. There's no bad habits or anything like that. Of course there's always conflicts, but there's not anything that's detrimental. Cause we need to have a sort of pushes and pulls within what would be argued like creative arguments, but it's nothing that is detrimental. And, you know, for us doing it this long it's a testament, too. Hard work more than anything.
Michael: You played 2011 at the Wacken Open Air. How was this experience?
John: Oh, Wacken is always amazing. I think we went on stage ten minutes after Kreator on a different stage. They run stage A and we ran stage B. It's just so many people and so well organized. You know, Wacken Open Air is really about hard music and metal so there's so many great bands played there in years. We went backstage with Danko and we saw the guys from the Scorpions. And we say "Hi!" to them and it was pretty fun! It's just fun because it's a fun festival.
Michael: Last year Danko does the spoken word like Henry Rollins, what about this year?
John: This year it's an off-year for Wacken. So hopefully next year again. (laughs)
I think they are having us every year now, that is a bit odd. We really love the festival and they've been very gracious to us, having us over the years. We played there all together three times now with Danko and the spoken word as well.
Michael: In June and July you play a lot of festival. Which is your personal favorite festival?
John: There are so many festivals out there. On this run I think the Southside and Hurricane-Festival, the ones in Germany, are really good. There's PinkPop at Holland and Lowlands are great. And of course Wacken!
Michael: Last year you released the album "Rock and Roll Is Black And Blue". Why especially "black and blue"?
John: You know, when you say something is "black and blue", you're saying it's beat up, and it's gone to like a fight and stuff. So Rock and Roll is taking a bit of a beating and that's what we thought.
Michael: How has been the reactions on the album?
John: Oh, it's been good so far. We are still touring. It's been good in the US as well. One song got good play on the radio. And we are playing the songs live and the crowd seems to like it. It's been great.
Michael: In my opinion the new album is a bit more rough than "Below The Belt"….
John: In a way….It's the same band, we do not try to do anything new.
Michael: Okay, but it sounds like you're going back to your roots.
John: Ah okay, I think we left the roots too too far, but yeah, I know what you mean.
Michael: Also very interesting: the gospel-like intro of "I Believe In God". It's a nice contrast, who came up with this idea?
John: We're discussing it at the studio and then we got this backup singers and we got this gospel-feel into it. Yeah, sounds nice.
Michael: "Just a beautiful Day" was the first single, and reached position number 29 on the US Charts! Your highest position to date.
John: Yes, 29 or 26 or something like that. It's been a few years now, that we're working on the radio in the US. It's nice to see that.
Michael: I saw "Rock and Roll Is Black And Blue" came also out on vinyl…
John: Yeah, we put everything out on vinyl!
Michael: What's your opinion on vinyl?
John: Oh, it's just the artwork looks cooler cause it's bigger. I've been collecting vinyl for years now. We always put all our records out on vinyl, so it's just cool to have.
Michael: Do you think Danko Jones can live from selling CD's? Is it possible?
John: Nobody sells CD's anymore. We live from touring. It's impossible to sell CD's.
Michael: And there's that internet-piracy problem.
John: Yeah, but that's not even the thing. You can't just limit it to one medium and expect just to make a living out of selling CD's.
Michael: Do you think any of your songs is today more relevant than in the time you wrote it?
John: They are are just rock 'n' roll songs about a good time. So there as relevant now as in the time we wrote it. (laughs)
We're not trying to save the world or do anything different. We're just wanting a girl or having a girl or wanna be with one. The message is not that deep. If it makes you have a good time for about three minutes, and you don't think about your work or your problems, then we did a good job.
Michael: Bono can save the world.
John: Yeah, we leave it up to him. It's not that I don't care, but it's not our job.
Michael: With which music do you personally grow up?
John: I grow up to listening to all kinds of stuff: From Metallica to The Clash….more punk rock and metal when I was growing up.
Michael: Let's take a look at the songwriting: How did you guys do it? Did you come up with finish songs or more like rough ideas and fragments?
John: No, we go in with finished songs. Cause the time in the studio is precious so we do all the demos on computers now, these days it's really simple.
Michael: What do you think, what is the most difficult part of the songwriting process?
John: Pickin' which songs to use, cause we have so many songs. For this record there is about 40+. So we had to pick and choose which one to use. If it was writing a song, then we shouldn't be doing it. (laughs)
Michael: Is there a point where you might lose objectivity when looking at your own work?
John: Yes, when you think about stuff to much. If it's good it's good, there's no sense in trying polishing an idea that's not there.
Michael: But nowadays you have so many possibilities to put things and filler in the songs…
John: Yes, but you know, in the end of the day you know when it's good and you know when it's not. You know, you can put all kinds of things around a box. But if that box is filled with poo then it's still gonna be filled with poo. (laughs)
Michael: Do you think your musical style has developed over the years?
John: I think the songwriting is gotten better, we definitely been able to play the instruments better and yeah, that's about it. And there's definitely more thought behind the vocal phrasings, the melodies…it's just stuff, that comes with the years: Practicing, playing, touring and seeing other bands. And of course, listening to music, that's the most important part. We need listening to lot's of music.
Michael: Since 2011 you have a new drummer in your Line-Up! Atom Willard who played for bands like "Rocket from the Crypt", "The Offspring", "Angels & Airwaves" or "Social Distortion". Why did you choose him?
John: Oh, he has been a fan and a friend of the band. So we thought his style would be suitable for the band. And the resume does speak for itself.
Michael: What do you think about the Rock-cliché "Sex, Drugs & Rock 'n' Roll"? Is it jaded or still alive?
John: Hm, for us…we just do the rock 'n' roll part. The drugs is not a fun thing to be doing on the road. Especially you loose friends and see what happens to people over the years. Sex is always there, but you know, i think after the eighties we lost the "sex drugs and rock 'n' roll thing" a little bit. Yes, to answer your question, it is dated. We're just a rock 'n' roll band.
Michael: What do you think about this Casting Shows and the TV-made stars? Is this the way Music should be made?
John: I think that's just a shortcut to fame and fortune and if you're doing this for fame and fortune, it's the wrong reason to be doing this what I do, playing music. To be famous for one minute is not really what I wanted to do, when I started this. What our band is doing, is we've been touring for 18 years now and it's the only thing we know how to do and so that's the thing we keep doing.
Michael: Last Week the Metal genre lost a real Hero ... Jeff Hanneman of Slayer. Did you guys ever met him?
John: No, I never met Jeff. I met Kerry but yeah, it was definitely a sad day.
Michael: If you could change one thing in music industry, what would it be?
John: Never been thougt about that ... All the clubs should have nice backstages for the bands. So the bands can be comfortable on tour. See, I'm thinking for everybody. (laughs)
Michael: You appear on the videogame "Need for Speed - Nitro"….
John: Yeah, was it "Code of The Road"?
Michael: Exactly, with "Code Of The Road". Is there maybe a favorite movie you wanted to bring in a song too?
John: Ah, no, but we're in a movie called "Kick Ass 2" this summer with the song "Dance".
Michael: Are you already working on new material?
John: Some ideas here and there, but nothing concrete.
Michael: Did you write songs on tour?
John: Yeah, a little bit now, but not too much. Just try out some little things.
Michael: Okay, that means you do the writing process at home?
John: Yes, it's easily home, we just come back home and spent some time…
Michael: One question left: What happens next?
John: We play a good kick ass rock show. (laughs)
And lots more touring for the band.
Michael: That's it, thanks again for your time!
John: No problem, you come and see our show tonight?
Michael: Yes, of course.
John: Great. See you there!
Moderation: Michael Voit

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