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Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5 have been working on fresh sounds, frontman John talks lockdown and the new album

By Margaret Chrystall

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NO Belladrum celebration would be complete without a big dollop of Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5 – and there’s a special set from them at Saturday’s virtual Tartan Home Festival.

The good news for fans who have missed them in lockdown is that they have managed to get second album The Difficult Number 2 mastered and ready to go later this year.

There’s even a single on the way next month Ted Dancin’ – a favourite actor of the band’s – with a very Colonel Mustard message, ‘Dance like nobody’s watching’.

As band’s mainman John McAlinden talks about plans for virtual Belladrum, the band, 12– which he describes as a football team with 12th man, his brother in law Roddy on percussion - are in the studio of their video guru Martin Windebank, editing a new video together.

At Belladrum for the past few years, they have turned the Belladrum Festival’s Garden Stage their special mustard colour, as fans get decked out in yellow to worship the goodtime gods.

Special guests for the virtual Belladrum.
Special guests for the virtual Belladrum.

Just one of the reasons why the line-up is a perfect choice among the chosen acts to appear on the livestream on Saturday.

John is looking forward to making their set something special – he loves Belladrum and the crowd loves him and the band back, four years and counting now.

“We always kind of question are will we be able to top the previous year!” he laughed.

“You look out and there is always so much to see in the crowd and something weird and wonderful happening.

“There was a great big whale last year floating across at one point and it’s entertaining from our point of view just looking out at a crowd of that size as well because there are always wee mad things.

“But it was another great one. It is always a totally family affair. When we’re at Belladrum, all our families are there. It’s just a great crowd, the crowd has taken to us and we’re just delighted about that.”

In lockdown, John has not been twiddling his thumbs, far from it. New songs is something John has been working on in lockdown – as part of a songwriting group. But he had his day-job, his family and a spot of gardening to fit in there too.

“I’ve been busier than ever,” he said.

“I was working part-time as an addictions nurse.And when the lockdown happened it meant I’ve been working more than ever.

“At the same time there were quite a few things I wanted to get into – I quite like a bit of gardening.

“I think at the start when we thought it might become a zombie apocalypse, I was like ‘Better start gardening!’ and growing my own food.

“But I’ve only managed to get one courgette and some tomatoes!

“It just makes you realise how much we rely on industrial farming.”

A really important part of lockdown time for John was his songwriting.

“I’ve also been doing a songwriting group every week with two challenges.

“It has been really creative with folk throughout the UK, but we had the last one at the weekend there.

“We may move to doing retreats in the future, but in terms of lockdown, that was a brilliant focus.

“I think, like everybody else, when the news came through about Covid-19, everybody became a bit obsessed with it.

“Maybe watching too much news wasn’t particularly a good thing. I think it was just getting people’s anxiety levels up.

“I was guilty of that as well and at that point I didn’t watch any news and I just thought ‘Do you know what, it’s obviously terrible and affecting a lot of people, but I just need to keep my family safe. Keep busy myself and keep them busy and safe’.

Like most parents, home schooling became another of John’s tasks.

“Obviously there was a bit of home schooling, which was a challenge.

“But that usually ended with me putting on Horrible Histories for the kids!

“You could see the lockdown affecting the kids, creeping in in different ways.

“My son, when he heard parks weren’t open, he’s only five, and he thought you could catch it from the grass. So he was terrified of it.

“He now thinks Covid-19 is over for kids, and we thought ‘If that’s what he wants to believe, then that’s better than being frightened of going outside’.”

John is very conscious of feeling happy he and his family have stayed safe.

“You don’t want to moan because there are bigger things happening. There are folk going through proper tragedies and you have to remember that.

“I just feel lucky that I’ve been able to support my family throughout it. I am missing festivals and all that, but there are bigger things happening.”

Festival favourites Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5 and the Bella 2019 crowd led by David the Dijancer.
Festival favourites Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5 and the Bella 2019 crowd led by David the Dijancer.

For the rest of the year, plans include getting the new album released.

“We probably would have released it round about Belladrum time, that was the original plan.

“But it’s one of those ones where we could just have put it out anyway, but it didn’t particularly feel like the right time

“I’d rather wait till we are back to a wee bit of semi-normality, whatever that is now. But we will keep releasing the odd single here and there just to give people something to listen to and dance about their kitchens to!

“The next single Ted Dancin’ is going to be out at the end of August. It’s just really upbeat and high tempo – probably the poppiest thing we’ve done!”

But for Saturday’s livestream, expect something fresh from the Mustard crew.

John explained: “We went into the studio for the first time last week and were going to try an electric set, but we picked up an acoustic guitar about halfway through the jam and just all started singing the songs and thought ‘Why don’t we do something a wee bit different?’.

“So I think it is going to be more of an acoustic affair. You’ll be able to hear the lyrics a bit better.

“And a lot of the guys and the girls in the band are brilliant singers so it’s nice to get a wee melodic harmony jam going. There will be some new songs, some old songs.

“We’re looking forward to Saturday. Hopefully we pull something memorable off!”

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