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Last Updated: Monday, 7 July, 2003, 08:36 GMT 09:36 UK
The Darkness light up rock scene

By Ian Youngs
BBC News Online entertainment staff

After opening the Glastonbury Festival and scoring their first hit single, high-octane rockers The Darkness have become Britain's most talked-about new band.

Until recently, it was impossible to find a more unfashionable band than The Darkness.

The Darkness
The Darkness: Singer Justin Hawkins has a catsuit tailor on call
Bypassed by every musical trend since 1991, they refused to believe that the big hair, scissor kicks and screeching guitar solos of the golden era of stadium rock were dead.

They slogged around small venues for three years, taking their catsuits and capes and honing their blend of Freddie Mercury's flamboyance, Led Zeppelin's rock ethic and prime Bon Jovi metal choruses.

The music industry thought they were a joke - so outrageous that they must be a Spinal Tap-style spoof, or so uncool that nobody in their right minds would buy their records.

But fans had fewer hang-ups about the rock anthems and entertaining stage shows, so the media got on board and now the cult of The Darkness has taken off.

Their last single, Growing On Me, crashed into the charts at number 11, paving the way for their debut album, Permission To Land, which was released on Monday.

What's happened to this sweet nation if we haven't got two decent rock bands?
Justin Hawkins
This summer, The Rolling Stones, Robbie Williams and Metallica are among the artists who have given them support slots.

Convinced that they can make it to the top on both sides of the Atlantic, their self-belief is winning over many sceptics.

"There's nothing else like us around," singer Justin Hawkins says. "And that's really sad.

"What's happened to this sweet nation if we haven't got two decent rock bands? There's no-one anywhere near us, and that's what people find amusing about it."

Whether they single-handedly revive 1980s-style stadium rock remains to be seen - but they have shaken up the music scene by ignoring the concept of "cool".

"Rock and roll isn't about being cool - it's about breaking rules," bassist Frankie Poullain says.

"And the biggest rule at the moment is that you have to be cool. Being cool is just being boring, being average."

The Darkness
The band are aiming for "global domination"
Hawkins adds: "There's nothing rebellious about standing in a field full of Marilyn Manson fans with your finger in the air, because everyone else is doing it. Let's do something different."

But, whatever you do, do not call them a joke band.

"There's just no way that we'd be doing this for a joke because it's taken up the best years of our lives," Hawkins says.

"People who think we're a joke band are really miserable, stupid, ignorant people who really need to pull their heads out of the sand and actually do something with their lives that's actually enjoyable.

"Don't blame us if they die miserable and lonely old spinsters."

They are, they say, here to bring some enjoyment to a scene dominated by glum rockers and downbeat pop acts.

At the band's heart are two brothers - the catsuit-wearing Justin and guitarist Dan - who hail from Lowestoft, Suffolk, and hope to become the Page and Plant for a new generation.

Karaoke revelation

Along with Poullain and drummer Ed Graham, they formed The Darkness from the remnants of a former band, Empire.

After a long search for a new singer, Justin discovered his own performing prowess while singing a karaoke version of Bohemian Rhapsody - and has never looked back.

It is his charisma and theatrics, along with frequent costume changes, that make The Darkness such an entertaining live act.

"I have three catsuit tailors," he says. "I've got so many stage outfits that I'm losing count now. I've got a guy on call 24-hours for any repairs that happens on the road."

The Darkness' Justin Hawkins on a big screen at Glastonbury
Justin Hawkins appeared on a big screen at Glastonbury
The band's momentum has been building for six months and their last single had been heading for the top 10.

But number 11 was good enough because "it's like having two number ones," Dan Hawkins says.

"And it's one louder than 10. We haven't even started releasing our really good songs yet."

The song that many consider their best, I Believe In A Thing Called Love, is due for an autumn re-release and is expected to be a bigger hit.

Dan is in no doubt about their destiny. When asked what the band's mission is, he replies: "Well, global domination I suppose."

Where will they be in one year? "We will have made a lot of headway in the States," Dan says.

"Europe would have been taken and Japan, we'll be making a lot of money from, probably. America will either have fallen or be starting to fall by then."

His brother chips in: "Or we'll be lying in a gutter thinking about what went wrong." But for once, Justin is the one who is joking.


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