18 Feb 2006

Step into The Darkness

+ posted by FlamingWhopper

Known for their outrageous stage performances and an impressive retro hard rock wardrobe only Spinal Tap fans could appreciate, it's easy to picture the British rockers from The Darkness feeling right at home in the Cantina. In fact, band members Justin Hawkins (lead vocals/guitars/keyboards), Dan Hawkins (guitar), Ed Graham (drummer) and Richie Edwards (bass) are happy to suggest which characters they're most like.

"I'm Han Solo because I'm dashing, rugged, not afraid to stare danger in the face and take it head on, a hit with the ladies and a very good driver," Edwards says. "And I have a friend who is very hairy. Our drummer Ed is Yoda. He's very wise -- a man of few words -- but when he does speak you'd better listen, because it's gonna be gold!"

"And he also muddles his sentences up, but not on purpose," Hawkins adds. "Dan is C-3PO. He's efficient, driven, focused. I'm R2-D2, because only a select few can understand me. Plus I'm good with technology and a bit shorter than everyone else." [Hawkins is actually 5"11', the shortest man in a very tall band.]

On the flipside, they all agree that of the characters in the Star Wars saga, Jabba the Hutt would be the best addition to the Darkness for all concerned. "Jabba the Hutt would be a big stage presence, and we wouldn't need to buy inflatable props and because he'd make us all feel a bit thinner," Hawkins laughs.

The Star Wars saga holds a special place for the Darkness, as most of the members grew up watching their favorite characters (including Jabba) come to life in their own living rooms. "Several generations saw the films on TV on Boxing Day," Hawkins says. "Star Wars was always on the telly! It's a family film, fantasy-based but with jokes. It's much better than James Bond!"

While Hawkins remembers endless viewings of the film, Graham and Edwards' first Star Wars memory involves being visited at their school by the Dark Lord of the Sith himself -- David Prowse -- or rather as his alter ego the Green Cross Code Man, a promoter of road safety. But perhaps the biggest impact on the band's appreciation for Star Wars can be attributed to the amount of action figures and other collectibles they've amassed over the years.

"Jabba the Hutt and his throne were my prize possession in my Star Wars collection," Graham says. "I owned -- and probably still do -- in a cardboard box at my parents' house a large collection of figures. I had not one but two X-wings and also a pair of speeder bikes. My older brother also made for me a homemade model of the Ewok village constructed from coconut shells and brown-painted plastic bottles!"

"At age six, I received an action figure but at the time I had no idea what it was," Edwards laughs. "It had lever at the side of its head, and you would look through its eyes. I realized much later that it was Boba Fett. At church I remember banging it on the pew throughout the service."

"I had Boba Fett with Han Solo frozen in carbonite," Hawkins adds. "My dad often referred to Han as the 'frozen ham sandwich.' I also have the Millennium Falcon, bumper TIE fighter set, Yoda's cave on Dagobah (all LEGO), a nodding Darth Vader for back of car and my most prized item -- a 1992 Data East Star Wars pinball machine bought from eBay for a cool £1,000! I'm half-way through the X-wing. The non-symmetrical Millennium Falcon was a challenge, but the TIE fighters and X-wings, not so much."

The Star Wars pinball machine was such a hit with the band that they moved it to the recording studio so they could all test their skills when they weren't working on their latest album.

However, long before the Darkness had such posh perks as recording studio complete with a Force-sensitive pinball machine, the band began as an indie band named, ironically enough -- Empire. After a rather eventful karaoke session on New Year's Eve 1999, where Hawkins impressed friends with his rendition of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," he decided the band would be better off paying tribute to the sounds of late-'70s hard rock, and the Darkness was born. Hawkins and his band played London's pub circuit for two years -- steadily gaining word-of-mouth momentum from fans hungry to witness their gaudy costumes, ear-piercing falsettos and elaborate guitar solos live on stage.

In 2002, the Darkness released their debut EP I Believe in a Thing Called Love, through the independent music label Must Destroy Music; and earned a coveted spot as the opening band for rock legends Deep Purple and Def Leppard. In 2003, the release of the single "Get Your Hands Off My Woman" single got the attention of a major-label and soon the band was part of the Atlantic Records family. That same year, the Darkness released their full-length debut, Permission to Land. The campy, space-themed music video for their song "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" made an impression as a heavy rotation hit on MTV and gained them further fandom internationally. The band toured nonstop until they returned to the studio to work on their next full-length album One Way Ticket to Hell...and Back, which was released in late 2005.

As their second full-length record hit store shelves, the band made their way to the theaters to catch Revenge of the Sith. "I thought it was the best of the new trilogy, possibly because it features a recognizable character in Darth Vader," Hawkins says. "I was surprised at how long it took these intuitive masters to spot the rotten egg though. It's apparent that the story is a Faustian tale of selling one's soul to the Devil. Anakin is blinded by the Emperor's misinformation as to the ultimate causes. He's specific about the ability to keep someone alive but vague about the downside of using that power. That's always the way with the legend of riches and worldly gain; the nature of temptation is that you're blinded by these things. Although with Faust, his soul is consumed after seven specific acts -- there's only one in the Jedi version."

"Star Wars has enriched all of our lives by providing a morality code that is less polarized than other superhero kinds of movies," Hawkins continues. "The bad choices that the Jedi make to turn to the dark side are informed by their desire to use the Force to help their loved ones. For example, Anakin and Padmé; or when Luke loses his hand by going to help his friends in ignorance of the correct path shown to him by Yoda. The same internal crises affect characters like Han Solo who are always selfish -- thinking of what's in it for them. Other movies have to resort to splitting a character in two (i.e. Superman III) to reflect this duality. So Star Wars is actually more mature in its take on this."

Hawkins wasn't the only band mate with a few theories. "Episode III was magical because it ties it all together," Graham says. "And it was truly a sad moment when the Jedi younglings are killed. But what I want to know is did it really take them 20 years to build the Death Star? We saw that there was scaffolding on it when Luke and Leia were born."

In addition to their thoughts on the story, the band members were impressed with the film's moving musical score. "John Williams' score is what makes the Star Wars trilogy far superior to any sci-fi made since 1990, or indeed to any genre action movie," Hawkins says. "You need a theme tune, that's why it supposed to be a multi-sensory experience. Mission Impossible has a good theme. And the "Scooby Doo" score was used on every single episode. John Williams is the best in the business, no doubt about it. Many potentially great films are let down by their score, they fail to connect what you see with what you hear. Now when you see a shark you think the 'den-den, den-den' theme to Jaws. Images from Star Wars evoke the soundtrack and vice versa in the same way."

Now that the entire saga is available on DVD, the band is eager to have a marathon viewing, paying close attention to their favorite flick in the series -- The Empire Strikes Back. "I'd like to watch them all in order now," Graham says. "My favorite is still The Empire Strikes Back for the battle scenes."

"That is still one of the best films ever made," Hawkins agrees. "The best quotes from the pinball machine are all from Empire!"

To learn more about the new album, who's getting the highest score on the Star Wars pinball machine in the studio and facts about the band in general, visit the official Darkness site here.

Stay tuned to Star Wars Rocks for more interviews from some of your favorite bands and celebrities.

Credit: www.starwars.com

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