There are two immediately noticeable things about Danko Jones’ seventh and latest album, Fire Music.
First, that it’s very angry. And second, that its songs are breakneck fast.
These are not unique Danko Jones traits. After all, this is a man who composed violent fantasies about nailing a record executive to a cross (“The Cross” from 2003’s We Sweat Blood), who’s signature song is about kidnapping a gal’s boyfriend and stuffing him in the trunk of a car (“Cadillac”), and who can call the king of speed rock, Motorhead’s Lemmy, a genuine friend.
There is, however, a very particular reason why Fire Music sounds the way it does: Danko Jones was channeling a blackacidevil.
“I was like, ‘Who can we use as inspiration? Who can we use as a guide?'” says Danko, explaining the dark places his mind went in order to come up with something more vicious than 2012’s Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue. “And that was Glenn Danzig. Like, the Misfits, Samhain and Glenn Danzig. That’s me. That is me. Talk to me enough and it’ll devolve into talking about my favourite Danzig things.”
Traditionally, Danko Jones songs have tread in the territory of boy-gets-girl/boy-loses-girl framed by bristling AC/DC-plus riffage. For Fire Music, though, the tone of the 11 songs created by Danko, man-at-arms bassist JC and drummer Rich Knox feel purposefully more virulent and less full of cheeky tongue wags and innuendo.
The catalyst for this turn was the throttling bury-your-enemies-alive revenge tale “Body Bags.”
“The first song off the record that was written and really set the tone was ‘Body Bags,'” says Danko. “It has a real heavy Misfits vibe that we’ve used in the past, but once we came up with ‘Body Bags’ we were just like, ‘Let’s just do a bunch of these.’ I didn’t see anyone doing it. I see bands doing it, but they’re not doing it the way I want to hear it.”
Danko Jones has never been a shy, retiring type when it comes to his music. This, after all, is a man who detached his own retina in 2006 because he was slapping himself in the face too hard when he performed on stage. But the act of getting into character, really playing a role for a song, was something he had never truly done before until producer Eric Ratz (Cancer Bats, Billy Talent) pushed him to become the creature he was singing about in Fire Music‘s songs.
“You hear all these nightmare stories of producers pushing the singer to the point where they break down, but he wasn’t doing that,” says Danko. “He was reminding me of the lyrics, ‘you just hate this guy, you want to kill him, you want to get him in a body bag and bury him, you’re a psychotic, crazy killer.’ Just like this whole acting thing. But I got into it to the point where — acting is not my forte — where I felt really spent.
“I’ve never ever tried, to use the term, ‘songcraft’ devices, it’s always been that for every song up until this record it has been a real-life experience. I’ve never looked at it like a storyteller or narrator, but songs like ‘Twisting Knife,’ which is a murder ballad put to a high-tempo, I was thinking Nick Cave and his album Murder Ballads… it set the whole wheels in motion for me going, ‘Murder ballads?’ We’ve never had a murder ballad song where the guy goes kills the spurned lover and all this stuff, nothing from personal experience, it was just these revenge fantasies playing in my head, so that’s what happened.”
In quick succession the band created a number of similar spirited songs like “The Twisting Knife” and the WWE-endorsed bar brawl anthem “Gonna Be A Fight Tonight.” The latter song came from a particularly peculiar place.
“I’ve never been in a real gang brawl,” says Danko. “But I’ve seen movies about it so it was The Warriors and West Side Story… and then you mix those two together and you get ‘Gonna Be A Fight Tonight.’ Who knew West Side Story would align itself with WWE and the Misfits?”
Having a cache of super-propulsive ragers — even dance-fight inspired ones — actually posed a too-much-of-the-same-thing problem for the trio. Their solution? Look elsewhere in the Misfits universe for catalysts, specifically the doom-blues former Misfits singer Glenn Danzig made his signature as a solo act.
“We said, ‘We’ve got five of these kinda Misfits songs. Let’s not turn the whole album into this thing,'” says Danko, explaining why they added some Danzig to their Misfits. “There’s always a Danzig thing, like ‘I Will Break Your Heart’ is loosely based on ‘She Rides’ by Danzig.
“Lyrically and the tone and the tempo as well, and just like the overall vibe we were all thinking Danzig, even on the drums in the beginning and stuff. So there was Danzig in there, Misfits were there… we didn’t want it to be like [2012 single] ‘Just A Beautiful Day,’ being prettier or softer than we’re used to. We wanted to get back on track.”
Danko alludes to what sent the band off track in only the vaguest terms, but it’s not that hard to figure out. The manicured sound of Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue now seems at odds with a band who seem more and more interested in reacquainting themselves with their bristling underground-garage-punk-hardcore roots. Likewise, one can spider-sense a certain bitterness over the departure of previous drummer Atom Willard.
The band, in turn, appear to have exorcized these demons the best way they know how — by looking at their record collection and realizing they needed to release the hellhounds and have a good ol’ fashioned bloodfeast.
“There was a lot of people and things to ‘fuck you’ to,” says Danko. “We went through a lot in 2013 as a band, morale was down, there were things going on behind the scenes that pissed us off, and JC and I felt like we were being walked all over.
“So this one was just fuck it, it’s gonna high energy, it’s gonna be non-stop pummeling. Even when it gets mid-tempo and slower the lyrics are gonna be dark.
“Basically it’s a big fuck you.”
Which, if you think about it, is exactly like how a record made by misfits should sound.