Annie Nightingale Interview
The Queen of Breaks:
Annie Nightingale hosts one of the BBC’s most popular programs, “Annie on One.” Her show is one of Radio 1’s most listened to shows internationally. “Annie on One” is the place to hear the best new breaks records and learn about up and coming breaks artists. When she started at BBC radio, Annie was Radio 1’s first female DJ. Before she became involved in the breaks scene, Annie documented traveling on a world tour with The Police and worked for BBC TV. She has also traveled to Iraq and penned her autobiography. Annie discussed Iraq, the BBC and, of course, breaks.
Do you remember the first breaks record you heard?
Breaks came out of drum n bass and speed garage. Dave Tipper on the Fuel label especially seemed to be heading for the future.
How would you describe breaks to those who haven’t heard it before?
Breaks could be described as drum ‘n bass slowed down, which sounds rather boring, but it has these wonderful rolling basslines.
Why do you think that breaks has such a wide appeal?
Wide appeal? There are few lyrics to understand which give it a universal appeal and I truly believe it is the first music of the Internet, which means anyone anywhere in the world can have access to it, as long as they can have access to a computer, which of course, isn’t by any means everybody on the planet. Yet.
Who is the most underrated DJ in the breaks scene?
Underrated dj on the breaks scene? No one is really, everyone is really supportive to each other.
What are the major differences between the US and UK breaks scenes?
There was a time when it was Florida breaks, but now that breakbeat has swept the UK and Eastern Europe and Australia, the barriers are becoming blurred. Interesting stuff coming out of San Francisco, for instance, and Texas. And Arizona, and New Mexico. In the US it seems to appeal to isolated areas, in the UK its in dense urban areas. I do not know if that is significant, or even true!
What are your top three breaks tracks of all time?
Three top breaks tunes? Argh, three I like are My Little Dancing Girl, Meat Katie, Burn the Clock by Freeland, Squeaks and Bleeps, Plump DJs. but there are so so many. Love everything by Soul Of Man and Infusion, and Evil Nine.
What is it about Brighton that makes it such a big city for breaks?
Brighton? No idea. People like living by the sea and there are lots of clubs and places to meet for like-minded breaks heads. My home city for much of my adult life so I am biased!
How did you first become involved with the BBC?
My first involvement with BBC, I was living in Brighton and a local councilor asked if I wanted to be a TV presenter.
Do you remember your first broadcast on Radio 1?
First broadcast on Radio 1 I accidentally took off the record that was being broadcast and there was eight seconds of dead air. Lifetime!
What’s the best aspect of working at the BBC?
No commercials, and we strive for excellence.
Do you have a favorite moment from your show?
Many, many favorites. Love getting the emails from all over the world every week and the mad texts, immediate response to the music. Live from BT Tower special was quite special.
Did you find it hard to write your autobiography?
Very hard to write. How to get round really difficult bits not really piss people off, keep it interesting, and know what would be interesting to readers.
What were you like in high school?
High school? An outsider, a rebel. Never fitted in. Called a raver.
Describe yourself in three words.
Over-sensitive, get over-excited, over-optimistic.
What are your hobbies outside of music?
No time for hobbies. Love traveling, Love the Internet, love keeping in touch with people by email.
Do you have any hidden talents?
Hidden talents? Yes, I’m a witch and I know everything!
You made a documentary film about The Police while they were on a world tour. Do you have a favorite memory from that tour?
Police tour? Yes that was amazing. Best moment was climbing up a mountain, trailing after the long-limbed Stewart Copeland, in India, near Poona, and listening at night, to the sound of that fabulous sub continent wafting up through the dark from a village below.
How did you end up going to Iraq? (Are they big breaks fans?)
I went to Iraq because I volunteered. The British Council seemed to want a BBC dj to go. I still don’t know why. I knew very little about the country then. It was a bit before breaks time. But I was listening out for youth music and met a lot of young musicians — and a DJ who was also a brain surgeon.
What was the experience like of being in Iraq?
Being in Iraq was one of the most exciting adventures in my life. It was dangerous even then (this was in the cease fire between the Iran-Iraq war and before the Gulf war in 1990. I met some great people, delightful Iraqis, and I wonder what’s happened to them all.
What is the biggest misconception about Iraq?
Biggest misconception, is that they could be ‘the enemy’. They are just three sets of people who have been herded into a country collectively called Iraq and trying to live their lives as well as they can. They are immensely civilized, well-educated and it is atrocious that they are being put through this war which is not of their making.
What’s the one piece of advice that you would give to those wanting to be in radio?
Want to work in radio? Volunteer at a station; get your foot in the door, be prepared to work long hours for nothing, don’t moan, learn everything you can, and in the end, if you have any potential at all, you will get a chance to shine.
What new projects are you working on?
New projects. tour and documentary of Australia in 2005, film project with music, various compilations. Summer festivals including Exit festival in Serbia.
Do you have a quote or motto that you live by?
‘Do-as-you-would-be-done-by, also ‘If not now-when? And if not you-who?’
To listen to Annie’s show, log on to www.bbc.com/radio1/dance/nightingale