"I don’t know if EDM will last, it’s driven by money, but dance music will be stronger for it" – hmv.com chats to Annie Mac
As she prepares to release her latest annual, fittingly titled Annie Mac Presents 2014, we chatted to Radio 1 DJ/club scene fixture Annie Mac about putting the compilation together, the EDM explosion and why she hopes dance music might be a little less mainstream in future…
Your new compilation Annie Mac Presents 2014 is out today, when did you start putting it together?
“At the start of the summer. At the point I know it’s going to happen so I have it in my head throughout the year, you hear tracks and you think ‘Oh yeah, that’ll definitely be on there’. But it’s really during the summer when you start playing festivals that it crystallises and you find out what tracks the crowds are loving and which ones stay in your DJ set. It’s loosely based on my sets across the summer.”
What was the first track that you knew had to be on the compilation?
“Ten Walls – Walking With Elephants. Tracks come and go all the time, dance music can feel quite disposable. But tracks like that really stay with you and it’s especially gratifying when they turn out to be hits, especially a track that’s as interesting and kind of odd.”
Can you pretty much get what you want for the compilation? Or can’t you get licenses for everything?
“There’s always some tracks you can’t get licenses for. A lot of hip-hop stuff is hard to get and it’s really difficult to get anything from Roc Nation. It’s a minefield that I’ve had to learn a lot about, sometimes you can’t get a track because it costs too much, or for political reasons. But I’d say we get 95% of what we want.”
Where do you imagine this compilation being played when you’re putting it together? Is for people in their car? Or when they’re out and about?
“The first CD I definitely imagine people in their car, but also people getting ready to go out. I imagine it on in the background when people are doing their make-up, getting pumped for their night, calling their mates. CD Two is a bit more ‘All back to mine’, I like the idea of sticking it on when you get back from the club and you’re not ready for the party to be over.”
There aren’t too many of the big EDM names on there, there’s no Calvin Harris, no Skrillex, no David Guetta for example. Did you want to stay away from that?
“It’s more about the tracks I picked. But the whole EDM thing isn’t something I’ve ever included in my DJ sets or on my radio show, so it’d be weird to include it just because it’s big. What has been nice is a lot of the music I have played on my show has become more and more popular. Traditionally labels want you to put on the big hitters, and you’d have to fight to get the stuff you’d like on there, but this year there’s been no fighting because people I love like Kiesza, Disclosure, Clean Bandit, they’re all mainstream pop acts, still making amazing dance music. I try to balance it between that and acts that aren’t so commercially successful.”
As someone who’s been involved in dance music for a long time, what’s it been like to watch EDM explode? Has it been weird to observe?
“How big it’s suddenly become in America is bemusing. I’ve spoken to people who’ve been in dance music and they’re all amazed by that. I think everyone is just going with it, especially the big DJs, you can be snobby about it and think it’s puerile and only built around the drop, but, at the end of the day, it's an entry point for kids to get into dance music. EDM is a gateway, kids might hear a David Guetta track at 14 and be buying Dirty Bird Records at 18.”
“It’s got lots of positive impact too, more nightclubs are opening and there’s far more awareness of what DJs do. I don’t know if EDM will last, it’s quite driven by money, I think it might disappear as quickly as it’s exploded, but dance music will be stronger for it.”
Does this feel a little like the late 90s? You had people like Paul Oakenfold and Chicane playing to hundreds of thousands of people and earning millions, then it suddenly seemed to go into the shadows, can you see a similar scenario?
“It might do and I don’t think that would be a bad thing. Music comes in cycles and you do hit saturation points when music becomes generic and works to formulas. I think it’s good for things to go underground and some back with something different. I think it will definitely happen in America. I keep waiting for something to come along and move EDM out the way, maybe guitar music will do it. But it shows no signs of slowing down in the UK.”
Will you be playing much off the compilation when you head out on tour in December?
“The compilation is pretty retrospective. I’ve mostly be playing loads of new stuff, there might be a few off the compilation I play, but it’ll be geared around new stuff.”
How do tracks come to you? Is it all digital?
“It’s mostly digital these days, there’s so much of it. I used to get two mail sacks of vinyl and CDs every week, now it’s more like 500 emails and a carrier bag of CDs.”
Do you have vinyl at home?
“I’ve kept all the CDs and vinyl that mean stuff to me, so I have that at home. I’ve thrown out a lot of music, given it all to charity shops, the nature of this job is you get given a lot, so I’ve really honed my personal collection. What I do now is fill up a laptop with music, get a new laptop, fill that with music, I’ve got lots of laptops…”
Annie Mac’s new compilation Annie Mac Presents 2014 is available now in hmv stores.