Juno Daily – In The Mix & interview: Warriors Of The Dystotheque | Juno Daily

Chief Warrior Jonny Mac takes to the decks for Juno Daily

Warriors Of The Dystotheque is the brain child of Jonny Mac from Derry, Ireland, who over the last 25 years has DJ-ed across the globe alongside Phil Hartnoll of Orbital, Leeroy (Ex Prodigy) and, most impressively, survived two tours of duty with Shaun Ryder and Bez of Happy Mondays fame.

Made up of producers/engineers/musicians Jonny Mac, Sean Graham (Coventry and Toulon), and Mike and Nick Rufolo (NYC/Florida/USA), the project has been solely an online music love affair where the modern day penpals share stems and blend elements from broken beat, jazz, downtempo, Balearic, acid house, techno, electronica and “pretty much anything that opposes the mainstream, beige cliches of modern music”.

Their last album – May 2022’s Anthropause – was produced by Howie B (Massive Attack, Bjork, U2), but there’s a new one on the way, with a release anticpated midway through 2024.

Mac took to the decks to give us a taste of what’s in store, along with a few other current favourites, as well as answering a few probing questions…

Synkro – Last Breath
Phaeleh – A World Without
Ken Fan – Orange Sky
The Zenmenn – Fantasy Again
Tambores En Benirras – Un Placer Celestial (Reprise)
Marshall Watson – High Desert
Radioslave & Caged Baby – Amnesia
Warriors of the Dystotheque – Looking through Balearic E’s
Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas
Billy Idol – Eyes Without a Face
Warriors of the Dystotheque – Korean Frequency
Sonlife – Piecebypiece
Sonlife – Cosmik

First things first – where are you as you type this and which Warriors or Warrior are we speaking to?
Hi I’m in Derry, Ireland and it’s Jonny Mac speaking.
Tell us the basics – who the band are, what you do etc,  how you originally met/formed…  And you have a new member too…
So we are Warriors Of The Dystotheque and we’ve been an online project/band since early 2014, although the project kicked off in my studio in Ireland late 2013. We’re made up of twins Mike & Nick Rufolo (Florida) Mike (drums/old school analogue engineering) Nick (multi instrumental wizard), Sean Graham (Coventry/Carcassonne) (programming/engineering), myself (Derry) (programming, engineering,arranging, producing, DJ and founder member).

I studied music back in 2001 in Coventry and met Sean on my course. From that time, I went on to run a Nu School Breaks night in the city for several years also in Leicester and Birmingham with the major players from the scene guesting monthly and Sean was one of my residents at the time so a long time friend. Mike and Nick’s a different story as I only came across them on Facebook jamming live in their garage in New York at the time, I think early 2014, they were insane jumping from strings to bass clarinet, to sax to Rhodes and “Juno” so I sent them a message and an idea of some beats and pads Id put down and got back a 6 part bass clarinet and a few other parts. 

This went on to be Hashtag and our first release, they got a good friend a real cool cat Tony Jarvis from the Bronx to lay down some smooth vocals, It went on to get plays the following summer in Cafe del Mar after BBCR1 picked it up for some late night action, It was then it felt like maybe this project has a chance even though it wasn’t the easy to navigate. 

Fast forward to the end of 2022 and I put a message up on Facebook asking did anyone know of anyone who played timpani as I wanted some in a new track we were working on for the forthcoming album and Sean Johnston from (ALFOS) hit me up with a connect for Kevin Sharkey who as it goes is from Derry, although he’s loving in the Lake District and is a drummer/percussionist who’s worked with Groove Armada and regularly drums live for Derry punk band The Undertones.

We hit it off really quickly and Kevin went from sending some Timpani to chipping in with several ideas that went on to feature on the new album and became a part of WotD.  

The international line up is a relatively new phenomenon, with technology making real time jamming etc easy.  What are the characteristics of this new beast, in your opinion – the ups and downsides…
It was a fun new angle and also lends to a hell of slot more boundary pushing as you aren’t 100% in control of every session and get back parts you didn’t expect or imagine working , but that’s how we approached it every time, 90% of the tracks would start here in WotD HQ in Derry with some pads, beats, bass or whatever and with a rough arrangement I’d sent it to the twins in New York and they would basically just record strings, brass, guitar or Rhodes Juno etc with a few different versions and Id then spend days and weeks getting the best bits or should I say the suitable bits out and into a new arrangement, adding anything else I thought it needed before sending it to Sean who’d add some more parts before Id get it back and do the final arrangement and radio edits, it would then go to a guest vocalist if needed. 

