“Evil” is always trending all over the place. Its latest perpetrator the ubiquitous threat of terrorism, which will surely end us all.
But even with every two-bit Twitter pundit having their say, The Darkness bassist Frankie Poullain still seems like an unlikely arbiter – and yet he picks up the tidbit that he’s playing a Sydney show on the culturally loaded date Friday the 13th (next month) to offer his feels.
“I don’t really believe in the concept of evil, I think. I just believe that these psycho killers, and people who are supposedly evil, just have a lack of humanity. I think it just glamourises them when you say that people are evil. They’re just losers.
“Losers. You know a lot of them are failed DJ’s, in the UK for example. And, uh, the same thing with psycho killers, they’re people who just haven’t got the character to overcome adversity, and people call them evil, but I don’t think it’s evil. This aesthetic of evil is something which people, actually teenagers especially, can get sucked into.”
Poullain canvasses the disturbing tendencies of our kind like a forgotten Spinal Tap member, who shed the ridicule and travelled to the noughties. Polite in a way only those carrying a UK passport seem capable of, he chats to me over the phone from a little office inside the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco. Down the wire, I can basically smell the obligatory tobacco and hear the static crackle around his ‘fro.
“People like to be victims, you know. The victim complex is a horrible one, when somebody plays the victim all the time. The press needs to stop fetishising it as well. It’s also the press’s fault, the media you know.”
Harsh, maybe, but he doesn’t speak with the arrogance of keyboard warriors. Victimisation is something the band is intimately acquainted with. For more than decade, they’ve had a coarse relationship with the press. The substance abuse problems of lead howler, Justin Hawkins, became fodder for those who dine at the slop-trough of celebrity privacy violation.
“My take on it is I don’t think humans are good or bad. I think it is why I have a real problem with bands who encourage this wallowing in mediocrity and wallowing in sadness. Catharsis, of course, is very important, and good songwriters enable catharsis in the listener. There’s bands who do a bad imitation of cathartic music, and it just encourages the listener to wallow.”
“Our take on it has always been to just do what we’re good at – we try to create communal euphoria. I mean it’s quite a dry statement but we try to, we aspire to that.”
This ‘communal euphoria’ is often, puzzlingly compared to Steel Panther, in that troubled paradigm where you can only discuss musicians in reference to others (…like right now). But Poullain is unsure why a satirical hair metal band made up of stage-named married dudes is regarded synonymous with The Darkness flavour of explosive British rock, and actual history of drug abuse and infighting.
“I know! There’s nothing. There’s nothing to really compare us to Steel Panther. Dan’s guitar style, for example, is much more arty and organic. Justin has a playfulness, which I find is like people like David Lee Roth. Steel Panther is more just like outright pastiche.
“We decorate and garnish that way, but the actual substance of what we do ain’t like that at all.”