Trevor Nelson: My Life in Media

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The Independent Online

Trevor Nelson, 38, presents Radio 1Xtra's new breakfast show, launching today. He began his career on Kiss FM when it was a pirate station in the 1980s before joining Radio 1 10 years ago. He was appointed MBE for his contribution to the Millennium Volunteers programme. He has two children and lives in London.

What inspired you to embark on a media career?

It came via pirate radio and a love of music. I think your personality gets you there, even if you don't really know it's what you want.

When you were 15, which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?

I had to be interviewed to get into a grammar school and my headmaster asked me – aged 10 – what was in the news. I knew because I always read the papers. My dad got the Daily Mirror and The Sunday Times.

What were your favourite TV and radio shows?

I was obsessed with Barry Norman's film series. Radio was difficult; I was a big soul and R&B fan and there wasn't a lot on. I listened to Robbie Vincent on BBC Radio London, and Rick Edwards, who was an American-style hype DJ, on Capital Radio.

Describe your job

I've done the longest-running show on MTV in The Lick, for 10 years. Most people hop on and off the channel, but I've stuck with it. On Radio 1, I do a mainstream/specialist show on a Saturday afternoon, which I've done for 10 years. The 1Xtra breakfast show is a massive challenge. I'm really looking forward to it.

What's the first media you turn to in the mornings?

Half the week I'm DJ-ing, and in Ibiza I go to bed at 7am or 8am so my body clock is different. I listen to Five Live a lot as I love sport and news. I don't think I should wrap myself in music all the time.

Do you consult any media sources during the day?

This is all going to change with the breakfast show as I've been quite lazy up until now. I look at The Independent and flirt with The Guardian. I have to read The Sun, as a lot of my audience do, but I tend to go online for the tabloids.

What is the best thing about your job?

No two days are the same.

And the worst?

I barely have a whole day free. In this game, you have to be available for work at the drop of a hat.

How do you feel you influence the media?

As a black guy who's been around a while, I get called on to give my views. My family is from St Lucia but I was born in Hackney, and I saw people on TV talk about my culture in a way that was totally wrong. There is more black representation in the media now, but we can still improve.

What's your proudest working achievement?

Being on Radio 1, which I grew up listening to. There's something special about it.

And what's your most embarrassing moment?

In my early days at Radio 1, when there was what we called "dead air", we had an Oasis record on standby. If you had more than a fixed number of seconds of dead air the record would kick in, but my show was hip-hop and R&B, so it highlighted my mistake. I did it twice.

What is your Sunday paper? And do you have a favourite magazine?

It's still The Sunday Times. I'm at that stage in life when GQ comes through my door occasionally and I flick through Esquire, but I'm not that impressed by men's magazines. I get Classic Car.

What would you do if you didn't work in the media?

I worked in a shoe shop, but music got me out of that. I've got a place in St Lucia and want to open a sleepy little beach bar on the beach. Money has never motivated me. I've spent time with people like P Diddy and I wouldn't like to live like that, it's too full on.

Name one career ambition you want to realise

I'd love to sit down with Prince and Michael Jackson, and they'd have to answer any question I asked.

Who in the media do you most admire, and why?

I have a grudging respect for Jonathan Ross because he revolutionised TV in the 1980s, then disappeared before coming back in spectacular fashion. You've got to admire him for survival in this fickle game.

The 1Xtra Breakfast Show with Trevor Nelson and Zena starts today (weekdays, 8-11am). Trevor Nelson's Radio 1 & 1Xtra simulcast show is on Saturday evenings at 7pm

The CV

1985: First job in music at a record import company; gets involved with pirate radio

1990: Kiss FM is legalised. Nelson was hosting shows alongside Dave Pearce, Judge Jules, Norman Jay, Lisa I'Anson and the ICA director Ekow Eshun

1996: Gets the call from Radio 1; wins an award in the original Mobos

1998: Joins MTV presenting The Lick, the channel's first dedicated R&B show, which has built a fan base in Africa and around the world

2000: Presents first series for the BBC, Trevor Nelson's Urban Choice

2007: Joins 1Xtra breakfast show