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“I love that the most about music – culture clashes and their consequences can be amazing things.”
I sat down with BBC Radio 1 DJ, and Dundrum native, Annie Mac to talk balancing her homes in Dublin and London, how she got to where she is now, revisiting the countryside of her homeland, and the Irish music scene from when she was a teen and now.
For me, Annie Mac is a hugely influential figure in radio and music. She’s somebody that I look up to and have a huge amount of respect for. When I started presenting in RTE radio at the end of 2015, my boss asked me who I listen to in radio and my answer was immediately Annie Mac.
She is a woman that works so hard and is creating such a respected brand in her festivals, radio show and her AMP compilations. Without sounding ‘tacky’ and ‘fluffy’, she is a big inspiration for me and I’m sure many others. Below is an extract from our conversation, taken from District Magazine Issue One.
What was it like growing up in Ireland?
I loved it. I had a pretty idyllic childhood, playing outside in my estate all day, climbing trees, skateboarding… Generally being a little tomboy and getting called in for bath times by my Mam every evening.
I loved school as well and got really involved in all of that, choir, acting, hockey. We spent a lot of our holiday time in rural Antrim where my Granny lived so I had that lovely experience of feeling completely free in nature with my brothers and sisters… Running around fields making tree houses and huts and getting chased by bulls.
London is your home now, would you consider yourself to have two homes now? How do you find a balance between the two?
London is my main home. I’m currently looking into buying a little house in Ireland so my son can have the same experience I did as a child. I want him to know what it’s like to have no boundaries when it comes to playing outside.
The balance is pretty straightforward though as London is definitely our main home and Dublin is where we go for Christmas and the odd holiday.
What was the clubbing scene like for you growing up? What clubs did you go to?
My first ever clubbing experience was The Temple Of Sound nightclub. I danced all night. I lost four pounds in one night. I remember because I weighed myself when I got home. My clothes were soaked in sweat. I left home soon after that but came back and worked in a bar on Parliament Street called The Front Lounge.
We used to go to the Kitchen a lot that summer and my sister was in NCAD so I would go to house parties with her and generally hang out with her friends.
What made you decide to make the move away from Dublin?
I moved from Dublin to Belfast to go to Queens University. I went there because I applied to Trinity to do drama and didn’t get in. My Mam suggested Queens as she went there and had an amazing time. I had some of the best years of my life so far there.
From there, how did you get into DJing and radio presenting and what was the timeline like getting to where you are now?
It’s a long old process! I moved to London after my degree and did an MA in Radio in a place called Farnborough. It was a pretty culturally dead place and I moved to London as soon as I could after.
There I worked in various jobs in radio for two years, ending in a job at BBC London which eventually gave me the contacts to get into Radio 1 as a broadcast assistant.
I worked behind the scenes for two years there until I got my show. I did my first show when I just turned 26 and I’m still there now!
So from there how were your bigger projects like Lost & Found born? Where would you like to take the festival?
It was born out of a group of northern promoters forging relationships with some Maltese promoters. They asked me to come and headline the festival and we went back and asked if they would want it to become and AMP festival instead. We were looking for something bigger for what we did… An evolution of sorts. I had been working with those promoters for the best part of ten years so it was perfect.
Would you ever consider bringing The Amp All Day Ravers to Dublin? Personally think it would go down a treat…
Yes! I would love to do this. We’ve always found it hard to get something off the ground in Ireland but I want to try and do something bigger there for sure.
What made you start the AMP CD and mixes?
It’s a natural progression for what we do. I’m essentially a curator. I do it every week on the radio show but it’s good to be able to do it within the realms of AMP. I’m super proud of the track list of AMP 2016 this year as I think it’s broader than ever, taking in everything from James Blake and Anohni and Skepta to Dusky and Disclosure and Flume. It’s a proper cross section of the year in electronic music.
Speaking of Skepta, him winning the Mercury Prize award was really exciting, what do you think this means for the scene in London and in a global sense?
It’s a celebration of a DIY culture, a culture that has always been very uncompromising in its approach to the industry. Skepta has been round the houses in terms of labels and deals, but has come back to doing things his way and his way only. That is always the best thing for an artist. Honesty and authenticity. You can hear it in the music. I’m glad that he has won for being himself.
What do you love most about your job?
I love being able to play music to people and to have them fall in love with a song. It’s such a joyful process. Equally DJing and putting on parties is the same. Giving people joyful experiences.
What do you want people to take and experience from your festival and sets?
A mixture of entertainment and also learning something new – hearing a new song they fall in love with or witnessing a new artist/DJ that blows their mind.
Overall, a sense of warmth and communion in terms of the events.
There has been a rise in Dublin with R&B, Hip Hop and Grime thriving a lot recently, which I think is really exciting… With the likes of Soulé, Mango Dassle, Hare Squead, Rebel Phoenix and Aik J to name a few… Do you think the music scene here is now following in the same direction as London’s scene?
I hope so. We’ve played Hare Squead on the radio a few times. I think they’re exciting, I think it’s a sign of Ireland becoming more of a multicultural country, with more influences seeping into the underground scenes.
I love that the most about music – culture clashes and their consequences can be amazing things.