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‘Stick to your guns and trust your talent’: life advice from The Mac twins

“If we can have the same job, the same face,  look the same and still manage to be individual, then anyone can.”

Leaving many creative industries untouched, from theatre producing to now DJing, The Mac Twins tell us how their opposite tastes (in pretty much everything) combines to create amazing music. We spoke working in a male-dominated environment, fashion and sibling rivalry….


Debut: Tell us a little bit about yourselves and how you got your start as DJs?

Lisa: Alana and I have opposite tastes in music, we always have done. So we didn’t want to work together; we fought against it for years and years and years. We both had our separate careers and we lived apart for five years. I think that actually that did the world of good because I was in London, and Alana was on tour as a dancer so she was listening to really character pop music. Then we got a surprise when MTV headhunted us, but we both said: ‘No, I’m not doing it, I don’t want to work with her!’ But they did manage to convince us, telling us we’d be backstage at any festival every summer, and we thought ‘alright we’ll see how it goes.’ Soon enough the BBC gave us our own radio pilot and after a year we realised that this is what we were actually doing as a career. Our first huge gig was at the Olympics and the rest, they say, is history!

Debut: Tell us about your styles of DJ’ing?

Lisa: We change every 10 minutes from my style of music to Alana’s style of music, or we’ll layer up a track that I like onto Alana’s dancy housebeat. We have fun doing mash-ups as well, which tends to get the crowd going.

Debut: What challenges have you faced – particularly as female DJ’s?

Lisa: I think being identical blonde twins almost gives people the licence to automatically think we won’t be good. Growing up, society told us that it would be a struggle, especially for us as women and being from working-class Scottish background, to get into the creative industries. The reason Alana and I work together isn’t because of a gimmick – the blonde twin gimmick that is – it’s because the creative tension between us is amazing! We have opposite tastes but if two guys had opposite tastes in music people would be like, ‘yeah I totally get that.’ We used to do a lot of residencies in the West End and they used to say that we had to wear heels and dresses. In comparison a male DJ would never be asked to wear anything that wasn’t of their choosing. But we found if you just grit your teeth and stand up for yourself you don’t have conform.

Mac-Twins1-800x510Debut: What has been the single night that has been the most memorable for you?

Lisa: We have a show called Play, that’s like an interactive DJ battle. Alana and I were turned into animated superheroes; we came up with the concepts ourselves after deciding to play on the fact that because we fight all the time about music, why don’t we just let the audience decide who’s the best DJ. We first previewed it at the French Festival before giving it a go out in Edinburgh.On the first night we actually sold out tickets!

Debut: Where would you love to perform?

Lisa: Coachella is the goal! We’re lucky enough to have ticked off many things and experiences, but ultimately Coachella is the dream.

Debut: Can you describe to us how you actually feel when you’re playing music?

Lisa: I feel really euphoric but Alana’s really technical, so she see’s music as a very technical process. She picks it apart and she really focuses on the mix; whereas I’m a bit more wild on stage! I sort of jump about with the mic and go a bit crazy. Even if I’m at home I find it really difficult to listen to music because it effects me so much. It’s been like that ever since we were younger.

Debut: What is the one track that never gets old for you, no matter how many times you play it?

Lisa: Fat Man Scoop, Be Faithful. We had him in the studio with us and he was amazing. It was so funny because our mum was there too and she kept on calling him fat man slim. So regardless of age of the audience or where we are in the world, that track always smashes it.

Debut: If you could work with any artist, who would it be and why?

Lisa: Definitely Calvin Harris. We’re actually doing a session with him on the radio show! It’s great because he’s been on exactly the same journey as us in terms of being from a small town in Scotland, so I think it’ll just be great to have a chat with him.

Debut: Are there any other sectors in the creative industries that you would like to get involved in?

Lisa: We have two TV shows coming out this year which we’re looking forward to. We want to do anything that sort of challenges the difference between us; even if it was graphic design, we just want to be able to challenge that creative tension between us.

Debut: So tell us. What’s it like working with your sister?mac-twins-img-165022-v1-lst172622.jpg

Lisa: OMG we fight all the time haha! But it’s quiet good working with someone that you don’t need a filter with. We just say exactly what we think which makes it a refreshing environment to work in. We do have a whole team we work with, but 9 times out of 10 its just Alana and I. And I can’t imagine presenting on my own. I have the upmost respect for presenters doing it by themselves. Also people that travel all that time by themselves – I would literally drive myself mad. Although we’ve had quiet a tough journey and we’ve had to drag each other through quiet a lot – like playing Wembley last week – being able to turn to each other and knowing that you’re experiencing exactly that same thing with someone else its brilliant. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Debut: What’s your fashion like when you’re on set?

Lisa: We’ve started wearing for luxury sportswear on stage now, because we can’t keep wearing our tracksuits!. You have to have a certain confidence when you get on stage, and I think that wearing nicer clothes helps with that. I would say generally Alana’s more conservative so she’ll be in a monochrome outfit and I’m just a charity shop bucket.

Debut: How do you like to chill out when you’re not partying?

Lisa: When we’re not working we’re not out, and even when we do sets, we just go straight home to bed. I think people have these wild preconceptions of DJ’s, but when we’re not working we’re just listening to new music and thinking of new ideas really.

Debut: What advice would you give to our female readers pursuing a career in djing, especially with it being a male-dominant environment?

Lisa: Stick to your guns and trust your talent. You just have to keep your head down and work hard. More importantly don’t compromise who you are, for a job or for what anyone says. Sometimes in this industry your integrity is all you have, and you have to be able to sleep at night knowing that you’ve been true to yourself. It sounds cliché but I think that’s one of the main things that keeps us going ; knowing that we can sleep at night and that we have stuck to our values we were brought up with.

You can catch The Mac Twins DJ set at the Fashion Undressed with MasterCard Show this Saturday 23rd July, at the Southbank Centre in London.


Words: Flaka Dula


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The UK's first Career & Lifestyle Magazine for women in the Creative and Media industries.

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