Saturday, 11 January 2020

Interview - David Blair

David Blair, Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Summer 2019
Picture by Robert Adam

In these testing times we live in there is a band that always brings a smile to my face. A band that gets me singing, dancing and putting my hands in the air. Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5 have become a firm favourite in Scotland and beyond over the last decade, with legendary festival performances playing a huge role. I decided to catch up with the bundle of energy that is David John Blair, D(ij)ancer and force of nature for the band.

The beautiful picture above, of David and his band uniting a festival, perfectly captures the energy and enthusiasm Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5 generate when they play live with anthems like; Dance OffCross The Road, Peace Love and Mustard and the anti-drugs song These Are Not The Drugs Your Are Looking For. That song ends with the mantra everyone is happy, everyone is smiling, no-one here is sad anymore. 

I look forward to seeing Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5 getting the party started, celebrating the release of their new single G.T.,  in the beautiful surroundings of The Old Fruit Market in Glasgow on Friday 17th January. TICKETS HERE

Honestly, if you have the January blues, or if you just fancy a good night out, you won't regret it. Added bonus that my sister Carla is supporting and has some cracking new pop songs to play.

The band have just released their new single G.T. which is zooming up the alternative music charts.

I caught up with David for an extensive interview - should have done a podcast! Read on for loads of music recommendations and tonnes of positive energy.

EF - How are things with you and the band? What can we expect from your Celtic Connections show?

On a personal note, never better thanks! I started my actual Dream Job as Market and Ballroom Assistant for the Glasgow institution Margaret McIver Ltd, more famously known as The Barras Market (100 years old in 2021) and the Barrowland Ballroom AKA the Greatest Venue for Live Music in the World, on the 23rd of last month.

I've been going through an induction period of getting to know the role, buildings and area and the place is steeped in so much history it;s unreal. A truly humbling education and experience. It's genuinely my spiritual musical home and having played it five times, been to about 200+ gigs there and the band being inducted into the Hall of Fame in December 2018 makes it all the more special to now call it my place of 'work'.

Shout and MASSIVE thank you to the manager Tom Joyes for having the faith in me to offer me the job and for being such an amazing music mentor to me over the years. Tom's passion and knowledge for the business, area and music industry is unrivalled by many. What a man to learn from! As as are all The Barras Family working in there. We're really close knit, like a family. The banter is tremendous and it's great to have a laugh as much as possible in life. It's good for the soul.

CMD5 have a mass Dance Off in their favourite venue

There's a buzz around the East End Quarter at the moment and it's an honour to be spending so much time in an area so fertile with creativity. 2020 is going to be a BIG year for the East End!

As for the band, there are, as always, lots of things happening and coming together. We're busy finishing our second album, provisional working title The Difficult Number 2, with Paul 'Gal' Gallagher at Glenwood Studio in Castlemilk. It's pencilled in for release on 5th May 2020. Just in time for festival season with some new festival season anthems on it for The Dijon Family to dance like nobody is watching to!

Last Sunday (5th January) BBC Radio 6 Music DJ Amy Lame gave our new single G.T. (single and album released on Button Up Records - Garry John Kane - The Proclaimers bassist - record label) it's international radio airplay exclusive! That was after we woke up to a three page spread in the Sunday Mail interviewing the Colonel and using our new space themes photo shoot images from the incredibly talented Lee Howell Photography. We were so impressed with his photoshoot and artwork for Bombskare's last album A Million Ways To Die, that we asked him to work with us too.

EF - What were your highlights from 2019? Did any festivals stand out in particular?

Festival season is usually my go-to memory bank when I'm asked for band highlights of the year. Kelburn Garden Party was our best one yet I think. Of maybe five or so appearances. Tom McGuire and The Brassholes were on the Square Stage before us. I think they're one of the best funk and soul and party bands around and we have a lot of audience crossover so it really got the party vibe going with us dancing away in the crowd and then continuing with the Dijon party vibes straight after them.

We played our fourth year in a row at Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival. The Highlands Dijon Family really, really go for it up there and we've seen our crowds go from a capacity Hothouse Stage tent (1,500 ish) to being moved up to the main Garden Stage and the numbers growing steadily to 15,000 in 2019!

This will be our fifth birthday party playing there this year. The main stage production team told us post-gig it was the largest EVER crowd they'd ever had at the main stage! Until one of Bathgate's finest exports, Lewis Capaldi, bettered that later the samenight. Fair play Lewis!

Boomtown Fair, in Winchester, is one of the biggest festivals in the UK now and one of my favourites. Their whole Movement there, philosophy (peace, love, creativity) and vibe is beautiful. Approx 70,000 mad revellers attend and the level of production is movie set material everywhere you look. The aforementioned Tom and The Brassholes played, our bezzie mates from The People's Republic of Merseyside, She DRew The Gun, were a highlight, along with an incendiary set from the Prophets of Rage to close the Town Centre stage on the Sunday. Tom Morello had a message for our Evil Empire 'leader' Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson on his guitar!

EF - The Scottish festival landscape has changes; no more T in the Park, no more Wickerman, no more Electric Fields .... you are probably more well placed than most to comment. What is working? And are there any gaps?

The festival landscape seems to always be evolving in it's own way, as you would expect. We were lucky enough to tick T in the Park off the bucket list at the last one ever at Strathallan and then DF Concert's came back with TRNSMT in our home town on Glasgow Green with no need for camping. I have had some amazing days at TRNSMT and for someone who doesn't drink alcohol (11 years aff it on 4th May 2020), I can leave the site, drive straight home and be in the shower or bed in fifteen minutes!

