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MARY ANNE HOBBS

Step into her world

by Richard Smart

For more than a decade, DJ Mary Anne Hobbs has built a reputation at BBC Radio 1 for having musical tastes that are as cutting edge as they are eclectic.

In the past, her show was as likely to feature guest DJ sets by indie bands like The Charlatans and Mogwai, cult heroes such as British comedian/agent provocateur Chris Morris, and club DJs such as Jon Carter — among Hobbs’ own handpicked selections of leftfield electronica.

More recently, few have done more to promote dubstep, the dark, bass-heavy offshoot of U.K. garage. Hobbs will be playing the best of the genre when she DJs in Osaka, Tokyo and Nagoya from July 13 to 15.

“Dubstep changed my life,” Hobbs recently told The Japan Times in a telephone interview. “For someone who has been involved in electronic music for so long, my first dubstep rave was something brand new. At first, my brain didn’t have a system by which to process the sound.”

The scene has continued to grow in popularity since its inception. Earlier this year, Hobbs curated a dubstep showcase for Barcelona’s Sonar Festival, arguably the world’s most influential gathering of dance-music bods.

“When I went on [to play] at around midnight, the dancefloor was empty,” Hobbs said. “Ten minutes later, there were about 5,000 people dancing. By the time [leading dubstep artist] Skream started his set a couple of hours later, there were about 8,000 people there.”

According to Hobbs, dubstep is “producer-led music,” which means the quality of the songs is high. And unlike other urban-music genres, “it is 100 percent about peace and love.” At dubstep raves, producers support each other and value highly the clubgoers. “Ten minutes after an artist leaves the stage, they are talking with the crowd and dancing to the next man’s set.”

In January 2006, Hobbs devoted one of her late-night shows on BBC Radio 1 to the genre, in a program titled “Dubstep Wars.” Hobbs considers it one of the best shows she has ever hosted. “We got seven of the scene’s top producers to play 15 minutes each. For a lot of people, that was a real flash point for dubstep.”

Since then, the music has taken tentative steps toward the mainstream, with the futuristic 2006 British movie “Children of Men” featuring dubstep on its soundtrack.

Hobbs tours Japan with Oris Jay, whom she reckons is the godfather of the scene. The two play July 13 at the “Electric Yukaku” event at Triangle, Shinsaibashi, Osaka (3,000 yen; [06] 6212 2264; triangle-osaka.jp) with drum ‘n’ bass producer Klute; July 14 at “Drum and Bass Sessions x Dubstep Warz,” Daikanyama Unit, Tokyo (4,000 yen; [03] 5459 8630; dbs-tokyo.com) with Klute and electro-artist The Bug; and July 15′s “Dutty Dub Warriors” event at Club Mago, Nagoya (3,000 yen; [05] 2243 1818; club-mago.co.jp).