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In Danko We Trust

Rock and roll powerhouse Danko Jones is getting by with a little help from his power trio.

by Christine Leonard

You’d think being the namesake of an explosive Toronto-based rock and roll juggernaut would require frontman Danko Jones to add the role of “ Motivational Speaker” to his list of prodigious talents. And you’d be correct in that assumption. The unsinkable vocalist, guitarist, and composer has devoted the past 25 years to delivering unabashedly straight-ahead party bangers that project his no-nonsense approach to living life to its fullest. Which in his case means hitting the neon streets with an electric guitar strapped to your back. But truth be told, over the past 18-months even the most enthusiastic cheerleaders have been dealt an immobilizing blow, and neither the man nor the band has gone unscathed. 

As career musicians, Jones and his bandmates—bassist John Calabrese and drummer Rich Knox—found themselves without a plan B to carry them through the pandemic shutdowns. According to Jones, it’s all part of the huge risk you assume when you make that professional leap to being a full-time artist. “I’m usually the type that’s always doing stuff and I never like to be idle, but when the machine isn’t moving, I found out that I needed to move in order to move. It’s been a struggle,” explains Jones. “We had a number one song on the charts in Germany a couple of weeks ago and normally I’d expect to be touring there to capitalize on that. But no matter how hard you try right now you’re stuck – that is a kind of feeling I’ve never experienced before. We’ve been in constant tour-mode for two decades; you take that away from us and it’s hard to figure out what to do. I can’t just go work for my cousin’s landscaping company now – it’s a shock to the system!”

Fortunately, groups and individuals were soon reaching out to Jones to assist them with their quarantine time projects. Podcasts happened and invitations to jam sessions slid into his DMs, keeping the creative synapses firing as the band sat out the viral storm. “All the quarantine jams that I’ve been doing over the last year are because people approached me. I haven’t initiated much of anything, to be quite honest. Just trying to get through it.”

In other words, Jones got by with a little help from his friends. In particular, bandmate Calabrese who convinced the languishing songwriter that a new Danko Jones album could become a reality, even at a time when things felt distinctly unreal. The resulting LP, Power Trio (Sonic Unyon), effectively channels the pent-up emotion and energy that the threesome has wrestled with over the past year and a half. “I have to be very honest and say that it’s people who have reached out to me who have given me any reason to do anything. Including this album,” says Jones. “If it wasn’t for our bass player, and partner in this band, kicking my ass and making me get the album done at each stage of writing and recording the record, I would never have been able to do it. Left to my own devices, I just wanted to curl up into a ball and wait until this thing is over.”

Power Trio was just the medicine Jones needed to bust out of his shell with all of the loud rock sensibilities and gritty bravado audiences have come to expect. The breakaway hit “I Want Out” speaks for itself, smashing through barriers like a stunt car on fire. Celebratory fireworks pop and sizzle around “Good Lookin’” with its heavy Kravitz come-on, while swinging single “Saturday” offers up the feel-good hit of the summer. It’s all part of the ubiquitous leather jacket and slicked back hair aesthetic that would read as artifice on anyone else. 

“I’m very happy about the new album, I was very trepidatious about it because we were writing the record separately and we’ve written all our records from day one in a room together,” reflects Jones. “I think all of us were pretty skeptical about it, but once the first song came through and Rich Knox, our drummer, laid down the drums for it, we all realized we could actually write this record and have it be on par with the rest of the discography. I’m very proud of this new record. I’ve listened to it about a thousand times and I think it stands up with our previous albums like A Rock Supreme, Wild Cat and Fire Music. As much as the pandemic has brought a level of anxiety I’ve never experienced before in my life it did actually end up yielding a very strong powerful record of ours and I’m happy about that.”