Amped: Annie Mac
We find out how Annie Mac became one of the best-loved and most important figures in dance music
“I’ll never forgive you for using that picture!” shouts Annie Mac, in mock outrage. “I invited Mixmag round my flat and they used that
The photo in question is from Annie Mac’s first ever Mixmag feature, and shows the then 27-year-old DJ sitting on the floor of her South London flat wearing a black, low-neck jumper, all unruly dark curls and slightly quizzical expression. The year was 2006, and Mixmag was featuring Annie McManus for the first time. While her BBC Radio 1 show was fast becoming an essential weekly listen, her confidence as a club DJ was low.
“I was terrified to even dance in those days,” she laughs when we meet in a spare hour before her Friday night radio show. “When I first started to DJ, I’d write a list of all the records I was going to play and in which order I was going to play them!”
Ten years on, things have seriously stepped up a gear. In March last year she took over the weekday early evening slot on the station, (the most important and high-profile radio slot for new music in the UK), and last April she hosted the first edition of her Lost And Found festival in Malta. Her Annie Mac Presents club tour is perhaps the biggest in the country, and she’s become a festival headliner whose back-to-back set with Rob Da Bank on The Port stage at this year’s Bestival was the talk of the weekend. She might well be the single most important figure in dance music in the UK.
When we meet at the St George’s Hotel, opposite New Broadcasting House (‘the best/worst place in the world’, Annie calls it, referencing the hotel bar’s combination of an awe-inspiring panoramic view with a not-decorated-since-the-80s orange carpet) she’s in the middle of a particularly busy period. Having just taken over Zane Lowe’s Radio 1 slot on weekday evening, the night before we meet she hosted a Radio 1 special with Coldplay in Hackney – and she has two sold-out nights of her AMP tour at Brixton Academy to come at the weekend.
“I can deal with being this busy for a while,” she says, “if I know that on Monday it’s all going to calm down a bit.” While increasing your workload fourfold would pile on the pressure for most of us, Annie claims it has made her more relaxed, allowing her to shake off the kind of performance anxieties football players can suffer from when only getting one chance a week to shine.
“I love being on the radio every day – it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” she says. “With the Friday show, I’d be building up to it all week, then if I messed something up I’d have a week to wait to rectify it.”
“I get to the end of the week now and I’ve got that Friday feeling in the sense that I’m fucking knackered,” she confides, emphasising her Dublin accent on the latter half of the sentence. “But I think that just means I’m more relaxed about it. At first I thought ‘God, I hope this isn’t going to be detrimental to the show’, but my producer actually thinks it’s the opposite. The more relaxed you are on the radio the better you are.”
That relaxed atmosphere is there when Mixmag sits in on the recording of her Friday night show a few hours later. Dressed in an orange sweater and grey pencil skirt with a pair of platform heels, Annie greets Mixmag and Sarah from her management team with warm hugs, before becoming agog at Sarah’s Adidas dress, made from what looks like wetsuit material. “I need a picture of that! Is this for Stormzy tonight?”
The atmosphere in the studio is convivial, Annie’s producer Clair bouncing around to every tune that comes on with a mile-wide grin, while one of the younger producers is gently berated for not knowing De’Lacy’s 90s house classic ‘Hideaway’, which Four Tet has just sampled. “You’re just too ,” Annie mockingly shouts.