BBC 6 Music changes: Mary Anne Hobbs breaks new ground with new weekday show

The DJ and presenter discusses the latest move in her remarkable radio career

(BBC)

Mary Anne Hobbs is one of a number of BBC Radio 6 Music DJs making big moves in 2019.

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The presenter will no longer host her show on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Instead, she’s launching a new weekday show from 10.30am until 1pm as part of a major shake-up of the BBC Radio 6 Music schedule.

Radio Times caught up with the DJ to discuss her plans ahead of the first show on Monday 7th January 2019, the latest chapter in an incredible music career…

How do you feel about the big move?

I’m incredibly excited about it. I guess for the first time in my entire career, I’ve landed right at the epicentre of the daytime schedule. I’ve been given an opportunity to reimagine what a morning show can actually be, which is incredibly exciting for me, really. I’m thrilled.

What will it be like to like to leave behind the weekend show?

It feels like it’s gone by in a heartbeat but actually it’s six years I’ve been doing it. And I think that because that show has become so beloved of the listeners, there are certain ideas we can bring across to the daytime show — the arts coverage, for example, that the listeners have responded to so favourably.

What about the type of music that you’ll be playing?

I think the music is going to be really diverse. It’s going to feel really vital, very contemporary, and multi-dimensional. So we might be looking at anything from a Japanese master like Ryuichi Sakamoto, all the way through to the most exciting electronic producer in Addis Ababa. He’s called Ethiopian Records. And then obviously via classic music like Talking Heads or Jon Hopkins. So I think it’s going to feel really rich.

Because it was the weekend, the old show always had passages of contemplation. Will we still experience those moments?

Yes, absolutely We’re working on very specific moments that will land in the show in the form of particular individual tracks and also mixes. But I guess you’re right, it is a real step change and I’m very mindful of that. And it’s a challenge for me because I suppose I’m possibly known as the quietest of all the presenters on 6 Music. But I remember David Bowie saying to me – I interviewed him a couple of times – he talked to me about the idea that actually you were never really moving forward as a creative force unless you stepped outside of your comfort zone. That’s how to determine the fact that you’re actually making progress in this life.

And what about in terms of your own lifestyle changing? Weekends lying in bed?

I think I’ll probably do quite the opposite. When I was working at Radio 1, I was also DJ-ing live, which I did for seven years right across the world. Now I’ll have an opportunity to do some more of it. And I think that’s going to be something that will be really valuable in terms of the development of programmes and getting right in the thick of the response of people who are listening.

(BBC)
(BBC)

How did you first get into music?

My story’s quite an interesting one, actually, because when I was a little girl, my dad had banned all music from the house. And I wasn’t allowed to buy records at all. But obviously that didn’t stop me being the belligerent child that I was. But every time he would find another Sex Pistols single in my sock drawer he’d smash it up, unfortunately. But the only thing he never found was a tiny little transistor radio, which was about as big as a can of tuna fish. And I used to lie in bed at night with the blankets pulled over the top of my head and I used to scroll across the dial of this radio, looking for John Peel’s programme. Because I guess, for me, Peel stood at the gateway to an ultimate universe, if you like. And it was a place that I never would have known existed at all in that era had it not been for Peel’s transmissions. I thought to myself, this is a place… I want to reach this place.

Sounds like that that was a lifeline for you…

Absolutely, yes. Without a shadow of a doubt. I had the great privilege and pleasure of working with him for 10 years when I was at Radio 1. And in spite of the fact that he was never a formal mentor, I was able to watch very carefully the way that John worked and the way that John operated as a human being.

Why was your father so against you listening to music?

I couldn’t tell you that, to be honest. Myself and my brother and sister, we never really understood the reasons for many such decisions that he made. But he used to have some records of his own that he was very fond of, actually. But they were recordings of old steam trains on 78s and he had an old gramophone with a copper needle in it. And we occasionally would find him sitting on the floor playing these recordings of steam trains. But I think he felt that pop music of any kind was trash and was entirely disposable. But I couldn’t give you a specific reason. Those are the days in which I suppose parents were very much in control of their own domain, really. And they didn’t have to explain things to you; they just implemented them.

I think, really, in some ways, it gave me the drive that I needed to go and seek the world that John Peel had shown to me. And so when I was 18 years old, I ran away to London and I lived in a bus in a car park for a year. I lived with a rock band and we lived in this terrible old broken-down vehicle in Hayes in Middlesex, which we called the Blue Goose Hotel.

What did you do?

Myself and the band always used to work terrible jobs. A couple of the band were gravediggers. The singer and I used to work in a sweet factory. And we saved all our money to repair broken equipment that we’d managed to acquire. And then go out on tour.

How did you break into the music business?

I sent a CV to the editor of Sounds music paper, explaining my responsibilities to the band. I said, well, I design their record sleeves and I make their costumes and when we go out on tour I’m their lighting engineer. And of course I’m also the bus mechanic. I’ve also created this little fanzine. And I submitted a couple of issues with my rather colourful CV to the editor of Sounds. He called me into the office and sat me down and he said, “So you live on a bus?” And I said, “Well, yes.” And he said, “Well, what are you doing living on a bus?” And I said, “Well, I always wanted to write for the music press, really, but I imagined I would have to demonstrate that I’d actually worked for a band before you would take me seriously.” And he looked at me incredulously and he said, “Why didn’t you just send a review in?” It had never occurred to me. That’s kind of where it started.

And after that?

I went to LA at 21 and I lived in a garden shed for a year. And I was working as Sounds’ American music correspondent. But when I came back from there, I was approached by the NME. I got a call from a friend of mine called James Brown, and he said, ‘The NME, we’re really good on Marxist politics, but we don’t actually know anything about rock music’. At that point I’d been out in LA writing about artists like Metallica and Jane’s Addiction, Guns N’ Roses, all that generation of rock musicians. So at 23 I was writing for the NME. So that’s the back-story.

Was it an unstable existence?

I think… that’s a really interesting question. For me it felt like a great adventure. And it felt that there was no pathway to this world that Peel had shown me. I had to forge my own pathway one step at a time. And I guess every time I saw an opportunity or a tiny chink of light or something that looked really exciting and interesting, an opportunity to move forward, I would take whatever risk was necessary.

You had a hell of an education, didn’t you?

Yes. Nothing formal to speak of. But I think it worked out pretty well for me in terms of a grounding in the industry that I wanted to become involved with.

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Mary Anne Hobbs’ weekday mid-morning show begins on Monday 7th January at 10.30am on BBC Radio 6 Music