By Chris Illich
After releasing seven albums, three EPs, four compilations, a written Oral History, over 100 podcasts, whilst performing on stage with Lemmy and Motorhead and Axl Rose and Guns N’ Roses, Danko Jones has become synonymous with Canadian rock ‘n’ roll. I had the opportunity to talk with him about his most recent release, Fire Music and his career as a musician.
So your newest album Fire Music came out last February, how has the tour cycle been for it this past year?
We’ve been on the road for Fire Music since March this year so it’s been a good ten months of touring and supporting it and it has been good. The response has been great for it, better than any of our records in the past. We’re actually making end-of-year lists, so that’s nice for a change. We’ve never really had that happen before. Supporting our record is what I do. We go on tour; this is my job, my career, my hobby and its what I’ve always wanted to do.
With Fire Music, you worked with Eric Ratz – someone that you worked with before in the past on My Love is Bold in 1999. What was it like revisiting that relationship?
Well, since then both the band and his career have both sprouted wings and grown. It was time for us to reconnect and work together after so many years. Our career trajectory was on an upward swing and it made sense. We had a few albums under our belt and knew what to expect in the studio. It was an easy connection to make because he’s an old rocker dude and he gets what we play, unlike a lot of producers in this country.
After twenty years of rocking, are there any things that you wish you didn’t do, or wished you knew what you were getting into beforehand? Any regrets?
Now that we’re reaching the 20th year I usually just say ‘nothing’ because it got us to where we are now. We are not in control of the general sway of where music went. I would have loved music to have gone more toward rock ‘n’ roll than towards the folksy music that it did, especially in Canada, but we have no control over that. Decisions made were the right ones at the time.
The decisions that we made business-wise, maybe they were wrong, but we made way more correct decisions than wrong ones. We never signed a record deal that kept us locked into some horrible contract that so many bands we saw did. We own our masters, we own our publishing – something we saw so many bands sign away for a quick grab at cash. No matter how broke we were, we were always able to stay the course. We’re here, I’m talking to you on the eve of our 20th anniversary because I think we did make the right decisions. I don’t think there’s anything to lament or wish was different or regret.
I first saw you perform when I was a young 16-year-old, nearly 15 years ago, when you performed at Mindbomb here in St. Catharines. Listening to you now, you, without sounding rude, have stuck with the same sound. You are rock ‘n’ roll. That being said, how have you seen yourself and the band evolve over the past twenty years?
I don’t like the word evolving, because the word evolving suggests that what you did in the past wasn’t as good as what you’re doing in the present, and a lot of the time, the initial spark is what everyone loves. So many people love band’s first few albums and didn’t pay attention to the later part of their discography. But, we have never ever thought of ourselves as anything but rock ‘n’ roll or a hard rock band. There are so many shades to rock music that most people don’t realize or have forgotten, or don’t know about, or don’t care about. So many bands that have different shades that influence us. I relish the fact that we do have a signature sound where someone can hear it and think ‘that sounds like Danko Jones’. That’s something that I find to be a success on our part.
So from someone who has been part of the music business for over twenty years, what wisdom would you impart on a musician who is hoping to carry out a profession in music?
It’s a terrible business filled with people who are rats and snakes and take advantage of you. If you don’t have thick skin or are too sensitive, its going to scar you. It’s probably not worth it now because nobody really buys music all that much and when the rats and the snakes can smell money they will swarm at you and kick at your flesh until your dead. The best thing to do to stay afloat in the music business is to just buy music, it doesn’t have to be vinyl, those are for come-lately poseurs. Buy it in any format, buy vinyl, buy stuff on iTunes, listen to a lot of music, keep playing if you want to, but don’t put all your cards in it, because it’s a terrible business to be in.
If even one person takes that advice and it saves them from a lifetime of anguish and regret then that’s great. I’ve just seen to many people invest so much money and time and life into it and when it doesn’t work out the way they want it to, they are just crushed. It might sound shitty coming from me, because I’m in the music industry, but I did it twenty years ago. Today? I don’t think I’d start a band the way I did twenty years ago. There was no Napster, there was no vinyl resurgence because people were buying vinyl. It was the right time to start a band and the right time to have aspirations that were bigger than Canada.
Danko Jones performs at L3 Nightclub on January 22. Tickets are available at Mindbomb Records.