My heart belongs to Glasgow so I LOVE to see Glasgow's music scene thriving. TENEMENT TRAIL moving East last year was an amazing day of live music between the Barrowland Ballroom, Barras Art and Design, Saint Luke's The Winged Ox, Creative East End, Many Studios and more.

I'm always excited to play new festivals and we've announced one in the Black Isle, outside Inverness, called Woodzstock, that we've been asked to headline and are playing with our Highlands hip hop brothers and sisters, Spring Break. Their MC (The Badger Sized Rat) and DJ (Butterscotch) - both the same person - normally joins us onstage at Bella and we love them and their music.

Closer to home, I love the look of Playground Festival in Rouken Glen Park and with Underworld announced already I have a really good feeling that is going to be an incredible and not to be missed festival for the Central Belt.

EF - You have an incredible thirst for music - which artists and bands in Scotland are you particularly fond of at present?

Each year I think our music community gets stronger and the talent within it even better! I don't see 2020 being any different. I am particularly looking forward to the Return of The Odd, being Stanley Odd - one of my favourite bands EVER and MC Solareye AKA Dave Hook AKA Dr Hip Hop, one of the soundest folk in the music community at the ever excellent Neu! Reekie! night organised by Michael Pederson and Kevin Williamson for Burns and Beyond on 25th January in the Freemasons Hall in Edinburgh.

Medicine Men have a new album coming out I'm looking forward to. The level of creative talent coming out of Glasgow's Last Night From Glasgow record label is outstanding and I doff my disco cap to Ian Smith and everyone involved there. Keep an eye on everything coming out of Chris Blackmore's excellent Holy Smokes Records - The Hoojamamas, Awkward Family Portraits, Quiche and more.

Ones to watch our for this year are The Rain Experiment - like a cross between Catfish and The Bottlemen, Blossoms and Sam Fender. Have a watch of the Be My Angel video.

Have Mercy Las Vegas, Bombskare, Yoko Kwono, Feet of Clay's debut album, your sister Carla J Easton (our Celtic Connections gig Special Guest), Scotland's most talented teenagers Connor Fyfe, Robin Ashcroft and Emi V, Free Love, Stara Zagora, DopeSickFly, Flew The Arrow, Deni, Zoe Graham, Freakwace, Vanlves, Megan Airlie, kitti, Cara Rose, Zoe Bestel, BLair Coron, hip hop from the aforementioned Spring Break, Steg G and The Freestyle Master, Loki, Kayce One, GASP, Shotgun, Physiks, Kamihamiha! Mosta Bohze, Empress, Delivery Room, The Twistettes, Mickey 9's, Melisa Kelly and The Smokin' Crows and so many more! So many sources of inspiration around us.

Last year I started 23 Music Management and Promotions with Andy Anderson and with help from his brother Frankie roo and the first artist I am managing is the outstanding John Rush. Check him out, he really is amazing. Solo, singer-songwriter, acoustic guitar, stomp box, harmonica and incredibly soulful voice with a Scottish brogue. He's been drawing comparisons somewhere in between Ray LaMontagne and David Gray.

One of, and possibly my favourite band right now are HENGE. A four piece (three of whom are intergalactic aliens and one Homo Sapien) who are on a Universal mission called The Cosmic Dross Experiment to spread peace, love and music - from prog rock to techno and cosmic gestures unknown to us Ravelings here on Planet Earth.

EF - We entered 2020 with right wing leadership, climate emergencies and the threat of war. What gives you hope?

What gives me hope in these mad, bad, crazy times? Us. Power to The People. It's ALL happening on OUR watch so the only people that can do anything about it is ... US! From a creative standpoint I am very much inspired by the Dadaists response to the horrors of WW1. We need to continue and increase the use of arts to imagine, create and inspire. We need more civil disobedience and mobilising the masses to, borrow some Primal Scream lyrics, come together as ONE, to agitate, protest and resist the Evil Empires, corporations and backed by right-wing billionaire owned gutter press/propoganda. We need system change.

And that means facing up to capitalism and it's greedy illusion of perpetual growth/GDP on a finite planet. We don't inherit the planet from our parents, we borrow it from our children. In the immortal words of Zack de la Rocha, 'Anger is a gift' and we DO need to get angry at what's happening and channel that into positive non-violent direct action to affect, demand and make positive change.

Rage Against The Machine are hitting the comeback trail again this year, it is very timely and much needed. To use their lyrics from Take The Power Back

The Movement's in motion with mass militant poetry
The rage is relentless
We need a movement with a quickness
Youa re the witness of change and to counteract
We gotta take the power back

EF - Post Celtic-Connections, what does the rest of the year have in store for you?

The new album on 5th May 2020. Festival season. Announced so far for us are Woodzstock Festival, Speyfest and Bella. More to follow ... Getting out and about and playing more of the new album and old songs, spreading the peace, love and Mustard and partying with the Dijon Family again. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Idles and their album title Joy As An Act Of Resistance is like a mantra to me.

EF - Any New Year Resolutions?

I don't really go for anything too specific. Every day is the start of the rest of your life. Focus on the positive changes we can make in our Eternal Nows. For myself, I hope each year is a healthy, happy and prosperous one filled with peace, love and music and those are the main things I wish for all my family, friends and all the world really.

Even for those stuck in bad ruts, negative feedback lopps, misguided, hurting themselves and others. Just stop being a c**t to yourself and others and then maybe the world will be as One

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one

Think peace, act peace, spread peace, imagine peace.

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