Interview: Radio 1’s Scott Mills talks ageing, Madonna and his new book.

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Scott Mills, BBC Radio 1’s veteran afternoon presenter, TV host, and all-round nice guy has exclusively spoken to about his new autobiography entitled Love You Bye. Our editor, Scott Roberts, caught up with the star for an interview last week and the conversation quickly turned to the delicate subject of ageing, maintaining that illusive ‘youth’ audience and how he would eventually like to present on BBC Radio 2.

As someone who has previously spent several years working in radio, getting to interview Scott Mills was a real treat; what’s more, with all of the recent changes at Radio 1, the timing could not have been more appropriate. I began by asking Scott if his new book was the first proper one he had written?

“It is. I have written articles before, but I have never written a book and honestly, it was the hardest thing I have ever done…just because where do you start? I like writing and I can write for hours about anything…but it’s that thing of what do you put in about your life? What do you put in about your career? I didn’t have a clue where to begin”.

Although he found the experience enjoyable and is “really proud” of his autobiography, which delves into his personal life and reveals his battle with anxiety attacks and alcohol dependency due to the death of a former boyfriend, Scott quickly ruled out penning a second book, saying: “Would I do it again? No, there’s no point, I have said everything I need to say”.

I reminded Scott that he probably had another five decades of life to look forward to and that he should not be so quick to rule it out, he conceded: “Yeah that’s true, if something amazing happens, I will write it”; However, he then added: “But I don’t see the point of endless autobiographies unless you are Madonna or the Queen, where you life is incredible and different every single day”.

That reference brought us nicely on to the ‘Queen of Pop’, Madonna. Whilst continuing to be a huge fan of the Material Girl, in one of his recent columns for GT, Scott remarked how the 54-year-old star was no longer completely defying her age, when it came to executing certain dance moves on stage during her MDNA 2012 world tour. For me, it only seemed like yesterday (actually now seven years ago) that Madonna was topping the charts with her disco revival anthem Hung Up – she still appeared to be radio gold for stations such as Radio 1, but Scott revealed that this is no longer the case:

“I don’t think we play Madonna anymore”, he went on “there is a lot of research, and if you ask a 17-year-old about her, they go ‘don’t care’…it’s a sign of the times, things change, it’s a generational thing. I like Madonna, does a 17-year-old? [she’s] probably not at the top of their list”. Scott continued: “And that’s horrible, but that is the way it is…and also youth audiences are so fickle in what they like and what they don’t like, and they’re quite opinionated, you just have got to keep on top of that”.

The “generational thing” was something I was keen to raise early in the interview. Radio 1’s flagship breakfast show from today has a new presenter in the form of Nick Grimshaw, who just like Scott is also openly gay. Earlier this month, Scott spoke of his disappointment at ultimately missing out on the prize morning slot after it was vacated by the station’s controversial eight-and-a-half-year “saviour” Chris Moyles.

He also defended Moyles, who has previously angered gay rights campaigners with some of his on-air comments. In his autobiography Scott talks of his pride at being the station’s main stand-in breakfast show presenter ever since the Zoe Ball era of the late 90s and despite initially being picked on by Moyles, Scott paid tribute to his undeniable radio dominance, writing: “On a good day nobody can beat Chris Moyles on the radio”.

I was surprised to learn that Scott is 37 – just one year younger than Moyles. The latter DJ complained that his breakfast throne was taken away from him because of his age during his final show; so, I asked Scott if he was surprised that the TV debate about “ageing presenters” also features in radio?

“In America…the older you are the most trusting people are”, Scott replied and continued: “Most people on American television and radio are in their late thirties [or older] you don’t get [younger ones] apart from on MTV, which no one really watches in great numbers…there are no respected broadcasters in the US who are that young”.

Scott continued: “I think in the [UK] it is different we are kind of…cooler, we are more cutting edge…but for something like Radio 1 I can see why it is a problem because it’s a young person’s radio station and at some point you will become too old for it”.

However, Scott is adamant that he should remain at Radio 1 for the immediate future, saying: “As long as you are still relevant to a young audience, I think you should be on, I think when you realise or the radio station realises that you are kind of not that much in touch anymore…it’s probably time to go. I haven’t reached that [time] yet, I am still interested in pop culture and I soak it up like a sponge, but the day that I don’t is probably the day I should not be on [Radio 1] anymore.

“I should not be on Radio 1 when I am 50”.

I asked Scott the question which every one of the station’s DJs has had to think about at some point; namely of life after Radio 1. “When you are on a station like I am where do you go [next]?”  You can really only go down…there’s always Radio 2 which I would love to do eventually”.

The large number of celebrity stars currently cramming the presenter slots of Radio 2 raises the question of where else Scott could go, if he could not engineer a sideways move to the BBC’s flagship music station: “I think that is a problem because you do think to yourself when this ends, what are you going to do? I can’t imagine not working in radio no matter how big or small [the station] when I was moving up through local stations I didn’t ever think that I would be on Radio 1 I was just happy working in that station so as long I am doing [radio] somewhere, I think I will be alright”.

Scott Mills autobiography Love You Bye is on sale now.