This article originally appeared in Time Out in October 2011
By Kate Hutchinson
Ahead of Annie Mac's mix launch at Koko this weekend, Kate Hutchinson hit the road with her in England's answer to Magaluf: the Solent
As the world's most recognisable female DJ and the high priestess of the eclectic 'mash-up' sound that has swept the nation's dancefloors, Annie Mac is one of the world's biggest clubbing brands.
She has her own tour, Annie Mac Presents, and a spin-off compilation series, the third volume of which is out in two weeks. Meanwhile, she's still hosting her primetime dance music show on Radio 1 every Friday evening (a slot she took over from Pete Tong two years ago) which boasts over a million listeners.
But after the razzle-dazzle and cutting edge cool of hosting residencies and arenas in Ibiza and at Creamfields and Bestival this year, we join her on the road to the comparatively un-glamorous Southampton and Bournemouth to see how the brand is gathering pace. It's the first leg of the latest Annie Mac Presents series and Freshers' Week, which means the south coast is teaming with bleary eyed students preparing to get even messier as the deafening basslines drop.
Southampton's yoof cram into the club, Junk, and press up against the DJ booth, Blackberrys flashing, eager to wave their request in Annie's face or yell for a picture. Then we're off again in the car, a quick touch-up of make-up on the way, to V in Bournemouth, a former church, where enormous glittery headphones suspended over the DJ-pulpit hail the 'God is a DJ' era.
Still, these smaller mid-week sets are crucial to Annie's down-to-earth profile. Her rider, Champagne and a huge silver bowl of McCoy's steak-flavoured crisps, says it all: those headphones might assert superstar DJ, but Annie Mac is part of a new breed, as accessible as they are internationally renowned. She will always be, in some ways, the girl that everyone can go clubbing with.
I grill her from the backseat between shows about why this is her year.
How was your summer?
'In terms of being a “professional DJ”, it has probably been the best summer so far. For the first time in a long time I've been consistently happy with my sets. I always hated them and would be really pissed off at myself. Annie Mac Presents also had a residency on Tuesdays on the Amnesia terrace in Ibiza, which was great because it meant that I could have fun and come back in time for my radio show. Booking a really varied line-up is still a relatively new concept in Ibiza too: on one night we had Nero, Ms Dynamite and Toddla T on one bill, so it felt like we were bringing something new to the island. Watching the podium dancers trying to dance to dubstep was hilarious. They didn't know what to do!'
What's different about Annie Mac Presents this year?
'We've been doing it for about five or six years now, but people have finally started trusting in it as a concept and coming to the night regardless of who is on, rather than just looking at the line-ups. I feel like everything from the past few years has galvanised. At the album launch on Saturday, we've only announced Raf from The 2 Bears - the rest is a secret. It's the first time we've done it like this, it's quite scary.'
The tour footage looks very impressive in the promotion video for your new compilation.
'This is the first year we've had all the production for the show, so it looks quite exciting. Ibiza taught us all this because it's the Land of Branding. Before, we just had a plastic banner draped over the booth! Now we've got these big cube light-boxes with strobes in them that hang from the ceiling and visuals that tell you who is playing next. Because we're doing bigger tents and arenas, we have to step it up. At Creamfields, I had to have a conversation with George, the pyrotechnics man, before I went on. I mean, every arena at Creamfields has to, I'm just not used to it.'
So you're still learning?
'Absolutely, there's no rulebook. The reason I started Annie Mac Presents in the very first place was to have friends with me while booking DJs that are great fun. I don't need a tour manager because I've got James [her driver], who's a friend, and he also has what no other tour manager has: a Tottenham Hotspur duvet and pillow in his boot, so I can snooze on the way home.'
Is the aim to eventually take that concept around the world?
'It is, I guess. I would definitely like to do arenas at festivals abroad. The thing is, though, because I have shows every weekend there's only a limited amount of time that I can spend travelling. We do miss out on a lot because of my show, but that's the way it has to be for me.'
So the show comes first?
'Always. I think I'd be very stupid to think that I could carry on without it. The show does wonders, well, it does everything for my profile. The reason I'm able to do this all is because of my radio show. And I hate missing a show. I had to miss a show about a month ago because I got really bad food poisoning and that's the first time I've ever had to take a show off. I don't like listening to other people do it instead. I get very protective.'
Your compilation sums up 2011 in dance music - what's that been about for you?
'I feel like house music is getting really popular again and, generally, dance music is mutating and developing and fun. I'm trying to think of something really profound to say because we're here at V. This is it! What's the last thing I'm going to say… Have you got earplugs?'
Annie Mac Presents is at Koko on Sat Oct 8. ‘Annie Mac Presents 2011' (Island) is out on Mon Oct 24.