He soared to fame on the back of a white tiger, beaming his definitively British dental work, high on cocaine and draped in the finest of spandex. Justin Hawkins of The Darkness was the unabashedly flamboyant frontman of the hottest global sensation of 2003. With glorious, over-the-top rock anthems like “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” and “I Believe In A Thing Called Love,” The Darkness marked the fresh return of AC/DC-inspired rock.
While the band aimed to make music fun again, they found themselves hitting all the classic roadblocks. Drug abuse? Check. Financial disagreements? Check. Brothers fighting over creative direction? Check. Misguided second album? Check. Major label mismanagement? Check.
The signs were all there. The Darkness was bound to implode. The foundation first began to crack when original bassist Frankie Poullain hired an outside accountant to investigate the band’s management of funds during the production of their second album, One Way Ticket To Hell… And Back. This dissension among the band ultimately led Poullain to be pushed out of the group. A year later, Hawkins’ addictions had taken their toll and he announced he was disbanding the group.
Now, several years later, he’s back to form with his new band, Hot Leg. Equally extravagant, Hot Leg are out to rock the world with blazing, straight from the waist guitar solos and a fat bottom section that’s bound to infect, if not impregnate, America’s collective ear holes.
A much healthier and ambitious Justin Hawkins, or as he refers to himself, Justin “Dave” Hawkins (“I like the inclusion of an abbreviated middle name”), took some time out before a recent gig in Dublin to explain the rise and fall of The Darkness as well as his new musical direction with Hot Leg.
What did the catsuit-sporting frontman enjoy most about international success? “I enjoyed the fact that it was easy to get drugs. I made it my mission, wherever we went, to try and get drugs as soon as we got off the plane,” said Hawkins. “Seriously, I enjoyed the big roar coming back from the crowd. It made playing a real thrill. Just seeing the varying degrees of mania around the world. Everywhere we went there was something weird happening. It was great.”
As the size of their concert venues grew from clubs to stadiums, Hawkins’ pension for rock god theatrics grew exponentially. He went from cutting through the crowd perched atop the shoulders of a roadie, to riding a suspended, stuffed white tiger, to flying over the crowd during a guitar solo, to gliding on stage while seated upon an enormous pair of breasts (ala, the white man’s Sir Mix-A-Lot).
“Most bands now are doing less pyro, less flying and less prop work, because their only source of income is from doing live stuff. They try and maximize that by charging a lot more for a ticket and giving you a lot less of show,” explained Hawkins. “I think if you’re charging more, you should provide more. I want people to go to our shows and say, ‘Yes, I want to see that again.’ That means props, pyro, and everything you can throw at it. You owe it to yourself and the fans.”