September 17, 2013 Interview – John ‘JC’ Calabrese of Danko Jones
Canadian rock band Danko Jones have been road warriors since 1996. The 3 piece band traveled the world and spreading the word of rock for nearly 6 years before releasing their debut album Born A Lion (2002). The rock veterans are now 6 records deep into their career after the release of their newest effort Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue (2012). Their hard work and charismatic stage presence has earned them a spot of one of North America’s premier rock festivals in Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar 2013. We caught up with bassist John “JC” Calabrese at the Uproar festival for a in depth look at the history of Danko Jones, their passion for rock n roll, and much more.
Crypticrock.com – Well first I’d like to congratulate you on playing this year’s Uproar Festival. How excited is the band about playing this rock festival and how is it going thus far?
John Calabrese – We are really excited to do this because it’s the first time we’ve ever done a touring festival. We’ve done festivals in Europe but it’s the first time we’re spending a summer here in the United States so we are really looking forward to it. It’s been great so far. We started a few days later into the tour because we were playing Europe. We finished shows in Berlin and came over here and it’s been great.
Crypticrock.com – This year’s Uproar festival is definitely different than years past. The line-up is a mix of a lot of alternative rock and iconic 90’s rock bands. In your opinion what do you think was the festival’s objective to change things up this year with the diversity in the line-up?
John Calabrese – I am not too sure. I am just happy to be here. I guess they are just branching out and reaching a different demographic. All the bands have been very entertaining and great to watch.
CrypticRock.com – You guys have been together since 1996 and have put out 6 full length albums since 2002. Has your approach to the music changed at all during that time?
John Calabrese – We have gotten more knowledge about how the studio works and how to play our instruments. You always learn stuff when you go into the studio. It’s still the same brash live show, no frills rock n roll. That’s not going to change.
Crypticrock.com – The band’s latest album Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue was released in October 2012. The album is a slightly different sound for Danko Jones. Tell me what the writing and recording process was behind the record?
John Calabrese – The writing was kind of scattered throughout a few months. It was intensive writing sessions. We recorded in Toronto after narrowing it down to 20 songs and finally going into the studio with 15. We recorded it in Toronto and it was mixed in Vancouver. That was bit of a hectic thing because of Vancouver’s schedule and we were in Toronto. We did it over emails and next time we are not going to do that.
Crypticrock.com – Toronto and Vancouver are pretty far from one another. That had to be hectic. The band is known for its history of relentless touring. The live performance is clearly important to the band. Tell me does the constant time on the road ever become wearing on your health?
John Calabrese – You kind of have to be smart and take care of yourself. There are times when you catch a cold and what not. So far mentally we’ve been strong and everything has been good so far on the health front. Nobody’s a big drinker, nobody does drugs or anything.
Crypticrock.com – So you guys take good care of yourself?
John Calabrese – Yes in order to keep this grueling schedule you have to. You just can’t start indulging in the finer things in life.
Crypticrock.com – Like I said you guys started in 1996 but you didn’t release a full length record until 2002. You were sort of reluctant to do so, you were really concentrating on touring and building fans that way.
John Calabrese – Yes, we were not very smart. We figured that you sell a t-shirt and make money, but we had no merchandise or anything, and we kept jumping on tours. This was pre-internet, that is how old the band is. 17 years ago, but now we know we have to put out a record and have to have shirts for sale.
Crypticrock.com – Well you guys did build a pretty strong following over that time. I’d like to know what some of your musical influences are?
John Calabrese – Thin Lizzy, Kiss, tons of stuff. Beastie Boys, Iron Maiden Slayer, AC/DC, that kind of stuff and hard rock.
Crypticrock.com – Just a mixer of hard rock and classic rock, very cool. My last question for you is regarding films. CrypticRock.com is a rock/metal and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are you a fan of horror films and if so what are some of your favorite horror films?
John Calabrese – George Romero and Lucio Fulci are my favorites. Lucio Fulci is probably the goriest director. Dario Argento as well. Of course Goblin is one of my favorite bands that did all his soundtracks. Those are my favorite Italian horror directors.
Crypticrock.com – You obviously have a good appreciation of horror films in my opinion. What do you think the way horror has gone in the last decade with all the remakes and CGI?
John Calabrese – I am a fan of the non CGI stuff. When you look at the Lucio Fulci stuff it’s all make-up. There is something to be said with less is more. That goes for music as well. When you have it too over-saturated, too over produced, no matter how much you shine it it’s still going to be a piece of shit if you don’t have a good story line. We come from Canada and we have David Cronberg which did Rabid and a ton of other thrillers. He is another guy who never succumbed to going Hollywood. When you think about it, when these guys were doing a horror film they were at a budget of what $10,000. So they had to be very creative. Now they have a budget of 3 million dollars.
CrypticRock.com – You think a director in Hollywood could use that money toward good things but they don’t even develop a story like you said. It’s similar to music, they don’t let it breath. They constantly throw things in your face and there is no room to let the story breath. They give you too much back-story.
John Calabrese – Yes absolutely there is no mystery anymore.
Be sure to check out Danko Jones at www.dankojones.com , facebook, and twitter. Also check out full photo coverage of Danko Jones at this years Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar festival here on Cryptic Rock.
Danko Jones – Just A Beautiful Day (Official Music Video) from Bad Taste on Vimeo.