Like a moth to a flame, she was drawn once again to Los Angeles. BBC Radio One’s Mary Anne Hobbs made the trip to one of her favorite cities on the planet to feed the Coachella multitudes with a DJ set of her usual challenging and inventive selections, only to be grounded by that pesky Icelandic volcano from a few weeks back. This extended stop-over resulted in some back-flip booking and a little bit of hustle that found her picking up a few extra gigs on top of everybody’s favorite music festival, namely a one night stop in Montreal this Saturday May 8th at The Blue Dog.
It also allowed her to conduct the first ever Volcano Refugee Party, where she showcased live sets from Daedelus, Ras G, Take, Teebs, Tokimonsta and Flying Lotus all in one radio show. Hobbs’ show Experimental on Radio One regularly champions the heroes of dubstep, future-blap and all the deliciously bass-laden abstract electronic music forms that dodge classification. She’s down with Flying Lotus and his Brainfeeder army, and has blessed L.A.’s future music epicenter, Low End Theory, with a dark and dirty helping of music. It was a pleasure to talk to her as she chilled at her favorite Los Angeles motel.
INC: First of all, I think its great that you’re stopping in Montreal. That was a nice little surprise I found out about on the weekend.
MAH: I’m very very lucky to be coming to Montreal this time because the promoters at the Blue Dog were some of the people who came through with extra gigs when we found out the volcano had gone off. There were a number of British artists who were stranded in America, and luckily a couple of people were able to offer me shows in San Francisco, Los Angeles and one in Montreal. Its really nice to able to put a little extra work in, considering I showed up at the Coachella Festival thinking that i would be here for a day and a half. All i brought with me was a pair of socks, so I’ve literally had to buy everything I need out here, but it’s been brilliant that people have come through for me and I’m really pleased.
INC: So have you been able to figure out what the hell is in the water down in Los Angeles? I mean what is going on down there that there is such an explosion of music right now?
MAH: Yeah, it’s just a really exciting city to be in right now, and I don’t think there’s anywhere quite like it on earth. It’s a really interesting thing that’s very hard to quantify and pinpoint exactly what’s going on, but I think its the sum of several different parts. There is without question a huge number of incredibly gifted producers, DJs, musicians and artists working down in L.A. right now, but I also feel that there is a genuine sense of real community and real family. Camps like Brainfeeder and Low End Theory are providing incredibly important homes and platforms for younger artists who are coming through, who would ordinarily struggle very hard to get the kind of attention they’re getting as a consequence of becoming involved with these families. The love and the nurturing and the care is genuine, and the passion that these communities feel for each other is enormously important. You know what though, many people have literally had one experience at Low End Theory and decided to move to L.A…
INC: Samiyam made the move from Ann Arbour.
MAH: Yes, and he’s affiliated with Flying Lotus and Brainfeeder now. He was living out there by Detroit and he played once at Low End Theory and was touched by the magic and said ‘right, I’m selling everything I own and I’m moving to L.A.’ But I mean, its a common reaction. King Cannibal, who’s one of the British artists that I’ve supported quite heavily on the show, was out here last week to play Low End Theory and he posted the exact same thing on Twitter. One night there is enough to make you want to move to this city, and it’s true. It’s a really exciting time in L.A. right now and the sort of native momentum that’s been built out here is just amazing, really brilliant.
INC: How would you say the scenes that support these artists in the UK and the U.S. differ from each other?
MAH: To a certain extent they don’t differ. The scenes that are very successful in the UK, for example the Glasgow scene, which is really gathering some momentum right now with crews like Lucky Me and Numbers, and the Bristol scene with so many crews and labels running high, have all realized that if you work together as a family and bring lots of creative energy together as a team it’s much more effective than working in isolation. I think there’s a great sense of symbiotic spirit between what’s happening in L.A. and specifically with what’s happening in Bristol and Glasgow at the moment. They’re really, really exciting cities right now.
INC: Who would you consider one of the most underrated or slept-on artists making music right now?
