Juliana Down interview

UAE band talk to Time Out ahead of Foo Fighters tribute


They’ve been the go-to support band for almost every visiting international act, from Guns N’ Roses to Maroon 5, but Juliana Down are determined to crack the big time in their own right. As they gear up to play alongside a local screening of the new Foo Fighters documentary, Back & Forth, which charts the US band’s career, we nabbed vocalist-guitarist Dia Hassan and drummer James Sinclair to find out how things are progressing for Dubai’s best-known local band.

How much have Foo Fighters inspired you?
Dia: I’ve been listening to their music since I was in high school, but I’ve never really tried playing one of their tracks. I think it’s going to be a nice experience to try to change the way the tracks are known to people and try to do them in a different way. We’re trying to add a bit of a Juliana Down feel to it.

How did you get involved with the Foo Fighters event?
Dia: Sony.
James: They force us to do things we don’t want to do… No, not really – I don’t mean it. No, they’re very nice to us. It’s the behind-the-scenes video making of Foo Fighters’ last album, which I think will be fascinating. If I wasn’t playing, I’d definitely want to watch it. I’m actually looking forward to the show.

Is there anything you’d ask if you met them?
James: Can we have some money?
Dia: Take us on tour! I’d love to tour with them.
James: I’d just like to sit and shoot the breeze, just chat with them really.
Dia: Dave Grohl is known to be the nicest man in rock ’n’ roll, and I think he carries a lot of history with the bands he’s been involved with.

You signed your distribution deal with Sony in March. How has the path to world domination run since?
James: World domination is going well. We’ve ordered some tanks, should be here any time next week, and a full-scale assault will happen some time in the autumn.
Dia: The army is getting ready!
James: It’s going very well. It’s difficult, to be honest, because no one really buys records any more. We were in Lebanon a couple of weeks ago and we were talking to the promoter there about our record, and he said, ‘Don’t even think about sales. As far as the music industry’s concerned, treat your album like a business card.’ Nowadays the best-selling artist in Lebanon this year – Eminem – sold 2,000 records. The world has changed, so having a distribution deal is great, having Sony behind us is great, but bands in our position now have to think more creatively about how they get their music out there, because just putting it on the shelves in Virgin nowadays doesn’t really cut it.

Have you been cultivating rock-star egos?
James: Mmm, definitely.
Dia: For a long time!
James: You should see Lionel’s personal driver – it’s ridiculous.
Dia: He has a picture of himself cut out in his living room.
James: No. How seriously do we want to take that one?
Dia: We order frappuccinos with cream on them, can you imagine?

What are the biggest difficulties you’ve faced so far?
James: Dia’s only got one leg… [Laughs]
Dia: There have been a lot. We’ve had line-up changes, issues with managers. This band is strange. Juliana Down has seen a lot of changes – being sued, getting out of that…

You were sued?
James: We probably can’t talk about that. But the band we have at the moment is very much a five-way partnership and it’s something that came together in that spark of the moment. Dia and I met at a party about a year ago and we just connected in a very direct way, musically and personally. Everything that happened after that came from that spark.

What’s on the agenda for the next 12 months?
James: We’d like to make an international breakthrough somewhere else. We love what we do here: we’ve done some good shows here, we’ve got good radio play, we’re selling some records, and that’s awesome. We now need to try to replicate that in another market, so I guess the goal for the next 12 months is finding that market and getting it out there.

Which areas are you setting your sights on?
James: Well, in some ways it sounds trite to say America is a market, because America is about 100 markets. If you want to seriously think about breaking America, don’t even think about it unless you’ve got the right people behind you, the right strategy, and you’re prepared to work very, very hard. We’re not going to sit and talk in a trite way about breaking America, but if we can increase our footprint in California
or whatever over the course of the next six to eight months, that would be great.

Juliana Down play at the Foo Fighters screening at Mojo Art Gallery in Barsha on June 29.

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