Nine months ago, the Darkness released, and requested, Permission to Land in the United States. But despite the heroes’ welcome that the Brits received in their homeland (debuting in the Number Two slot), American audiences were a bit more cautious. Seeing frontman Justin Hawkins in Lycra with tattooed flames licking above his waistline recalled Spinal Tap gags and glam nightmares. But the Darkness were never kidding around, and their high-intensity, fist-pumping act has brought classic rock decadence back to U.S. clubs and even spawned myriad cover bands (including one called the Likeness) on both sides of the Atlantic. Now, with a new rocker about genital warts, “Growin’ on Me,” hitting radio and a June U.S. tour in the works, Hawkins is pondering the Internet suggestion that he take over for the late Freddie Mercury should Queen ever reunite. “I would die a happy man if I ever fronted Queen,” he says from the tour bus. “And I can’t see anyone else around who could do it better.”
Growing up, did your little brother [Darkness guitarist Dan] steal your records?
No. I wouldn’t let him. We used to clash about records in the old days, because his tastes were far more tasteful than mine. I was into Whitesnake, Aerosmith and AC/DC. We shared a love of Queen and Fleetwood Mac, but he was into more pastoral music — less bombast and more jangly. As an adolescent, though, he couldn’t get a girlfriend. You have to be a rocker.
Who, in your opinion, has been the most important member of Fleetwood Mac?
I think Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar playing is genius, and Stevie Nicks’ voice is really unusual. If you could have the head of Stevie and the body of Lindsey, that would be the most important member.
Do your stage outfits ever chafe?
My cat suits are really well made. Are you talking about the genital region?
One time I was sitting on someone’s shoulders, and I almost popped a ball on the back of someone’s neck. Squash! Once, I tried to do a headstand and incorporate the splits, and one of my balls popped out right in front of Ed [Graham, drummer], and he totally fell out of time. I like to show him my balls now and then, but not in that context.
Best guitar solo ever?
At the end of “Hotel California.” [Sings guitar solo] That one! It’s infinitely satisfying every time you hear it. I’m not a huge Eagles fan, but I just got the selected-works box set — I nicked it from an in-store we did.
What’s the best way to trash a backstage area?
I’m not particularly good at that. The first night of our support tour with Def Leppard, I kicked a chair that was heavier than I thought and broke my toe. I had to get injections every night to get through the shows.
What’s the best Darkness rumor you’ve heard? <P<> Somebody asked me, “Is it true you used to drive a truck and sell fish and your demos out of the back?”
What would you suggest that a Darkness groupie do to have sex with her favorite bandmate?
Don’t try [laughs]. That’s all people wanna know [in a whiny voice]: “How far does the tattoo go? Is it really pierced?” Jesus Christ! That’s sport-shagging. We’re quite mature, and we want relationships rather than . . . well, obviously we want both, we want to have our cake and eat it too, but people who blatantly throw themselves at us are very unlikely to succeed.
Is it really pierced?
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made onstage?
Playing in Dublin and announcing, “This is the first date of our U.K. tour!” You can get shot for that — Ireland’s a republic in its own right. I made the same mistake in the Basque region of Spain when I said, “Viva Espana,” thinking, “Oh, I’m clever, I can speak Spanish.” Got booed for that.
Who’s the hottest chick in rock?
I don’t want to sound obsessed, but Brody Dalle [of the Distillers]. I had a couple of chats with her. She’s unusually bright and really gorgeous.
Who would you most want to perform with?
Aerosmith. I’d sing the harmony part on “Angel,” from Permanent Vacation. “Problem Child” with AC/DC. I wouldn’t mind doing “Fat Bottomed Girls” with Queen, but I think I’d fuck it up. We might have to change that to the key of E.
What song should be played at your funeral?
The theme song from Blazing Saddles, played on a tuba [laughs]. The roof of the church will hydraulically open up, and I’ll be lowered on a crane, preserved in formaldehyde while riding a white tiger.