Annie Mac: 'Sharing new music with people is a joyous thing to do'
PUBLISHED: 11:40 18 March 2019
Next week, Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac brings an array of exciting musicians to stages around Hackney. Here, the superstar DJ talks to us about the inaugural AMP London, what makes a truly great live performance and the joys of giving new artists the chance to shine.
In what could be the understatement of the century: Annie Mac sure knows how to throw a party.
Celebrated as the guardian of new music on Radio 1, Mac pulls in the crowds at music festivals, plays memorable DJ sets at super-clubs the world over, and sends revellers dancing out the front door and into town via her primetime radio show every Friday night.
She’s also got her own events brand – Annie Mac Presents (AMP) – which is about to take over 14 venues across Hackney and east London for four days of live music and panel talks about the industry.
“AMP London is an accumulation of what we’ve done for years,” she says. “Prioritising music discovery and supporting bands and artists, AMP London aims to celebrate London’s globally renowned music scene, inspire conversations around music, and ultimately create something that is culturally invigorating for music lovers.”
AMP London will run between March 27 and 30. It will showcase more than 40 live acts from very different genres at venues including Moth Club, Sebright Arms, Miranda and XOYO. The event is a scaled up version of last year’s AMP Sounds; which finished at Camden’s Roundhouse with Sam Smith and Years & Years playing, and £30,000 being raised for the venue’s charity. Yeah, Annie Mac doesn’t really do things by half.
The Dublin-born DJ has curated the line-up for AMP London, with Brits Critics’ Choice winner Sam Fender and BBC Sound of 2019-nominated Mahalia just two of the acts involved.
Mac says that she “really wanted it to be across the board. AMP started out as an electronic music brand, but we have really broadened out.
“We wanted to feature as much diversity as we could; from really glossy pop to mad Australian punk-rock and Jamaican dancehall – I’m really proud of that. I wanted to get people who are in the embryonic stage of their career, who are set to be really successful in my opinion. (It’s about) getting these people who are on the edge and bringing them to play venues that maybe they have outgrown, or haven’t been to before.”
The festival schedule looks like this: four gigs at venues around east London between Wednesday and Friday, before two special closing parties at Oval Space and Hackney Empire with special guest performers on Saturday. Additionally, a leading panel of music industry figures will speak at two daytime events at Moth Club on the Friday and Saturday.
“All the topics (with the talks) have been chosen by me, it’s the things I really wanted to hear about,” continues Mac.
“All I’ve ever done is curate music – I’ve never done talks – so it was really interesting and challenging in a fun way. I’m happy with the people involved and the kind of response we’ve had. We wanted the talks to feel very now and timely.
“One of the talks is on ‘Cancelling Artists’ – should we be playing judge and jury with artists who are accused of things, like R Kelly and Michael Jackson? These issues are still very loud and very present everywhere. (There’s also a talk on) the female voice in rap music; as a lifelong rap fan I’m interested in rap music that speaks for and to women, and how that can be more prevalent.”
With such a large, loyal following and a reputation for spotting the next big thing, playing an event endorsed by Annie Mac is a huge opportunity for the 40 selected acts. But what’s it like for Mac to bring new artists to the masses every day?
“It’s the best job in the world,” she replies. “If you fall in love with a piece of music and you get to be the messenger, and share that with people, it’s a joyous thing to do. If feels meaningful and important.
“After my Friday show (Radio 1’s Dance Party), I walk out of that studio feeling completely jubilant; it’s so uplifting and a lovely thing to be able to do. It’s very different to DJing in front of a crowd, it’s not as intense, but you still get immediate reactions and emotional feedback from people. You can get a picture of them; where they are and what they’re doing.”
Although the focus is on emerging talent at AMP London, Mac herself will drop in for DJ sets on Thursday (at Pickle Factory) and Friday’s sold-out Printworks rave.
She’s striving to put on “shows that are talked about, that feel special and memorable not just for the people in the room, but for the artists as well.
“We want to have discussions that are uninhibited and honest, which feel like they come up with a conclusion. Some of the discussions are deliberately titled in question form – I want everyone in the room to come up with some answers!”
For Mac, a memorable live music event is created “when the artist and the crowd feed off each other. An example was when we had Octavian play the Jazz Café for us; sometimes it just feels like everything clicks.
“The artist is on best form, they’re slightly overwhelmed – in a good way – by the warmth and energy of the crowd. There has to be an electricity in the room.”
AMP London is at various venues between March 27 and 30. For more details and tickets, click here.