BBC Radio 1 Culture Iweekend Radio Tech

‘I think I progressed too fast at Radio 1’

Greg James hosting his first Radio 1 Breakfast show in August 2018. Photo: Mark Allan/ BBC/PA

From Monday to Thursday, week in, week out, Greg James will get up at four.30am, mops up no matter mess his new canine Barney has made in a single day and heads to the Radio 1 studios at BBC New Broadcasting Home. At 5.30, he leads an concepts assembly, standing up round a desk – “It’s all very W1A…” – the place he and his group kick round information, gossip, attainable quizzes and stunts for that morning’s Breakfast Present.

“And at 6.30am, I take a deep breath and assume, ‘I’ve ruined my life, why am I doing this?’” says James, grimacing. “However by about 6.33am I’m like, ‘Oh, okay, as a result of it’s the most effective job ever.’”

James is 9 months into internet hosting Radio 1’s flagship morning present, and he undoubtedly isn’t jaded. I’m unsure he might do jaded. We meet a few hours after he has gone off-air and, for a really non-morning individual like me, he’s sickeningly bushy-tailed – well mannered, enthusiastic and holding a small pink pocket book and matching pencil since you by no means know when an concept for a hyperlink may hit. Folding himself right into a chair – he’s very tall – he might in all probability move for a decade youthful than 33.

‘I’m not saying I hate celebrities. I simply don’t discover each movie star mechanically fascinating’

What’s his secret? He doesn’t even nap. As an alternative he goes to mattress at 9 or 9.30pm on work nights. “It’s undoubtedly very bizarre. I’m not used to it but. And it type of creeps to 10, half 10 and I feel, oh no I’ve f***ed it. It’s horrible. A lot of enjoyable issues occur at night time.”

He’s settled in – on-air, a minimum of – and, based on figures launched this week, his present reached 5.44 million listeners within the first quarter of 2019, 1 / 4 of one million greater than this time final yr. “The boring information is that it’s extra enjoyable than I ever thought it will be,” he says. “And my life hasn’t crumbled due to it. But. Sure issues have suffered. I don’t see my pals sufficient. However that’s identical to any job, isn’t it?”

Greg James internet hosting his first Radio 1 Breakfast present in August 2018. Photograph: Mark Allan/ BBC/PA

Is it? James’ job is rather like any job if that job concerned, for instance, being locked in an escape room for 30 hours and broadcasting all through, or interviewing a lion, or hitch-hiking a Cornish pasty from Padstow to Newmachar in Aberdeenshire (“That was tough to get previous administration – there have been health-and-safety varieties…”). On the day we meet, he has interviewed Jack Whitehall on air however ended up speaking concerning the time he dirty himself on the best way to talk on the Oxford Union, posted a video of him Dustbusting his canine on Twitter, and recorded Lewis Capaldi singing a track a few listener’s garbage morning. So, not fairly like all job.

“We like foolish stuff”, he says. “I might by no means go on air and enthuse about how a lot I really like Kim Kardashian. This isn’t that sort of present.”

When he took over from Nick Grimshaw in August 2018, James knew he needed to make the present “listener-based”, to make his followers the celebs of the present. “We might fortunately put a listener with a joke on at 1 / 4 previous eight, in our massive primetime slot, over a visitor who’s approaching to plug their shit ebook,” he says.

Learn extra: Greg James makes BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Present debut – and listeners like what they hear

In contrast to Grimshaw, whose present gave a glimpse into an unique world of events, holidays and movie star friends, James aligns himself with the individuals. “The final Breakfast Present was very guest-heavy – that was Grim’s approach as a result of that’s completely his world. And that is completely my world. There’s no mistaken or proper one, that is simply the one I choose. And the one which I most popular listening to once I grew up. I’m not saying I hate celebrities,” he says. “I simply don’t discover each movie star routinely fascinating.”

Over time, he’s additionally discovered to seek out himself much less fascinating, too. He used to assume he needed to be humorous for each minute of each present; now he sees himself as extra of a ring-leader. “Whenever you’re studying to be a radio presenter, sooner or later you go, ‘I’m the funniest individual alive, as a result of I’ve been given this three-hour present!’ I had a little bit of an epiphany a number of years in the past, once I realised – how might I probably have higher tales than all of the listeners? Don’t be so huge headed.”

