Brit rockers The Darkness are celebrating the release of their 2003 debut, Permission to Land, with a re-release of the multi-platinum album and a tour that kicks off in San Francisco next week.
The Brit rockers have been more active than ever after reuniting in 2011, most recently on 2021’s Motorheart, and they are already hard at work on their next one, as bassist Frankie Poullain said over email last week.
But the rest of 2023 is all about marking an anniversary of an audacious entry to the world 20 years earlier with a combination of outrageous rock, glam fashion and over-the-top personality. It was made even more improbable because the popular music at the time was no-fill, jangly alt-rock.
Permission To Land won The Darkness three BRIT Awards; Best British Album, Best British Group and Best British Rock Act. They quickly crossed over to the U.S., an almost unthinkable accomplishment these days, with songs like “I Believe In A Thing Called Love,” “Growing On Me” and “Get Your Hands Off My Woman.”
But just as quickly, their flame burned out, due in large part to frontman Justin Hawkins’ headline-grabbing substance use and extravagant living. In 2006, he checked into rehab, ending the band.
In 2011, they reunited. Most of the indulgences were gone, Hawkins was sober, and the band, which also includes his brother and lead guitarist Dan Hawkins and drummer Rufus Taylor (who replaced Ed Graham in 2015), was focused more than ever.
What made it possible?
“Getting our hands off each other’s women, not to mention the cessation of all earnest, sincere, apologetic and watery sentiments,” Poullain said.
On its Permission to Land 20 tour, The Darkness will play the album in full, as well as its biggest hits and fan favorites from the others like 2005’s One Way Ticket to Hell… and Back, 2012 return Hot Cakes, 2015’s Last Of Our Kind, 2015’s Pinewood Smile (which became their third U.K. Top 10 album) and 2019’s appropriately titled Easter Is Cancelled.
The re-issued album, Permission To Land…Again, includes B-sides, demos, three concert recordings and more.
Poullain took some time to irreverently answer our questions about The Darkness’ landmark album and what the band is up to next.
The band is making a point that these shows will be like reliving those songs back in 2003, but in what ways are your performances different now than what they were like before?
Frankie Poullain: We are more comfortable in our own skin, even occasionally in others’ skin, depending on the mood we’re in. We cherish the value of friendship, gratitude, longevity and the small of a woman’s back — even if we are more likely to be confronted by the ‘smell’ of a ‘man’s’ back…
How does it feel going from focusing on your latest two albums, Easter is Cancelled and Motorheart, back to Permission To Land? Is it a difficult adjustment either mentally or from a technical, playing standpoint?
It’s what we do; the adjustment from theatrical hard rock to theatrical rock ‘n’ roll isn’t huge, to be honest. The mental adjustment is pretty straightforward, though the emotional one can be shattering. Who am I kidding here? It’s all gravy, baby…
Are there any unshared stories left from the making of the album that you’d like to share with me now? About a song or time spent in the studio, perhaps?
By my count, Rufus Taylor (son of Queen’s Roger Taylor) has been drummer in The Darkness longer than Ed Graham. How does he add to those Permission to Land songs that is either different or wasn’t there originally?
He adds ballast and other words that sound similar. For example he has two large “balls,” and hopefully he’ll be our “last” drummer.
You’ve been on the road a bunch since international travel was allowed again, so some of these early hits you’ve played a bunch already. Is there a song or two from the debut that you’re waiting to show some love after some neglect?
“Holding My Own,” so I get to finally weep onstage. And “Stuck in a Rut,” so I get to finally ejaculate. Onstage.
What has The Darkness been up to outside of touring the past year?
We get together in Cornwall to write new stuff; it’s sheer joy and hard work. The ego must be prepared to be dented furiously as one presents a new piece to occasional dead-eyed silence, or better, hoots of mirth. Justin has become the charming, loquacious sage of YouTube, and I’m delighted for him.
When Permission to Land first landed, the band talked about proving doubters and skeptics wrong. Is there anything else the band has to prove to anyone?
No one is ever really wrong, except for new age conspiracy theorists and obnoxiously entitled right wing “wellness” fairies. Rock ‘n’ roll is the greatest prove-r wrong-er there has ever been. In recent history, anyway…
Are the four of you writing new songs already, or will you be taking it easy after this anniversary Permission to Land 20 tour?
We are writing and absolutely loving it, building up a lovely head of steam in the U.K. and entering our raspberry period—succulent, tangy and moreish despite—or rather because of—the little caterpillars that reside within said fruit.
Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.