Heavy Load: Justin Hawkins

Justin Hawkins has come a long way in the nine years since he quit The Darkness and wound up in rehab after spending £150,000 on cocaine. Although the band reunited in 2011, he now lives a very different life. Having turned 40 on March 17, 2015, the now tee-total and drug-free singer currently resides in Switzerland with his wife and young child.

In one sense he hasn’t changed: there is in his conversation – and also in The Darkness’s latest album Last Of Our Kind – a knowing sense of the absurd. But when he considers the bigger questions about his life, a more serious side to Justin Hawkins is revealed.

What do you enjoy most about living in Switzerland?

The skiing, lederhosen, alpine horns and singing in the hills… and there’s some homoerotic wrestling that I’m obviously a big fan of.

Is wrestling in Switzerland more homoerotic than in other countries?

I think so, because there’s a lot of leather and brass involved. Maybe it’s just me, but the Swiss wrestlers wear leather instead of the normal Lycra leotards. It has a sort of horsey element to it, and that always spices things up in the bedroom for me as well.

So it’s rather like like Mick McManus meets Rob Halford?

Yes, if Mick McManus was throwing Rob Halford to the ground amid sawdust while people yodel in the background. Awesome!

If you had not become a rock star, what would you be?

I’d be working with my father. No question about that. I’d be on a building site, mixing cement – if I could be trusted with that. I’d have much coarser hands. I’d be eating much more robust sandwiches. And I’d be constantly vying for my father’s approval.


That was a joke. I really enjoyed working with my dad when I was a young man, and the idea of it – rolling my sleeves up – still appeals.

Your dad named you Justin David Hawkins – a disappointing middle name for one so flamboyant.

Yeah, it’s rubbish. But that’s a family tradition. The first male has David as their middle name.

It does at least make you ‘JD’, which is pretty rock’n’roll.

You mean like Jim Davidson? Oh, you mean Jack Daniel’s.

Yes. A part of that rock’n’roll lifestyle to which you once subscribed.

I don’t really want to talk about that. I’ve just applied for a visa to a country where they don’t like that kind of stuff.

Perhaps, in hindsight, you shouldn’t have said that you blew £150,000 on coke.

To be honest that was an exaggerated figure. It was only about a hundred and forty-nine grand.

Was that your biggest waste of money?

I don’t think of it as a waste of money, because I’ve always enjoyed the act of spending. I feel liberated by it. So it’s never wasted. Since we had our first hit I have very seldom looked at my bank statements. I’ve never worried about it.

Not even when you had no money?

Well, I became very disillusioned when I had to sign on in 1999. At that point I’d already been a published songwriter – I’d written some jingles that were quite big. But I’d fallen on hard times, and I was forced to train for vocational skills. I was told: “You can do gardening or office work.” I said: ‘Okay, can I do gardening in the summer and office work in the winter?” They said no.

Who did you write jingles for?

The first one was a Tango advert. Then Ikea and HSBC. The Children’s Tax Credit was my favourite one, because the brief was to do something like Survivor. Obviously it was not dissimilar to Burning Heart or Eye Of The Tiger. Because when an advertising exec says ‘Survivor’, he’s only got those two songs in mind.

What can Justin Hawkins do that nobody else can?

I can move each of my ears independently. I’m the only person I know that can do that. It’s an involuntary response to riffing.

What in your life are you most proud of?

Obviously I’m proud of my child. Being a father has made me live in a more disciplined way. It’s provided a rhythm to my life that was never there before. But really it’s great fun having a kid. I love it and treasure it.

When was the last time you cried?

Not in the last ten years, I don’t think. I’ve tried to cry – for effect – during certain band debates. But, honestly, I just try to be happy. I don’t take happiness for granted, but I always strive for it.

Do you believe in God?

No. I have a different belief structure. I’m really fascinated by astrophysics and the nature of the cosmos. I’m shocked that people buy into the idea of a Creator who did everything in a week. That’s a little too hard to swallow.

What is your greatest regret?

There are several. Every day I meditate on the things I wish I hadn’t done. And then I immediately wish I hadn’t meditated on them. It spirals – it can take days out of my life. I can become morose, just staring at the walls. My child tries to snap me out of it. “Daddy, what’s wrong?” On that level, kids are far more perceptive than adults.

We all make mistakes.

As long as you don’t forget them, because then you’re doomed to repeat it. But I know what my personality is like. Once I get an idea in my head, I pursue it until its conclusion. So basically, every mistake I’ve ever made, every failure, was an accident waiting to happen.

What is the meaning of life?

For me, life is about finding happiness and sharing happiness. My life goal is to live as long as possible so that I can share that happiness with the people I love. It’s common sense. It should be obvious that you should treat people nicely. It’s also very important to me as a vegan to not kill animals – despite what I said earlier about leather. I want anything positive to be infectious. If people came to see The Darkness and they didn’t enjoy the show, I’d feel I haven’t done my job correctly. I want those people to get the happiness bug.

What will be written on your tombstone?

Nothing. I will be cryogenically frozen. There might be plaque beside my body that says: ‘This man has wisdom he wishes to share’. Or maybe I’d just be fired out of a cannon – blasted out to sea.

As you get older do you think more about death?

Well, I don’t think I’d ever get to the point where I don’t want to live any more. I even like it when I wake up in pain. Which I do quite a lot, with advanced rheumatoid arthritis in my hips and knees, caused by excessive dancing.

Is that a testament to how much you give to people?

Oh my God, is that how I sound? Fucking hell. You know what, I hate myself! Maybe I want to live so long in the hope that I might turn that around and actually tolerate myself occasionally.

Classic Rock 217: News & Regulars

Paul Elliott

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2005, Paul Elliott has worked for leading music titles since 1985, including Sounds, Kerrang!, MOJO and Q. He is the author of several books including the first biography of Guns N’ Roses and the autobiography of bodyguard-to-the-stars Danny Francis. He has written liner notes for classic album reissues by artists such as Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy and Kiss, and currently works as content editor for Total Guitar. He lives in Bath - of which David Coverdale recently said: “How very Roman of you!”