Outbox: Mary Anne Hobbs

Publish date:

At this point, Mary Anne Hobbs' name has become synonymous with electronic music. The musical icon has carved out an ideal niche for herself within the bass- and beat-heavy landscape via her lengthy career as a music journalist, radio broadcaster, and taste-making DJ. Using her BBC Radio1 Experimental program, Hobbs helped launch the careers of some of our time's biggest producers—Burial, Flying Lotus, and Joy Orbison, to name a few—and showed music lovers worldwide an enormous spectrum of exciting, new sounds. Hobbs recently left her post at Radio1 for a job in the media department at Sheffield University. We were lucky enough to e-chat with her about her time on the radio, her future, and her guiltiest pleasures.

XLR8R: Growing up, who were a few of your musical icons?
Mary Anne Hobbs: Sex Pistols. My dad had banned music in our house when I was growing up, and he would routinely smash up my records, including all my beloved Pistols singles. But I would still listen to punk in the dead of night, under my blankets in bed, on a tiny transistor radio that he never found, on the John Peel show. Peel stood at the gateway to an alternate universe. He was the only evidence I had that this incredible place really existed. It was his call that led me down the path to where I'm standing right now.

When was your first music-related article ever published, and what was it about?
My own fanzine, Krush. I published it myself when I was 18 years old. I'd run away to London, and was living on a bus in a carpark with a band called Heretic. I worked for them as their lighting engineer, record sleeve artist, costume designer, and bus mechanic. I also did three other factory and bar jobs to pay for the publication of the fanzine. 

If you didn't DJ under your given name, what moniker would you use?

Your voice is recognizably warm and inviting on the radio. Does that change when you're just chatting with friends? Calling in take-out orders?
I used my voice as another instrument within the mix of sound that I created for my Radio1 shows. I wanted it to sit easily with the other very progressive sonic textures on the programme. I'm probably a little louder in real life. :)

Now that you're off the radio circuit, what's next?
I have all kinds of new projects in the furnace for 2011. I'm gonna continue to DJ live all over the world, and I will be curating stages for Sonar Festival in Barcelona in June 2011 and also Bloc Festival in the UK in March 2011. I've been helping Darren Aronofsky source music for his new film, Black Swan, and I'm delighted that Al Tourettes, Sepalcure, Jakes, and Kavsrave are now featured [with composer] Clint Mansell [on that] soundtrack. I hope to build on this film work, and continue to develop my own ghetto road movies at youtube.com/user/marryannehobbstv. I'm gonna write my autobiography, and of course, one day I hope to become a motorcycle stunt girl for Quentin Tarantino. :) On October 4, I take up my new role working at Sheffield University Union of Students as Media Development Coordinator. It's a wonderful place—great people, energy, spirit, and resources. It's not an academic job, but much more of a practical one, mentoring and guiding the students involved with the radio station, the TV station, and the newspaper, helping the next generation make the transition into the industry, and hopefully inspiring them to become challenging, intelligent, and pioneering. I'll always be a broadcaster. Radio is such a great passion for me, but right now, I'm ready to seize this new challenge out on the causeway of life.

What was running through your mind before your first show on BBC Radio?

And before your last broadcast?

Ever injure yourself while jumping around onstage?
I couldn't walk after the SMOG show at Miami WMC. My agent Sara had to push me back to the hotel in a shopping cart.

What's the strangest thing a fan has ever said to you?
A boy once posted on a public forum that a track I played on my Radio1 show had actually saved the life of his suicidal brother. His message shook me to the core of my being. I've never forgotten it.

Favorite venue anywhere?
Low End Theory [at The Airliner in] Los Angeles. I've had the greatest experiences of my life playing there, and every time I attend, I know I'll come upon music I've never heard before in my life. Big up Daddy Kev, Gaslamp Killer, Nobody, D-Styles, and Nocando for the freshest, most forward-thinking booking policy on earth.

We know most of the good music you love, so give us your three guiltiest pleasures.
Justin Timberlake, Van Halen, and Chic.