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BBC Radio DJ Mary Anne Hobbs speaks on the next wave of electronic music.
You’ve got to love the contrast. Dubstep is a dark, brooding new form of electronic music with an emphasis on sparse rhythms and bone-shuddering bass — and blonde, model-pretty Mary Anne Hobbs, a BBC Radio 1 personality, is arguably one of its most potent and passionate champions. Her weekly shows and superb compilation albums — the latest, “Evangeline,” is out on Planet Mu — are always at the cutting edge of experimental sounds. Here she muses on dubstep’s so-far male-dominated scene, its fashion statements and what to listen for next.
This story first appeared in the September 4, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
WWD: When and where did you first dip a toe into dubstep, and what was your reaction: love at first listen, or an acquired taste?
Mary Anne Hobbs: It was 2005. I’d had mixes from Vex’d and Digital Mystikz on my BBC Radio 1 show. But when I first walked though the doors of the dubstep mecca DMZ [a club night in Brixton, London] and I experienced the sound in its proper setting — in a grimy, darkened room on a full-weight sound system — it changed my life forever. Its militant, physical and spiritual power is peerless.
WWD: So do you think it’s a genre that has long-term, or even mainstream potential?
M.A.H.: It’s already a global scene. There are new producers, club nights and passionate fans springing up everywhere from Tokyo to Bucharest, Istanbul to São Paulo. Check out dubstepforum.com: This is where the global community meets online and there are more than 19,000 members. It’s about music as a pure art form rather than a commercial commodity.
WWD: The electronic music scene has long been male-dominated, the artists and the audience. Does that make you feel special, or just outnumbered?
M.A.H.: There are many women who are key players on the dubstep scene: Sarah Souljah founded the seminal FWD>> club night and record label Tempa; without her there simply would not be a scene at all. There are also maverick journalists, photographers, bloggers and underground rave organizers who are women…and dazzling young producers such as Vaccine, Ikonika and Subeena.
WWD: Any theories why more women aren’t attracted to the scene?
M.A.H.: There’s a 30-70 ratio at most club nights now around the world, with a very real potential to be 40-60, I believe. The girls are on the march.
WWD: In your case, what appeals to you about electronic music?
M.A.H.: The beauty of electronic music is that it changes and moves forward in lots of small steps every day. Look at the success of an artist like Warp Records’ Flying Lotus, who completely defies categorization, and is now almost a household name.
WWD: What five artists or songs could you not live without?
M.A.H.: This week: Kode 9, Flying Lotus, Hudson Mohawke, Bullion and Martyn.
WWD: Does the dubstep scene have any particular fashion codes or preferences? Or is it in dire need of a makeover?
M.A.H.: Producer Loefah is perhaps the closest we have to a dubstep fashionista. He’s a collector of custom trainers [sneakers] and will frequently feature photos of his new acquisitions on his MySpace page.
WWD: What are you partial to wearing when you DJ live, or on the radio? Any favorite designers?
M.A.H.: I go for a tough, unique, warrior-princess style, ever-changing and inspired by my love of motorcycles and biker culture, as well as dark electronics. I was out in Japan recently DJing in 37-degree [Celsius], intense, humid heat wearing skinny Earnest Sewn and Notify jeans, E.vil vests and Agent Provocateur bikini tops. My favorite designer is Ernte Fashion Systems, based in Bali. He is creating a special outfit for me for Sonar Festival 2009…and I love the more maverick work of young U.K. designer Danielle Scutt, too.
WWD: Finally, any predictions about the next exciting wave in music?
M.A.H.: Check out Hudson Mohawke, Rustie, Bullion and Mike Slott, LV, Ikonika, Darkstar, The Gaslamp Killer, Samiyam — all of whom are loosely operating in the area that Flying Lotus has opened up post-dubstep. It’s all about progression: free-flowing and forward-marching.