Dollars to Pounds: Django Django

February 26, 2010

One of the walls at the BBC's Maida Vale studios used to be covered in graffiti and messages from the hundreds of bands who have recorded there during its 75 year history. Then one band left a message of such intense obscenity that it had to be wiped clean. Claire from BBC Introducing told me this story while we listened to Django Django play. BBC Introducing is an ongoing project to promote new music and they invited a load of young upstarts to their hallowed west London studios to record sessions. One engineer told me it had been "like a sausage factory, but sausages are always good." Django Django played in the studio next to the now-clean wall. They sound like Giorgio Moroder jamming with Link Wray and Orange Juice covering Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve. You can listen to the tracks they recorded below. Later I had a chat with them about the BBC Radiophonic workshop and other cool stuff.

I saw you guys in the back of a Columbia Road bar about a year ago. What have you been up to since then?
Dave: That was in the Flea Pit with my friend's band Mithras. I really enjoy those kind of gigs where we just hire a space and set up our gear without a sound man or a proper PA. Since then we released our first single "Storm"/"Love's Dart" and played a load of gigs but not that much had changed in the way we record apart from the fact we now share a practice space so we feel like a proper band even if our gear is still held together with Sellotape.

Vinny: That was our second or third gig I think. I'd forgotten to turn the turn tables off before we started so got a weird mixed first song and Duncan from Phantom Band who played bass with us before Jim had to fix the PA half way through whilst the rest of us noodled off our instruments, hopefully we got away with it. I think trying to get the live set really impressive has been the focus of a lot of our work, and also interpreting the recordings we'd done, which have a lot of layers within them which takes some juggling.

How was the Maida Vale sessions? Did you enjoy it?
Dave: It started off well, then as time ran out the more we panicked and the faster the songs got! I listened back to WOR today and it was about twice as fast as I thought it was at the time...maybe that gave it more energy though. It was great going there, so much history in the place. They had all these amazing photos round the place of people like Delia Derbyshire who was part of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The equipment they have there is all analogue vintage stuff, it's so sturdy, they really built things to last back then.

Tommy: Vic Galloway from BBC Scotland put us forward for that session—he has been waving the Django flag from the beginning. Maida Vale is brilliant isn't it? It's like the set of a no-expense-spared BBC docu-drama on the Radiophonic Workshop and they've got all the period detail spot on. Even the door stops were amazing.

I really enjoyed hearing you record. Was that a bit of "Organ Donor" at the beginning of "Storm?"
Dave: ah yes... "Organ Donor" is a sample from Giorgio Moroder's "Tears" (train-spotter hat on now). It's a track I really love from an album called Son of my Father. Moroder is a big hero of mine. We love that kind of gothic organ sound that can be found in a lot of Italian and French music of that time, like Goblin, Rinder and Lewis, Black Devil and Jean Pierre Massiera.

Tommy: I was nutty about Endtroducing when it came—it's a shame how overexposed it became—it was Davey that got me into the original years later—They're both brilliant.

And what's that Cecil Leuter kind of noise in "Default?"
Dave: He was part of The Radiophonic workshop too I think. Yeah its very "Pop Electronique." That's Tommy knob twiddling with a Roland Juno 60.

Tell me about your forthcoming single, "WOR."
Dave: Well "WOR" was a wee surfy/rockabilly skit that we would play a lot in practice between songs and we decided we liked it and developed it into a full track. It's got quite a weird structure because it was always an instrumental and we didn't add verses till later. It's a song about war. The war we are in now and the wars we've been in before. But the lyrics are written so that it can also be perceived as being a song about two people at war with each other, the war of the sexes, even. So it's either an anti-war song masquerading as a song about love or vice-versa.

Vinny: We came up with the bones of the track in Dave's family's holiday cottage up on the remote west coast of Scotland last year and finished it down in Dave's bedroom in Dalston. It's a bit of a different tack to other stuff we've done and I've always wanted to fit a war siren in a song.

Tommy: It'll always be more PHWOAR! than WAR! to me. But I'm a lover not a fighter.

Is it right you guys met at art school in Edinburgh? Do any of you still make art or is just an awesome place to start bands?
Dave: Yes, Tommy and myself were at Edinburgh Art College where we studied Painting and Vinny was there too doing Architecture. Jim was at Glasgow at the same time and I knew him because I would go through there to see friends and go to the Vic Bar. We all ended up in London for different reasons but somehow came together and started making music, it wasn't really planned. Art schools are full of creative, like-minded folk so it's a breeding ground for bands. We never had a band then but we were all really into music and talked a lot about starting a band. It took eight years and moving to a different city to make it happen.

Tommy: I still make a lot of art—I'm in the Jerwood painting prize this year—I also do graphic design work which pays better. I don't think it's surprising how many good bands come out of art school. You've got this period of time where you're filled up with all this brilliant and inspirational stuff that man has made and then you're spat out at the end of it and it makes it pretty hard to then just go into a regular job. And if you haven't got a regular job, then you'll have plenty time on your hands, chances are you'll know some other folk on the same boat and somewhere along the road you start a band.

Vinny: I knew Dave and Tommy through a friend, and we all drank in the same pub. I knew Dave was making dance music and I had a band that practised in the college boiler room. I asked Dave to play drums with us and he always promised he would turn up for practices but never did. Probably a good thing... we did soundscapes! Once I heard he moved down to London a few years later we met up and had very similar ideas of what we wanted to do, which is the same with Jim and Tommy which is half the battle.

What are you up to next?
Dave: "WOR"/"Skies Over Cairo" will be out on 7-inch in March. The summer is filling up with festivals and we have a few exciting remix projects on our plate so all in all pretty busy. We're not going to make it to SXSW this year now which is a bummer but we're looking forward to Fence Home Game and The Trip Festival. We're about halfway through writing and recording an album so that's exciting. Hopefully it will arrive before the end of the year. We just need to do a Captain Beefheart and lock ourselves in a shed until it's finished.

"WOR"/"Skies Over Cairo" is out soon. Go to BBC Introducing to hear other bands who recorded sessions over the weekend.

From The Collection:

Dollars To Pounds
Dollars to Pounds: Django Django