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Justin’s Hot Legging it back to Midlands

March 3, 2009

Hot leg - Justin HawkinsIan Harvey talks to  former Darkness singer Justin Hawkins as he prepares to unleash his new band Hot Leg on the Midlands.

Imagine a group like The Darkness but even more so . . .  welcome to the world of Justin Hawkins’ new band Hot Leg.

Spinal Tap famously turned their amps up to 11 for maximum rock effect but even that is not enough for “the Leg”.

“I don’t think a mere numerical value can contain us,” insists the singer.

Three years out of rehab for drink and drug addiction, Hawkins is raring to go with Hot Leg’s first album, Red Light Fever, a collection of songs he says are the strongest he’s ever written.

Midland fans have a chance to check out the four-piece when they play Birmingham’s o2 Academy this Monday, March 9. Tickets are £10.

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Fans got their first look at Hawkins’ new band last August when they played just their second-ever gig at Birmingham Barfly and found a tight rock outfit blasting out those trademark falsetto shrieks, striking completely bonkers rock poses and sporting a rather fetching set of matching headbands.

It was all deliberately low key (in Darkness terms anyway). There wasn’t a sequinned catsuit in sight, with Hawkins instead sporting tiger stripe jeans, a blond, shaggy head of hair and bright orange nail polish.

So as Hot Leg unleash what Hawkins is calling “man rock” on the world, does he agree that Hot Leg are “more Darkness” than The Darkness were?

Justin Hawkins at Birmingham Barfly“Maybe The Darkness weren’t quite as Hot Leg as Hot Leg are,” he replies cryptically, before adding: “We’re just out to do the biggest, loudest rock we can do really, although we have got a few mega ballads as well. We’re just trying to put the songs across in the biggest way that we can.”

Red Light Fever opens with Chickens, a song that’s like Queen and Sparks colliding in an explosion of flamboyant falsettos.

Other highlights include the stuttering Cocktails, Gay In The Eighties, I’ve Met Jesus and the quite brilliant Ashamed, an all-out attack on the vacuous nature of reality TV shows like Big Brother, X-Factor and Fame Academy, with lyrics that simply can’t be reproduced here.

“It’s not the sort of thing that anyone can really deny though, is it?,” laughs Hawkins about the thrust of Ashamed.

When we chat, Hawkins is buzzing in the afterglow of the first night of the 2009 Hot Leg tour, their first gig since the release of the album last month.

“We played Belfast yesterday. Now the album’s out and people know the songs it’s just a real thrill – and not the kind of thrill I’ve experienced for a few years really – to hear people singing it back to us.

“It was a very moving time and it really gave us a bit more of a boost. It really felt like our first proper show as a real band. It felt like we went up a gear and we hope it continues.”

Following Hawkin’s Twitter feed   that certainly seems to be the case, with the singer delighted at the reaction to the band as the tour progresses.

But he has no regrets about going on the road last year before the album’s release and road-testing the new songs to an audience who didn’t know quite what to expect.

“It’s the only way to do it,” he says. “It was challenging last year. It was really obvious that it was the right thing to do but it didn’t make it easy. It’s really hard work but it’s rewarding.

“Even Darkness fans have taken a bit of winning over to some extent, but once they hear the songs I think it makes a big difference because I’m sure they’re the strongest ones I’ve ever written.”

Hot Leg strike a 'man rock' poseWhen I say his mission seems to be to paint a smile on the face of rock, he replies: “Pretty much yeah, but you make me sound like The Joker!”

And what about “man rock” – is it just about dreaming up a wacky name, dressing up outrageously, striking a big pose and making as much noise as possible?

“There’s a bit more to it than that,” Hawkins replies. “There’s a genuine distillation of all that it is being a man and and an interpretation of manhood which, primarily, is enjoyed by women.

“The majority of our fanbase are attractive ladies, which is absolutely bizarre, I’ve never experienced anything like it.

“The Darkness had a real cross-section of enthusiasts of all age ranges and both genders – and some in between – and Hot Leg is at the moment mostly beautiful women, which is awesome.

“Women enjoy it more than anybody. Our hardcore fanbase is women and men who really are at ease with their sexuality and unbelievably manly and not afraid to let their hair down.”

After Hawkins’ well-publicised time in rehab there were many who thought he might return a chastened, quieter, paler version of himself.

“I’m a healthier version,” he insists, “. . . and more tanned!

“I’m happier, healthier and more focussed. I’m concentrating more on my playing for a start. I’m a much better guitarist than I used to be and I’ve surrounded myself with people who are sensitive to my predicament and who don’t drink in front of me, and understand that it’s a clean touring environment.

“It’s a really fun, focussed project to be involved in and that’s how music should be . . . about the music.”

Justin Hawkins and guitarist Pete Rinaldi.Of course, not everyone “gets” Hawkins, The Darkness or Hot Leg. Those who like their rock mean, moody and po-faced have little time for bands who rock with tongues firmly in their cheek, as Hot Leg found out on an ill-fated support slot with Alter Bridge late last year, roundly booed by fans of the headliners.

“It wasn’t upsetting though,” says Hawkins. “I’ve experienced it many times before as a support band. It was quite a good challenge, and we changed one of the sing-backs to ‘Boo’ and ‘We hate you’, so even though they were booing us they were taking part in the show and not computing because people who boo at shows are just morons.”

There’s little chance of that at Birmingham on Monday. And one particular fan is likely to be making as much noise as any after playing a starring role at the Barfly gig in August.

“That was the day we got Rita Peachie, the, er, mature lady, on the stage,” says Hawkins.

“She sends me letters from time to time, we’re kind of pen pals.  She wrote a letter to the venue saying that she’d like to meet us and was really happy that I was back, so we decided to get her up.

“She is possibly one of our most mature fans. We’re hoping she’ll bring a few friends in case it’s not well attended!”

See the official Hot Leg website and listen to then at their MySpace page

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jackie L permalink
    March 4, 2009 12:28 pm

    I was at the gig last August and it was fabulous. Had tickets to see Hot Leg support Alter Bridge in Wolverhampton but unfortunately they had to pull out. Looking forward to next Monday in Birmingham. The album is superb. Great music. Great.

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