Dance music’s flagship radio show has a new pair of hands at the controls, Dubliner Annie Mac AKA Annie MacManus. Her Friday night show from 7pm to 9pm goes out to over a million people in the iconic role of ‘officially starting the weekend’. So how did Annie get one of the most directional jobs in dance music and become the ego-free, box-fresh ‘empress of whoop-whoop’ that the dance nation has taken to heart?
She comes from a musical family. Brother Rod is a folk musician. Sister Rachel is an artist and brother Davey is the lead singer with indie band The Crimea. ‘I know every Pogues song by heart. I grew up properly in love with Thin Lizzy. There was always trad stuff like The Furies and Christy Moore playing and The Smiths’.
Her first encounter with clubbing came when she arrived at Queens University Belfast as a 17-year-old. One of her English language lecturers ‘a proper Cockney geezer’ introduced her to Belfast’s best techno night Shine – giving her an education in some legendary DJs. ‘Andy Weatherall was a resident, Laurent Garnier played there, DJ Sneak played there, Cajmere played there as Green Velvet. The nice thing about clubbing in Belfast is that the scene is really small, it was the same group of people ending up at some party.’
Towards the end of her English Literature degree Annie decided to get into radio and signed up for a post-graduate Masters at a college in Farnborough. She spent a depressing year working part time in a supermarket in the sleepy Hampshire town finishing her studies. With her Masters behind her she moved to London into a house with brother Davey and other members of his band The Crimea, who were flying high in the charts.
‘I had a mad few years of living in Camden and being a proper indie girl. I worked for the student radio network SBN and, had my own residency at The Underworld in Camden. That club was a ‘walk in’ club. You’d get every type of person in there from little skater boys, indie kids, punks, loads of tourists. Literally every walk of life was represented so it was a real lesson in keeping the dance floor full. It was only a year or two later I was doing The Mash Up so I brought that to my Radio 1 show.’
Work experience at The Crimea’s label V2 lead to a job as a radio plugger, then an online radio station called Net.FM aimed at men working in IT (which didn’t take off) and at 23 years old her first job at the BBC as Steve Lamacq’s broadcast assistant. Meanwhile Annie was presenting on the student radio network SBN ‘interviewing bands at The Barfly on her lunch break’.
The received wisdom was ‘don’t be a producer if you want to present’ so her lunch time activities were kept quiet. Then one day they were having a meeting with Google projected against the boardroom wall and Mike Davies put Annie’s name into the search engine for a joke, only to find a lot of links to her SBN shows. ‘I was like, oh no, busted!’
Her debut on Radio 1 was doing an ident for Mike Davies punk show as they liked the way ‘ponk’ sounded in her dulcet Dublin tones. After doing a demo she was filling in for her original inspiration Mary Anne Hobbs and anonymously voicing The One World Show. Then in July 2004 she was given The Annie Mac Show. She was 26.
‘Before I became a DJ myself I worked for three people. Steve Lamacq, Colin Murray and then Zane Lowe and I learnt a lot from each one. Steve is a really professional journalist. He’s very particular and thorough and factual. He has a really deep knowledge and love of his music. Colin is kinda jokey and into features and the more creative side of radio. Because Zane is a musician he’s much more musical about things. When he came to Radio 1 he was the first to stand up when he was DJing and use physical energy. And he used the music technology to be more musical with his broadcasting. I was properly grateful for that time behind the scenes. It gave me a real appreciation of how a radio show works.’
In tandem her repute as a club DJ had been growing. For fun she started DJing at after and house parties when living in Belfast. After a year on Radio 1 she started her ‘Annie Mac Presents’ showcases at a single room in Fabric (inaugural artists Mylo and Justice). From humble beginnings it has grown into what Mixmag have called ‘one of the biggest brands in clubland providing a platform for a generation of youthful, bass-driven, live-dance acts and making Annie herself one of the most in-demand club/festival DJs on the planet.’
Annie is characteristically down to Earth about her achievements. ‘I don’t set out to represent a new generation. It was good timing for me. When I started club DJing I’d never played in a club. But the people that booked me at the beginning where very much the people that were coming up and not part of the Super Clubs thing. They were producers and DJs that were booking me and I became embroiled in their scenes.’
Those contacts include people like Erol, the guy that brought dance music to indie kids and whole other host of young producers that share her bass-driven, jump-up aesthetic across genres. From a rejuvenated drum & bass (Shy FX) to house and electro producers like A-Trak right through to the rampant dub step and UK funky producers of the moment. In fact, Annie’s show is a place where these genres stew together and change flavour under the national spotlight.
‘All I do when I work is sit at home on iChat swapping music with people’ says Annie. Something which is bearing fruit in the exclusives she gives away on her www.anniemacpresents.com blog (recent example Skream remix of Bat For Lashes ‘Pearl Dream’). ‘A lot of people were expecting compromise in terms of music because of the time slot but the most exciting part of the move is that I haven’t had to compromise. It’s a testament to the music and the way everything has changed that that music fits that time so well.’