Here at rushonrock we like to remember Justin Hawkins as a fresh-faced hair metal God in his pomp rock prime, playing to a sell-out crowd at Newcastle University’s sweaty underbelly of a live venue. And it seems the old boy hasn’t really changed. With new band Hot Leg ready to give Extreme a run for their money at Newcastle City Hall next month we caught up with Mr Darkness himself.
Justin Hawkins: The decision about what kind of band we were going to be was never an issue. We’ve been working on the album for a while now and it was always going to be a straight rock record. It’s always been my thing and I won’t change. Finding the right guys to do my thing with has been a challenge. I found our drummer Darby in January. He’s inhumanly good and he recommended Sam and he, in turn, recommended Pete. Everybody’s got the same sense of humour, everybody’s into the same kind of thing and it’s been really lovely.
rushonrock: Has there been obvious scepticism in the wake of your comeback?
JH: I think even if I’d stayed in The Darkness the scepticism would have been there. It’s not something that I worry about. It just becomes your duty to silence it. You show people how good you really are and do the biggest and best shows you possibly can. Hot Leg is sweatier and more fun and I’m loving it. But for a band like The Darkness to get to arena level – that was the natural conclusion. Along the way the best work we did was in the smaller venues where we could really connect with the audiences. The big stuff is a lot harder to pull off and we never really nailed the big arena shows. If you went to see Bon Jovi they would deliver the perfect arena concert. In The Darkness we couldn’t quite do that.
JH: Overall it’s been really positive. I’ve been quite surprised in fact. Everybody told me I’d get a real slating when I returned with Hot Leg and that would have been totally expected. So absolutely everything positive that I see or read is a total bonus. There’s no bitterness. The new material is the strongest that I’ve ever written and everyone is excited to be playing the songs live. We can’t afford to get bogged down in what people might think of me or my past. That would really deflect from the Hot Leg experience – four men rocking as hard as possible. We’ll be doing proper rock shows. There are bands in the world who seem to be having fun to amuse themselves – we’re having fun to entertain our fans.
rushonrock: How excited are you to have the chance to tour with Extreme?
JH: Pete our guitar player is having kittens. They’re one of his favourite bands of all time. Before we nabbed the support slot we saw that they’d reformed and they were going to tour the UK. We said just imagine if we got that gig? And we did! We’re totally over the moon about it. Nuno is one of the best guitarists in the world and I’m really keen to see how he works and lives his life. He’s such a talented guy and a great role model.
JH: Creativity, or a lack of it, is the main reason I quit. Everyone just assumes I took lots of drugs and jacked it in. In fact I knew the second record wasn’t as creative as the first. The Darkness had run its course and I had run my course with The Darkness. Had my brother not been in the band I would have quit sooner.
rushonrock: Talking of Dan are you still close and what do you think of Stone Gods?
JH: I love my brother dearly and I think the Stone Gods’ record is an awesome album. My brother co-produced it and I’m really proud of what he’s done. He’s a very talented musician and I’m glad those talents have been acknowledged.
JH: Lasting a little bit longer than The Darkness is inevitably what will happen. The problem with my old band was that a lot of people were pulling in too many different directions and the whole thing just snapped. Hot Leg won’t suffer from the same thing at all. It’s not about me and a cat suit – it’s a much more focused unit. In terms of longevity I don’t think there’s an end in sight. It’s a very exciting time for me.