It’s been 16 months since Scott Mills and I last caught up. During that time he’s changed shows at Radio 1, found love, published a book and visited Azerbaijan. Since he’s about to fly to Malmo to cover the 2013 Eurovision Semi-Finals for BBC Three, another chinwag seemed long overdue.
Four months after I published our last interview, in which I chronicled his progression from local radio DJ to presenter of Radio 1’s drivetime show, Scott lost his coveted slot when the powers that be decided to switch his and Greg James’ shows around.
“Basically my boss called me up and said, “We’re moving your show,” and I said, ‘OK, then,’” Scott explains, half-jokingly. “That’s pretty much what happened. I really wasn’t expecting it. I like to think I’m good at sensing when there’s something going on, but that certainly wasn’t the case this time. Initially, I felt a bit winded.”
“But, Radio 1 is about attracting a younger audience and putting younger presenters on. That’s basically what they did with me when they brought me in all those years ago, so I can’t complain too much. I’m actually lucky I’m still on air because I’ve been there such a long time now.”
I tell him that once I’d written up our last interview, I was left wondering what direction he was heading in. He’d accomplished everything he’d set out to achieve and seemed perfectly happy staying where he was. Since he’s adamant the world of television still doesn’t hold much appeal for him, I ask him how he now sees his career unfolding.
“My ideal scenario would be to stay on Radio 1 for as long as they’ll have me,” he answers. “I think the show still sounds fresh and young and I’m enjoying what I’m doing. I think I’ll know when I’m too old for this stuff. I don’t feel that that time has arrived yet, but when it does I’d love to move over to Radio 2. That would be a great outcome because Radio 2’s an incredible station.”
Radio, it would seem, remains Mills’ first love. Speaking of love, the topic of ‘significant others’ was notably absent from our last conversation. Am I right in thinking he’s since, in the words of my mother, met someone special?
“Yes, I have,” laughs Scott. “His name’s Brad and I’ve been with him for a year and a half now. I’m really happy at the moment, with work and with him. I feel very settled, which is the complete opposite of last year when I was very unsettled because of everything at work.”
This is good to hear. Scott is, to quote my mother again, ‘a nice young man’ and it warms my heart to think of him with a loving partner. Wishing to pry no more, I move on to the 2012 publication of his autobiography Love You Bye. What made him decide to share the details of his private with the wider world?
“They asked me a couple of years ago if I wanted to do one, but back then I was like, “Absolutely not!’” he explains. “Then I realised I’ve actually got quite a few good stories to share, so I thought, why not? When I was a kid, I always wanted to write a book. It ended up being a very easy read, perfect for my listeners because they have no attention-span whatsoever!”
“Some of the younger ones were tweeting me, telling me it was the first book they’d ever read. That scared me a little because it’s not exactly Dickens or War and Peace. I think some of them finished it in about three hours. The whole experience was really good fun though.”
I ask Scott if he’s ever considered filming a follow-up to his Stonewall Award-winning documentary, 2011’s The World’s Worst Place To Be Gay, which detailed the struggle of gay men and women living in Uganda.
“I’ve discussed it,” says Scott. “The thing is, the situation hasn’t really changed there, apart from at the end of last year when they threatened to pass the ‘kill the gays bill’ as ‘a Christmas present to all Ugandans’. How sinister was that? But of course once again the bill failed to pass thanks to the international pressure that was brought to bear.”
“I was quite up for doing an update though; the locals we featured the first time around are still campaigning. They tried to have a gay pride march there last year, so things have moved on a little bit. But my would-be producers decided it probably wasn’t safe for me to go back because although the documentary was never shown in Africa, exerts from it are all over YouTube. I didn’t even consider my own safety. I was like, ‘I’ll be fine,’ but they were like, “No. You really won’t.’”
Having had to record his 2011 Eurovision Semi-Final commentary from London, rather than Dusseldorf where the competition was being staged, I ask him what he made of Azerbaijan when he flew there to cover the 2012 competition.
“Baku just confused me, really. It felt like they’d just built everything the week before. There were all these incredible hotels and massive buildings, but you just knew there was stuff you didn’t see going on behind the scenes. You didn’t see the poverty, just freshly mowed lawns and the brand new stadium they’d built. It was like everything had all just been put there for show.”
Will he be heading out to Malmo in the coming weeks when the Swedes host 2013’s Eurovision Song Contest?
“I’m going out to going to Malmo to cover the two Semi-Finals,” he says, “then I’ll be coming back to London to announce the results of the British vote during the Final, which is always a terrifying experience.”
I tell him I’d forgotten that the latter task was now part of his duties. I ask him if it’s compulsory for him to use the phrase ‘London calling’ when he announces which songs and countries the British public have voted for. He tells me it is.
“It’s traditional!” he explains. “You say, for example, “Hello, Malmo,” which you can choose to say in the hosts native language if you want to, so it would be Swedish this time. Then you have to compliment them on what a fantastic show it’s been, even if it hasn’t. But the whole time you have no idea what’s happening on stage, you just get an audio feed in your ear! And you have to keep stopping every five seconds so they can repeat everything you’ve said in French! It’s really quite nerve-wracking.”
Staid though the British announcement might be, I tell Scott it’s still preferable to the improvisations and attempted scene stealing one sometimes sees from other nations’ representatives. Scott laughs at this.
“The other countries tend to use presenters from their local MTV channel or the like and often I think they see Eurovision as their big chance to shine. I mean, it’s watched by more than 120m people throughout the world. My goal is always to keep it simple so no one will think I’m awful. A few years ago, I think it was the Norwegian representative who decided he’d sing the results of the Norwegian vote. I saw it and thought, ‘You’re going to regret that, mate. We’ve got this thing called the Internet now, you know.’”
Minutes before our interview began, the news came through that French politicians have passed a law introducing same-sex marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples in France. With Britain set to follow in the not too distant future, I ask him he thinks we’re at the point of achieving equality in the UK.
“I would really like to think so,” Scott answers. “The French news is fantastic and I don’t see any reason why there should be a hitch here now, assuming the House of Lords doesn’t throw a spanner in the works. It needs to happen and I think it’s going to happen. I couldn’t be happier. For a long time, getting married never really entered my head, but it’s something I think about now and, yes, I probably would get married at some point in the future, once it’s legal.”
The concurrent legalisation, in France, of same-sex couple adoption makes me wonder if, settled as he says he is, having children is something Scott would ever consider.
“Two of my best friends, Rob and Tim, have just got kids and they’re adorable. They had to go through a lot to get them, but they’re blissfully happy now. Having children isn’t on my radar though, probably because of my ridiculous hours. Having to do the show and then do a set in Stoke-on-Trent on a Saturday night isn’t really conducive to raising a family. I wouldn’t be able to give a son or a daughter the time that they deserve.”
I tell him that his answer will disappoint my mother greatly. Until we meet again in another 16 months, Mr Mills. Good-luck in Malmo.