The ups are definitely the fact we can work all over the world and have nothing stand in our way, it still blows my mind sometimes when I think how we can operate and the fact we’ve had 2 albums and I think 16 release to date with 12 of these getting major support over BBC 6 Music and 3 Jazz FM playlists in there and this whole thing thus far was nothing but some online fun, like gaming for musicians I guess. The downside is it can take an awfully long time to actually finish things up as the time difference can knock it out and also if we’ve all got different schedules, It’s not like getting into the studio and thrashing it out. But looking back it’s not really stopped us or made us think it’s not worth pursuing. 

But for the first time in almost a decade I went to Florida in February armed with nine tracks I’d started along with Sean & Kevin last November.

After a DJ set at Cafe del Mar I had dinner and a chat with Chris Coco/DSPPR records who had signed, released and remixed our On the Balcony at Sunrise track in the summer of 2022 and we’d decided on a few more EPs for spring and summer of 2023 but come November we landed on the idea of an album for 2024.

Given that it can take 2 years plus to record new material the Warriors way ie online it seemed it was time to finally meet up with Mike and Nick and get right into it and record so really focused parts for the 9 tracks I went with, we ended up with 3 more from scratch which was awesome as they really captured the vibe of Florida in a sunny and warm February.

So ‘Anthropause’ is your second album – how would you say it differs from the first and what did you learn from the experience of making the first?
Anthropause is what we call our 1st real album, the reason being that Madness in the Method, albeit 1st to be released, was more of a collection of EPs that we decided to put into an album and press up some vinyl so we had something to show for our work. 

Although some of the EPs had major support at Cafe del mar by Ken Fan on his sunset duties and Nemone at BBC 6 Music was a massive supporter early on, also we had plays on 6 from Huey and made it onto Lauren’s show and Shaun Keaveny so it was a real success given we had no real plan and were just releasing music,

You can hear on the 1st album an awful lot of genres of electronica , some dark, some really electronic, some jazzy and summery, this is something we’ve always been about, we draw on so many influences and it keeps it fresh for us. By the time we got to the second album Anthropause we’d had 4 years to reflect on the project and were almost about to call it a day but Covid struck and rather than sit about doing nothing it seemed obvious to get back into studio mode and focus up. 

I’d applied and won an award (Chris Ledger) through the unlimited charity so decided to get right into it. So where the 1st album was like I mentioned a collection of EPs we sat down and approached this like an album from start to finish.  

We’d learnt so much more by this time about each other and what we were bringing to the studio desk. A major thing we learnt this time was from Howie B who co produced it with us. Howie taught us when to stop and not to overload the desk with channels of unnecessary music, in his words “less is less” something that’s stuck with me since he said it and it’s something I’m very aware of now in my arrangements.

Going back to the 1st album, I had returned home in 2011 after 15 years in England where like I said I ran events all over the midlands also adding warehouse parties to that and a few festivals, during these years Id also residencies in Ibiza in Coastline, Bar M, Savannah and in the  back room at Eden, also all over Europe and further afield for several years, I even survived 6 weeks with Shaun Ryder and Bez. 

But like a lot of musicians the partying takes over and the fun stops, this was the case and I went from being at the top of my game in 01 – 07 to just doing enough to get by or is that high. This all came to a crashing halt when my best friend who I shared a house with died suddenly, it was at this time I knew either you get up and return to Ireland sharp or lifes gonna take an even worse turn with a fatal outcome on the horizon, 

Thankfully I found the strength to come home and get a job, basically I tried to leave music behind and rebuild what I could of my life. 3 years went past and I didn’t listen to music at all, not even the radio, I had some weird connection that it was music that led to too much partying and then got me to where I was. 
But in 2013 I found myself just having a play about and within a few months WotD was born. 

But the 1st album really is a lot of anger and I guess a deep dive into myself with tracks like Monsters at the Gate, It’s Hot Down Here & Thou Shalt Not Follow, but then the beauty comes out in Just Breathe , Hashtag & Atom Vibe. This cleared the way for Anthropause being less about me and what was in my head. 

‘Anthropause’ is a great title, how did you come up with (or discover) that and what does it mean?
I was watching the ITN news during covid and it came up as a feature, they said it was a new word used by scientists to describe the slowdown in human activity which allowed nature to once again flourish where maybe it hadn’t for decades. 

So this felt like we were creating something beautiful at a time when maybe we wouldn’t have been and when there was not much to be happy about, hence the album cover with the flower growing from the old analogue tascam desk.

I read a few months later that in Chernobyl flowers had began to return to the play parks and other baron areas as a result of the “Anthropause” . 

How was working with Howie B? 
I’ve been a massive fan since his early days on the likes of Mo Wax and then of course his Pussyfoot label (I’ve even got a tattoo) being one of the pioneering Trip Hop labels, That’s what I’m about , it was the trip hop scene that made me wanna DJ and write / produce music.

