Their debut record, Permission to Land, has sold over 3.5 million records, debuting at number 1. They’ve sold out Wembley Arena three nights, they have four Top 10 singles, and are headlining the legendary Reading & Leeds Festival. And this is just from their debut record. It is safe to say that The Darkness are quite popular. Most bands take years to get to this level. As one of those 3.5 million record owners of Permission To Land, I can say it’s one of the best hard rock records of all time, hands down. No debate necessary. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to speak to new bass player, Richie Edwards.
So, first off, do people still ask you guys if you’re a joke-band or novelty act?
Edwards: [laughs] Yes, they do. The main reason we’re still seen as a joke band or as a novelty, is the cat-suits and stage presence. But when you listen to the records you don’t get cat-suits. It’s not ironic, but it has a sense of humor. What I consider to be one of the best things about rock music is that it has a sense of humor. Like Bon Scott from AC/DC.He was a brilliant lyricist, and he had a sense of humor and nobody considered AC/DC a joke band. Really, (in terms of the record) the only comical aspect of it are Justin’s lyrics, which I think are brilliant. But there are certain people who we can never please. People who say “they’ve lost their humor” are the same people who said that we were a joke band in the first place. The answer is a firm: No, we are not a joke band.
Did you record on One Way Ticket To Hell…and Back?
Edwards: I was in the studio, but due to the timing of my entrance into the band I wasn’t playing bass on the record. But you can hear my sweet, sweet vocals on it. Dan recorded the bass parts, but he asked for my advice. Saying things like, “does this sound right?”
Going into the recording of the album, was there anything that you wanted to, I don’t want to say improve, but kind of change from Permission to Land?
Edwards: To be honest, the main factor was Roy Thomas Baker (Queen, Who, Journey).
He’s made a few good records.
Edwards: [laughs] Yeah, just a couple. But he just made the songs a great deal better.Ultimately, this record has been made by a genius producer. I can’t really say enough about him. Plus, we had the luxury of time & money. Permission to Land was made in 2 weeks with 20,000 pounds. It gave Roy time to work his magic. The entire process itself was a incredible experience. Roy records everything to tape and pays such a precise attention to detail. For example, Roy and I were in the studio before the recording and we spent days moving the drums around the studio and putting mics in different places. Eventually we put the drums on a stage in the center of the room. Roy came to a point where he was like “ok, we can record now.” That’s the kind of thing you can hear on the record. The drums are just huge on this record.
Absolutely, you can hear every instrument used in the recording.
Edwards: Yeah, you can.
Did Baker approach you about recording One Way Ticket To Hell…, or was it the other way around?
Edwards: Roy came to a party in LA after one of our shows. This party had a awful lot of producers that the label was pushing on us for our next record. And Roy was there just sitting enjoying the free Champaign. Dan was first to meet him. He met Dan outside while Dan was having a smoke, and things just went well. Roy would hang out with us and just have a laugh. Justin approached Roy gingerly about recording with him. Roy’s answer was, “Well, duh.”
How was the transition from going to Dan’s guitar tech, to bass player?
Edwards: It was truly the easiest thing. At no point has anybody been like “well what’s the new guy going to do” or “how does the new guy feel about this.” We knew each other very well anyway. We aren’t at the “getting to know you” stage or anything. I’ve officially been in the band now for like 7 months. That’d still be “getting to know you” stage had I not known the band before. It’s been an absolutely joyful transition. Really I love these guys. Unless they were here, then I’d be complaining about my cut [laughs].
Well I was going to ask you what your favorite song from the album is, both recorded and live, but since you haven’t played live as an official member yet, what’s you’re favorite recorded song from the record?
Edwards: Well I’ve been playing with the band in rehearsal for a while now. But my favorite song changes on a daily basis. Today it’s “English Country Garden.” Yesterday, it was “Is It Just Me?” When I put it on I listen to it from start to finish. I still love to listen to the record.
Since we’re coming up on the end of the year, what was your favorite record from last year?
Edwards: Oh man, umm … I’m not so up with music. Shit. I’d have to say American Idiotby Green Day. Because A) the songs are very good, but most importantly B.) the production is incredible. The guitars just leap out at you. And it doesn’t sound like every other band that popped up after Green Day. Most bands after Green Day, like Blink 182, have this glossy, almost cheesy kind of sound, and not that I don’t like them or anything, but this record just sounds fucking angry.
The Darkness’ latest release, One Way Ticket To Hell…and Back is out now on Atlantic Records.
Everything Will Be Alright: An interview with Ogikubo Station
There is great joy in simple chords and simple melodies. It is, after all, the feeling of comfort that these things often bring. Comfort from the day’s burdens, comfort from the issues that disappoint us, comfort when the sunsets bring us joy. Ogikubo Station, the music project of Maura Weaver (of Ohio punks Mixtapes) and Mike Park (of Asian Man Records), is that kind of comfort. It is music that makes us think of the week we’ve just had, music that makes us want to do better in our every day, and music that makes us laugh, cry, and sing-a-long.
Fresh off the release of a new 7” EP Okinawan Love Songs, we chat to Maura and Mike about the new songs, making music from distances, and how Ogikubo Station came to be. The chat was a reminder that music can be the result of many things and many reasons. Some simple, some more complicated. It was also a reminder that if we’ve got the music, then maybe, just maybe, everything will be alright in the end.
You released your full length We Can Pretend Like last year- was there a catalyst that sparked getting back into the writing and recording again so quickly?
Maura: I think Mike just called me and said do you want to come out to California and do some songwriting, and then while I was out there he booked two days in the studio and said “Guess what? We’re gonna record a 7 inch.”