Greg James spent 30 hours locked in an escape room, broadcasting throughout. Photo: BBCGreg James spent 30 hours locked in an escape room, broadcasting all through on Radio 1. Photograph: BBC

James has needed to be on the radio for many of his life. Rising up, he would take heed to exhibits like Around the Horne and Desert Island Discs on automotive journeys together with his mother and father. They continue to be Radio four devotees (“The Archers is all the time on…”) however his mom tunes into his present each morning at 6.30am. “Simply to examine that I’ve turned up. After which she goes again to mattress.”

At the moment he’ll make his debut on Radio four with a brand new present, Rewinder, through which he makes use of previous audio clips to make sense of present occasions, from Trump’s state go to to Eurovision. As quickly as he heard the phrases “newly digitised BBC archive” he was in. “I’ve develop into a nerdy radio detective, which is admittedly enjoyable.” It’s uncommon for a Radio 1 DJ to cross over to the extra austere four. “Sure it’s usually Radio 1 to Radio 2, or Radio 1 to jail.”

‘I simply misplaced my confidence. I used to be mid-20s and I didn’t know what I used to be doing. I used to be operating round, getting drunk, going out with garbage individuals’

As a youngster, he helped out at Herts and Essex Hospital radio however didn’t inform any of his buddies. “They’d say, ‘what did you do final night time? Play soccer?’” He places on a nerdy voice. “No, truly, I used to be at Radio Stortford, submitting away Dido albums.”

He acquired a spot to learn English and Drama on the College of East Anglia and signed up for scholar radio on the freshers’ truthful. He went on air the identical day, and located, mimicking his radio heroes – Terry Wogan and Service provider and Gervais – got here naturally.

On the finish of his first yr, he gained Greatest Male Presenter on the Scholar Radio Awards. He spent the remainder of his diploma moonlighting as a DJ on numerous Norwich group stations (“Like precise Alan Partridge”) throughout time period time, and on Galaxy within the north east in his holidays, dwelling in a mattress and breakfast. He was at his commencement when he obtained a name from Radio 1, asking him if he might fill in for Sara Cox. He skipped his commencement night time out and went on air the subsequent day, “utterly terrified”.

I’m beginning a brand new present on @BBCRadio4 tomorrow at 10:30am referred to as ‘REWINDER’ – all about some strange issues that I’ve discovered within the archive. To rejoice, they requested me about my favorite ever radio issues: pic.twitter.com/J3tirumuGB

— Greg James (@gregjames) Might 17, 2019

His rise via Radio 1 was equally rocket-propelled, from the Early Breakfast Present in 2007 to changing Edith Bowman on the afternoon slot in 2009, then taking up Drivetime from Scott Mills in 2012.

“I feel I in all probability progressed too shortly on Radio One. I acquired given the afternoon present earlier than I used to be prepared. However I wouldn’t return and alter any of it.” What went mistaken? “I simply misplaced my confidence. I used to be mid-20s and I didn’t know what I used to be doing. ‘Am I well-known now? Do I’ve to behave well-known?’”

He dated the pop singer Ellie Goulding for a few years. “I used to be operating round, getting drunk, going out with garbage individuals,” he says. “It was a really explorative time, as everybody’s twenties are. So I now use that info while speaking to precise 20-year-olds. I understand how shit it may be. You assume you’re sorted, however you’re completely not.”

Learn extra: Nick Grimshaw’s mission was to scare off Radio 1 listeners over 30. He did that after which some

When Grimshaw was introduced as Chris Moyles’ successor on the Breakfast Present in 2012, he was disillusioned, he says, although extra nervous about individuals considering he’d failed. “I didn’t actually need it then as a result of deep down I knew that I wouldn’t have executed a great job. I undoubtedly obtained on the proper time. Couldn’t have left it any later…”

He’s conscious that he’s considerably older than his audience. “Once I was 21, I by no means would have thought I might have gotten to the Breakfast Present at 33. I assumed I might have been put out to pasture.” He pitches the present at late teenagers to early twenties however is conscious he’s listened to by youngsters and their mother and father, too. “I feel it’s a disgrace that it was ever, ‘In case you’re over 30, cease listening!’” he says.

