Justin Hawkins grew up in the Suffolk town of Lowestoft, at a young age he locked himself away and learnt guitar. He was pretty good, but his kid brother Dan was even better ("I'm white hot," says Justin, "but he's shit hot."). Spotting their own potential they started a covers band with Dan on lead vocals.
In 1997, Justin departed to University in Huddersfield. Dan, meanwhile, moved to London in search of a band to join. That's when he met Frankie Poullain, an exiled Scot who came from a family of adventurers (he claims his dad was a pirate in the West Indies, his brother a soldier of fortune).
They shared a flat in Shepherd's Bush, where itinerant musos would pass through and jam. Justin, and Dan's schoolfriend Ed Graham, a drummer, would visit on weekends. The two brothers and Frankie formed an ill-fated prog rock band called Empire. Under Justin's guidance, they increased the heaviness of the sound, and threw out the lead singer. The brothers Hawkins had a talk. Was it worth carrying on? The answer came on Millennium Eve, when the pair went back to Norfolk to their Aunty's pub.
Justin entered a karaoke competition and performed "Bohemian Rhapsody", acting out every line and doing spectacular star jumps. Dan beheld his big bro's flamboyant star quality, and saw the future: "I know, YOU be the front man! The first call they made was to Frankie, who left Venezuela to rejoin them. The second call they made was to Ed, who left his band to rejoin them. The Darkness was born.
THE DARKNESS hit the live circuit in earnest, playing a series of now-legendary gigs around North London, almost always on a Saturday night (The Darkness are, in so many ways, the ultimate Saturday night band). A devoted following grew show-by-show, purely by word of mouth. The thing which set them apart, as much as the music, was their sheer showmanship.
"Everyone's too uptight these days," reckons Frankie. "I hate the arrogance of bands who think their petty emotions are interesting. If you look at bands from 25 years ago, people have smiles on their faces. We're bringing a bit of that back."
So there's no ironic intent? "No," he says, switching into sarcastic mode, "I'm just doing what's real and right." And they're not taking the piss out of Heavy Metal? "No way! Fxxx that!"
"We know we've got a long struggle," says Dan thoughtfully. "No-one dares break any rules. But once we get unleashed, we could change everything."
*Courtesy of Atlantic Records