Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, glam rocker Justin Hawkins has brought jumpsuits and gymnastic athleticism to his band The Darkness since the turn of the century.
My extended family is full of musicians. Uncle Fred taught keyboard to somebody from one of the Boney M touring incarnations. The drummer from The Foo Fighters is a distant cousin and I've got some great footage of my mum and Nan around an organ and everyone singing. Music was always around.
Mum and dad are proud but Dad has always been a bit quieter about it. I think he likes the recent resurgence as well as the gradual progress we've made. After we got huge, he saw the build-up and the backlash and he felt there was some injustice and at one point he became a bit angry about it. Now he just enjoys that we're working hard, we're playing quality music and people recognise it.
We've been a thing since the mid '90s. My brother Dan moved to London and worked in publishing and I went to college to learn sound engineering and music technology. Dan started a band called Empire with Frankie [Frankie Poullain bass player] and I came down and played keyboards whenever I could get away from college. They had a singer who was really talented, and a great drummer. The band did a few gigs but we quickly noticed the singer wasn't inclined to connect with the audience and a band really needs someone who can address a crowd. You don't have to make them laugh but you do need some charisma and he didn't have any. We'd be doing these gigs and there'd be this dismembered voice, me, addressing the audience from behind the keyboard. It was all a bit upside down.
We spent two years trying to find another singer then Frankie gave up and went to Venezuela to be a tour guide, showing kids around rainforests. Dan was doing session guitar for people like Natalie Imbruglia and I started writing jingles for adverts. Two years passed, we got together over Christmas-New Year, I developed what has become the dance of legend and we decided to have another go with me singing.
I've always enjoyed when someone slags us off — my s*** list gets longer and my journalistic expectations get lower. One particular bloke, his name is PG, he was really supportive of our first album but, when the second album came along he did an interview where he tried to create an atmosphere between me and my brother, to stir up some jealousy or resentment. He interviewed us both individually and told me stuff my brother had said with a view to get me to react, not caring that I had a hair trigger and no media training. I was primed to say stupid stuff, and I had to deal with the aftermath of saying stupid stuff about my own brother. It was damaging. The man is a dick. I sometimes see him on red carpets and I say: 'Hello PG, f*** you' and walk past. It's been nearly 20 years but I won't forget. Success is an exercise in finding out who your friends are.
I've been through different phases, bigger and smaller. These days my travel agent makes sure my minibar is empty, that everything is out, including the chocolate. When I was bigger, I had pain in my hips and the extra weight made me quite immobile. I was told I'd need a double hip replacement by the time I was 40 so I decided to get fit. I started running, I became lighter and now I don't have pain.
I live in Switzerland where I see a remarkable voice trainer called Barbara. She's taught me how to maintain my voice. Grunting is bad, clearing my throat is bad. I never cough or do anything to put strain on my vocal cords. Veganism is important, running for breathing, weights for strength. My voice operates better in the stratosphere and because I'm not in the habit of cancelling shows, I have to look after myself. You've probably noticed I have a very soft speaking voice. It never used to be like that, but I'm trained now and that soft speaking technique has permeated my whole psyche and made me mild-mannered. I don't have a hair trigger any more and I enjoy life more than I used to.
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The Caribbean cruise with Kiss was a career highlight. While onboard we were expected to mingle with the great unwashed but Kiss didn't have to do that. No way. They were in their mega suite at the top of the boat. Fair enough too — they're Kiss although as we sailed away from the first port Kiss did do a Q&A. One person asked, 'What element of being in Kiss has made you a better person?' One of them replied, 'I'll tell you what, the money doesn't suck'.
The Darkness broke up in 2006 because we fell out of love with each other and we were angry all the time. Being conflict-shy, we allowed things to develop into enormous problems when we could've dealt with them by communicating. We've not had counselling, I don't think we ever will and friction can be a good thing if you embrace it. All my favourite artists have had ongoing struggles with their key collaborators so I don't think we have any desire to iron out every resentment. I like a bit of drama and excitement. Change, turmoil and upheaval, those things help me write songs.
I once got a parcel in the mail from a super fan in Canada. The box contained this person's diplomas and life achievements — things you ought to keep — and three big bottles of maple syrup. The accompanying letter said one bottle was for Ginger from the Wild Hearts, one for my brother and one for me and that the person was coming over on a boat to spend the rest of their life with me. There's a very disappointing end to that tale, I'm not proud of what happened. [Short pause] I married her. [Longer pause] I'm joking.
The actual truth is, that box of life achievements went in a skip. I wasn't very tolerant of that kind of madness back then. I'm much more tolerant now and I love it when people turn up with tattoos of my face on their bodies. I'll sign it, then they get a tattoo of my signature. Without those people where would we be? Today if someone sent me a box of their life achievements, I would put it in my loft space and eagerly await their arrival.