Greg James with his wife Bella Mackie. Photo: Jeff Spicer/GettyGreg James together with his spouse Bella Mackie. Photograph: Jeff Spicer/Getty

In addition to, he thinks his maturity is a boon. In September, he married Bella Mackie, a journalist and writer. “We began at an ideal time the place I used to be able to be extra accountable and fewer self-centered,” he says. “I didn’t know being married to somebody might be this a lot enjoyable. I really feel sillier and extra artistic and extra silly than ever. She’s an enormous a part of why I’ve obtained to do that present now, as a result of I really feel calm about my life.”

Barney, their rescue canine, performs his half. “He got here alongside on the proper time, too. Once I began the Breakfast Present, I might have turn out to be Billy Huge Bollocks. ‘I’m on the f***ing Breakfast Present. I’m superb’. Reduce to me, shoveling his shit from the eating room at 5am.”

He needs his listeners to really feel like they know him – “There’s not a type of veneered, radio model of me”. It has led him to speak brazenly about psychological well being, amongst different issues. The catalyst was the gruelling triathlon problem he did for Sports activities Aid final yr, in the course of the Beast from the East. When he needed to name it off midway by means of, he broke down on air (he accomplished it two weeks later). “Individuals hear you be weak and also you assume, nicely, no-one complained. In truth, the other occurred: individuals stated, ‘oh, wow, we’ve not heard radio presenters speak about that earlier than. I’ve by no means heard them truly be trustworthy about their brains.’

‘It’s actually highly effective to listen to any person that you simply look as much as and who you anticipate to be brilliant and bubbly and pleased isn’t like that the entire time’

“And I feel that unlocked Radio One – which is sort of grand factor to say – however it actually modified the tone of the station, and made everybody realise that they might be themselves.”

Now he talks brazenly about his nervousness assaults and encourages his listeners to do the identical. “I handle it in my very own methods. I’m in contact with my feelings and I’ve received actually nice family and friends. However there are individuals who don’t have that help community. And it’s actually highly effective to listen to someone that you simply look as much as and who you anticipate to be vibrant and bubbly and completely happy isn’t like that the entire time.”

Greg James had to call off his Sport Relief challenge when it became life-threatening, during the Beast from the East. Photo: Ed Smith/Comic Relief/PAGreg James needed to name off his Sport Aid problem when it turned life-threatening, through the Beast from the East. Photograph: Ed Smith/Comedian Aid/PA

He’s, clearly, formidable and hard-working however has discovered to mood his impatience considerably. His pure intuition is “Accomplished the Breakfast Present. What subsequent?” however he’s calmer nowadays. “I’ve an amazing combination of being actually formidable some mornings, after which different mornings, simply going, ‘I wouldn’t thoughts if all this went away now.’ This job doesn’t give me life. I’d hope that my life can be robust sufficient to face up to not doing this present.”

For instance, he isn’t notably concerned about being on tv, he says. “You assume, nicely, I do need a new kitchen. However I don’t need to do a shit panel present. I don’t imply that to sound snobby. However that is my dream job.” As an alternative he’s writing a sitcom, together with his previous college flatmates, comedians John Kearns and Pat Cahill, and persevering with his Child Regular youngsters’s books collection – which is being developed for TV.

‘You assume, properly, I do need a new kitchen. However I don’t need to do a shit panel present. I don’t imply that to sound snobby’

9 months in, he’s nonetheless most pleased with his first Breakfast Present, particularly of the stunt when he tried to e-book the Purple Arrows however couldn’t get the planes so caught the pilots on bikes with smoke cannons on the wheels as an alternative. What seems like an nervousness dream for many, is James’ concepts of bliss.“I simply felt very at peace. I assumed, that is precisely the present I needed to do. I haven’t needed to interview individuals I didn’t need to interview. I didn’t should fake to love one thing I didn’t like.

“I felt very calm and glad in that second. I simply need to hold maintain of that feeling. And once I lose it, I feel it might be time for me to go do one thing else.”

Greg James presents ‘Rewinder’ on BBC Radio four & BBC Sounds from Saturday 18 Might. BBC Radio 1’s Huge Weekend 2019 in Middlesbrough is from 24 to 26 Might

About the author

Admin