MAH: God that’s hard to say. I guess I rate things in a different way than most people. A rating to me is simply a play on my show, and that is my testimony to show my love and support for them. I think there are people who have yet to make a really profound impression, but I think their time will come. If they’re good enough their time will come, and certainly there are many younger artists that I keep an eye on, and if I’m trolling on one of my missions through Soundcloud or Myspace to find young artists, I have a whole wall covered in website addresses and post-it notes of artists just to watch because I don’t think they’re quite ready yet. It might take another 6 months, but they have something that’s interesting about them that’s really fascinating that will make me want to return to see what they’ve done. I often look at things as right for my program, or right for my DJ set or it’s not basically, and it’s as simple as that. There’s no point in jumping the gun and playing an artist too quickly, because it won’t do them any favors. It has to stand up on my show amongst some of the finest electronic music in the world that week. At the point when someone deserves to be rated they will be, and a play on my show is a show of my 100% belief in that artist.
INC: I notice that dubstep is has quickly become the word that rolls off most people’s lips these days, but I’m always surprised at the wide berth you give to far-reaching sounds on your show. Are you listening for sonics, or are you looking for a certain spirit?
MAH: In spite of the fact that’s its an electronic music show, I’m not concerned with genre in any formal sense at all. I’m listening for a similar kind of spirit to what the late John Peel was looking for, something that really is very unique and elemental. You can find parallells across all different types of sounds, and that incredible energy that will move you. You want a piece of music that’s going to touch the very heart of your soul, or something that’s going to stop you in your tracks and make you say ‘oh my god!’ Really, that’s what I’m looking for, that really raw, primal energy. For me the most exciting music comes at the genesis point of sound, something really fresh and really young and doing something that’s very new. That’s the prize I guess.
INC: I can remember almost 10 years back being really thrilled about deciphering seemingly secret connections between J Dilla, Dimlite and IG Culture, which really opened me up to a whole other world of material. Where would you say left-field sounds started for you?
MAH: It’s been a very long journey for me. The actual dawn of all of this for me began at The Hacienda club in Manchester. Famously, I was always a real punk and a metal-head and big fan of the Sex Pistols growing up, but round about 1989 there was a huge explosion in the north of England in Manchester that I’m sure you’re well aware of, pioneered by the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays. Those bands were the first bands that took me into a nightclub of any kind. I wasn’t interested in nightclub culture at all before that point and only ever went to live gigs, but it was there that I experienced acid house music for the very first time, and it absolutely changed my life completely. I think the Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses for many people in the UK, was that bridge from conventional bands and gigs into the world of electronic music in it’s primary form in the UK. This is from a time when you had to be in the club if you wanted to hear and experience what was happening there, pre-internet. People find it really difficult to understand how different it was before the internet, and how you had to be present if you wanted to embrace any kind of underground music, but there’s something wonderful about that time. In these times, club culture brings together people who live almost exclusively behind a computer screen into a shared space, to interact with human beings and move on a dance-floor, as opposed to banging away on a laptop for 12 hours a day.
INC: Having said that, finding new music with regards to the internet has become a much easier task, but how many of your own personal discoveries come from trolling the web vs. say a personal reference from an artist you respect and support?
MAH: Ordinarily when I’m not on tour, and I’m at my home studio, I’d spend a minimum 10 hours a day looking for new music, and that involves many different things. Obviously, like you say, things will often come your way as a recommendation from someone that you love and trust and that’s always very exciting. I’ve got 3 different inboxes that will load up with a minimum of 100 tunes a day. I’ve got physical P.O. boxes and the Radio 1 address that people send vinyl and CDs to from far flung locations, and I like to go on adventures myself spending hours looking through Soundcloud and Myspace pages and discovering new things. That’s where a lot of the incredible stuff will show up eventually, but it’s a real mission. Still, I would say 98% of the music I get will never be played on my show, and it’s that magic 2% that you’re looking for that will really make the grade. You could research one show for the rest of time if you really wanted to, there’s enough music out there to do it, and sometimes it’s agonizing because you never feel like you’ve done enough because there’s this vast ocean of sound and you feel like this tiny little stone skimming across the surface of all of this music. Kode 9 did a cover story on The Wire recently where he talked about being possessed by this music, and I feel like I agree, and am possessed to try and make the best electronic music show on earth every week and nothing less will do. It does possess me, it really does, and sometimes drives me to the brink of madness. It’s also quite an exciting place to live.
Blue Dog Motel
3958 St. Laurent
Saturday, May 8th
10PM – 3AM
$5 before 11PM