The Darkness: “We just see how far we can get before the solos go flying off the edge of the cliff”

The Darkness
(Image credit: Mariano Regidor/Redferns)

Let’s get one thing out of the way: yes, The Darkness wrote and recorded their new full-length album, Motorheart, during the dark days of the global pandemic. But don’t expect it to be their introspective, Taylor-Swift-in-a-cabin-in-the-woods record. 

“We figured we’re going to come out of the pandemic one of these days, and when we do, we’re going to be playing this record live,” guitarist Dan Hawkins says. “And people aren’t going to want to go out there and listen to us going, ‘Oh, woe is me.’ When they’re finally allowed to have a good time, they’re gonna want to have a good time. So we didn’t want to end up with an album that was maudlin.”

“There shouldn’t be anything on there that makes you weep,” frontman Justin Hawkins adds. “Although, you know, guitar solos, they make me cry when I hear them, but not in exactly the same way.”

And so, dear reader, the Darkness present Motorheart, a nine-song, non-weepy opus resplendent with raging riff-rock (It’s Love, Jim), rampaging metal (Nobody Can See Me Cry), AC/DC-esque fist-pumpers (The Power and Glory of Love), sticky power-pop nuggets (Jussy’s Girl), Thin Lizzy-like bangers (Eastbound) and, of course, the pomp-y, proggy title track, a gloriously over-the-top epic about – what else? – a sex robot. “And what’s more soothing than listening to a bloke go on about a robot?,” Dan asks.

Despite lockdown, The Darkness, which also includes bassist Frankie Poullain and drummer Rufus Taylor, managed to work fast, with Dan and Rufus hammering out song ideas at the guitarist’s home studio in England, and then sending them over to Justin in Switzerland, who added vocals, melodies and, eventually, solos. As for how he handles the guitar leads, Justin says there’s a lot of improv involved: “We just see how far we can get before it goes flying off the edge of the cliff.”

Dan, meanwhile, is content to stick to rhythm work, characterizing himself as the Malcolm Young of the operation. “I steer Justin toward being the soloist because he’s really great and I’m pretty shit,” he says with a laugh. “I’m not even sure I did any solos on this record. So, you know, mission accomplished.”

You could say the same for Motorheart. “It’s like an anti-statement,” Justin says. “It’s just about reckless, joyous abandon. It’s an invitation to immerse yourself in something that isn’t going to make you worried.” He pauses. “Unless you worry about my personality defects that have led to a series of disappointing relationships.”

On occasion, apparently, even with robots.

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.