Interview: Django Django

The Mic clambered aboard Django Django’s tour bus – a hospitable den of blue twilight, leather and pepsi cans – for an interview with bassist Jimmy Dixon and synth operator Tommy Grace.

I have to ask – have you guys seen Django Unchained yet?

Jimmy: All our engineers are actually going to watch it this afternoon! I don’t know whether to go…I do like Tarantino, so maybe we should.

Tommy: I thought Inglourious Basterds was a lot better than people gave it credit for, it was very enjoyable.

Where did the band name Django Django come from?

J: Dave came up with it and one of his mates said it was the worst band name he’d heard, so we went with it.

T: It’s taken from an old dance record called Son of Django. We’re all into dancehall and we all love the old spaghetti westerns. It just sounded nice… and ambiguous.

So the name is onomatopoeic of your music…

[laughs] Yeah, but I won’t try and pronounce that word myself

Your debut was received extremely well and you were nominated for the 2012 Mercury Prize. Did you expect such a positive response to your first album?

J: Not at all, I think we were all pretty chuffed just to get the album out, but then the positive reviews started coming in and it was great.

T: None of us have had experience at doing this sort of thing before, so we didn’t expect it. When the record was made and it came out as a physical thing, we gave it to all our mates and that felt great, but didn’t think of the wider repercussions.

Your music clearly incorporates a crossover of various genres – who were some of your influences in the making of Django Django?

J: We listen to all sorts. But it’s been two and a half years since Vinny and Dave started writing songs together; it’s been a slow process of writing and over that time we’ve all been listening to each other’s record collections.

T: Dave DJs a lot and people think he plays a really odd mix of styles – but it doesn’t necessarily seem odd to us. For example, we would put Bo Diddley, Eddie Cochran or Joe Meek back to back. We don’t listen to a huge amount of current indie bands, but we love early rock n roll, stuff that’s raw and direct. We love dancehall music as well, especially that DIY feel. Back then they’d make do with what they had – it was just people in small studios trying to invent sounds using simple methods. It’s that approach that we took too.

That’s clearly evident on the album. Love’s Dart has all sorts of bizarre percussion sounds going on – tell us more about that.

J: We’ve forgotten! We lost bits of tracks because our computer broke. Dave and Vinny spent days trying to figure out how they got certain sounds and were using rulers and twanging them on tables and stuff.

We were recording it at Dave’s house, we didn’t have a studio or any instruments set up. We were literally tapping beats on phonebooks, hitting bottles and recording it, and then Dave would put it through lots of post-production.

T: We were never able to record 2 or more bits of audio at the same time. There was no space so we’d end up layering and layering and then forget what original sounds were or how we got them. I suppose that was the nice thing about doing it as we ended up with something we never expected.

Does that result in a completely different live sound in comparison with your recorded material?

J: Yeah, definitely. There’s no way we could play songs as they’d been recorded. We’d need an orchestra of people who would have to like, hit pieces of wood and stuff.

We had to make a lot of decisions about what got stripped back. We did a lot of early shows that just sounded awful. It was almost like rewriting our songs, working out what the core elements of it were. That makes it fun though.

What’s been your favourite gig or festival to date?

T: We did so many festivals over the summer. There was a lovely one in Sicily called Dipsy Rock. It was a tiny castle town and the festival was held right at the top with about 2000 people. The line-up was Alt-J and Primal Scream which was wicked. The actual town was used for filming in Cinema Paradiso.

J: We got to play with Primal Scream at that festival which was awesome. When I was wee, I had an aversion to anything with a drum machine because I was weird.

T: You still are..

J: But Primal Scream are an important band because they look back to loads of important bands from the 60s and 70s but then they were also so current and they opened up so much possibility for dance music.. I got into 808 State after that. They’re great.

You sound quite star struck Jimmy.

J: Yeah! We were! We saw Bobby after the festival on the beach with his family, and it was so hot but he was still dressed all in black wearing winkle pickers and a hat – so inappropriate but absolutely brilliant.

What does the year ahead have in store for you?

T: We’ve got an American tour straight after this, and then we’ll come back and start writing and recording. Hopefully we’ll have something like an album by the end of the year.

J: First time round we were doing it ourselves, but hopefully it will get done quicker this time. We won’t go to a big studio though; we’ll keep it reasonably lo-fi because it’s nice to feel that you’ve got time to play with without the pressure of working in a studio. We’re not the best session musicians.

Finally, a bit left-field, but it’s pancake day…favourite toppings?

J: Lemon and sugar for me – but it shouldn’t be caster sugar, it has to be granulated

T: He’s thought about this seriously. We went to Canada actually and I bought a huge bottle of maple syrup which is pretty good with bacon.

J: I like to eat at least 8 though…if I had bacon I couldn’t do that.

Bacon and maple syrup pancakes sounds an unlikely pancake topping combo.

T: No we’d never heard of it either but in America it’s a classic – they have it with mushrooms too.

Helena Murphy