Justin Hawkins: Radio killed the riff

a shot of Justin Hawkins crouching on a grand piano holding a guitar
(Image credit: Will Ireland)

Justin Hawkins of The Darkness believes the state of radio is to blame for modern rock music’s failure to break through to the mainstream.

As part of the World Guitar Day 2017 celebrations, Deep Purple’s Smoke On The Water was voted number one in a reader poll of The Greatest Riffs Of All Time. But the poll, which attracted over 30,000 votes, failed to place a single song written in the 21st century into its top 50. “I believe it’s because of the state of radio,” Hawkins told TeamRock.

“When you’re taking about a song like Back In Black [which ranked second in the poll], that’s a really heavy riff, but it’s a crossover song; they do play stuff like that on Radio 2 because it’s so memorable and it’s so timeless and brilliant. But if a new band came up with that riff they wouldn’t get anywhere near the radio.”

“I think the people who are to blame are the people who decide on the music playlist for radio stations,” he added. “And unfortunately, they’re fucking cocks! They don’t know what they’re doing, they have no understanding or appreciation for human music. The guitar is desperately unfashionable and it has been for years.”

His brother, and The Darkness guitarist, Dan Hawkins, agreed, adding: “They don’t know what guitar music is.”

“It’s also that the more memorable riffs in the last 10 or 20 years have been songs that do get through to radio sometimes, like your White Stripes kind of riffs, things like The Hives even, and it’s more of an alternative thing.

“Unfortunately in that sort of genre, I think sometimes the vocals, or because it is ‘alternative’ – it’s not rock music – it’s never going to go to as broad an audience as something like Smoke On The Water or Back In Black would ever reach, so therefore they’re forgotten about more quickly.”

The Darkness’ new album, Pinewood Smile, is out now via Cooking Vinyl, and available to order via Amazon (opens in new tab).

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