My Mentor: Lauren Laverne on John Peel

'His radio show drew you in slowly. Before you knew it, you were into weird Belgian techno'
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The Independent Online

John Peel was a mentor to a lot of people, but he changed my life. I don't think he knew it but if it weren't for him I might have stayed in Sunderland.

He was just one of those people that you felt like you'd always known. He was exactly as you'd expect: this avuncular and slightly miserable, but cheerful bloke.

I used to listen to his show, and weirdly he picked up on the record Kenickie put out when I was 16. The show rang us up and asked us to come down and do a Peel Session. We didn't meet John that time but he called us the "Pride of Sunderland" and we got paid £500 which was the most money we'd ever seen. I suppose he paid me my first wage.

A few years later I started TV presenting and the first proper job I got was doing Glastonbury with John. It was the biggest deal and it meant so much. In one of the breaks he leant over and said: "You're made for this shit aren't you?". It was the biggest endorsement you could get, a nod from him. I was kind of ambivalent about presenting at the time but everything took off from there.

Now I do a radio show, I can appreciate what he did and his attitude to music. He was passionate and completely wrapped up in music but at the same time he wasn't po-faced. A lot of DJs are so pretentious about music but his radio show was incredibly inclusive and that was why everybody loved him. He drew you in really slowly but before you knew it, you were getting into weird Belgian techno.

It's great to know there are people you can look up to and think: "Yeah, that guy is fucking cool." John's one of those people.

I think if there was anyone who is important to the work I've done in my life, that person's him.

Lauren Laverne presents Xfm's drivetime show, Mon-Fri 4-7pm