Scott Mills: interview

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Posted: Tue Aug 17 2010

He's a Radio1 DJ, not a West End star. So why is Scott Mills starring in a pun-tastic Abba-based musical called 'The Bjorn Identity'? Could this be his biggest challenge yet? Time Out investigates.

The Edinburgh Festival throws up some peculiar spectacles. I once watched a naked woman prance around for an hour covered in fake blood, wearing deer antlers on her head speaking in
a language that might have been Polish. I have also sat for 50 minutes in a disused toilet being shouted out by a rambling drunk who accused me of stealing his scag - I'm still not sure if that actually was a show or whether I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nevertheless, every year the unlikeliest people from all over the planet come to express themselves at the world's largest arts festival - and this year it's the turn of Radio 1's Scott Mills to join the merry throng of madness.

This isn't your first Edinburgh, is it?
'No, last year we performed “Scott Mills: the Musical”.'

How did that come about?
'I was talking on the air about how I hate musicals because generally I think they're awful. Then this rumour started going around the internet that I was going to be in one and that I was going to be playing Rick Astley in “Rick-Rolling: The Musical”. It wasn't true but it got us thinking that maybe we should do some sort of tongue-in-cheek, pisstake of musicals. That was where it all started. We pulled the show together with the help of the listeners and in the end it was fantastic. I'd never even been to the Edinburgh Festival before but it was incredible, we had such a good week.'

So what was the inspiration for this year's show?
'Last year we did a big musical, with a big cast and we were wondering what to do this year. Should we do “Scott Mills: The Musical 2”? Maybe on ice? But in the end we thought it was best not to revisit it because we couldn't top it. So we asked the listeners for ideas anyway - most of them were pretty useless.'

What kind of things did they suggest you do?
'They wanted us to do things like magic tricks or balloon modelling, things that wouldn't have sustained a 30-minute performance. We had already decided that this year it had to be a one-man show, when someone wrote in asking, “Why don't you do a one-man version of the Bourne films?”. We liked that but wondered how we could camp that up, so I'm doing “The Bourne Identity” to the music of Abba, and it's called “The Bjorn Identity”. We crowbar the songs in just like they do in “Mamma Mia!” - they fit surprisingly well.'

And you're not the only one doing a show are you?
'No, each member of the team on my show has to do one half-hour performance as well. Beccy is doing an improv performance called 'Beccy Huxtable Live & Loose' which will be awful. Our producer is doing some weird mime thing and playing the piano in 'The One Who Doesn't Speak: Silent but Deadly'. It's really bizarre. And Nick Grimshaw, who's also on the station, is doing half an houron everything he hates.'

How nervous are you?
'It's the first thing I think about when I wake up, and the last thing at night. I keep looking at the script and all those words and think: Oh my God, when is this going to go into my head? The onus wasn't on me last year, there was a big cast of people and I hardly had any lines. Whereas this year, the pressure is all on me. Despite the fact that I sit in a box and talk to seven million people
most days, that is a completely different scenario from this. The reason I got into radio was because I could talk to loads of people without actually having to see them. I was a really shy kid.'

But, as Dr Pepper might say, what's the worse that could happen?
'The worst-case scenario is that I forget all the words or have a panic attack - I've suffered quite badly with them in the past, so my main thing will be to try to keep as calm as possible. Although I'm only doing it once in a tiny 60-seater called Maggie's Chamber, it's being filmed for the Radio 1 website. Last year's video was watched by more than a million people, so if I screw up it won't just be the people in the room who'll be able to see my terror.'

You must be used to singing live at least after last year's musical…
'No, it wasn't me doing the singing, it was all the actors, there was no singing from me at all. I was hoping I might pre-record the tracks, maybe Auto-tune them a bit to make them sound good, but my director said, “No, it's not going to have any impact if you don't sing live.” Shit, I'm feeling nervous just thinking about it.'

And who is directing it?
'It's a guy called Chris. I've only met him once and all I know is he's written two songs for Les Dennis - so I'm in safe hands. I spoke to David Mitchell the other day who said, “Whatever happens you won't be the worst show up there.” If I'm the second worst, or third worst, that's absolutely fine.'

Scott Mills's 'The Bjorn Identity' will be on at Maggie's Chamber, Edinburgh, Thur Aug 19. He will
be performing and broadcasting his BBC Radio 1 show live from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Mon Aug 16-20. For more details see www.bbc.co.uk/radio1.

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