The DJ and all-round music evangelist answered your questions about taking over from Zane Lowe, confiscating phones in clubs and the lack of male feminist allies in the music industry
That’s all from Annie Mac!
Thanks for your questions folks. I’m off to do the school run!
Do you have tinnitus?
Affirmative. I have lost hearing in my left ear and tinnitus is an old friend. I wear moulded ear plugs now.
What’s worse: Trump or Brexit?
Trump is worse because Brexit hasn’t happened yet.
Do you have a favourite set you’ve played?
Glastonbury at Silver Hayes about three years ago. I’d had very little sleep the night before and was worried as it was a really big gig for me. But when I walked onstage the crowd had this big surge of noise and it was quite moving and I ended up having one of those gigs where everything worked seamlessly. The atmosphere was perfect.
Are Radio DJs on the way out due to streaming sites?
I hope not! I think people still like to be guided. They still like a personal, human curation process. People who are passionate about music. In the same way I love football but don’t have time to sit and watch MOTD every week – people are busy, so if they can sit and listen to a music show from someone they can trust, I don’t feel that will ever go. A person presenting music is still something people want.
What’s the strangest thing you have seen at a gig or party?
My first gig that I ever went to was Moloko in Dublin when I was 15 or 16. Roisin Murphy blew my mind. There was a dog basket onstage that she regularly curled up in and she had a loudspeaker and sang a lot through that. She also had her entire Irish family with her who of course we made friends with at the lock in afterwards. I’ve loved her ever since.
Best memories from Shine?
Being on the dancefloor mainly. Hearing Daft Punk’s Burnin’ for the first time. Making about 35 new friends every time I went. Seeing life-changing DJ sets from the likes of Andy Weatherall and Laurent Garnier.
What track changed your life for the better?
Let’s use the example of Nuyorican Soul – I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun (4 Hero Remix). When I was in my late teens I started buying records properly. I lived in Farnborough and there was not much going on there apart from a weekly car boot sale. I’d go there every week and come home with loads and loads of vinyl and so loved joining the dots between labels and artists and producers. This record helped me discover Minnie Riperton and the Rotary Connection and there’s many more like this.
Related: Annie Mac’s top 10 electronic tracks
Are you aware many people find your voice arousing?
It’s not something I think about. I am literally blushing as I say this. CAN’T HANDLE.
If you were stuck in a lift with Dizzee Rascal, Michael Portillo and an iPad, would you interview them or make a tune with them?
I guess I would casually interview them. I end up doing that a lot sub consciously. Asking people questions is my nature.
Is it wrong to be 50 and love your stuff?
Of course I’m going to say no to this question. My Friday show is loved by all ages. I get so many videos from parents of their small children raving in pyjamas. And equally so many middle aged people who love it. It generally feels like a cross-generational thing and that makes me really happy.
What are the five things you can’t leave home without?
My keys. My wallet. My phone. My charger. My laptop.
Do you think anyone (including you) can leave a legacy as important as Pete Tong’s?
I think people can definitely leave a legacy as important as Pete Tong’s. However, in terms of electronic music, Pete sums up the time when electronic music was at its peak in term of cultural significance and popularity. And also he was absolutely imperative to making that happen. Every dance track that you hear in the charts today can be traced back to the work of Pete Tong. He persuaded Radio 1 to ditch the road shows and go to Ibiza instead. The rest is history.
What song do you want to play at your funeral?
Sweet Thing. That’s my favourite song of all time. It feels like it’s bordering on the divine – there’s something semi-religious about it. The lyrics are so beautiful. I have so many associations with him and growing up in Dublin.
Owls or Sea Lions?
Can you name three male allies to women’s rights in the music industry?
I have been racking my brains and the answer is no. I cannot name a man who is publicly pushing forwards women’s rights and making a point of appointing women. It maybe that I might not have come across him yet.
As for the instrument – I’d like to get rid of bongos and saxophones in nightclubs. If I’m ever DJing don’t ask me if you can play bongos alongside my set.
What’s your favourite nightclub in Dublin?
District 8. It’s in an old theatre called the Tivoli. I played there a couple of Christmases ago and it was one of my favourite gigs ever. The Dublin crowds are unbeatable. Yes I am biased but it’s true.
What’s your favourite thing about being you?
My favourite thing about being me is my kids. I was thinking about it the other day. I had a nice chat with Plan B last night and he is one of so many people that I’ve interviewed that has been completely transformed by fatherhood. I feel like children are the greatest gifts.
Is your home a bit like Peel Acres? Thousands of records shelved on the wall. Or are you a digital kind of person?
