Annie Mac Q&A
Tastemaker and BBC DJ Annie Mac on staying young, shepherding
Disclosure and AlunaGeorge into the mainstream and why she felt she had to
leave Ireland to make it in radio.
Hi Annie. You're a 35-year-old presenter on British 'Youth' station BBC Radio One. Ever worry you might be getting a bit long in the
tooth for the gig?
Well yeah, Radio One is a youth station and you would be stupid to think you're going to be there until you retire. It is for young people – it is up to me whether I am willing to play music for that
generation of kids. There are still specialist DJs at Radio One who are considerably older than me and they love it. But yeah, it crosses your mind. After I had my kid, I was like 'oh my god, I'm too old to be a DJ'.
Well, you can always lie about your age. Though, to be fair, it's up there in lights on your Wikipedia page.
I don't think I have to worry. Radio One are very supportive. Okay, they have to be seen to have young DJs to represent young people. As long as you sound young and are playing the right music, I think you're okay. I hope I'm safe for a while. The nice thing about working for the BBC is that there are so many different networks – Radio Six, Radio Two, lots of places where you can grow old. [Former Radio One breakfast host] Sara Cox has a show on Radio Two, Jo Whiley is very happy there. I hope I can always move up or down the ladder.
People may not be aware but you are actually a Dubliner. Growing up apparently you didn't find Irish radio particularly engaging. Marty Whelan won't be pleased.
I found legitimate radio quite uninspiring. It was the pirate radio I was into. Back then Phantom was still illegal and was incredible. There seemed to be a healthy amount of pirates. Compared to that, I didn't consider 'official' youth radio too exciting.
You sort of stumbled into radio when you attended Queens in Belfast. Do you ever wonder where you might have ended up had you gone to college in Dublin as planned?
Well, I tried to go to Trinity. I really wanted to do drama. I didn't get in. I thought my life was over. However my mom is from Antrim and went to Queens, so she suggested it to me. My other option was history in UCD. I went to Belfast and am really glad I did. For me, uni was as much about leaving home and living an independent life as it was about
You're a major tastemaker in the UK, with acts such as Disclosure essentially owing their careers to you. Are there any Irish bands you'd like to champion?
I haven't really kept up with Irish music. A few years ago I presented Other Voices which was a great opportunity to come home and work with Irish people at a professional label. It allowed me to connect with all sorts of artists – not just electronic music but songwriters like James Vincent McMorrow, whom I'm a huge fan of.
As it happens Irish electronic music is having something of a purple patch. Has word crossed the Irish sea ?
I like people like Mmoths. I put him on a compilation album last year. He made an exclusive track for me. I am aware of some stuff – I have friends in Dublin who keep me up to date. But because I'm in London I'm not as immersed as I would like.
Your dance show is rather edgy. We take it you consider EDM [Avicii, Deadmau5 etc] to be the Satan's music?
I don't think it is Satan's music by any stretch of the imagination. There is something out there for everyone. The sort of music that is categorised as 'EDM' is massive. I'm lucky to be in a situation where I have the flagship dance show on Radio One but can still play all the artists I like. That stuff [EDM] is covered on other dance shows. I focus on the underground, even if it has gone mainstream in a few cases.
You're doing this interview to plug your latest Annie Mac...Presents compilation. From obscure beginnings the annual collection seems to have taken on a life of its own.
Initially I would be in a battle with the labels. 'Oh we want you to put this or that on.' And I'd be like, ' I wouldn't touch that with a bargepole'. Fortunately I'm left to my own devices most of the time. What's interesting is that this year there weren't any of those back and forths. A lot of the artists have achieved mainstream exposure on their own – so you have your Rudimentals, your AlunaGeorges, your Disclosures. They have crossed over and are pop artists by default now. It's nice that this has happened and that I can include them on my album without having to compromise.
Annie Mac...Presents 2013 is out now.