April 23, 2014

Mary Anne Hobbs: EDM Progressive

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English DJ Mary Anne Hobbs may be the rarest of all things—a music professional that never burns out on new music.

Speaking from her inaugural stop on her national Road Warrior tour in Seattle, the former NME journalist and BBC Radio 1 DJ enthuses articulately and endlessly about the entire panoply of emergent electronic artists and styles. So it was only a matter of time before she returned to the airwaves via her Saturday Xfm program to spread the massive basslines and forward-thinking sonic textures she’s become known for.

“I see broadcasting as pretty much a fine art in itself,” says Hobbs. “That’s what really gives me the most pleasure and I suppose, ultimately, the role of musical evangelist as well. The role of a journalist is ultimately always more critical. And I’ve never been so comfortable as a critic. I’m still really purely a fan at heart.”

In particular, Hobbs’s early adoption of dubstep—her 2006 BBC 1 Breezeblock special on the genre introduced artists like Kode 9, Skream and Benga to an international audience—has paid back for both parties. For Hobbs, it led to a stint as music supervisor for the Oscar-winning film, “Black Swan” and an international DJ career.

But dubstep’s growth has also led to the rise of “bro-step,” dubstep’s wheezy, testosterone-filled evil twin. Admittedly, while Hobbes acknowledges room for all tastes, she insists, “I’m not remotely interested in bro-step.”

She’d much rather big-up the music she likes, whether it’s her tourmates Gonjasufi, Lorn and Take, or her newest musical obsessions on America’s East Coast. There, she singles out Percussion Lab partners Praveen Sharma and Machinedrum (aka Sepalcure), along with FaltyDL, Jimmy Edgar, Mike Slott and NYC dub mainstay Badawi as current faves that have stolen the shine from Hobbs’ previous favorite place on earth, Southern California.

As for spinning in proper venue settings, Hobbs admits to some insecurity as a “new and nervous” club DJ. While she has picked up Ableton Live for her new radio gig, she says she doesn’t trust Ableton or Serato enough to use them in clubs, preferring CDJs instead.

“Being a female DJ,” she says, “I think sometimes in a crisis situation where you can’t get it to work, all the big clichés will come rolling out. ‘She’s female.’ ‘She’s blonde, and you know what? She’s got a computer!’ ‘She’s not a real DJ!’”

However, the DJs she admires generally work with software alongside CDs, namely Addison Groove, Al Tourettes and especially L-vis 1990, who blew her away at Bloc Festival with a four-CDJ set.

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