Mary Anne Hobbs 1 Shaun Bloodworth

In this week's Dance Music Blog, Kate Hutchinson chats to the legend that is Mary Anne Hobbs about her incredible life in music so far.

Mary Anne Hobbs, the legendary British broadcaster and velvet-voiced dubstep high priestess, has had the kind of career that young journo guns can only dream of. She is best known, perhaps, for bringing the latter electronic sound out of Croydon and to worldwide attention via her weekly show on Radio1, but has spent the last some two decades uncovering underground music, from grunge and nu-metal to, now, grime, funky and beyond.

During her career, she has curated a series of showcases at Sonar in Barcelona with the likes of Flying Lotus and Joy Orbison, has released two compilations of new producers and DJs all over the world, including Bloc Weekend in the UK, where she currently hosts a stage.

She left Radio1 last September after 14 fruitful years. But in July, she joined her former stomping ground, Xfm, to sprinkle her forward-thinking magic over an exciting new Saturday slot. So hyped is it that this week she has gone one further and adopted the alternative station’s primetime show, Music: Response, too, which will bring her dynamic multi-genre approach to a wider audience.  

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It’ll be an organic crossover – her guests so far include Xfm indie fare the Doves and Jono McCleery – every Monday to Thursday, but she’ll be gently mining the coal face of new music too, while still presenting her electronic-geared show. By contract, this Saturday, her show boasts fresh cuts from Dutch genre-bender Martyn and DjRUM.

As she readies herself to steer Xfm in a cutting edge direction, we asked the legendary broadcaster about the five moments that made her– and how she owes them all, in a way, to her late, great friend and Radio1’s ultimate underground music fan, John Peel.

Listening to Peel
When I was young, my dad banned music from our house and would routinely smash up all my records. The only thing he never found was a tiny transistor radio I had about as big as a can of tuna. I used to hide under my blankets in the dead of night, scrolling across the dial, looking for John. For me, he stood at the gateway to a magical alternate universe. He was the only evidence I had that this place existed, but he set me on a lifelong journey to find it…  

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Living on a bus
I ran away to London to live on a bus at the age of 18 with a hard rock band called Heretic. We lived on a car park in Hayes for 12 months on a broken down old coach we called the Blue Goose Hotel. You’ve got to be tough to live in a vehicle, even just to deal with washing in a public toilet half a mile away in the icy depths of winter. But this was a big break for me, and an escape route out of the stinking egg-packing factory I’d been working at. It was my first step on John Peel’s causeway.

Dubstep Warz on Radio1
I reacted to dubstep in the same way that John Peel reacted to punk. I had such belief in the sound that it changed the entire fabric of my show overnight. The Dubstep Warz transmission I made in January of 2006 with Digital Mystikz, Skream, Kode 9 & Spaceape, Vex’d, Hatcha & Crazy D, Loefah & Sgt Pokes and Distance has come to be known as the global tipping point for the sound. As a broadcaster, if you can deliver one show as deeply rewarding and culturally significant in a lifetime, it’s a miracle.  

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Listen: www.mixcloud.com/MaryAnneHobbs/dubstep-warz/

Sonar festival
Sonar in 2011 was a serious test for me. I had been off-air for nine months, (and mentoring at Sheffield Student’s Union). I didn’t come with my BBC badge and a crew of the world’s finest breaking artists to showcase, as I had in the four previous years I’d curated there. I was all alone. I felt very vulnerable and I had no idea what to expect. But a staggering 15,000 people came to see me play and it was such an emotional experience, I hardly dared to look up. I hope John was gazing down at Barcelona that night from his throne in the clouds.  

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Xfm Music: Response
Peel and I are both known primarily as specialist broadcasters, but John chose to use many different forms of communication. He was a brilliant live DJ, writer, TV and radio broadcaster for countless different networks. I’m so excited to be taking on the new Music: Response shows on Xfm from Monday to Thursday. My mission is to surprise and delight a much broader audience with music that they may never have discovered. I’ll also get a chance to champion artists I am passionate about with real crossover appeal and give them major support on a primetime platform. There’s an opportunity to affect real progression – and it’s thrilling.  

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Music: Response is every Monday to Thursday, 8-11pm, on Xfm; The Mary Anne Hobbs show in every Saturday, 7-10pm on Xfm. 

In other dance music news: The RBMA World Tour stops off in Berlin from today until September 9, showcasing the local scene’s best cutting edge artists, including Radio Slave, Mano le Tough and Andreya Triana, Moritz van Oswald and The Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble at new ‘cult’ venue, Katerholzig, an urban indoor/outdoor space with raised decking from the people behind Berlin’s circus-themed pop-up club Bar 25. For more info, see www.redbullmusicacademy.com/worldtour/berlin/

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