Justin Hawkins of the Darkness loves a well-played cliche as much as anybody, but he says rock stars also need to innovate in order to save the genre from irrelevance.

The band's first concept album, Easter Is Cancelled, puts the entire genre on trial. Or, as a press release explains, the LP "examines the role of the musician in the barbarous culture of the world today, and their almost divine responsibility to challenge the establishment -- something that most rock 'n' roll artists seem to have given up on in favor of easy celebrity."

Hawkins credits his brother and bandmate Dan Hawkins with coming up with the title for the album's lead single, "Rock and Roll Deserves to Die," after watching a particularly cliche-laden music video that he declines to identify.

"I don't mind when people are doing that stuff," Hawkins tells UCR. "Cliches can be funny if they're done in a sort of slightly knowing way, you know? But I think when they're sort of used as a blueprint, with very little of an embellishment or twist going on, then it's like, Well, what the fuck? That is how my brother came up with that expression. The genre only has itself to blame, if that's all it's gonna do is rehash itself and not try to explore new passages. It's always going to lose to rap, it's always going to lose to jazz -- to genres where the artists are prepared to approach it with a fresh attitude."

Watch the Darkness' 'Rock and Roll Deserves to Die' Video

This time out, the Darkness shook up their typical recording process by heading into the studio without their usual arsenal of finished songs. "We risked being self-indulgent by writing in the studio," Hawkins admits. "But I think we're quite good at editing ourselves. We did take all of the songs on the ultimate journey they could go on, and then the challenge was stripping it back afterwards. 'Rock and Roll Deserves to Die' was originally about eight-and-a-half or nine minutes long, and it had an extra sort of section at the end, which is gone now. And that's for the best. Now we listen to it, and we're excited by what happens at the end."

The final version of Easter Is Cancelled clocks in at a trim 40 minutes, meaning plenty of music got left on the cutting-room floor. "There's loads of sections and whole songs that we've recorded, and some members of the band loved and others hated," Hawkins says. "A lot of stuff had to be hacked away. Nothing's ever wasted, but we've got such a huge amount of material, so we can settle on the stuff that makes us all proud and happy."

Hawkins isn't worried about the album's title or cover art, which portrays Jesus breaking free from the cross, causing a backlash. "There is a baseline level of fear toward religious people in me because I am an atheist," he explains. "But I don't do it to provoke, the concept isn't 'Wouldn't it be funny if ... ?'

"The concept is multiverse theory. We're talking about -- if we're allowed to assume that there are an infinite number of alternate universes -- where every possibility is reality, then there must be a reality, if we acknowledge that there was a Christ figure with supernatural powers, there must be an alternative reality somewhere in the multiverse, where Jesus and the three Marys decided to use that ability to prevent the crucifixion. Just to finally go, when the nail goes in, 'Oh, I'm not having this!' There must be a universe like that. And I don't think its blasphemous to assume that. We're talking about science fiction, not religion. We're not the first people to subvert religious iconography in artwork, and we're certainly not saying that we're Jesus. We're not doing any of those things. I think it's a legit exploration, and I haven't felt compelled for anything yet, so I must be believing it."

 

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