The Darkness talk Queen, Freddie Mercury + Adam Lambert
Andrew Trendell
14:30 18th June 2015

Many bands wear their influences on their sleeve, but Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins has his tattooed across his fist. As his long hands wind out of his fetching yellow blazer to rest on the table backstage at Download Festival, one's eyes can't help but be drawn to the inked-on silhouette faces of four quite distinct icons. 

While The Darkness are very much a band on their own terms, they'd admit that they're driven by that same bravado and romance that made Queen much more than just a band, but just a spectacle - a celebration of life and a carnival of sheer and shameless entertainment. 

We sat down with Justin and brother and guitarist Dan to talk through what it is that makes Queen so magic, Freddie Mercury so unforgettable and Adam Lambert such a worthy stand-in. 

Gigwise: What do you think it is about Queen that has that enduring magic across so many decades?
Dan: I think it's that thing where you can't really pin them down, can you? There were four really great songwriters in that band, which is really unusual. It's just a virtuosity in every department - there's no one just towing the line in that band. 

Justin: Queen is a supergroup, without trying to be a supergroup. If you really put your mind to it and try to create the greatest band ever, it would be on drums Roger Taylor, John Deacon on bass, you'd have Brian May on guitar and obviously Freddie Mercury would be your first choice singer. They are the ultimate band. 

To front a band you need to embody a band and be all that they're about. What do you think it is about Freddie Mercury that sees him so often chosen as the greatest frontman of all time?
Justin:
It's not just one thing - it's the warmth he has towards his audience, the sense of superiority, the peacocking, the costumes, the unbridled musical ability, the voice, as a lyricist he was amazing...
Dan: The way he moved around the stage was almost like he's 'allowed' you to watch what they're doing. Even when he appears to be trying to get the audience going, it's like he's 'letting' them get involved. I think people respond to that. They like to see that the person on stage doesn't really give a fuck. You've either got that or you haven't. 

What do you make of them in their current incarnation with Adam Lambert?
Justin:
I think Adam Lambert is a really talented man. His range is amazing, I worked with him on his first album and he's a really nice guy too. It's obvious that he was going to be the man to do it - from Brian May's reaction to hearing him sing on American Idol. 

He just is himself and not trying to do a Freddie Mercury impersonation.
Justin:
I think he's still working out who he is, as well. He looks more stud-y these days and has a bit of a George Michael image thing going on, which I think is good. He's evolving and changing stuff as he develops as a performer. I always watch Adam Lambert with interest and see where he's heading next. I think he's got a great rock voice, but some of his output has been too 'dance' for my personal tastes. I think there are a lot of fans who'd like to hear him do something more guitar-led and get some growl out of his vocal. The last time I worked with him, he was definitely interested in pursuing that. He's a very versatile performer. He's got a lot to offer. 

 

The Last Of Our Kind by The Darkness is out now.

The Darkness' full list of UK and Ireland tour dates are below. For tickets and more information, visit here

The Darkness will play:

4 July WICKLOW, Groove Festival (Ireland)

5 July WATERFORD, Daytripper Festival (Ireland)
12 July CHELMSFORD, Brownstock Festival

9 August NEWQUAY, Boardmasters Festival
30 August PORTSMOUTH, Victorious Festival

30 November NORWICH, Open

1 December CAMBRIDGE, Corn Exchange 
2 December NOTTINGHAM, Rock City
4 December NEWCASTLE, O2 Academy
5 December GLASGOW, O2 Academy
9 December LEEDS, O2 Academy
10 December MANCHESTER, Academy
11 December BIRMINGHAM, O2 Academy
13 December BRISTOL, O2 Academy
14 December SOUTHAMPTON, O2 Guildhall
15 December BEXHILL, De La Warr Pavillion
17 December BOURNEMOUTH, O2 Academy
19 December OXFORD, O2 Academy
20 December LONDON, Roundhouse

  • 13. 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love': Proof that the band could try their hand at anything and make it rock, this is the sound of Mercury taking the classic country sound and giving it his own inimitable swagger.

  • 12. 'Bicycle Race': The batshit mental intro that Muse may dream of writing, and probably the greatest song about a bicycle you'll ever hear - not least for Freddie's brilliantly witty: "Jaws was never my scene and I don't like Star Wars!"

  • 11. 'Innuendo': A doom-mongering space-rock Odyssey, with May and Mercury duelling at their most artful and operatic. It sounds like the universe at war, and it's utterly beautiful.

  • 10. 'Fat Bottomed Girls': The perfect encapsulation of Queen's decadence and cheek, one of their many moments on the official soundtrack to a real good time.

  • 9. 'Under Pressure': Later to be made a mockery of by Vanilla Ice and Jedward, but who can blame them? A moment of genius for so many reasons: one hell of a chorus, a brilliant groove courtesy of master bassist John Deacon, the fact that it's drenched in the personality of Mercury and David Bowie and that eternal refrain: 'Can't we give love one more chance?'

  • 8. 'Radio Ga Ga': Crisp drums, shimmering synths, a smouldering Merury vocal and a reminder that when you strip away all of the sensationalism, you're left with the message that music is all that matters.

  • 7. 'The Show Must Go On': A towering wall of sound of Queen at their most larger than life, and a testament to their mantra of battling through the heartache to make the world sing.

  • 6. 'Somebody To Love': Come on, we've all been there - and nobody says it better than Queen.

  • 5. 'Another One Bites The Dust': One of the most memorable basslines in rock history and arguably Deacon's finest moment, as well as a call to arms at their electrifying live show: 'Are you ready, are you ready for this? Are you hanging on the edge of your seat?'

  • 4. 'Flash': AAA-AAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

  • 3. 'Seven Seas Of Rhye': An underrated but beautiful portrait of the band's early promise and insanity-driven energy.

  • 2. 'Bohemian Rhapsody': Far beyond a karaoke classic, it's the song that sent the band racing out into the stratosphere, stapling together the pages of rock n' roll history. We struggle to think of another band's breakthrough hit that's as ambitious, meandering and cosmic as this.

  • 1. 'Who Wants To Live Forever': A chillingly prophetic, tender lament on the fragility of life. Queen may often be revered for all of the pomp and bombast, but their finest moment is a swooning and subtle reminder that though one can't escape death, love lives on.


Photo: Thanira Rates