Star Interview: The Darkness’ Frankie Poullain

The Darkness.
The Darkness.

The rise, fall and return of The Darkness could be the plot of a rock and roll movie.

Propelled on to the front of magazines and to the top of festival line-ups on the back of their 2003 debut, Permission To Land, its follow-up came along two years later when fractions were beginning to take their toll.

What followed involved line-up changes, singer Justin Hawkins receiving treatment for drug and alcohol abuse and an eventual hiatus around 2006.

Then in 2011, after numerous moderately successful side projects, the band’s original line-up reformed, released a new album and embarked on headline tours as well as supporting Lady Gaga.

The Darkness have been busy on an extensive ‘Intimate Outreach tour’, returning to some of the venues they played on the ‘way up’ and playing their debut album in its entirety.

Permission To Land is a very ‘Lowestoft’ album,” explains bassist Frankie Poullain. A lot of small towns have a similar mentality, a struggle to break out.

“There’s a warmth you get in these places which is maybe missing from the main cosmopolitan places.

“We played the Roadmender with The Wildhearts in 2002 and it makes sense, given it’s the 10th anniversary of our debut, to take it back and connect with those people again.”

Poullain is joined in The Darkness by brothers Justin and Dan Hawkins and drummer, Ed Graham.

In his time away, Poullain travelled, lived in France and South America, got married and divorced.

“I had a great time,” he explains. “At first, there was a bad taste in my mouth, but when I saw what was going on, I was glad not to be involved. It had become a little bit sour.”

This time around, with less record industry machinery around them, Poullain says the band is much happier.

“The industry can be quite a zapping experience,” he explains. “Especially when you’re doing the sort of music we are, which is joyous and free and wild.

“It’s hard to keep it going when you have all the politics around it.

“Music is the most important thing. Our shows are much more energetic than they’ve been before.” While The Darkness’ music is rooted in classic rock, tongue-in-cheek videos led to some refusing to take them seriously.

“People generally don’t get us,” says Poullain. “They don’t get the contradicting nature of what we do. “We’re misunderstood a lot.

“Even though we’re happy to celebrate ‘dumbness’, or things which aren’t particularly cool or sophisticated, there’s a cleverness in Justin’s lyric writing.

“There’s always the pressure to make what you’re doing more transparent.

“Music is treated like advertising nowadays. Advertising directors suck the joy out of music, as you can hear when you listen to Maroon 5. Utterly joyless, cynical and very ugly.

“It gets intensified because there’s more desperation in the music industry.”

Touring with Lady Gaga took The Darkness to some of the biggest stadiums and arenas in the world, with Hibs’ fan Poullain enjoying playing at some of the world’s classic football grounds.

“The Stade de France was great and Sao Paulo was amazing,” he explains.

“The football grounds were the most fun shows of that tour. You can tell when music is designed to create an income, the same goes for arenas.

“A lot aren’t made with love or even with skill.

“I’m massively into football and the 70s culture of the game. There’s a real psychogeography to it, an imprint humans leave on a place and that’s true with football stadiums. It’s a really powerful thing.

“The River Plate Stadium in Buenos Aires is a very old pre-1970s stadium with terracing, it was such a beautiful place.

The Darkness have been working on the follow up to last year’s Hot Cakes.

“On the Gaga tour we had quite a bit of time between shows so we were writing a lot on the road.

“We haven’t edited things stylistically either. We’ve just let the songs be themselves and it’s a lot less self-conscious.

“It will probably sound the least like The Darkness compared to anything we’ve done.”

“We’ve got a new song which we walk on to called Second Fiddle. It’s self referencing and like a folk song about the band. We know what energy we need to tap into. There’s been mistakes in the past, It’s such a fine line between being a nostalgic tribute act and actually adding something new.

“I love to blur the boundaries, especially in a country like the UK which is so self-conscious.”