Mike: Is that what happened? Haha. I can’t remember. I know we had “Would I Break My Heart Enough For You” written and we were playing it live, so I thought “let’s just add a couple more songs and release a fun 7 inch.”
Did you write these songs the same way you’ve written in the past; from a distance?
Mike: Not this time. Since it was only a few songs we just rehearsed for a day and then recorded.
Does that process ever get easier, being quite far apart?
Maura: Not really. I prefer being able to collaborate in person and I believe that’s the plan for the next record. We started writing 4 new songs aside from what’s on this 7 inch to go towards the next Ogikubo full length.
Mike: Yeah, it’s not the best case scenario, but I’ve been doing with a lot of different projects over the years. Sending mixes and vocal parts and asking various friends to guest on records, so it’s not that bad actually.
How was having Dan (Andriano) play bass on this EP? Will you be working with him again in the future?
Mike: I’ve known Dan since he was a teenager, so I just called him and said “Dan, I’m gonna send you a couple of songs for you to play bass on” and he was like “okay”. He has his own home studio and he’s kind of a gear head, so I knew it would be easy for him to do. I’d love to do more stuff with him, but I guess we’ll see.
Maura: Heck yes! I’ve been an Alkaline Trio fan since I was 14, so this is all kind of geeking out excitement for me.
For those who are new to Ogikubo Station – tell us how you ended up collaborating together?
Mike: Maura, you want to tell it?
Maura: Sure. So I was visiting the San Francisco/Oakland area where my sister lives and we were hanging out with my friend Danielle Bailey who is also friends with Mike. Danny had posted some photos of us hanging and Mike called Danny and said: “ask Maura if she would record a song with me”. So we drove to San Jose and we recorded a song called “Weak Souls Walk Around Here” and that was it. Just a one-time thing.
Mike: And at that time I believe I told Maura I’d like to put out her solo album and so for the next 2 years I would bug her every couple months to see how it was going and she would say “oh, I’m still working on it”. And then I finally said “hey, let’s start a project together” and thus Ogikubo Station was born.
How many bands are you in now Mike?
Mike: Kitty Kat Fan Club, Ogikubo Station, Bruce Lee Band …are the only ones that play, but I’m working on a couple of new projects. Always doing music.
Maura, how different has it been with Ogikubo Station than say, writing and recording with Mixtapes? Do the different processes give you new ways to write and approach songwriting?
Maura: I guess the biggest difference is the distance factor and that Ogikubo is not a full-time band. Mixtapes was my first real band and it was at a time in my life when everything was a first. First tour, first record, first van, the first van breaking down. I was still in my teens with Mixtapes and we all lived in Cincinnati. So it’s very different with Ogikubo. It’s hard to explain fully, but both bands have definitely been influential in different ways. But the basic idea of writing a melody over a strummed guitar chord is the same no matter the situation.
I love the TMBG cover on the new EP, and the fact that you chose to keep it lo-fi—what are some of the other bands you say would have directly led to the music and songwriting of Ogikubo Station?
Mike: I guess I’ve been listening to a lot of 80’s bands as of late and just kind of falling in love again with bands like Hoodoo Gurus, the Replacements, REM, and then newer bands like ALVVAYS, PUP, and Laura Stevenson. I’m always just looking for a good melody and some lyrics that aren’t filler bullshit.
Maura: I listen to so much music. From Kate Bush, TMBG, Desmond Dekker, Operation Ivy, to Beyonce and Taylor Swift. It’s hard to say what influences Ogikubo Station, but those are some bands I’ve been listening to lately.
Mike, I know on Twitter recently you’ve expressed your frustration and anger at a lot of the political things that are happening in the US (hopefully that’s not the cause of those grey hairs!) – but as songwriters, do you feel that it’s more important than ever to provide listeners with fuel to fight for equality and kindness, or do you feel that its just as important to provide an escape through music?
Mike: I’ve always felt music is political even when you aren’t trying to make it political. The sounds fuel the soul, creates the body to move and puts you in moods that you may not even realise are happening. Music has been my solace when it comes to expression and emotion. An outlet to get my ideas across in an artistic and productive manner. I don’t feel it’s imperative to be overtly political. I try not to shove politics down your throat, but if something comes to mind and I write about it and it happens to be classified as political, so be it.
Maura, you did the artwork for the new EP, an illustration of your Okinawan grandmother. The art is beautiful, can you tell us a little bit about your art and how you came into illustrating?
Maura: I’ve always enjoyed illustrating and painting. Creating art: With a guitar or a brush or a pen/ pencil. I wanted to draw my grandmother and give it to her as a present. When Mike saw the drawing he asked if we could use it for the 7-inch cover. It wasn’t meant to be the cover, but after mike brought it up I said of course.
What are some of the things you’re looking forward to on this UK tour? You guys are going all over England, and then to Wales, and then Scotland.
Mike: Sadly I’m not going on the tour this time due to some hearing damage I have sustained, but I’m still going to Brighton for a wedding, so I will be there for 3 days. And I’ll try to do every stereotypical British thing. TEA/MILK/FISH/CHIPS/MUSHY PEAS.
Maura: Getting to travel with my best friend Megan is the most exciting part of this UK tour. She’s never been before and that makes it that much more special being able to share this experience together. We are both Vegan/Vegetarian and one of our favorite things to do is eat, so we’ll checking out the different vegan spots in every city. And just meeting new friends, seeing old friends, and Edinburgh. I can’t wait to go to Edinburgh.
Is there a new full length on the horizon?
Mike: I’d like to work on one next year. I’m tapped out for this year. I’m gonna work on some new Bruce Lee Band stuff next and then I have a couple of other collaborations, but hopefully sometime next year we can start the process for the next full length.
Maura: That sounds good to me. It will give me a chance to keep writing songs.