Toronto's Danko Jones has built a solid reputation as one of the hardest working Canadian rock bands. The power trio played shows and toured incessantly for almost six years before recording a full-length album. The band's visceral live shows, headed by the sexually charged Danko Jones, earned the group a dedicated fan base in Canada and an even bigger following in Europe. "Danko Jones have made their way on word-of-mouth, based on the quality of their music and their ability to present it in an exciting way night after night," wrote Tim Perlich of Toronto's Now. From an early mix of garage and punk rock, to metallic AC/DC hard rock and soul-infused cock rock, Danko Jones have consider themselves a live band that aims to please.
Singer guitarist Danko Jones and bassist John "JC" Calabrese started a band around 1996 with the intention of building a fan base and evolving as a live band before recording anything. Jones had an exciting stage presence that drew an audience, often referring to himself as the Mango Kid. Calabrese and Jones began gigging around Toronto with a few different drummers, before Damon Richardson (formerly of Canadian indie-rock band Change of Heart) got hooked to the permanent gig. The trio drew from the raw and carnal punk and garage-rock styles of underground bands like the Gories and Pussy Galore. "The real key to Danko Jones's success is the confrontational charisma of the group's namesake frontman," wrote Perlich. "He lurches into each song with wild-eyed, vein-popping rage, like he may spontaneously combust any second." Danko Jones is intent on running the band's business affairs themselves and have been involved in every financial aspect. After fans clamored to take home anything recorded by Danko Jones, in 1998 the group rewarded their listeners with a small limited edition pressing of a self-titled EP for Ontario label Sonic Unyon.
With very little money in their pockets, Danko Jones began work on a new six-song EP that they full funded themselves. Though Jones is a dynamic front man for the band that bears his name, writing the songs for Danko Jones is a full band affair. "We all get together in a room and jam it out. We're bass heavy, and a lot of rock bands forget about that," Jones told Canadian Musician's Rod Christie. "But with us, we know the focus is on rhythm, and bass and drums, so it's got to be a group effort. The … lyrics come after." In 1999 they self-released the EP My Love is Bold on Danko Jones Records/Sound King. The catchy song "Bounce" found its way onto Canadian radio and helped push the EP's sales up to 12,000 copies. The band found itself playing cross-Canada shows with Tricky Woo and Sloan before being nominated for a Juno Award for Best Alternative Album.
After the Swedish record label Bad Taste Records heard Danko Jones's music, they quickly signed the band on. The punk-rock label wanted new songs from the ever-touring band, but had to settle for a compilation of the band's previously recorded songs. In 2001 Bad Taste released I'm Alive and On Fire (A Collection of Songs: 1996-1999). The record, which contained songs from their first two EPs as well as some unreleased material, sold over 20,000 copies in Europe. The band spent almost the entire next year touring across Europe. "When our first European tour was booked, I was prepared for the worst," Jones confessed to Larry LeBlanc of Billboard. "Who the hell knew who we were? We were a small band on a small label." The trio made more than enough fans, and were asked to play at some of the largest and most impressive music festivals worldwide.
When the band returned to Canada, it was high time to record a proper full-length album of new material. Danko Jones once again self-financed the recording, and planned to release it on their own label. The new songs leaned more on groove-heavy soul rock than had the early punk snarls. The band's legendary performances were noticed by Universal Music Canada, and the label picked up Born a Lion for distribution. In 2002 Danko Jones Records and Universal Canada released Danko Jones's full-length debut, Born a Lion. The record was licensed to Universal but the band kept their masters and publishing rights. Born a Lion wrote Eye Weekly's Chris Rolfe, is "an explosive disc filled with bluesy, wart-covered rock." The record was nominated for a Juno Award for Rock Album of the Year.
After a Canadian tour behind Born a Lion, the group returned to Europe for a touring schedule. A star in Sweden, Jones began a weekly radio show for Stockholm's Rocket 93.5 FM. The entire band set up shop in Stockholm to record their sophomore album at Polar Studios. The aptly titled We Sweat Blood was released in Europe and Canada in 2003. "The hard-slamming We Sweat Blood finds the Jones boys ascending to AC/DC levels of pounding economy, bashing away with machine-like precision, walloping power and requisite tongue-thrusting swagger," wrote Perlich. The following year, riding on his popularity from the Stockholm radio show, Jones issued the solo spoken word album The Magical World of Rock. Danko Jones did a number of successful tours with popular Swedish bands the Hives, the (International) Noise Conspiracy, and Sahara Hotnights before American label Razor & Tie reissued We Sweat Blood in 2005.
In 2006, almost a decade after forming the band, the band parted with Universal, and Razor & Tie presented Danko Jones's third album, Sleep Is the Enemy, which contained less punk-metal and more melodic, arena-rock style songs. Spin called the record "riotous rock 'n' roll that cultivates irresistible urges to run around and break stuff." Upon the release of Sleep is the Enemy, it had been nearly three years since the band did a proper tour of Canada. In the spring Danko Jones made the unlikely pairing with North American mega rock stars Nickelback for a cross-Canada tour. After longtime drummer Richardson quit, they took a temporary replacement on the road. The two bands (one a huge major label and the other fiercely independent) made an odd pairing, but for Danko Jones it was a chance to win over thousands of potential new fans every night. "We really love to play live," Calabrese said to Christie. "And that has been what has inspired us to keep on. We know that if we keep on playing we can go places and meet people and that for me is the driving force."
Danko Jones, Sonic Unyon, 1998.
My Love is Bold, Danko Jones Records/Sound King, 1999.
I'm Alive and On Fire (A Collection of Songs: 1996-1999), Bad Taste Records, 2001.
Born A Lion, Bad Taste/Danko Jones Records/Universal, 2002.
We Sweat Blood, Bad Taste/Universal, 2003; reissued, Razor & Tie, 2005.
Sleep is the Enemy, Razor & Tie, 2006.
For the Record …
Members include John Calabrese , bass; Dan Cornelius (left group, 2006), drums; Danko Jones , vocals, guitar.
Group formed in Toronto, Canada, c. 1996; released EP Danko Jones, Sonic Unyon, 1998; released EP My Love is Bold, Danko Jones Records/Sound King, 1999; signed to Sweden's Bad Taste Records, 2001; released I'm Alive and On Fire (A Collection of Songs: 1996-1999), 2001; released debut full-length album Born A Lion, 2002; released We Sweat Blood, 2003; released Sleep is the Enemy, Razor & Tie, 2006.
Addresses: Record company—Razor & Tie, 214 Sullivan St., New York, NY 10012. Website—Danko Jones Official Website: http://www.dankojones.com; Razor & Tie's Danko Jones Official Website: http://www.razorandtiemedia.com/artistpage.php?artist=139.
Billboard, August 17, 2002, p.46.
Canadian Musician, July-August, 2000, p.38-41.
Eye Weekly (Toronto, Canada), July 18, 2002.
Now (Toronto, Canada), September 12, 2002; October 2, 2003.
"Artist of the Day: Danko Jones," Spin.com, http://www.spin.com/features/band_of_the_day/2006/07/060705_dankojones/ (February 16, 2007).
"Danko Jones," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (February 16, 2007).
Additional publicity materials were provided by Bad Taste Records, Razor & Tie, 2006.
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