She's Seen A Million Faces, And Rocked Them All: Mary Anne Hobbs at Coachella (Photo: www.djgabereal.com)
From dropping out of school and working at an egg packing plant to living on a bus with a hard rock band to publishing the fanzine Krush, Mary Anne Hobbs' bio reads like the best VH1 Behind the Music never made. She went on to become the L.A. metal correspondent for Sounds magazine before working for NME and then Loaded. It wasn't until she broke into radio at BBC Greater London Radio and XFM (then a pirate radio station) that she found her true calling. She became the host of a BBC Radio 1's The Breezeblock in 1997 and changed its moniker to Experimental in 2006, which is where her "Dubstep Warz" show first appeared -- a program credited with breaking U.K. dubstep worldwide. Here, she explains the next phase in her colorful music career.
By Mary Anne Hobbs
The truth is, I needed to take a risk.
I needed to know if I could raise the game and redefine the traditional disciplines of radio, not just for myself, but for every artist I love and believe in, and every live listener who cares so deeply.
BBC Radio1 gave me 14 years of freedom as a broadcaster, for which I will always thankful. I was passionately committed and consistently successful in breaking artists as extraordinary and diverse as Slipknot and Burial on the platforms they gave me, The Rock Show and Breezeblock which became BBC Radio1 Experimental.
But in 2010, I felt the time was right to attempt some real progression in radio. I wanted to break out of my 2am-4am BBC slot, which in truth, was beginning to feel like a dungeon, at best testing and at worst prohibitive for even the most committed listener. I could not betray my instincts.
Traditionally, artists beloved of 'Specialist' programmes like my own, are only able to gain Primetime plays or support from "bigger" DJs, once they are commercially successful and already proven. I wanted to try to break this mould and achieve something much more profound. I longed for a chance to elevate my entire radio platform, for every artist, on the basis of their creative and cultural significance. This was my mission.
Official data measuring listener numbers will never add up. It's common knowledge that ever since the technology became available, my show has been ripped and download links posted on a myriad of unofficial sites all over the world. It's been impossible to stem that flow, and thus collect a legitimate estimate of the listeners I have globally. But I know the numbers are vast. My own evidence is the global success of the scene that myself and my Experimental show have been such a significant part of building. Bass music in all its forms, is now one of the biggest musical concerns anywhere in the world. Incidentally, I'm writing this report having just played one of the main stages at Coachella festival shoulder-to- shoulder with 50 artists that I supported on the BBC Radio1 show.
The BBC did not wish to make a schedule change, (a decision that I fully respect). But Xfm had a different kind of vision and true belief in me. They have given me a 3-hour Primetime Saturday night platform, and it's such a VICTORY for everyone in my world. Xfm trust me to bring a fresh, vital, contemporary new sound and agenda, a completely unique show with real credibility that will attract a whole new global audience to their network.
XFM is a commercial station. I will be playing adverts on-air, but I will have complete musical freedom, just as I did at the BBC. I'll be broadcasting from their base in Manchester in the North West of England and across the world at www.xfm.co.uk bringing future sound and guest mixes from the most forward thinking artists on earth. Dubstep, UK funky, minimal techno, deep house, hip-hop, electronica, grime, neo-folk and art house rock... no holds barred.
I've had intensive dialogue with Andy Ashton, Xfm's Programme Director. I find him just as passionate and devoted as I am. We have worked in collaboration, managing the press announcements about my return to Xfm, the initial on-air trailers, and the Audio Postcards from my current Road Warrior Tour in America created to introduce new listeners to my agenda.
Dubstepping Out: Mary Anne Hobb's Latest Tour
My history with the network is profound. I broadcast my first ever radio show for Xfm. It was simply the most exciting thing I had ever done, and it changed my life forever.
20 years ago, we were broadcasting for just 4 weeks each year with temporary licenses, on what was originally a pirate network. The station's signal had only a 25-mile radius from our base on Charlotte Street in London's West End. Yet the scent of Revolution was high in the air.
We truly believed we were about to change the world forever with Xfm. Every major artist of the era felt it too from Radiohead to Mudhoney, and they backed us to the hilt.
Chris Parry, The Cure's manager, had such passion for Xfm that he sold his record label Fiction and his beloved collection of boats to back us for 5 years before we won a permanent broadcast license.
This was a time before the Internet was established and the only man in the UK doing anything meaningful on legal radio was John Peel. It's hard to explain just how thrilling it was to be part of the family who created the first radical alternative radio network -- a whole station -- and changed the way we communicate about the music we love for all time.
So much has changed across our generation; music and culture enriched immeasurably by global Internet access. Yet, 20 years later, the value of everything we stood for at the outset is as vital and powerful as it's ever been.
In 2011, Xfm have given me the Primetime platform I dreamed of, and a new opportunity to fundamentally change the way we connect audiences with the music and the work of the artists they love once again. I will be forever thankful.
Mary Anne Hobbs is currently on her Road Warrior Tour spinning at clubs and festivals across North America. In the next few days her tour comes to Miami, Boston, NYC and Philladelpia. Her Saturday night primetime radio show on XFM radio begins July 9th.