Earlier this month, I recorded a mix for Ibiza Sonica Radio and the first 30 mins are all old trip hop vibes. For me it’s timeless not like lots of dance music out there that gets replaced weeks later but a similar track and then again and again, it feels like throw away, but don’t get me wrong I love house music and the slower, Acid chug side of the Indie Dance sound.  

I’ve said this numerous times to many people, Howie is one of the most genuine, down to earth and funny guys I’ve ever met in the industry. I’ve been at this over 25 years and he stands out. 

I learnt so much from him as he says it like it is , no sugar coating but also would tell you if you made the right call , so a great working relationship all-round. There were a lot of late night calls and 90% of the time we’d be on the phone talking about anything but music and laughing. I hope we can hook up next year as we’ve not been in touch an awful lot this last year. 
And now you have a new double A-side ‘Korean Frequency / Hashish Dreams’ 
Yeah so back in July we released the 1st track form the forthcoming album Be My Star which featured the vocals of Freak Power’s Ashley Slater and it done really well making it onto BBC 6 Music and then it went on to Jazz FM’s playlist so a great start to the album, Korean Frequency & Hashish Dreams got released a few weeks back and they really got some love all across Ibiza at the likes of Pikes, Cafe del Mar, Hostel la torre and more by Radio Guesthouse, Andy Wilson, Phat Phil Cooper, Ken Fan, S/A/M, Chris Coco, DJ Dribbler & DJ Gripper (Tambores En Benirras) to name a few and again it was picked up by Huey Morgan over on BBC 6 Music, he also followed up the next week with another track we released a week after this on the Freebooter Lounge  – Love Fuel ( Simon Sheldon) remix so a strong summer of releases and its looking positive for the new album in June 24.

The first track, Korean Frequency was the 1st track in 9 years that was written in the same studio , well started in, I flew to Coventry and hooked up with fellow Warrior Sean, it has that Balearic feel within its rising pad swells which create a delicious dreamscape, complemented after a few bars by a gorgeously tight drum loop, some sumptuous horns, the magic of an untamed Juno arpeggiator and a healthy dose of cosmic sprinkles. 

The name came about because we ordered takeaway from a Korean BBQ and the old club night we had in the Midlands was called Frequency, Simple really. 
Hashish Dreams is a collaboration with Deep Division) Steve put down a stunning piano melody which draws you in from the first bar, complemented  gentle, dreamy synths. Less is less here (Howie B), the space created between notes as important as the notes themselves. After two minutes it cried out for the chunky breakbeat, then over to the twins in Florida for a live bass now it’s jazzed, and funked up in the inimitable trademark style of the Rufolo twins with Nick’s sultry sax playing the track out. 

What were you aiming for with the mix you kindly did for us?
Well I felt that seeing as the summer has gone and we’re getting into the dark and colder Autumn months that I wanted to reflect the slightly more moody, dub, ambient sounds but still keep it open to rays of light and beauty. So we’ve got Synkro on there and Phaeleh with their moody vibes, Cafe del Mar resident Ken Fan with Orange Sky which is as late Autumn as it gets, a sprinkle of light from Tambores En Benirras), Also a track that stopped me in my tracks when I heard it midsummer was Radioslave and Caged Baby’s Amnesia so its on there and needs no explanation really other than its like the early 90s, it’s 6am it’s Ibiza in your ears and hearts.

We’ve got an edit of something from our new album in the shape of Looking through Balearic E’s, a few 80’s curveballs, it’s only right Korean Frequency made it on there and it ends with a few tracks from Sonlife, Chris Coco our label boss at DSPPR had played these back in I think April on Openlab Radio in Ibiza and I text him during it to say I needed them, Sonlife’s album came out last week and if you like what you hear on this mix I recommend it as one of the best albums of the year, it’s definitely in my top 3 so it was a pleasure to bring the mix to an end with these, Oh and there’s a few others in there. 

As Chris Coco said to me yesterday “It’s like your cosy pair of socks”, I love a pair of winter woolies. 

And what’s coming next for you?
Well, we literally just finished the album last Wednesday, though on Thursday morning when I went to export it from my iMac it wasn’t happening as the iMac OS stopped working, hard drive failed as did Time Machine, luckily I had all tracks off and stems into a drop box, it’s all recovered now though and the iMacs been cranked up. 

We’ve a few remixes and other tracks were working on from now till the end of the year and then were hooking up with the label A&R to decide the running order and if any tracks are getting cut from the album, from there it will be off to get cut to vinyl, we’ve a single planned for the end of January and another the start of April , with the album at the end of June and back to Ibiza mid July to promote it. 

I threw my own party Everything’s Gone Green at Pikes last July so another one of those and further gigs across the island. We’ve some new daytime parties planned across Ireland in the Spring/Summer as well as looking at some festivals. Oh and a few album launches around London and a few other cities, actually if anyone wants to hook one up get it touch.