Interview: Dingus Khan

Oscar Donovan chats to Dingus Khan about unorthodox bedroom methods, bin diving and London’s cheapest chicken.


Photo by Thomas F J Ford

Dingus Khan have a penchant for the unnecessary: an unnecessary number of band members, unnecessary instructional choreography when they perform ‘Ambulance’ live, and unnecessary white boiler suits, not to mention lead vocalist and guitarist Ben Brown’s inexplicable flatcap and black-dress-thing combination. But as some wise man once said: ‘it is the unnecessary things that make life worth living’, so you can’t really hold these things against them. Whether it’s hard and fast or slow and steady, they play with all eight of their tongues planted firmly in all eight of their cheeks with sweat pouring from all eight of their brows, and it sounds good goddammit.

A brother of one of the bassists is a first year, so Dingus can be considered a member of UCL’s extended family. With this in mind, I interviewed Ben along with percussionists Paul and Gaz from the Essex octet to glean an inkling of understanding…

Was there always eight of you fine gentlemen or could you just not say no?

It actually began with just two; Ben on Guitar and Nick on Drums. Anyone that joined after that was already well acquainted with the other two and had been in bands with them before. It would have been difficult to say no. Think of it like natural selection, except everyone survived and no-one was particularly fit.

What would you say to those doughty traditionalists who reckon three drummers and three bassists might be just a little bit unnecessary?

It might be unnecessary but until we find out for sure it’s best to be on the safe side. We like to make sure all basses are covered.

So what’s your favourite song to play live?

When playing as a wedding covers band to keep the finances afloat our favourite song to play is probably Dancing Queen by Abba. To tell the truth, playing our own songs is getting a bit tiresome. We’re dreading the next tour.

Who are the girls you’d like to kiss and the boys you’d like to hit? (See ‘Made A List’ for more details)

Well Gaz recently made an account on the dating website ‘plenty of fish’ and apparently the girls he’d like to kiss would have to share his interest in drumming and comic books, as well as being able to coordinate with his unorthodox bedroom methods. These are mainly derived from free iPhone apps. We imagine he’d hit (or kiss) any boy that stood in his way.

I saw you at Bestival last September, there were about sixty in the crowd and forty of them were trying to punch each other or crowd-surf. But what’s been your favourite gig so far?

We were camping with those forty people, they were like that for the whole weekend. Latitude Festival last year was a real highlight, it was the first time we realised that people we didn’t know liked our band enough to know the words to our songs, write our name on their heads and make the effort to come and see us. On top of that a load of people we did know were there as well, some of our parents cried and we got free haircuts.

Who are you guys listening to at the moment, old favourites or some unsigned gems?

We’ve been lucky enough to have been supported by some seriously awesome bands over the last few months. Bands like Baby Godzilla, God Damn, Animal Noise and Strange News from Another Star have smashed it so hard before us, that we’ve had to really try and step it up a gear to even get close. They are all worth checking out. We also got to support The Fall late last year, getting the opportunity to support a band that a lot of us have spent years admiring was pretty special. Ben’s been listening to a lot Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson recently, as a result our new album might sound like a beefed up Toy Story soundtrack with an arguably ‘unnecessary amount of bassists and drummers’.

How was the experience of recording your debut album ‘Support Mistley Swans’? There’s laughter on record but was it really that fun and easy?

To say it was easy seems to devalue it but having written all the songs on an acoustic guitar and played them to death in a living room, we knew them all well enough to make committing them to record a fairly straightforward process. Plus we recorded them with our friend Tom Donovan who had recorded some earlier demos, so he got ‘it’ from the off. Writing the follow-up is proving a lot more challenging. The bare bones of the song come easy but fleshing them out is like composing a piece for an eight-man orchestra who don’t know their arse from their oboe.

Your British tour commences in April, if it could be anyone, who would you be touring with?

In a dream world, you’d be greeted at the door by deceased TV chef, Keith Floyd. He’d present you with half a bottle of corked red wine and show you through to the main room. Here you’d find the cast of Hollyoaks (dead or dying usually in some kind of poorly thought out, all-encompassing explosion) and the BBC Look East News and Weather Team (alive, current line-up). Plus all the dogs Blue Peter have had over the years (mostly dead). We’d slink off out the side-door without playing.

You guys are grafting away and breaking through, so probably understand the value of money better than most. Got any money-saving tips for similarly tight students?

A great starting point is to work out what you would ideally want or need, half that, then simply lower your expectations by 50% and the deficit is accounted for. We’ve also heard there’s a burgeoning online market for used underwear on eBay, so that’s worth a look. Personally we like to sneak down to Tesco’s bins at night and snaffle up their out of date bakery products. We got 192 bags of Wotsits once, if rationed efficiently that could feed a student house for a whole term.

Know any decent venues or weird and wonderful parts of London that should be checked out?

Chick Chicken in New Cross is great if you want 24 pieces of chicken for a pound, or two 7” pizzas, 8 miscellaneous wings and a can of coke for a pound. Our friend got a pastry in Lewisham once that had a feather in it, so that’s surely worth something. There’s a great venue in Kilburn called The Good Ship who threatened to call the Police on us because we asked if we were getting paid. There’s an all-night café opposite Liverpool Street station that you can wait if you’re biding the time until the first train home, or if it’s daytime, the Imperial War Museum has an exhibit that actually smells like real trench, plus it’s free entry. If you want an actual gig, we’re playing at Borderline near Tottenham Court Road on April 18th, but we won’t be offended if you’re too busy in the trenches gorging yourself on undercooked chicken.

Made A List – Live @ Maida Vale for BBC6