My motto? Work your head off and sleep at any price
In conversation: DJ Annie Mac and Other Voices founder Philip King
DJ Annie Mac and Other Voices founder Philip King
What is your death row meal?
Annie: Rosie Mac’s macaroni cheese, sweetcorn from a tin, home-made coleslaw.
Philip: Chips from the Reel Dingle Fish & Chips with pepper sauce.
When was the last time you cried?
Annie: Last night at the end of Loyle Carner’s set [at Other Voices] when he played us his mum reading a poem over his father playing the piano.
Philip: Yesterday at a very emotional Ireland’s Edge [talk] where we talked about Ireland as a migration nation. I heard a woman from Syria talk about her experience leaving Syria and coming here and what life is like for her here, and other participants who had left Ireland and come back to find a different place.
Annie: How was the Syrian woman’s experience of Ireland?
Philip: She’s delighted to be here but she’s concerned that various different members of her family can’t join her. Coming out of Syria, families are dispersed.
What subject do you wish you studied more in school?
Annie: For me it’s what subject do I wish I remembered more. I studied all the subjects I loved, I did English literature in university, I love poetry, I love writing, but I struggle to remember a lot of what I learned. I don’t know why, but my memory is shot.
Philip: I grew up a dyslexic child and I’m a dyslexic man now. In the school system that I went to, a rote learning system, and a system that stigmatised failure, as a dyslexic person, I had to learn several tropes to avoid being hit. You always put your hand up first so you wouldn’t get asked the question. On that memory thing, Annie, I developed a very strong memory because I needed it because there were other things I couldn’t do. I could get to the same answers, but I always took the scenic route.
Do you have any particular motto or mantra?
Philip: Several. Recently, the Samuel Beckett one where he says, “Work your head off and sleep at any price, and leave the rest to the stream to carry now away and bring you your other happy day”. It works.
Annie: That’s amazing. I love that.
Philip: Lines of songs as well.
Annie: Yeah, there’s a Blind Melon song that I always used to love – “When you stop dreaming it’s time to die” – that line fed into my big dreamer aspect. I was always a daydreamer. Then there’s another one Mary Anne Hobbs told me, who’s a DJ I was really inspired by and still am, which is: “Never underestimate the power of your passion”. It’s quite basic, but one of the things I most admire in people is when they have impetus to get up and do things, try things, start things, create things from nothing. I admire innovation like that, and it’s something I always aspire to do: have an idea and execute it.
What’s the worst advice you ever got?
Philip: When we were trying to make Bringing It All Back Home, it took five years from thinking about it to rolling the first piece of film. People used to say to me after about three years “You’re not still talking about that thing, are you? I wouldn’t bother with that if I were you. Get off that bus.” Once you do that once, then you never get anything done. The advice was to be practical, don’t do it. That was bad advice.
Annie: I’ve probably received similar advice to that in my time… Once you get something done, you realise you can get something done based on how much you want to do it, and that’s a wonderful opening of doors in your head.
Who would you love to receive a letter from?
Philip: John McGahern, probably. He was insightful, a beautiful writer, he honed his sentences.
Annie: Do you know what, this is very different, but my son is four, and he’s just started school. He has just learned how to write. It is the most amazing thing to watch. All of these abstract shapes that have surrounded him his whole life are starting to make sense, like a puzzle. Every morning we walk to school and we stop outside shop and he goes “What does that say?” He stands there and makes all the sounds, and it’s like he’s won the lottery every time he’s figured out the words. Watching his little brain explode and learn these basic and necessary things has been such a joy. He can’t write a letter yet, but I’m looking forward to the first time I receive one from him.
Favourite item of clothing?
Annie: Black leather jacket, covered in zips, very old, bought in Soho maybe eight or nine years ago with my friend Nick Grimshaw. Cost two or three hundred pounds which is an awful lot of money, but still is one of those jackets that fits you like skin. I think I’ll be bereft if I ever lose it.
Philip: A jacket I bought about 30 years ago, a tartan plaid jacket with a corduroy collar. If the jacket could speak from box rooms to bar rooms to floors of gigs to being lost and found, it carries the full story. Hopefully it’ll never speak.
Annie: If I ever write a book, I’ll need my jacket to learn how to talk.
What is your favourite destination to visit?
Philip: I live in west Kerry and I leave all the time. So my favourite journey is every time I come back here.
Annie: New York City. My job has taken me all over the world to far-flung and amazing places. But New York is the place I will hold dearest in my heart. I did the classic J1, went when I was 19 and spent a summer there which pretty much changed my life. I lived on St Mark’s Place, sat on the step every day.
It was better than any movie I had ever seen. I started buying records there, went to warehouse parties, worked in a vegan coffee shop with loads of amazing Algerian guys. I had never been so stimulated. I never wanted to come home. I’ve gone back as many times as I can. I’m going on my honeymoon next year before my wedding because I can’t wait until after. I love New York.
Is there any artist that right now you feel very connected to?
Annie: I’m reading the book about Phil Lynott by his mum, Philomena. I love Thin Lizzy, and I’ve always been interested in him and his journey as a person.
Philip: A band from Dublin called Lankum. When I heard them sing first, I felt an immediate connection to something very visceral and powerful, something fiercely traditional.
Annie Mac is a DJ and broadcaster, and her latest compilation album, Annie Mac Presents 2017, is out now. Tickets to her Malta-based festival Lost & Found 2018 are on sale now. Philip King is a broadcaster, filmmaker and a founder of Other Voices.