The Dust Coda crashed the UK’s Top 30 with superb Earache debut Mojo Skyline earlier this month. Rushonrock editor Simon Rushworth caught up with founder and guitarist Adam Mackie to find out more about the NWOCR scene leaders.
Rushonrock: What’s The Dust Coda story in a nutshell?
Adam Mackie: The seeds of The Dust Coda were sown nine or 10 years ago. I met John [Drake, vocals & rhythm guitar] when I was into another project and I must have been in my late 20s at that point. I was involved in a lot of urban music and poppy, electronic music on the London scene. I was getting good gigs and the money was great but in my heart I wanted to start the rock band that I’d wanted to play in since I was 14. It’s the reason I’ve always had a Les Paul and a Marshall stack! Slash and Jimmy Page are my reference points. You can see where I’m coming from here!
Rushonrock: How did you and John take the band to the next level?
AM: I was living in Brixton when we started The Dust Coda and I spent a lot of time sitting in my room drinking cans of Red Stripe and making demos on Garage Band. One day John and I drove up to the Northumberland coast, to a place called Newton, and we spent five days writing in a house up there where I’d spent many happy summer holidays. Except this was winter and there was snow on the beach! It was a cold but creative time! We made the demos and put them on MySpace — that’s how long ago it was — and reached out to other musicians who might want to join us.
Rushonrock: It sounds like preparation was the key here?
AM: Definitely. I had the first album written before I even had a band! Then John and I went through the process of meeting people who were interested in joining the band and that took forever. Looking back, that was the hardest thing — it’s so difficult to find the people who are the right fit. Players come and players go but it’s something you have to deal with. Scott (Miller, drums) has been with us for around seven years now and then we recruited our first proper bass player. We rehearsed the first album religiously and finished recording it in 2015. But it was 2017 before it was released.
Rushonrock: How much did you learn in those early years?
AM: The [self-titled] first album was self-released and we did everything by ourselves. It was a real eye-opener but it turned out to be a big success. Around the same time we managed to get a gig on the Rising Stage at Planet Rockstock and that exposed us to a lot more people. All of a sudden all of these things started to fall into place and we hooked up with a new manager. At this point we were getting bigger gigs and playing bigger festivals and starting to see our fan base grow. Pretty quickly we went from playing the Dog & Duck in front of 12 people to a point where there were 30 people at the front of the stage wearing our tee shirts and singing along to every word of our songs. Things had started to slowly swell and all of that hard work and practice was starting to pay off.
Rushonrock: Was it a case of repeating the trick with Mojo Skyline?
AM: That was the plan! In the time it took to write, record and release the debut, we’d pretty much written the second album and we were in a position to self-finance it. In 2019 we went into the studio to record Mojo Skyline and we got it produced and mixed last year.
Rushonrock: So why the switch from self-release to trailblazing UK label Earache second time around?
AM: We had our song Rock N Roll feature on the Earache NWOCR compilation and last March, just before lockdown, we were asked to appear on the London showcase for that album. It was a last-minute thing but we jumped at the chance. It was a London show for us and a golden opportunity to show a few different people what we could do. We played a blinder that night and got chatting to a couple of people from Earache straight after the show. When we talked properly afterwards we told them we already had an album in the can and they really liked it. The rest, as they say, is history. The deal was done and it was just a case of working out the best time to release it.
Rushonrock: Was it a tense wait?
AM: We kept the deal under wraps for a while. There was always that element of uncertainty about the release date due to what was going on last year. But we took our time with the first album too and we don’t regret it. With the first album we just didn’t really know what to do or how to do it. At least not properly. It took us a while to work things out. We knew we needed a plan but we didn’t have any experience in terms of what that plan should be. We had to buy all of our own stock and that took time and money. Reading people’s reviews and listening to their thoughts suggested we’d done some things right and that gave us confidence when it came to pulling together the second album. But we’ve waited four years to follow up the debut and it’s about time that people hear the new record. One thing’s for certain — it won’t be another four years before people hear album number three! It was just a case of taking 2020 with a pinch of salt. It wasn’t a normal year. After taking our time getting things right we were prepared to wait until 2021 to start pushing things again.
Rushonrock: So who writes the songs in The Dust Coda and have you managed to pen a few more during lockdown?
AM: John and I do the writing. We’ve got a list of about 30 songs now that we need to get up to the standard that we’re used to. We’ve agreed that we’ll demo 20 songs for the third album so it’s a case of whittling down that list at some point soon.
Rushonrock: You’re part of a burgeoning British scene and the wider NWOCR movement — how exciting is it to be a part of that?
AM: Right now the British scene is a lot more healthy than it was even a year ago. You’ve got bands like Mason Hill and SKAM making a big noise in the album charts and we couldn’t believe it when we cracked the Top 30 with Mojo Skyline. We’re proud to do our bit in terms of flying the flag for the NWOCR movement and it’s an exciting time to be part of that scene. There are so many great bands and so much talent but now it’s a case of getting these bands into bigger venues when live music does return. You’re only as good as your product but if album sales are a benchmark then I don’t see any reason why ticket sales can’t go the same way.
Rushonrock: How healthy is the competition within the NWOCR scene?
AM: The competition is hot! But for all of the right reasons. None of us has created a new genre and the NWOCR is a very broad church. But it’s a positive thing to be part of a wider group. Having said that, as a band, we have to stand out. We have to ensure we deliver quality across the board and show that we deserve to be talked about in the same breath as some of these bands. You look at bands like Massive Wagons and Those Damn Crowes — our label mates on Earache — and they are the standard we need to meet. It’s great to be following in their footsteps at Earache but that comes with a degree of responsibility.
Rushonrock: How important is it that you made Earache your home?
AM: Earache is the perfect place for us to be. What they did with Rival Sons — a band that I absolutely love — and went on to do with a band like The Temperance Movement is fantastic. I look at that and realise how lucky we are to be with the label.
Rushonrock: Festival season is just around the corner. Are you up for a return to the live arena?
AM: I’m missing playing live and I’m really missing the festivals. That’s where we get to hang out with the bands we’ve come through with. I can’t wait to play Ramblin’ Man Fair. We’re down to open the main stage on the Saturday night and that should be a great opportunity to celebrate the new album in style. Even better…we’ve got the rest of the day to hang out and catch up with friends. We’re champing at the bit to get back on stage. Even rehearsing has been so stop-start during the last year so the sooner I can play with the rest of the band the better. We have three festivals booked for July and that’s our sole focus right now. We’ve just announced a headline tour for later in the year and fingers crossed everything is back to normal by then.