The Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins recently appeared on the Skin Things podcast, hosted by singer Deborah Anne Dyer, popularly known as Skin. Hawkins, who shares YouTube videos where he discusses current things in rock music on regular basis, reflected on the state of the genre. In particular, he discussed on what hinders its progress and keeps it too tame. And, according to Justin, it comes down to the very things that made it so great in the first place. Reflecting on the issue, he said (transcript via Ultimate Guitar):
“I think the bits of rock that are undeniably cool, the stuff that’s timeless, and brilliant, and hasn’t got the hair rock association — that stuff is revered to a degree where it’s stopping rock from moving on, almost.”
As he further goes into the issue, there’s this ever-present mindset of what’s “real rock ‘n’ roll” or not which ultimately dictates what rock bands do today. Justin continued:
“A lot of bands come out and people get excited, ‘Ah, yes! This is real rock and roll!'”
“And real rock and roll is a very, very specific thing. It kind of has the same aesthetic as what bands were doing in the ’70s; a little bit of the ’80s attitudinally, but not in the aesthetic.“
“And it’s like, anything that strays from there isn’t considered real rock. And it leaves you a really limited set of parameters that you have to work within.“
What Justin was aiming at here is rock ‘n’ roll’s very own authenticity that fans are often so adamant about. As a result, musicians are usually trying not to anger or even push their fans away by trying new things. This is the one “catch-22” about the genre. If you do the same old things, you’re boring and doing the same old stuff for a cash grab. And if you do try something new, you’re marked as a sellout. The former, however, seems to be a much safer option.
Justin then concluded by saying:
“And you’re just doing like blues rock, as it was in the ’70s, and there’s no way for it to evolve, and very, very seldom get bands that cross over, unless they’re choosing something that’s a bit more new-wavy, or whatever the zeitgeist happens to be. Or they write a fucking amazing song. And that doesn’t happen very often anyways.”
Rock music’s rebellious nature and breaking out of the status quo of the music industry is what made it so popular over the decades. However, at some point in time, certain “industry standards” for rock music were established. Eventually, going out of these boundaries often gets labeled as “selling out.” And thus we end up with this bizarre paradox — rock music shouldn’t be rock in order to actually be rock.
For a while now, Justin Hawkins has been getting into the media spotlight for his YouTube channel. His channel Justin Hawkins Rides Again was launched in late 2020 and counts around 325k subscribers as of today. In the same interview with Skin (via Ultimate Guitar), the musician also reflected on how his YouTube channel has become his main source of income for him. For him, the whole thing started after suffering financially. Justin remembers:
“Well, the first thing I did was I started a Patreon. And that was because when COVID started, I was just in this house and I had no furniture… For lots of different personal reasons, I ended up in this weird situation where I couldn’t work, I was on my own and struggling a bit, emotionally and also financially.“
“It was a lot of video-based content – tutorials, zoom calls with patrons, and a lot of stuff that kept me busy, kept me sane, kept the wolf from the door, kept the mortgage payments happening…“
“And then, my producer, who I used for who works with me on Patreon suggested that I do YouTube because she has some experience in doing the YouTube thing for a very, very, very famous and very, very successful YouTube personality… And she thought that, having had some experience in front of the camera, I’d probably be alright to do it.”
“The YouTube thing has become my main thing, I suppose, that I do on a daily basis.”
Photo: Drew de F Fawkes (The Darkness, La Laiterie, Strasbourg – 49746121698)