INTERVIEW: NE Dons | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Friends since school, Will Lawton and Morgan Cole weren’t into the same things as the rest of their classmates. They were ‘nerds’, ‘geeks’; getting together regularly in the solitude of Lawton’s shed to get drunk and obsess over their unusual passion away from prying eyes. But they weren’t playing Pokémon or watching Lord of the Rings, they were listening to old school grime music.

After countless ‘shed sessions’ and throw-away freestyles, in 2017 the pair convinced each other that they could be as good as their pirate radio idols. Lawton, AKA Castle, and Cole, AKA NE-O, headed for local hip-hop open mic night ObsceNE to test their skills. It went well, the duo quickly gained a reputation within the local scene, and thus, NE Dons were born.

However, the lads only began to realise their own potential after the release of their first official single and music video, NANG, in the summer of 2018. “When the video for NANG dropped that was the first time I was like ‘holy shit, people actually wanna hear this?’” Lawton reflects, his eyes wide with enthusiasm. “I remember I was cocky back then, but now I think we were fucking terrible,” adds Cole.

On a good day, you can’t tell me that anybody in the North East is better than us at grime

After a string of singles, the pair released their debut body of work, the NANG EP, in September last year. The project highlighted the Dons as artists to be taken seriously, yet, less than a year down the road and with their second EP imminent, Lawton and Cole feel they’re already levels above their previous personal best. “To be fair, I reckon it was a solid body of work,” Cole explains. “If we re-did it all now, it would obviously sound five times better, but that’s just because how far we’ve come since the initial recording process.”

Dropping on 3rd May, the Dons’ new four-track EP is set to be a quick-fire tour-de-force of all-killer-no-filler grime, with the first single Everybody Knows quickly becoming their most popular track to date. “About December time I was feeling proper unmotivated, thinking ‘am I getting any better?’, then we did Everybody Knows and I was like ‘we are fucking sick!’” Cole enthuses. “On a good day, you can’t tell me that anybody in the North East is better than us at grime. That’s no disrespect, if everybody doesn’t think that about themselves though then what actually is the point? A massive difference between this EP and NANG is the continuity of the production as well. It’s all been produced, mixed and mastered by $onny – we owe a lot to him for the quality of this project.”

As they build their reputation in the North East, like most artists, the Dons still desire to break out of the local bubble. “I want a booking outside of the North East for a start or a proper radio set – that’s my biggest goal for 2019, for us to end up on Rinse FM or something like that,” says Cole. “For me, it’s about people realising we’re going to be here for more than that one EP,” adds Lawton. “Not only have we got better, but we’ve fucking grafted non-stop. It’s already starting to happen, but I’d like a bit more recognition outside of the North East.”

NE Dons perform at Cosmic Ballroom, Newcastle on Friday 12th April for NE Rising’s Blasting Choons For Charity gig in aid of Newcastle West End Foodbank, Mental Health Matters and FutureSense Foundation. They also perform at World Headquarters on Friday 26th April.


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