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The Darkness Singer Dishes About the City, Rock 'N' Roll and Lady Gaga

 The Darkness plays at the Great GoogaMooga festival in Prospect Park, May 17, 2013.
The Darkness
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PROSPECT PARK — Justin Hawkins, clad in a skin-tight, black and white striped jumpsuit, jumped off the elevated drum stand, doing a double leg kick in mid-air. Hundreds of people screamed, throwing their hands in the air when he shrieked in a falsetto voice while guitars blared behind him.

His band, The Darkness, was in Brooklyn Friday to play the Great GoogaMooga festival, touring and recording music after a hiatus during which Hawkins spent a time in rehab.

"Whenever you see a list of dates and New York is in there, that's exciting," said the 38-year-old Hawkins before his set. "And I don't know whether it's for any particular reason other than there's just something about New York."

The band reunited in 2011 and recorded an album, "Hot Cakes," which came out last August. But Hawkins feels they were a bit rusty.

"I think when we started recording we hadn't done any shows at all. I think there's a bit of the James Brown thing. If you're road hardened and then you record, you can hear that in the performances. For me, I think it was just an album. But I think the next one will be really special."

When asked if he felt he had something to prove with the next album, Hawkins said "only to ourselves." 

"I don't want to die until I've done another album that I'm really proud of. I haven't done that for a while. Then I'll die."

The Darkness took off in 2003 with Permission to Land, which featured the breakout hit "I Believe in a Thing Called Love."

Hawkins was already in his late 20s, but said he was still not fully prepared for the experience.

"I think I've always had a slight dislike of money. And so that didn't prepare me very well for having money, because I all I did was spend it as quickly as possible. I don't regret that. It's just the way it was, I suppose."

When asked if he had any advice for the slew up-and-coming bands based in Brooklyn he said to think about making a geographic change.

"Move to Scandinavia. I think that some countries, in mainland Europe especially, really invest properly in music and emerging talent and there is less hardship if you want to pursue that particular art form."

But he added that if you decide to slog it out stateside you just have keep some perspective.

"And just think about all these things that happen to you and recognize the hilarity of it. And recognize how preposterous the actual lifestyle is. Because even when you do make it, for a while, like ten years ago, we were pretty much the most famous people in England, and that whole experience was just so crazy. It's actually more fun now when we're scrapping away at the bottom of the mountain."

The band toured with New York's own Lady Gaga after releasing Hot Cakes. Hawkins said he was most impressed with Gaga's fans.

"I watched her a lot, but you spend a lot of time watching her fans as well because it's a different breed. There's a real dedication in there, which is surprising for somebody who you would assume being in the pop sphere you'd imagine that the fan base is more transient and it's not like that. You can tell that they spend their lives obsessing about her. And it's quite a surreal experience to be amongst that group."

Hawkins said he found little difference between Gaga's onstage persona and how she was in person.

"I mean that's one of the reasons she is so successful is because it is actually quite real. It's an exaggeration, of course, but it's the way it should be."

Life on the road can be grueling, especially if you're sober and, as Hawkins is now, eating a very strict vegan diet.

"I don't like it if there isn't a challenge, to be honest. I always used to say, in some respects, it's good to handicap yourself. If you think about playing tennis, for example, it's much more satisfying to win when you're playing with a frying pan and your opponent has an expensive racquet."

Getting to play with his brother, Dan Hawkins, who plays guitar in the band has helped him stay centered.

"We're best friends. And it's just like a coincidence that we came out of the same womb. Obviously there's a connection there. I don't really look at Dan very often on stage because I don't need to. And I don't think he looks at me. We just rely on each other. We know exactly what we're doing. There's an innate awareness there. That helps. You don't get that from normal relationships."