Annie Mac has proven herself to be a powerful force in the UK dance music scene despite all the odds seeming to be against her. Most popular British DJs are born and bred on English soil yet she hails from Dublin and in a testosterone infested industry, she seems like the lone female presence.
But despite geography and gender, her success is testament to her unrivalled passion for music and ability to put on unforgettable gigs. She’s more than just the token female Dubliner. Returning with the 4th compilation CD in the ‘Annie Mac Presents…’ series, we see her passion put to disc. The album is not aligned to just one genre but fully chronicles a year in music; a brilliantly varied collection of club anthems, mellow moments and exclusive never-heard-before tracks.
She’s also an able multitasker. This interview is wedged between a rigorous day of other press commitments and before we start the interview she compliments my necklace and politely informs me that she’ll be signing CDs at the same time as answering questions, as to not seem rude. Perhaps part of her success is to do with the charm and keen chat we hear on Friday evenings of Radio 1.
The interview turns into more that just about her new compilation but her theories on the ever-changing music world, exciting future projects and why she only got to see the opening and closing ceremonies of the London Olympics.
What made you want to do the mixtape sequence again?
It’s just a really good I feel, for me to do. It’s a good physical thing that is an advert for everything I’m about musically. I also love putting music together and having it as a memento for that year; the nice things about these complications is that each one is roughly representative of a year in music for me. I’m really genuinely happy with it this year in terms of the music that’s gone on it this year because I’ve really covered everything that I love and there’s a lot of up-and-coming people on there but then a lot of exciting established people. It’s a genuine reflection of what I’m doing.
So I suppose that’s what influences the song selection – getting a memento and adding to the narrative…
Yeah, and I think a lot of the ones that I’ve done before weren’t so much about me as a club DJ and more a radio DJ. I’d put a lot of songs down that I play on the radio but this is one is similar to that but I really wanted to make it indicative of a DJ set. CD1 is basically a DJ set that you would hear if you came to see me at a festival this year – that’s why it was so natural for me to put it together.
From the previous three compilations, how would you say music has changed – as a DJ you’re supposed to perpetually excited about music, but it seems from this compilation that you genuinely are…
Well, my thing has always been to play different genres and not to be restricted to one. That was always the theme of these compilations – you’ll get jungle, you’ll get house, you’ll get garage. This year, dance music is bigger than ever; it’s so ubiquitous and people know more of it. For instance, Disclosure are on the Radio 1 playlist now. I don’t know if ¾ years ago he would have been. So it’s easier for me to make these and for people to be accessible to them.
In terms of the actual sounds…a little bit less indie. I think at the start there was that indie dance thing, the ‘Kitsune world’ so there might have been a few more of those type sounding tracks on the record. Now it’s a lot more garage-y and R&B.
Do you think clubbing plays an important role in introducing new music to young people that they wouldn’t necessarily have found if they weren’t going out – especially specialist nights?
A lot of DJs now don’t just play dub-step or house. If you go and see Skream and Benga, they’ll play garage and techno, bass music and jungle and hardcore and everything. And I’m very much like that in my set so if you go out to clubs and here tracks that you like and they’re all different genres it’s gonna make people like really diverse music which I think is a really good thing
Do you think remixes of non-dance songs have played an important role in exposing dance music to a wider audience?
Remixes have always been really good tools for bringing certain genres, like pop music, into a different world. But since dance music has got so big now, it’s quite ironic that the Calvin Harris ‘Spectrum’ remix is what got Florence to number 1, not the original. So remixes are crucial now to artists, and they can be what propel artists to fame, rather than just being a tool for DJs. But when you look at the top 40 or something, pop music is dance music now. You’ve got people like David Guetta who has essentially changed the scene of American pop music by making R&B and hip-hop into dance music. So everybody from Ludacris to bloody Flo-Rida wants to be on a 130bpm record. It’s all David Guetta’s fault! [laughs]
How do you feel about David Guetta? - He get’s a lot of flack…
I feel like his power, and what he’s done is quite remarkable. You can’t fault him – he’s an extremely nice man, he’s genuinely passionate about what he does and I think he’s a talented producer. People can complain about him but there’s a lot of DJs and producers who get work right off the back of David Guetta making dance music massive.
Aside from the compilation, you’re currently in the motion of doing a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the life of a DJ. What did you want to show people about that lifestyle?
Everybody wants to be a DJ, I guess I wanted to show that more than just standing in front of thousands and thousands of people taking all the glory and stuff, the life of a DJ can be surprisingly lonely. A lot of the bigger DJs, they don’t have a home – they’re genuine nomads, they just move constantly. There’s a side of that that’s really interesting; if you’re that guy that will never plug in settle down to one place – why? That’s a lot of what we looked into in the Tiesto episode. He self confessed that he was terrified of stopping. His family are the people that he plays for in every city around the world.
But I guess people would be envious at the fact that you get to see the world…
It is an incredible way to see the world but because their schedules are so busy they don’t get to see much; just the inside of a hotel room and an airport lounge and a privet jet. You could be in a place for all of 8 hours.
That’s something that Michael Phelps said about the life of a swimmer – he only really gets to see the inside of a pool in all these different countries and not much else.
You know I only saw the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics and the Closing Ceremony; I was in Japan and Ibiza in the middle bit. But yeah, he’s exactly right.
How did you feel about the documentary ‘How Clubbing Changed the World’?
Clubbing is a real UK cultural phenomenon and I think it’s part of the culture that we should be proud of. Rave culture started here and it’s a huge huge thing all over the world now and I think the UK is responsible for dance music being so massive. Yes it started in Chicago, but we’re the ones who made it big and commercial. Those classic tracks like ‘Big Fun’ by Inner City – it was tiny in America then became a number one track in the UK. I think maybe it was good to highlight to young people just how good the UK is.
It does seem to be an intrinsic part of British culture…
I think it’s a lot to do with Empire and the fact that it’s a country filled with a lot of different colours and creeds and that’s one of my favourite things about living in London in that it’s a microcosm of the world or of Empire at least. Some people would disagree but there has been a positive outcome of it in that London is as Jamaican as it is White as it is Nigerian. Me being Irish, it means a lot to me having other nationalities around and I think that really adds to the music. The Caribbean influence of British music is indispensible.
Back to the compilation, since it is centred on the songs that you’d play at a gig, what are your top 3 venues to play at?
Liverpool when I play Chibuku. I’ve been playing there since the very start so I hold a lot of dear memories their and the atmosphere is unrivalled. Glasgow – all ways amazing to DJ there and the people are mad for it. And Toronto actually, I love Toronto, it’s very progressive in terms of the music that people like – people will come up and ask for UK funky during a set!
Finally, What are you’re top 3 favourites tracks on the compilation?
Frank Ocean, ‘Thinkin’ bout you’, AlunaGeorge, ‘Watching Over You’ and TNGHT, ‘Higher Ground’
Words by Michelle Kambasha
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'Annie Mac Presents...' is out now. Purchase link.