Danko Jones are an odd band. The Canadian punk-meets-rock and roll trio are way, way bigger overseas than they are at home. In Europe, they play festivals. In Toronto, they might still be able to sell out a 500 person venue, depending on what else is in town that night.
An new Danko biography, Too Much Trouble: A Very Oral History of Danko Jones, explores the ups and downs of the band, as well as why they never completely got over in their hometown. It also features quotes from Damian Abraham, Jello Biafra, Hank Von Helvete and damn near everyone else you could think of. Here is an excerpt of an excerpt published over at Spinner Canada:
DANKO JONES: That’s when we started to realize, “This is how people see us”—they see us as this corporate entity, because we were signed to Universal. But we’re not the first band to do this—everyone from Sonic Youth to the Flaming Lips to Mudhoney have all done it; I’m just following in the footsteps of people who I thought had indie cred and still do.
DAMIAN ABRAHAM (Fucked Up): In the early 2000s, it was almost like there was this old indie rock versus new indie rock thing happening in Canada. Especially internationally, people looked at [bands like Broken Social Scene and Arcade Fire] as the birth of Canadian indie rock, as if nothing had come before it. Unfortunately, bands like Danko, who had predated it, got left by the wayside, even though their indie credentials are just as intact as anyone else’s. But it’s always been like that, when you look at the way scenes explode: bands that have a certain sound get lumped together and the bands that had either been doing it longer or doing something different fall through the cracks. You look at Seattle, and bands like the Fastbacks, or Gas Huffer, or the Supersuckers, or the Dwarves —bands that didn’t really fit the grunge thing—kind of got forgotten about, or aren’t really talked about in the same breath. It’s the same thing in Toronto: there’s a certain Toronto indie sound.
DAMON RICHARDSON: I remember when all that Broken Social Scene stuff was going on, and it was just such a weird thing that it started picking up so much steam. It was definitely far away from what we were doing at that point—I had this feeling that we weren’t going to be taking off in Canada anytime soon.
BRENDAN CANNING (Broken Social Scene, Cookie Duster): How were Danko going to compete when you’ve got our band, Arcade Fire, Feist, Stars, the Dears, Metric, the New Pornographers… there was definitely a [Canadian indie] sound there, and Danko was not, like, a hip sound. And [Universal was] trying to market them to this older, more middle-of-the-road audience. It wasn’t a real underground-rock kind of thing. It was just not the right sound—it doesn’t speak to the indie kids.
GEORGE STROUMBOULOPOULOS (former CFNY/102.1 The Edge DJ, current host of CBC Television’s George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight): The kind of Canadian indie rock that was being celebrated was different. While Danko were always the kings of indie, they were never considered the artistic band. Broken Social Scene and Arcade Fire were spectacular bands that lived in a different genre. And I also think what happened was that alternative and indie music became very sensitive and soft—people wanted emotional stuff. If you listen to all the indie stuff that gets played on all the radio stations and music blogs now, all that stuff is soft. Even when it’s noisy, there’s no dark streak to it. Indie kids don’t like rock music. Indie fans grew up listening to the Cure. I love the Cure, but the Cure are not KISS, you know? And most indie/alternative kids are afraid of rock ‘n’ roll.
Too Much Trouble is out now on ECW Press.