Words by TOM PROCTOR. Photo by JAMES LOCKRIDGE.
Django Koenig is not just a pretty name, taking a look at his resume you’ll see it is spotted with a plethora of musical accomplishments. Not only was he the frontman to local favorite Tall Grass Get Down and the proud producer of his newly released solo album “We Live On”, he’s also able to play more instruments than you could shake a trumpet at.
A man as energetic, whimsical and charming as his music delivers he poked his head into our neck of the woods for a flying visit to talk to us about his new tunes, his recent relocation and a little look into where that fantabulous name came from:
Tom Proctor: First of all i’ve got to ask, you have a very distinct name is it a stage name or were you born with it?
Django Koenig: (Laughs) Yeah it is my real name. I was named after Django Reinhardt, a gypsy jazz guitar player, my parents are real hippies (laughs.) He was popular in the 40s/50s and travelled around Europe in his wagon. It caught on fire when he was a young adult and in the fire he burnt his left hand really badly. He had to re-learn how to play the guitar, but despite his injury he was a virtuoso guitar player and was incredibly popular. One weird fact is that despite being a gypsy in Europe during 40’s the Nazi party really liked him. It managed to keep him alive at that time.
TP: Was there any particular reason why the Nazi party like him so much?
DK: He was just that great of a guitar player, they loved his music.
TP: Have you ever taken any of his works and incorporated them into your own?
DK: No, but that’s a great idea. I do some tracks that have a jazzier feel to them so it would be interesting to some interpretations of his stuff. Though I like to use my voice and play backup guitar where as he was known for his amazing solos.
TP: You’ve covered ‘We shall be released’ on your latest album, why in particular that track?
DK: Levon Helm, who covered the song with ‘The Band’ was a huge inspiration there. I played drums with my previous band, Tall Grass Get Down, and his style of drumming and his rhythm really connected with me and especially on that particular track. I also heard an alternative version of that track done by The Heptones who did a reggae version and it got me thinking about reworking the melody. I put my own style on my version, we always strived for that when I played with Tall Grass and i’ve continued that practice with this solo album.
TP: What songs do you usually look for when you want to play a cover?
DK: We covered Taj Mahal and The Band-esque music, but also some classics as well, but we always gave them our kind of flavour. Public domain songs were always a favourite.
TP: How’s the reaction been to your new album?
DK: Well it’s been spread through word of mouth so the reaction comes back that way. People let me know what they think and have given me good vibes, Vermont is a super supportive community so i’ve got a lot of feedback here. Its cool cos I like thinking about the future, and if i do ever get a large fan base i’d look back to this with fondness but at the moment that’s just an exciting thought. I’m not going platinum (Laughs.) But it’s cool, and every once in awhile i’ll get a phone call from someone to tell me they loved it.
TP: You moved down recently to Oregon, how’s the music scene been for you down there?
DK: I’m recording at my house and playing with my roommates, but i’m doing this tour solo so I’ve been playing a lot of music on my own. But music is a language and you can’t just keep talking to yourself so you need someone to play off.
TP: So you looking to get a band together, would that change the style of your music at all?
DK Absolutely, I like the melodies and the optimistic vibe to my tracks but i’m looking to go in a bit of a heavier direction, add some percussion and maybe make it a little rocky. Thats where I see my self evolving.
TP: Seven days say you have an enthusiasm for life in your music, would you agree with that?
DK: I strive for that and there’s definitely songs that fit that vibe. But there are some that go in a different direction, I have a track based on the oppression of Native Americans how their land got stolen that’s heartfelt but still an aggressive song, but a lot of the album has a positive message. One track is about a girl i dated that sends a message saying “I hope one day you’ll be happy to remember my name”, so I definitely always try to look for the brighter side.
TP: If you were to get heavier, would you explore different messages?
DK: I think I would go more dancy, something people could rock out to but i dont think id ever want to lose the message of positivity that I deliver. I’m not looking to get too aggressive. I have a song on the current album that’s called “Sad and Blue” that’s about a Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde kind of thing that references an experience years ago when I was in a bit of a darker place. I do explore darker sounding stuff. With heavier stuff it’s easier to feel when you listen to it, if you break up with your girlfriend, it’s easier to write a song about.