[MUSIC: Interview] Annie Mac
Despite coming from a musical family (her brother Davey is The Crimea’s lead singer), the possibility of a career in music didn’t occur to Dublin’s Annie MacManus until she reached university. “I had big dreams of being an actor, but when it came to having a career in music, it didn’t even cross my mind,” she tells me, in the lead up to a tour that will see her play at Sydney’s Stereosonic over the weekend. “It wasn’t until I heard Radio 1 when I was in my late teens – and heard people like Mary Anne Hobbs and John Peel… It was like, ‘God, this would be something I would love to do’.”
Inspired, MacManus undertook additional studies in radio and started gaining experience behind the scenes at the BBC, while also presenting on student radio networks. Just three years later she had her own BBC show, and not long after that she’d cemented her reputation as one of electronic music’s premier tastemakers. “The lovely thing about the BBC is that you really do have complete creative freedom,” she says. “I’ve always been able to play what I’ve wanted, and I’ve always had the trust of my bosses to do that. Because my radio show has done quite well and my career has flourished, I’ve kept doing that. I’ve kept playing and supporting what I’ve wanted to… Your taste can’t be wrong; it can only be your taste. There’s no right or wrong. If other people like it, amazing – and if they don’t, well, that’s absolutely fine too.”
As MacManus took over the airwaves, she also became an in-demand club and festival DJ, and admits that the jump from DJing in a radio studio to DJing in front of crowds was a bit of a challenge. “It was really difficult, to be honest with you. Even though I have a million people that listen to me every Friday night, it’s your voice they’re listening to and your personality that you’re getting judged on,” she says. “The difference between that and actually physically having to perform to people was vast, and I was very self-conscious and stage-shy at the start. I still would always prefer to be in a corner DJ booth on the same level as everyone else. I’m not really very comfortable being on a massive stage, but it’s just something that I’ve had to get used to. I can manage it now and it’s fine, but it took a lot of getting used to.”
Although she loves her Radio 1 job, the weekly commitment does limit her capacity to tour. “I’m very precious about taking radio shows off. I don’t really like missing them, and that’s probably why I haven’t been to Australia yet – because taking two weeks off is quite a big deal. You have to really kind of pick out maybe four or five weeks that you’re going to take off in the whole year,” she explains. “You just work around it, but [radio] is priority number one.” Because of this, MacManus usually plays gigs in the UK at night after her radio show, and books European gigs on Saturdays. This was the routine for most of her busy northern summer, during which she spent a great deal of time in Ibiza while also working on Annie Mac Presents 2011, the latest instalment of her annual compilation series which was released last month. “It’s quite indulgent on my part. It’s my favourite tunes from the year,” she explains of the series. “I was able to not choose things just because they were big hits; I chose songs because I really liked them, and I think I was very lucky to be able to do that. I just hope to hell that everyone else likes them too.” MacManus says she’ll be bringing music that is currently “big and exciting” in the UK on her first trip to Australia, with her sets consisting of 80–85% house music, as well as some dubstep and jungle.
Annie Mac now finds herself as a role model for the new generation of upcoming radio DJs. “Not wanting to bring up gender too much, but there’s so few women. I’m happy to be a DJ and a woman just so that the little ladies growing up can see it’s very much a fun, feasible career to have. I think it would be great to have more girls in the game, so hopefully me doing what I do can help some girls realise that it’s a thing to do,” she says.
After her meteoric rise at the BBC, going from production assistant to an on-air host in the space of three years, MacManus is right where she wants to be. “I would definitely want to keep doing radio for as long as possible, until I’m old and grey,” she laughs. “I think the Friday show is something that is great for now and for the foreseeable future, definitely – but there might be a point when I’m older that I want to move on to pastures new, and maybe pastures slightly less crazy. But for now it’s perfect. I couldn’t be happier.”
With: Armin Van Buuren, Carl Cox, LMFAO, Empire Of The Sun, Afrojack, The Bloody Beetroots, Ferry Corsten, Dirty South, Crookers, Madeon, Claude VonStroke, BT Live, Bag Raiders, The Gaslamp Killer, Deetron and loads more
Where: Stereosonic @ Sydney Showgrounds
When: Saturday November 26