Motorbikes, Motörhead, and the indelible spirit of the dubstep club night DMZ… BBC Radio 6 Music presenter Mary Anne Hobbs reveals what makes her tick
“My first love was motorbikes. I was always going to ride. But before I was old enough, I would sleep on the wide window ledge in my bedroom, so I didn’t miss a single bike at night. I learned to identify which of the bikers was flying down our road by the sound of the engine and the pipes.
“Just ahead of my 16th birthday, I repainted a tiny Puch moped jet black, and I never looked back. As a teenager, I wouldn’t have been seen dead in a car. I still like all the controls at my fingertips – the brake, the clutch and the throttle.”
LEMMY BE THE ONE
“I remember spotting an advert in the music press for a Motörhead gig at Hackney Stadium dog track. I’d have been about 15 at the time and living in Lancashire. I jumped on the train to London. I used to carry a small compass everywhere when I was a kid, but I still have no recollection of how I made it to Hackney.
“It was a gig marshalled by swarms of Hells Angels on a scorching field – it felt like a live ‘Mad Max’ sequel. I’d never seen so many strangers into the same stuff as me. I wondered why we couldn’t just build a city on the spot and never leave the place.”
“I was kicked out at 15-and-a-half, and I turned up on the doorstep of a woman in a neighbouring village who I like to call ‘The Godmother’. There was barely a stick of furniture in her house, no carpet on the floor and no paint on the walls. But she always had a warm fire on the go, beautiful laughter and spare cigarettes to share.
“She had three wonderful sons, but regularly took in teenagers who couldn’t deal with a formal life. I arrived there with a spare pair of jeans, and said, ‘Can I live here?’. She never asked why. She just welcomed me in and let me be.”
EATING OUT OF DUSTBINS
“When I was 21, I was living in a shed in LA and writing for Sounds music paper. My pay cheques took about three months to arrive. I needed to post them back to the UK to be converted into International Money Orders, and then have a friend mail them back to me in America.
“I would frequently run out of cash. So, I scoped out an all-you-can-eat joint, where you could reliably score at around 3am. I’d pay to eat there when I was flush, so I thought that was kinda fair-dos to raid their bins when it was necessary.”
DUBSTEP CLUB NIGHTS
“When I first went to DMZ at Third Base in Brixton in 2005, I didn’t know a soul. I was suffering after a very serious bereavement at the time. Alone on the dancefloors of DMZ and FWD>>, wrapped in a warm cocoon of sub-bass frequencies, I found a way to return to myself.
“Over a short time, we became a family, a community, and then a global movement. So much that is positive in electronic music in 2023 is infused with the spirit of those times.”
TAKE IT OR LEAF IT
“The decision to become vegetarian was pivotal for me, and I am so glad I took it. It put many other environmental issues directly into my frame, front and centre – animal welfare, carbon emissions, the horror of plastics… I learned that one plastic milk bottle could take 450 years to degrade. As a consequence, I fought to get plastic teaspoons banned at the BBC’s MediaCity building in Salford.
“I still can’t cook. I haven’t switched on an oven in the last five places I’ve called home, and I don’t intend to hold a dinner party in this life or the next one. If you opened my fridge, you’d find a bottle of budget-brand champagne that the controller of Radio 1 gave me on the evening of my last show after I resigned in 2010 – which I keep for comedy reasons – and on a good day, strawberries.”
“I love the concept of non-duality. There is no ‘I’. It’s a Buddhist idea, but you don’t need to practise to explore it. I find that I can glimpse this, and when I do, the experience of self, of concept and of form dissolving into emptiness is beautiful. All that remains is love.
“I get dissed every day, and I’ll probably get dissed for writing about this, but I really don’t care.”
Mary Anne Hobbs broadcasts every weekday on BBC Radio 6 Music from 10.30am-1pm