From Toronto, Canada, Danko Jones delivers a high energy hard rock spiced up with the band’s leader unbeatable character, sense of humour and rocking attitude. A few hours before the trio sold out gig at Tavastia in Helsinki FREE! Magazine spoke to bassist John Calabrese about the new album, opening for The Rolling Stones and working with former Kyuss singer John Garcia.
Although feeling Canadian, John Calabrese, or just JC, was born and grew up in a small village in Calabria in Italy. Always dreaming about playing music, soon he had the opportunity to move to Toronto, where he met Danko Jones and formed the band. Nowaday the band enjoys worldwide success, but JC is easy to approach and he behaves like a music fan rather than being an untouchable rock star. Being both from Southern Europe, before the interview we started talking about football and basketball as he is a fan of the NBA team Toronto Raptors.
How is the new tour?
We started a few days ago in Oslo. It’s always good to get the first show out of the way because it makes to all of us a little bit nervous. Now I feel more relaxed.
How did that first show go?
There were a few little mistakes, but I think one is more worried about making mistakes but then there are not so many mistakes. One thinks about stuff that it’s not really necessary. Everything is great.
What about the new album, Never Too Loud?
It’s pretty different but it’s doing quite well, especially among fans of hard rock. It’s a good record for us, and I think it’s going to have an appeal for a greater audience.
Some hardcore fans might not understand the band’s direction with new type of songs like Take Me Home. How would you explain them this change?
We have always been in a band to play live. Once the fans seen those new songs in the context of the live concert, it’s all going to make sense. For us, as musicians, we always want to make new stuff to challenge ourselves. But it’s not that different. It’s still a rock record with rock songs. We don’t want to repeat ourselves. What’s the point of doing Sleep With the Enemy Number 2? Never Too Late is a record that will grow in time. After some years people will go back to it and everything will make sense in the history of the band.
Only AC/DC are allowed to repeat themselves…
And not even them!!
How was working with Nick Raskulinecz who lately has produced very popular records from Stone Sour, Foo Fighters and Rush?
It was very good. We met him via a mutual friends of ours and kept sending him demos of the songs. With this album we had more time to write the songs and make the demos. That made a good difference. Nick told us to keep sending him demos. When we went to the studio we had 40 or 50 different songs and we all agree to cut it back to 12 or 15. We finally narrowed down to 12. We approach the recording in a solid way. We were ready to record from the beginning to the end.
Did you have any plans to make a specific type of record?
No. It just happened. If you hear the demos, those are the songs. No big changes. Nick did his role. He made us comfortable in the studio and get the best performance we could give.
How long did it take the recording?
It was about a two month process, although our drummer recorded all the drums in four days. He was very fast, but then he was bored for the rest of the recording, going nuts. He didn’t know what to do. When we went to the studio, we knew the songs very well. We did some preproduction and Nick became the fourth member of the band. He would be in the room with us playing guitar or bass or drums, showing little tricks that we didn’t think about but it sounded great. He helped shape the songs.
Tell me a little bit about working with John Garcia?
John is great. We met John for the first time while playing a gig in Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. We invited him and he showed up and it was surreal. He stood on front row and he knew every single song. Then he did the song Invisible with us. Last year we did this tour of Norway and we invited him over. We did a very special tours in all these places in Norway. We did the encore together, playing Invisible, a Unida song, a Kyuss song and some others. It was in small places, about 500 to 1000 people a night. John had a great time, although he is very scared of flying. Later when we were recording in California, we asked him again to come over so he drove his truck from the desert and we hang around. He is a great guy. After being fans of him, to meet him and work with him, it’s rewarding. We are music fans first of all.
Why do you think that the band is so popular in Scandinavia?
I think it’s because our label in Sweden has done a great job showcasing the band all around Scandinavia. Also because we are being able to tour extensively. This might our 20th tour in Europe. I think this is the 10th time we play in Finland and we come back in a couple of months. People know us and like us.
What do you think about Finland and the Finnish audience?
We always had good shows here. One strange thing is taking the ferry over here. I’m not very good with the sea.
You even opened for The Rolling Stones in the the first show of the Forty Licks tour in Toronto. How did you feel when you hear you got the gig?
They were doing some small shows in Toronto to prepare for the world tour. They had a long history in Canada and the production company is from there. I was up north in Ontario and our manager called us and said I need to know if you can come here and do a some. You can tell anyone and you can only bring one guest. I took my dad with me. When we went to the venue, The Rolling Stones had a big mixing board and our sound guy was looking at it. We saw the Stones doing soundcheck in the room with just 20 people. Then they told us that we could go and soundcheck, so they move the big mixing board and brought a small one for us… Back to reality!