Out of The Darkness

As the '70s glam-rockers prepare for their Australian gigs, Frankie Poullain shares how they plan to shake things up

Welcome to The Darkness again. These '70s-influenced glam-rockers are ready to stage their elaborate live show in Australia. No doubt this will mean crazy, stupid stunts, childish behaviour and a rollicking good time as this English outfit run through their epically flamboyant and humorously over-the-top rock songs that marry Queen, Led Zeppelin and White Snake.

The Darkness are that special sort of act - mischievous, stupendously dramatic and hopelessly aloof to name a few superlatives. Bass-player Frankie Poullain knows that people still get a kick out of their antics.

''We are very childish,'' Poullain says. ''We are lucky to be able to do that, as we do the naughty schoolboy kind of thing and it's just great … I think people have to grow up way too quickly in life and I think it is very sad.''

In the early 2000s, The Darkness were the ultimate rock group and leading British music magazine Kerrang! dubbed them ''the greatest rock'n'roll band of the past 20 years''. On top of that, the band enjoyed sold-out shows across the globe, were nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and won three Brit Awards - best act, best rock act and best album. Their second album, 2005's One Way Ticket to Hell … and Back, reached platinum status in Britain but also marked the decline of lead-singer Justin Hawkins, who was admitted to a rehabilitation clinic for health-related issues.

The heady days of success took their toll, but Poullain managed to get a prime piece of real estate.

''He [Hawkins] went from being this amazing specimen doing star jumps on stage and in physically amazing shape to being completely right into the rock'n'roll car-crash kind of thing - being hard on the narcotics and booze and excesses and living life in the fast lane - but he's definitely come out the other side.


''We've all bought into the rock'n'roll dream and everything in all different ways - I even ended up buying a chateau in France.''

The Darkness re-formed in 2011, reverting back to their eclectic taste in music: they have no problem lending from the glam, heavy and rebellious rock of the '60s, '70s and '80s.

''Journalists would call it postmodernism,'' Poullain says. ''You know the magpie kind of thing we are taking a little bit from here and a little bit from there and mixing it all together.

It's a food analogy in a way - we're taking all these ingredients and making our own kind of stew.''

That stew will be for all to hear at the ANU Bar next Thursday, but ask Poullain what they're going to be doing here and he's not exactly sure. As ever, The Darkness are that spontaneous supergroup wishing to ''fly by the seat of their pants''.

''We haven't really decided what we are going to do, although the last tour we did in February in America was the best tour we ever did as people were doing crazy balcony jumps and we got a big picture in Rolling Stone of someone leaping from the balcony and it's just a classic. We just felt like we were coming home when we went to the States.''

If everything seemed familiar to The Darkness after a highly successful North American reunion tour, Poullain swiftly dismisses the notion it only seemed like yesterday when 2003's Permission to Land sold over one million albums and spawned such classic hits as I Believe in a Thing Called Love, Growing on Me and Get Your Hands Off My Woman.

''I've been married and divorced since then and quite a few things have happened as there has been two different iPads and there's been five different iPhones,'' Poullain says, laughing. ''It has been a while and the whole music industry has changed and we were lucky we got the tail end of it - you know the tail end of a different music industry where people bought albums … it's all changed now.''

That change has led to an array of manufactured rock acts that don't exactly do everything live: Poullain isn't fond of bands unable to perform completely live but he harbours a love for Radiohead and Queens of the Stone Age. ''We've always prided ourselves on our live performance. So many so called rock bands use sequencers and backing tracks and secret members and I think that is bullshit, you know, as soon as you do that I think you forfeit the right to be a rock'n'roll band.''

The Darkness have recorded 14 new songs and are deciding which final 10 or 11 are going to be on their third album, due for release this year. For Poullain words such as ''vinyl'' and the fact the album is rendered in art form ''even if it is just some thumbnail on someone's laptop screen'' is important.

There may be a little cynicism in his voice at times; but Poullain can't disguise how happy he is to be back in the reformed Darkness.

''I just can't believe it is six or seven years later and the crowd just reacts in the same way. And even though what we are doing is completely unfashionable and even more unfashionable now then when it was back then, it is still the same human connection and the same thing and it's just amazing. It's obviously something about the music which people have missed.''

The Darkness

WITH: Fun Machine

WHEN: Thursday, May 10


TICKETS: $72 (+bf). Tickets from venue and Ticketek: 13 28 49.

Sean Palmer is a Canberra writer and a severe tunes enthusiast