It was the reunion everyone was praying for. Now, rockers extrordinaire The Darkness have been announced as Lady Gaga’s main support act on her forthcoming UK tour. An odd pairing perhaps, but when you consider the band’s propensity for eccentricity and showmanship, it makes perfect sense. Sort of.
Of course, an essential part of The Darkness’s sound lies in their back-to-basics rawk approach to gear. Fortunately, Guitarist magazine recently conducted a backstage rig interview with the band, in which guitar-playing brothers Justin and Dan Hawkins reveal their choices in axes, pedals and amps. Unfortunately, we still remain unenlightened when it comes to Justin’s choice of moustache wax, a no-doubt essential ingredient in his tonal supremacy.
Both Justin and Dan swear by Gibson Les Pauls. Justin opts for white Customs, while Dan prefers Standards. However, although Dan’s axes may be standard by name, they are most definitely not standard by nature. Two of his Pauls are fitted with Fishman Powerblend pickups and stereo outputs, allowing him to switch to an acoustic sound at any point, but his primary love is still “June”, a Standard Les Paul that has served him well for many years. Several of Dan’s guitars have also had some rather famous owners, which you’ll discover if you watch the video above (around 07:30 in). Justin, on the other hand, opts for stock configurations on his Les Paul Customs and a Gibson acoustic for the ballads, keeping it simple (unlike his facial hair).
While they differ in their choice of Les Pauls, both Hawkinses do agree on their amps. The pair run Marshall Plexi 1959 Super Lead heads with Marshall Power Brake attenuators ensuring maximum tone with lower volumes, before hitting Marshall 1960B cabs with Greenback speakers. In addition, Dan runs a Wizard Modern Classic head EQ’d differently to fill in any tonal gaps in the choruses, which is then run through another Marshall 1960B cab, this time fitted with Harman speakers. A Marshall 1987X head also sees the odd term of service, not to mention a Vox AC30 (boosted by a Fryer Brian May treble booster) for feedback/massive chorus use. Blimey.
Finally, the pedals. Again, Justin makes things easy for himself, with a vintage whiteface ProCo Rat and Boss DM-2 running on his solo channel, while a Diamond Compressor is on at all times. And, of course, there are the obligatory Boss TU-2s for tuning. Obviously. In fact, the only aspect of Justin’s pedal rack which is perhaps a little extravagant is his Dunlop Cry Baby wah controller, which allows him to run up to five wah pedals onstage, with the same settings on each. Snazzy.
Dan, on the other hand, gives us a bit more to look at with his effects rack. Designed by Adi Vines of XS Electronics, it uses the Voodoo Lab GCX audio switcher system to minimise tone loss and provide MIDI patches. The pedals getting switched in and out are a pair of Ibanez Tubescreamers (one TS9 and one vintage 808), two Boss DM-2 analogue delays, an MXR Carbon Copy and a Roger Mayer Axis Fuzz. In addition, separate trays play host to a Mesa/Boogie V-Twin preamp (sent to the Vox AC30), the Fishman Powerblend controller and a Korg G4 leslie simulator.
Phew! I’ll be honest: that was more gear than I was expecting. I’m quite tempted to hear it all in action too, just don’t judge me for it! Until next time…