It was a little over 12 years ago when Annie Mac hosted her first show on BBC Radio 1 covering for Mary Anne Hobbs. And while it is the hope of many radio hosts to eventually reach a point of international stardom, few have actually done it as well as Annie Mac.
Since 2004, dance music aficionados around the world have tuned in Friday nights on BBC Radio 1 to hear the Irish tastemaker share her favorite tracks from new, up-and-coming artists. Known for her indiscriminate palate, she was the first to break artists such as Disclosure and Duke Dumont. Because of her continued success and popularity, she recently took over the reins for Zane Lowe’s Radio 1 evening weekday show, becoming the first woman to do so.
In the past few years, she’s also added touring DJ, talent curator, and mother to her résumé. We caught up with Annie Mac during her hectic tour schedule to find out about her festival Lost and Found, smart branding, and her travel essentials. She headlines this Thursday, April 16, at Mezzanine with support from Redlight and DJ Dials.
You recently hosted your own festival, Lost and Found. What was that experience like?
The experience was amazing! It felt like a big responsibility. We had 7,000 young British people fly to Malta. I wanted it to be good for them and I wanted the Maltese people to embrace it and them. I also really wanted to make sure the DJs had a good time. I’m very happy and relieved that it was a success.
What was the first album or record that made you want to make music your career?
I remember hearing Portishead's Dummy for the first time when I was 15, lying on my bed and staring at the ceiling and listening to it from beginning to end and being so moved.
When you first launched your Radio 1 dance show over a decade ago, did you anticipate it would have the success it does today?
I really didn’t. I just hoped I could move people with the music I played, and I could be someone to go to for consistently good and interesting music output.
Does it still give you a rush to know that your voice is heard and is able to reach so many people around the world each week?
Yes, it’s easy to forget the reach of radio. I still forget, to be honest. And then you travel around the world like I’m doing now and you speak to people and they talk about your show and tell you about a story you told months ago that they remembered … and it blows your mind.
Has the way you discover new music changed much since you started?
Yes, very much so. I used to receive all my music physically. I would be going through one or two mail sacks of music a week — vinyl and CDs. Now it’s all digital. It’s harder to keep track of what you’ve been sent as it’s not all there in piles in front of you.
With trends like RnB intermingling with house sounds, what do you predict will hit the dance scene next?
I’m sitting here by the pool with Redlight who is touring with me and we’ve both just said we want tribal to come back! There’s a record on his label by Melé called Ambience that I’m loving. It’s just really sparks tribal beats and a massive cut up gospel vocal over the top. It’s incredibly effective in the rave.
Knowing so many DJs, who is an artist that is incredibly fun to DJ with?
Artwork and Skream are always fun. Redlight is as well and I love the Disclosure boys. Also Monki and Melé, and my own man Toddla T. So many fun people! The majority of DJs know how to have a good time.
Now that you are a businesswoman with parties, Annie Mac Presents, and merchandise, what has been most challenging about building the brand?
I think it’s just knowing when to say no. Maintaining the quality of the content while getting bigger is key. We’ve taken our time, been careful not to push it. You don’t want to dilute the quality of your lineups, or your shows. It’s always got to be good.
While you seem to play almost every genre out there, are there any plans to go into original production yourself?
No plans! I’m going to stick to playing music.
Since you're traveling a ton, what are your top three travel essentials?
Some sort of portable charger, adapter, and earplugs. Boring but essential [laughs].
I know you have a tight tour schedule, but are there any spots you are looking forward to hitting up in San Francisco?
I went to a gorgeous restaurant last time I was in town. It was an old pub with incredible food. I’m going back there!