Django Django complete a great 2013 by performing at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay party. Band member Dave Maclean pinpoints some of the year’s other highlights
From the outside in, it appears as though all of half-Scots quartet Django Django’s major events so far came in 2012 – the release of their debut album, its subsequent nomination for the Mercury Prize – and that this year has seen them adopt something of a holding pattern while they figure out what’s next. With writing sessions having only just begun for the follow-up, that’s partly the truth, but that’s mainly because 2013 has been a huge year in terms of playing across the globe and building an international profile.
“We basically ended up touring that album for a year and a half,” says the band’s Edinburgh College of Art-educated drummer Dave Maclean as they prepare to return home from their London base to perform at this year’s Hogmanay celebration in Edinburgh. “No-one expected that, but it was absolutely fantastic.” Here, he chooses the other highlights which have made 2013 a crucial year for Django Django.
We left to go there on Boxing Day (last year) and then we played through New Year and into January. On New Year’s Eve we were playing a big raucous festival in Tazmania, and then the tour was really good, especially as it was the height of summer. It seems so long ago, I can’t believe it was only a year. It’s a good place for us, they seem to be keen for us to keep going back.
HEADLINING THE NME AWARDS TOUR
It was a younger crowd than we’re used to playing to, but you know, it was still a mixed bag. It’s a challenge, I guess, to play to a crowd who aren’t necessarily there to see you, but the fact it was out of our comfort zone is what made it worth doing. We were headliners, although we weren’t quite sure whether we were big enough with NME readers to deserve that, but it was great. It was a rollercoaster – a hard schedule, a lot of shows in a month, plenty of partying and tour bus shenanigans. It’s the kind of thing that leaves you shell-shocked, but glad you got through it.
We went straight to America after the NME tour, around Easter time. Played Central Park with the Zombies, which was great. It’s another place that’s really supportive of us, we did loads of radio and played quite big venues – I think even promoters were surprised. I’m terrible with remembering the numbers of people they hold, but I was really pleased we sold out the Minneapolis one where Prince shot his Purple Rain film (First Avenue), and that was probably the size of the Barrowlands. The label seem to take us seriously over there and I’d love to go back more, but these things are always a balancing act.
That was a huge one for us, we were really high up on the bill, playing second last on the Park Stage as the sun went down. It was pretty daunting actually, but the crowd were phenomenal and we had a huge turnout, it couldn’t have gone any better. The atmosphere was unforgettable, that moment where it got dark and the set ramped up.
There were great festivals all over Europe especially, but the other one which was really up there was the last one we did, which was the Unknown Festival in Croatia. Again, we played second last before Disclosure, so there was quite a dance-music feel to the whole thing – of course, dance music’s a big part of what we do, but I still wasn’t sure how we’d fit in somewhere like that. But we got a big crowd and a huge response, they really got it. It felt good to be part of a festival like that, to be seen as being a part of that, although to be honest I’m not sure what kind of band we’re expected to be otherwise.
RECORDING THE AFRICA EXPRESS ALBUM MAISON DES JEUNES IN MALI
It wasn’t really a Django Django thing, that was me on my own. The goal was to go there in October and make an album in a week with local guys from Mali, as well as Damon Albarn, Brian Eno and guys like Ghostpoet. We took over a youth club in (the Malian capital) Bamoko, and musicians would be coming in and out all day, so it was up to us to grab them and ask them if they wanted to record anything, a really open process. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, the kind of thing that doesn’t come along very often.
WORKING WITH BRIAN ENO
Yeah, obviously him being Brian Eno was enough to make me think, I really want to do this (Africa Express). He was kind of a presence there, he did a lot of listening and recording but he made the point that he didn’t want to interfere with the music too much. He’d done a similar project in Africa in the 1970s where he’d realised he couldn’t add much to the music to make it better, so he just wanted to record it as well as he could. He was hugely encouraging and exciting to have around, a really lovely guy full of great chat and stories who was up for getting stuck in, although Damon (Albarn) was the driving force. His work ethic is unbelievable.
STARTING ON THEIR SECOND ALBUM
As soon as the festivals were finished, we started to get our heads around how to approach the next album with a couple of studio sessions. We’d originally hoped we would have it finished by now, but that was thrown out of the window when we realised how busy the year would be, and Africa Express took over for a bit.
It’s hard to say, it’s really early days, but we’re getting somewhere. I guess because we made the first album in such an unconventional way, making one now as a band throws up new challenges – the dynamics have changed from just me and Vinnie (Vincent Neff) sitting in a bedroom.
It’s not about trying to make other people happy, though, it’s about us being sure that what we’re doing’s good.
BEING ASKED TO PLAY HOGMANAY
It’s a massive deal, it’s one of those things like headlining the NME tour that you hope you’ll be asked to do. For me Hogmanay in Edinburgh is like that, it’s a moment, a point in your career which you’ll hopefully be able to look back on. As soon as it came up, Tommy (Grace) and I were like yeah, we have to do this. Maybe the other two don’t get it so much, not being Scottish, but they’re well up for it too. It was another of those things that we just couldn’t turn down, despite how keen we are to get on with the record. I just hope we’re able to give people what they want, but we’ve played a lot together and we’re getting a lot stronger as a live band now.
• Django Django play the Hogmanay Street Party’s Waverley Stage, Edinburgh, on 31 December.
Django Django are part of an incredibly strong line-up of Scottish musicians at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay – here’s where to find them all.
Chvrches (Street Party)
The Glasgow electropop trio have had a phenomenal year, supporting Depeche Mode on tour and releasing their debut album, The Bones of What You Believe, to wide acclaim.
King Creosote (Street Party/Scot:Lands)
The Fence Collective is dead, long live the Fence Collective. Johnny Lynch (aka the Pictish Trail) called a halt to Fence Records this year, but Kenny Anderson quickly revealed his intentions to revive it – starting with a celebratory gathering of Fifers at 1 January’s Scot:Lands event. Before that, he’s seeing out the year with his band on the Street Party stage.
The Rezillos (Street Party)
It was the offer of a Hogmanay gig that got the Edinburgh band back together in 2001, and ever since they’ve been at their busiest during the festive season – dare we describe them as the Sir Cliff Richard of punk?
Treacherous Orchestra (Street Party)
The Celtic Connections favourites shared a stage with Jessie J and Manic Street Preachers this year, at Radio 2’s Live in Hyde Park concert. If the Street Party had a roof, this storming folk crossover band would raise it.
Fiddler’s Bid (Street Party)
The members of this folk band will appear in another guise on 1 January as part of Scot:Lands’ Shetland arts showcase; before that they’ll be warming up the Street Party stage on New Year’s Eve.
William Douglas (Street Party)
This long-established Edinburgh musician has supported everyone from the Proclaimers to the Dresden Dolls with his band, the Wheel; now he’s getting a well-deserved Hogmanay slot.
Nina Nesbitt (Concert in the Gardens)
The profile of this young Edinburgh singer-songwriter has risen considerably this year, with her first hit single, Stay Out, and her cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Don’t Stop featured in a John Lewis ad campaign. She also got to sing Flower of Scotland in front of a huge crowd at Hampden Park.
The award-winning folk trio are curating their own stage on New Year’s Day, with guests including Mary Macmaster and Fraser Fifield.
FOUND with RM Hubbert (Scot:Lands)
The Edinburgh band/art collective team up with the SAY award-winning Glasgow guitarist for an atmospheric candlelit show on New Year’s Day.