In the run up to the Scottish Alternative Music Awards 2016 we’ve caught up with some of last year’s award winners to find out what SAMA means to them and where they are a year on. This week we had a chat with David Blair, long-term member of satirical and politically motivated Glasgow band Colonel Mustard & the Dijon 5. The band is gathering fans from all walks of life and are part of a musical collective community called the Yellow Movement – promoting positivity in the face of adversity.
Were you expecting to win Best Live Act award at the 2015 SAMAs?
We weren’t expecting to win but we had another great festival season, playing fourteen in the lead up to the awards. We knew off the back of all the people who’ve came to see us gigs and festivals that if we could reach out to them we’d get a lot of votes.
You’ve been playing a lot of festivals, is that your bread and butter?
This year was the fifth year in a row we were at Eden Festival and there were thousands there to watch us.
You can tell with the colour people wear at the events you’re playing…
Aye, last year my mate did a wee experiment. He met me on the Friday night at Eden Festival and told me to try to go more than five seconds without seeing someone wearing yellow. I couldn’t. After that I was conscious of it and still am.
Eden is our favourite festival, although there are a lot of decent, smaller festivals pout there now. Electric Fields and Belladrum were also both amazing. This year was the fifth year in a row we were at Eden Festival and there were thousands there to watch us.
So, to answer your original question, our good pal Gavin Mitchell (Boaby the barman of Still Game fame) did a mock appeal video to help us get nominated then generate votes. He’s really funny and an outstanding actor who can portray any kind of character at the drop of a hat.
It ended up that Richy Muirhead (SAMAs founder and lead organiser) told us that in the six years that SAMA had been dishing out awards, our nomination for Best Live Act received more votes than any other act in any category in its history.
Is that how Gavin Mitchell got sucked into the Yellow Movement?
Gavin initially didn’t know who we were but he was booked in to be the compère at the Clutha Trust Festival last May. Gavin absolutely loved us, we gave him a t-shirt and an album and away he went tweeting about us so he just really got into it from there. It helps that he’s a very socially aware Glaswegian with a sound moral compass.
Do you feel there’s positives coming from the SAMAs?
The great thing about the SAMAs is that they focus on a lot of unsigned acts. From memory, we were up against another five or six bands in our category and around half of those were probably signed so it’s a good mix and platform for unsigned bands.
Apart from the stickers and flyers that I see everywhere I go in Glasgow, how do you promote yourselves?
I like to call it the observer effect within quantum physics. We all manifest our realities by collapsing the wave function. Once something does seep into your conscious you then notice it more. It’s like the other day I was thinking about buying LED lights for my disco helmet, which I’m getting refurbed for our trip to South Korea, and I was reminded when I saw a number plate with the letters “LED” in it which made me chuckle a wee bit.
Disco helmet? Is that the technical name for it?
Yeah, it is. That’s what we’ve christened them. Well, they’re all disco hats. There’s the disco hat, they disco helmet, the disco sombrero. They come in a wide variety but that’s the prefix.
One for every occasion. ..I digress. Do you think the SAMAs have helped get your faces out there?
Yeah, if it’s music, art or anything positive to you, which you hope will be positive to other people to appreciate then if you only reach out to one more person then it’s important. Like yourself, you were unaware of us until you saw us at the SAMAs last year – and there were lots of people who came along to that, who didn’t know us – and off the back of that it’s helped open us up to a different audience.
Although you may not look back on awards over our how your music makes people feel, when you’re speaking to promoters and putting your press-pack together it’s a nice one to have on the CV.
There’s definite benefits to even just being nominated?
The new SAMA nomination procedures have just been released and I’d recommend any new bands out there to get on board with that. The whole music industry, especially at our level, is very interconnected. They should all be supporting and helping one another.
I think that is very apparent in the Scottish new music scene – for example you can see it all over social media with likes and shares between bands and artists, do you see it that way?
Definitely. The exponential growth of the scene has been extremely advantageous for us. It’s word of mouth and a symbiotic relationship where musicians support the rehearsal studios then go out and get gigs, supporting the night-time economy and it comes back to the bands.
The band has gained some real momentum in the past couple of years, can you tell us more about that?
I think it was 2014, the week before the referendum actually, we were taking part in the ‘Concert for Change’ downstairs in the old club River [formerly Barfly] on Clyde Street, alongside a phenomenal line-up to raise funds for four different groups which I’m close to – Greenpeace, Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Scottish Friends of the Earth and Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign. We raised around £1,800 to split between those groups.
So, you are raising awareness and funds for serious causes but you’re also having fun at the same time?
Comedy hugely influences everything we do. From Monty Python to Limmy, to Mighty Boosh and everybody in between. We want to keep that comedic aspect in what we do. Not taking things too serious and on our Facebook page we list all of our pseudonyms.
How does each member of the band earn their nicknames?
Colonel John Thomas McMustard, the Colonel himself has been my best pal since I was five so he knows me well. He gave me my name “The Dijancer”. My name is David John, so that’s DJ for short. I do a bit of breakdancing so I’m a dancer, he calls me a chancer so that makes it up.
Some of the band have given themselves their own and others just get whatever suits. I gave one of our singers Fathom Ross, who’s married to our drummer Craig, the name Full Fathom Five which is the name of a Stone Roses song that I love.
Will the band be attending this year’s SAMA event?
Yeah, I’ve spoken with the Colonel, the other members of the band and put it in the diary. We want to come along and we’ll be looking forward to it. Should be a good night.
2016 has been a good year for you, anything else lined up?
We’ve had a great time at three or four indoor festivals like Rockerbie and Threshold as well as fifteen outdoor festivals this year and although it’s been tiring, it’s also been very rewarding. We’re now on the home-straight and have around three or four left in Scotland including the almost sold-out Xmas Party at Glasgow’s O2 ABC. We also have a trip to South Korea coming up.
Photos provided by Alan K. Gray @ akgphotos.com