Tuesday, 25 August 2009

INTERVIEW: Mary Anne Hobbs

Mary Anne Hobbs is still standing strong as one of dubstep’s figureheads. Her weekly BBC Radio 1 Experimental show has become the place to hear new music from key players and curve balls alike - first. After pioneering innovative bass music through her Dubstep Warz special in January of 2006, which featured guest mixes from Mala, Skream, Kode9, Vex’d, Hatcha, Loefah and Distance, m/a returned this time last year with Generation Bass, the sequel starring Joker, Cyrus, Starkey, Silkie & Quest, Oneman, Chef and Kulture.

Whilst the variation between the two corner point shows was obvious, with 2008 showcasing the new ‘shoots’ of dubstep rather than the well watered and bass rich roots, her passion for fierce innovation was still more than apparent. It’s in this that m/a truly excels, whether it’s using her radio show, her live appearances, her three Sonar stage curations or her compilations to reveal and expose true electronic talent.

With a CV that stretches impossibly far into the depths of broadcasting and journalism, she stands on the precipice of her third compilation on the Planet Mu label, ‘Wild Angels’, which harbours gems from Darkstar, Gemmy, Mike Slott, Hudson Mohawke, Brackles, Mark Pritchard and too many more for me to possibly list before this intro just becomes a drawl recollection of a tracklist; we caught up with her and shot her some questions.

Sonic Router: You’ve had a brilliantly varied career in radio pushing everything from metal to experimental electronic sounds and beyond, how did that all get started?

m/a: I could not imagine living another way. I had a burning desire that tormented me from my days as a little kid, listening to [John] Peel play punk under my blankets in bed in the dead of night. I ran away to London as a teenager and lived on a bus for a year on a car park with a rock band called Heretic… I was their lighting engineer, I made their backdrops and their clothes, designed their record sleeves... And I was also the bus mechanic!

What’s been some of your musical inspirations over the years, what made you fall for music and who’s keeping the light alive for you right now?

I’m unconcerned by genre in any formal sense, I just wanna hear something fresh, elemental and unique. I’m endlessly inspired by Sex Pistols, Public Enemy, Jungle, Metalheadz at The Blue Note, Nirvana, the DMZ label and club in Brixton, Chris Morris, Kode 9 & Hyperdub, the Tempa crew and FWD>> at Plastic People, Daddy Kev, The Gaslamp Killer and all the Low End Theory crew in LA plus Pinch, Joker, Gemmy, Jakes and all the Bristol family.

The list is endless and constantly evolving and I think that’s reflected in pace at which my BBC Radio1 show moves forward every week.

You’ve been given the accolade of curating a stage at Sonar for the last couple of years now, what have been your favourite moments of the festival so far and are you already planning the next one?

We made history in 2007, it was the first time dubstep was lifted out of tiny, intense humid club environments and onto an international festival stage. We honestly expected a couple of hundred people to show up, especially as The Beastie Boys were headlining the main stage at the same time, about 10 paces away.. Skream said to me it was the greatest night of his life on earth. The magic in the air was tangible.

Can you shed a little light on your first dubstep experience?

The first tune I ever heard from this generation of producers was P Dutty & Pinch – ‘War Dub.’ The rest is history…

How do you feel the scene has changed and progressed since Dubstep Warz in 2006 to now?

There are new textures of sound emerging every day, drawing in a myriad of different influences from every corner of the globe. There’s a fascinating sonic intersection between Flying Lotus and the West Coast crew, Vienna, Bristol and South London right now... And of course, it’s wonderful to see an artist like Skream with a gold record for the La Roux remix!

What is your most prized dubplate?

Darqwan – ‘M/a...ximum Reespek’ written for me as a gift, and cut onto acetate by Jason at Transition Mastering Studios.

Your brand new compilation for Planet Mu, 'Wild Angels,' is about to hit the shops, tell us about how that came about?

Electronic music moves forward in thousands of tiny scattered steps every day. 'Wild Angels' is a collection of future sound from Transatlantic producers building new creative causeways… beyond dubstep, hip-hop, soul, folk and electronic.

The album title was born out of an expression I used to describe the late Alice Coltrane, who has inspired and informed so much, on my BBC Radio1 West Coast Rocks special (which featured many of the US artists on the album).

You must get so much new music every week, how do you go about finding the good stuff and what’s your advice for new producers who want to get heard?

Be your own most ferocious critic. Work hard to get your beats in brilliant shape before you start harassing the fuck out of people...

Have you got any inspirational advice for our readers?

Charge at your dreams and never look back!

Wild Angels from LuckyMe on Vimeo.

‘Wild Angels’ is out on the 14th September (on CD and double pack 12”) on Planet Mu featuring tracks from Gemmy, Hyetal, Hudson Mohawke, Mono/Poly, Darkstar, Floating Points, TAKE and more.


Photo: Shaun Bloodworth


  1. Thanks for this....very interesting (again)

  2. "Be your own most ferocious critic" Well put!!!

    Thanx for this interview!

  3. Nice interview. Cheers. MAH knows.