KCL Radio Interviews: Annie Mac
Hailed as ‘Radio 1’s champion of new music’ (The Guardian, 2015), Annie Mac is Britain’s leading voice for trendy tunes. The Dublin native is the mastermind behind the ‘Annie Mac Presents’ empire, an umbrella-moniker which lends its name to an annual mix of each year’s hottest records and the “AMP Sounds” tour which recently took over the capital with a sensational headline run across London and featured headline acts such as Jessie Ware, Ghetts and Sam Smith amongst many other huge names.
The star host of BBC Radio 1’s weekday evening show and purveyor of the Hottest Record In The World, Annie Mac is an certified inspiration to all of us at KCL Radio having come through the path of student radio herself. She gave our very own Aaron Casanova (Indiscreet, Charts Predictions Show) a little chat about how she got started in the industry, her inspirations and her favourite venue in London…
Hi Annie! First things first, how did you get your start as a radio DJ?
I did an MA in Radio at Farnborough College Of Technology and then applied for a job advertised in the Guardian at a new radio station. I worked there as the presenter of the weekend evening show. The job didn’t last long but I made some great contacts – notably a man who worked part time at BBC London. He helped me get my foot in the door there which eventually led me to getting to Radio 1.
What do you remember from your student radio days?
I had possibly the worst titled student radio show ever, “SOULFINGER“, which was named after a song by The Bar Kays. I played lots of old soul and funk and disco – basically all the records I picked up from the weekly car boot sale in the multi storey car park in Farnborough. The other show I had was given to me by the station and was called “Loved Up with Annie Macmanus” and I played late night love songs (lollll).
How much does your childhood and growing up in Ireland shape who you are today?
I think it has left a huge imprint on who I am. I think I’ll always feel like an ‘other’ over here – like someone who doesn’t fully belong – and the ubiquitous-ness of music and musical instruments in my life growing up was and still is hugely beneficial to me.
How much do you think you have an influence over the popular and club music scenes?
I don’t like to think about that too much as it can be quite overwhelming. The main thing is to do my job well and respect the music you hear.
Although many know you as a dance DJ, you’re also a big fan of rock music having began your primetime show with Wolf Alice. How important is it to you that you have the freedom to play the songs you want to play?
It’s imperative. That’s why I do what I do. You have to be passionate about the music to be able to deliver it well.
As a DJ, how important is it to you that you have a distinct opinion – positive or negative – about different types of music?
I think it’s really important to have an opinion. Equally it’s important to be flexible and to be open to allowing your opinion to change. Music can grow. you can feel differently about things on different days. If you’re not sure about something give it another listen another day…
Who is your main inspiration in music and in radio?
I am always inspired by the absolute collectors. Your Rodigans, your Benji Bs… people who live and breathe the music. In radio, I love listening to Sara Cox for her inherent quick wit and Mary Ann Hobbes for her selections which never fail to delight me.
How important to you is the “personal aspect” of radio, in having someone present music as opposed to an autoplaylist?
For me, it’s crucial.
Which are your favourite venues to play in London?
Having just come off the back of a month long series of shows that I did for AMP Sounds – I would have to say KoKo. It has 5 levels all in all so when you’re on stage you have people below you in front of you and on top of you which is pretty amazing. The old theatre vibe is lovely too and it has an amazing history and legacy.
How much does London influence/inspire you and how?
So much but mainly the people. If there’s one good thing to come out of the idea of the British Empire, it is the multiculturalism of London. With that comes new sounds, culture clashes, jungle music, garage music, grime music… All these genres are direct results of multiculturalism.
Alexa of “Culture Shock” asks: Your style is wonderful – do you find that being a creative person, you are involved in/interested in all artistic forms (i.e., art, fashion, theatre)?
Yes definitely. I love fashion, I love art, I love writing. It’s all just putting things together, right? Clothes, words, colours, patterns, textures, cadences, rhythms…
Olivia (@olivia_kersey17) of “BS” would like to ask: What do you think is the future of more talk-based shows, such as scientific discussions, in modern radio?
I think the future is HUGE for talk based shows. Podcasts are exploding, every week another famous person has launched their podcast. It’s been amazing to watch my colleague Alice Levine break new ground in comedy podcasts… they’ve played The Royal Albert Hall!! Huge!
Your album “Annie Mac Presents… 2017” is full of amazing artists and tracks. What goes into putting a mix like that together?
It’s just keeping a watchful eye on the music of the year and making sure you have the most important tracks. The hardest bit is getting the tracks licensed. A lot of the time you get a flat “no” from the label so we have to go to the artist personally. Then it’s about mixing them together so they flow.