Back on track with Annie Mac

British music is on fire. There’s so much good stuff at the moment and it’s all in the charts’. Amen to that. 2010 has been something of a golden year for British music: the breakthrough of genres such as dubstep, bassline and funky into the mainstream has led to ‘a sound that you’d never hear anywhere else in the world – a sound which is distinctly British’, reckons Annie. ‘I like the fact that you can’t define the 2010 genre’. Indeed, the current music scene is arguably the edgiest it’s ever been – and Annie Mac is right at its centre.

Since taking over from Pete Tong’s prime-time 7-9pm Friday slot on Radio 1, the nation’s foremost music radio station, Annie Mac has established herself as the mistress of new music. Her mere two hours of needle time have catapulted her to fame and recognition: in 2009 she won ‘Best Female’ at the Drum and Bass awards for her promotion of the genre.

But it hasn’t all been plain sailing. ‘Not long ago I had three jobs, worked for loads of different stations, went to interview bands in my lunch break then came back and produced my own show’, Annie says. ‘I spent two years pounding on the doors of the Radio 1 offices: it’s a tough business to crack’. She finally got her break while working as assistant producer on Zane Lowe’s show – her demos and determination impressed her Radio 1 bosses, and she was given her own show.

Over the last few years, Annie has built a covetable reputation as a UK new music maverick. She is far from pigeon-holed: her innovative dance remixes, which receive nationwide acclaim, are influenced by jungle, dub, garage, rock and indie. Annie’s success as a DJ is mostly due to her unique and overwhelmingly popular sound.
It is the same eclecticism that Annie looks for when scouring the country for new talent. ‘Originality is the key’, she muses. ‘I’m always on the lookout for something fresh, something imaginative. Half of the music I play could be pop music if Radio 1 really pushed it’. Trailblazing DJs such as Annie are the reason why artists such as Oxford’s own up-an-coming producer Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (T.E.E.D.), who is supporting her on her current tour, have become iPod essentials this year. ‘Local man T.E.E.D. is a really good producer and songwriter’, she enthuses. ‘His music is very exciting’.

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Radio’s influence over the popular music scene is not a new phenomenon: it has always been a dominant tool in the industry. In the 1960s, entrepreneurs and music enthusiasts set up hundreds of pirate stations just off the British coastline, in order to meet the high demand for pop music not catered for by BBC Radio. The radio dictated its audience’s taste: if the presenters didn’t like a track, the country didn’t hear it. Pirate radio was outlawed before long, and in response to the ensuing public demand for legal pop stations, the BBC founded Radio 1.

The enduring power of radio is undeniable, and Radio 1 in particular continues to mould the charts. It is because of audacious DJs such as Annie that the mainstream has embraced something more experimental than regular doses of Derulo. Perhaps a definition of the ‘2010 genre’ can be found in this popularization of a wide range of genres. ‘I love this sound so much, I’m just going to keep playing and playing it’.