By Jeff Maisey
Most of us were introduced to the music of The Darkness when the whimsical song “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” garnered airplay and seemed to be heard everywhere.
That was 2003, and the group took the world by storm. The quartet from England came across as one part “Spinal Tap,” one part operatic rock band Queen, and one part “Hocus Pocus” by Focus.
The age of glam rock was back — at least for one fleeting moment.
Since its magical beginning, The Darkness has had its ups and downs with breakups, makeups, reunions and all the rest.
The Darkness has managed to release five studio albums with its most recent being 2017’s “Pinewood Smile.”
I recently posed a few questions to bassist Frankie Poullain. His answers, as one might expect, are as quirky as the rock stars themselves.
VEER: What are the biggest differences between The Darkness’ new album Pinewood Smile and the band’s debut Permission To Land?
Frankie Poullain: Our egos are smaller but our cocks are bigger.
VEER: Would you say Pinewood Smile is a solid return to the original form of Permission to Land?
FP: Never return, just funnel forwards through the treacherous waters of time and destiny.
VEER: The Darkness will be playing The NorVa here in Norfolk on April 25th on the Tour de Prance. What do you like most about touring now compared to the Permission to Land support tour?
FP: Job satisfaction, we’re so much better and energized. The sense of brotherhood we have with each other. And the fact that we are now experiencing a simulation of reality whereas that was actual reality.
VEER: What was the most memorable experience you can recall from that first major tour in support of the debut album?
FP: Talking to, first, Jim Jarmusch, then Tilda Swinton backstage at the Henry Fonda in 2004, then introducing them, though she was initially reluctant. They went on to work together on several movies. I hope that doesn’t make me sound big headed but there it is.
VEER: Which specific record, albums or songs would you say influenced the songwriting and sound of The Darkness early on? And what are the band’s biggest influences now?
FP: All kinds of stuff and not always the obvious ones. Permission To Land might be more AC/DC and One Way Ticket more Queen, then Hotcakes had an Aerosmith vibe in places. Led Zep, Fleetwood Mac, Abba and Thin Lizzy are usually sniffing around too.
VEER: What were those early band rehearsals and discussion of musical direction like for you and the band when The Darkness was first forming?
FP: Pretty intense as our lives depended on it. We gave ourselves no choice. That’s the key. That and being true to yourself, which is harder than it sounds. If you’re a dick.
VEER: The Darkness had immediate success with Permission to Land. Can you describe the impact that had on you and the other band members at that time? Did this early success create stress and pressure within the band or was it a thrill to experience together?
FP: Both. The thrill, the partying and then the problems. Mainly from the people around us. Musicians are usually good at being people. At first. But then no one is incorruptible. Even Mother Theresa bitched on people.
VEER: “Musical differences” is attributed to your reason for leaving the band. What were those musical differences?
FP: I preferred Schoenberg’s early quartets but Justin insisted on his later symphonies.
VEER: What prompted you to rejoin The Darkness? We’re glad you did!
FP: Are you sure about that? Someone’s got to fill that low end, I suppose. I just couldn’t bear to see a Fender onstage with the band, it has to be Gibson. My Mum told me too so she could tell the guy on the Supermarket deli counter.
VEER: Can The Darkness still be the savior of British heavy metal?
FP: We’re the savior of something, but I’m pretty sure it’s not heavy metal. The savior of British heavy shit.
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