It is my lifelong dream to be able to do my show from my house a la John Peel in Peel Acres. I have a office at the end of my garden which has my record collection in it so all my music is there. And I have to be a digital kind of person because that’s how it is these days but I’m useless at managing and storing my record collection online. It keeps me up at night worrying where all the music has gone.
What’s your favourite Pixar film?
Up is my favourite. I watched it on a plane once and cried half a pint in real tears.
How can we combat the increasing closures of older venues like the Arches in Glasgow and London’s Astoria?
I’ve been thinking a lot about the closure of our venues. I think it’s super-sad. Another venue that I love in Birmingham – The Rainbow Venues – has announced it is closing. My whole career was started from going around and playing these super open minded clubs run by young entrepreneurs. The problem is these people are now losing money on a monthly basis. It’s hard to keep a club night going these days. There’s so many reasons for this and a lot of it is a change in culture. The generation of kids now see human connection in a really different way to how we saw it when clubbing was at its peak. So much of it is to do with phones. I could write an essay on the subject. I’ve just finished a tour of small and brilliant clubs around the UK. It’s been over a year since I’ve done this because I’ve been having a baby and I’ve really noticed a distinct change in the time since I did it before. That change is phones. When you do these clubs you’re at really close proximity to the punters and whenever I played people were shoving their phones in my face. One of three things would happen 1) People are filming you with a flash on, which is permanently bright in your face. 2) People write things on their phone and then shove it in your face – “Annie can I touch your hair” and stuff like that. 3) The worst one, which makes me want to take people’s phones and not give it back – a request for me to take a selfie and then return the phone. It’s really hard to focus and get into a set when you’re constantly trying to answer people’s phone issues. My friend Heidi confiscates everyone’s phones because she’s so sick of it. Clubs are such a precious opportunity to experience human connection and stand beside each other in a small space and all hear the same thing. It’s a really simple but profound thing. And it’s hard to benefit from that if you’re just filming yourself on Snapchat. The idea of human connection is becoming obsolete. There’s a lot of clubs out there in Europe that have a policy where you stick a sticker over phone cameras and I think that could really help in preserving the magic of club culture.
Any advice for someone looking to carve a career as a DJ and radio presenter? How do you build your own brand and, of course, avoid the dreaded burnout?
I guess my biggest piece of advice is to be pro-active. Do not wait to be plucked from obscurity. Have your own thing going on – be it your own club night, mixes online, podcasts, radio show. Do your own thing at a very small level so you always have something to show for yourself. That way you constantly have a calling card for whenever anyone comes along that can help you. The best way to avoid burnout is to be doing something that you love. Radio is something that I hope I will be doing when I’m old and decrepit. You can grow old gracefully and disgracefully on radio and I hope the BBC will let me do that – and yes that is a hint.
Matthew McNeany asks:
Did you find the jump from being a dance music specialist to Zane Lowe’s slot a massive change?
Yes it was a massive change. Firstly, it was hugely intimidating. I sat in on Zane’s last show and they had a hashtag which was something like #thankyouzane and it felt like every massive artist out there was using it from Adele to Chris Martin. Bono sent him a pint of Guinness whilst on air. And I sat there going “fuck” basically. But once I got stuck into the show it felt like more of a surmountable task. I never worried about not having the knowledge of traditional rock’n’roll because I come from that background – I spent many years in scuzzy venues watching bands. I don’t think that I got the show because of my electronic background – I think it was just experience and profile and the right place at the right time I guess.
I think any change in music is good. It’s traditionally cyclical. Things come and go, genres mutate and that’s what’s exciting about music. I do feel that guitar music will return to being a chart topping genre at some point definitely.
Do you prefer building sandcastles or snowmen?
Definitely sandcastles because of the context ie. you’d be on a beach. And I do that a lot more at the moment because there’s a sandpit in my local playground and it suits my boys.
What is your favourite anorak, Annie Mac?
My favourite is a red patent hooded affair recently purchased from Zara. It’s like one my mum used to have in the 1970s and I love it.
And ready to answer your questions
“DJ” feels like a bit of a reductive term for what Annie Mac does. Sure, her job mainly involves playing records, in clubs or the radio. But more accurately she’s an irrepressible music evangelist, bringing exciting new artists to wider attention and tirelessly extolling the virtues of music.
Since 2004, the Dublin native has been a constant, reassuring presence on Radio 1. She currently helms the early evening show, formerly the province of Zane Lowe and Steve Lamacq, where the hottest record of the day is ordained and inevitably goes on to become a massive crossover hit. In 2009 she started her regular Annie Mac Presents club nights and compilation albums – her ninth one is due out this week, and she’ll be hoping it replicates the success of the previous five by topping the iTunes chart.