For the past six years, DJ Johnny Mack has been making music for the Warriors of the dystotheque band, and in many ways his nickname couldn’t be more appropriate. While life may have faced some setbacks over the decades, this real heavyweight of the dance music scene has always come back fighting.
In a celebratory mood when I meet critically acclaimed songwriter Mack, his real name Johnny McAllister, who has been announced as the winner of the Chris Ledger Legacy Award.
Named in tribute to the late former CEO of the University of Atypical, four grants of £5,000 each were made available to d/deaf, disabled and neurodiverse artists with Johnny Ruth McGinley, Larry McArie and Shiro being one of the eligible recipients. are thrilled. Masuyama.
“I joined Atypical University about a year ago through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland,” says Johnny.
“I don’t know how many applicants there were, but I do know that I was lucky enough to win the grant. I was eligible to apply because of my issues with mental health.”
Society is moving in the right direction when it comes to understanding and understanding the subject of mental health, yet there is a stigma attached to it.
Johnny hopes that by talking about this topic he will help change things for the better.
“It’s bad that there’s a stigma about mental health. I think perceptions are starting to change, but there’s still work to be done. I think everyone needs to take care of their mental health. I think about it.” I am fully aware of what can happen if you don’t take care of yourself.”
Before founding Warriors of the Diestotheque, the 48-year-old beatsmith enjoyed a successful career DJ-ing.
He traveled the world, touring with dance music legends such as Leroy Thornhill from Prodigy and Phil Hartnoll from Orbital and also shared a stage with the likes of Happy Mondays.
For years, he lived a life that many could only dream about, but that eventually turned into a nightmare when he became addicted to drugs.
“I moved to England in 1998,” he says. “I studied music at university and went on to DJ all over the world. Everything was going really well but then, as I’m sure you can imagine, the party eventually took its toll and addiction took hold. .
“After a while, life became entirely about drugs. I slowly forgot what I had set out to do in the beginning, which was to play and perform.
“The musical part of my life ended up in the back seat and everything became more about the drugs. It eventually came to a head where I was just interested. I started missing gigs and could barely leave the house. ,
Mack hit rock bottom in late 2010. Facing a crossroads in his life, the talented artist decided to turn his life around, but not before he endured a terrible tragedy.
“I knew I couldn’t walk the way I was going,” says Johnny. “Something had to give. I had enough by Christmas 2010. I left Coventry, where I was living, and flew back home to get my head together.
“A few weeks later, I went back to England with the intention of leaving Derry for good at the end of that month.
“Then on January 6, 2011, I lost my best friend with whom I shared a house.
“After that, I felt like I was at a crossroads. I could either derail completely or just pack up and go home.
“I threw some clothes in a bag, took a laptop and left.
“I’ve left my studio equipment and loads of stuff behind and I’ve never been back to Coventry since.
“I am also pure from that day. I don’t know where the strength came from, but I have managed to change my life. Before that when I was in Coventry, I had never been able to stay off drugs for more than a day.
Citing Derry as one of the reasons he gained sobriety, Johnny also revealed that it took him a while to reconcile with his first love – music.
“Being home was the missing part of the puzzle of getting my head together.
“I was tempted a lot in England but here at home I feel like I can just disappear, lock myself in a studio and work.
“When I came home I spent many years not listening to music. I didn’t even turn on the radio. I was in a dark place. I had it in my mind that music took me down a bad path.
“It took me a few years to realize that I was wrong. Then one day I started messing around with some beats and stuff on my laptop again and started a new project called Warriors of the Dystotheque.
Clean and making the best music of his life for a decade now, Mack made his official comeback in 2015 and it didn’t take long for King of the Deck to reclaim his crown.
Writing and releasing music under the name Warriors of the Diestotheque, Johnny, with fellow members Sean Graham, who is based in Coventry, and twins Mike and Nick Ruffalo, who live in New York, are taking the dance scene by storm.
“So far we have released 10 EPs and one album,” he says.
“All the EPs have been played on BBC 6 Music, RT, Radio One and so on and my life has been like a worldview over the years.”
Despite working together for six years, all four of the band’s members haven’t been in the same room at the same time, so when the world went into lockdown, Mack told me it was still as usual for the boys. was business.
“When it comes to doing everything online, we got a four-year start on everyone,” he laughs.
“It’s crazy that we’ve never been in the same room physically at the same time. In fact, I’ve never even talked to the twins. Everything’s done by messenger and email and we’ve never been on Zoom.” But are not.
“The longer the band has lasted, the more we want to put it on before we go on tour and rehearse. I think some of the magic of the band is due to the way we work.”
The band has written some great dance tracks over the years. However, they are not only brave with the sound of their music, they are also fearless when it comes to their lyrics and have been vocal about their opposition to Brexit, Tories and former United States President Donald Trump.
“I think the world is turned upside down and we should write about it. I wouldn’t say we’re ‘political,’ but we’re opposed to inequality and things like that,” says Johnny.
“We’re also very anti-Tory, to be fair. All they’re doing is taking and not giving. They don’t care about anyone but themselves. Trump was worse. I didn’t have to endure him, But the others in the band did.
“I think there’s too much smoke and mirrors going on at the moment. Take the Covid passport here. I don’t think the passport will harm anyone. I understand people’s views, but what difference does it make? Just with it Keep going. There are worse things to worry about.
“Maybe people should be more concerned about issues like bedroom tax, the fact that people don’t have money, universal loans and benefits cut, rather than downloading passports.”
Beginning in the new year, the band will release their as-yet-untitled second album. Buoyed by the success of their latest single Broken Minds, they are currently finalizing records with superstar producer Howie B.
Johnny of The Scotsman recalls, “I got to know Howie through a track that we both remixed together and we wrote No Borders with him.”
“The funny thing is I was talking to him about an hour ago. He’s so talented and has produced for U2, Bjork, Tricky and so many legends. However, despite all his achievements, he’s really down. Too earthy. He’ll call me on Friday nights just for a chat. Ninety percent of it isn’t about the music, he just wants to laugh and catch up.
“I think it works between us because of the Scottish/Irish connection,” Johnny says.
“It makes for a good working relationship. I have no problem telling him I don’t like something and he has no problem telling me where to go, which is great.
“You need that honesty when it comes to making music. I can’t wait for this album to release. We’ve been talking about how we’re going to look at it now. We’re all in the future. Very excited about it.”
Broken Minds by Warriors of the Diostothek Now Available to Stream Via All Digital Platforms