Danko Jones

DANKO JONES performing (at 6:15 pm) as part of SNOW JAM with Swollen MEMBERS with MOKA ONLy, Filter, BULLFROG with Kid Koala, CINDER, SHOCORE and TUULI at the CNE (Exhibition Place), Saturday (September 14), noon to 10 pm. $19.99 (two-day pass) advance, $29.99 at the gate. 416-870-8000.

DANKO JONES with andrew W.k. at the Docks (11 Polson), Friday (October 11), 9 pm. $19.50. 416-870-8000.

Rating: NNNNN

Sharing a bill with the rolling stones would be a career-capping highlight for most local bands. But for Danko Jones, hanging with Mick and Keith was just another in the series of mind-blowing events that are occurring with increasing frequency.It’s no longer uncommon for the tough-rocking Toronto trio to jet off to Holland to headline a massive outdoor concert in Rotterdam and then slip over to Paris for a media day with the French glossy press on the way home.

In the past year, Danko Jones have quietly made the transition from promising Queen West threat to bankable European festival draw. They’re rock stars.

“Like many Canadian artists,” explains singer Danko Jones at a Front Street bistro, “I believed you had to go to the States to make it. But once you play a few shows down there, reality slaps you hard.

“When you think about American rock bands who’ve become successful internationally — KoRn? Limp Bizkit? Staind? — that’s nothing we aspire to. We get to travel all over Sweden, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands on our own, playing songs for thousands of screaming people that we wrote at a rehearsal space at Queen and River. It’s incredible.”

At a time when popularity is largely a function of media hype, 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.

Their explosive new Born A Lion disc was completely self-produced and self-financed. But even before they licensed it to Universal (shrewdly hanging onto their masters and publishing), and their ingenious Blue Jays video clip started showing in high rotation on SportsNet, they were already well on their way to becoming celebrities in Europe.

“It all started when Trigger Happy’s Al Nolan played some of our songs for the guys at the Bad Taste label in Sweden. They liked what they heard and began e-mailing us about putting out our My Love Is Bold disc and playing some shows in Sweden.

“The weird thing is that right after we made the deal with Bad Taste, the Hives’ European booking agent signed us onto these big festival dates — 14 countries in seven weeks with groups like the Hellacopters and the Backyard Babies — all without any of them seeing us play a single show!

“But I think we exceeded their expectations, because after our second gig we got booked for the Roskilde Festival and another entire European tour.”

So why Danko Jones? Certainly, Sweden alone has more than enough heavy rock bands to go around. There’s just something about the Danko Jones guitar-led attack — which has them kicking out a ZZ Top-inspired groove grind with hardcore punk intensity — that happened to be what everyone was waiting for.

“It was definitely a matter of timing. We happened to come along when people were embracing guitar-oriented rock ‘n’ roll again, and I guess we’re doing something a bit different.

“Also, the fact that our rhythms are really basic and we don’t get into anything deeper lyrically than relationships makes our stuff accessible to a lot of people.”

The real key to Danko Jones’s success is the confrontational charisma of the group’s namesake frontman. He lurches into each song with wild-eyed, vein-popping rage, like he may spontaneously combust any second.

Yet the macho flexing comes tempered with lascivious smirks and a tongue-thrusting tease that adds an intriguing sexual dimension to his shouting delivery.

“Oh, man, the tongue thing,” he chuckles, shaking his head. “That all started when I did this photo shoot for Kerrang! where they insisted on a burning guitar being involved.

“When I saw the guitar on fire, I immediately thought “Gene Simmons’ and stuck out my tongue. It was, like, one frame out of 50, but that’s the image they used.

“Then we played the Hultsfred Festival in Sweden, and I forgot the words. Without thinking, I stuck out my tongue and got this huge reaction from the crowd. I’ve been doing it ever since.”

For all the razzle-dazzle antics onstage, the members of Danko Jones are surprisingly reserved, pleasant and punctual — about as far as people who play music for a living can get from the rock star stereotype.

The difference between the fired-up Danko Jones onstage and the charmingly soft-spoken person offstage has been perplexing for journalists on both sides of the ocean.

“As soon as I shake hands with an interviewer, the first question is always “Are you two different people?’

“”No, I’m the same person you see onstage, and you’ll know it if you keep asking me that.’

“When I stand onstage in front of a lot of people, with all those eyes looking at me, it’s like an act of aggression. That’s how I take it. My reaction is to strike back in an aggressive way. I go on the attack.”

The European press is always good for a few laughs, whether it’s probing dietary tendencies or uncovering the hidden political subtext in love-gone-wrong songs, as Danko Jones is discovering.

“This German journalist who looked kinda like Marilyn Manson asked, “So Danko Jones, your album is called Born A Lion. If, like Lenny Kravitz, you make millions of dollars, will your next album be called Born A Pussy, because you will be making pussy music like Lenny Kravitz?’

“We were all laughing too hard to even try answering that one.”timp@nowtoronto.com

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