'I'm on the radio for three hours every day. I don't need to fall out of a night club with a Page Three girl for people to remember who I am'
As a teenager, he spent his Saturdays presenting Top Shop radio; now he's one of the most influential figures in broadcasting. Sarah Freeman meets Chris Moyles.
When Chris Moyles announces, as he regularly does, he is the saviour of Radio One, his tongue is firmly in his cheek.
But with figures released on Friday showing the station and in particular the presenter's breakfast show has finally captured listeners on the notoriously competitive London airwaves, he may yet live up to the title.
Variously described as loud-mouthed and brash, his presenting style has never been low key and his current show is not exactly a gentle introduction to the morning. But when his industry colleagues recently voted him among the most influential people in radio – behind Jonathan Ross and Terry Wogan, but ahead of Jeremy Vine and Jenni Murray, it was further confirmation his formula was a winning one, something his millions of listeners had known for some time.
"It's never been about ratings or awards," says the Leeds-born presenter at the end of another week of shows. "Radio One doesn't make any money so as long as you're not losing listeners hand over fist, you're normally OK, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't care.
"Traditionally, Radio One hasn't done well in London, just because there are so many commercial stations vying for a share of the audience, so for the breakfast show to come out on top, it is a big deal."
While Chris has perfected his radio persona of the larger than life, football loving lad's lad, his success has been hard earned.
I was in the same year as Chris at Mount St Mary's in Leeds and while the rest of us were trying to work out who should go to the off licence for a bottle of Lambrusco, he was spending his weekends on Radio Top Shop before moving on to Radio Aire and heading to Radio Luxembourg aged just 18.
When the station closed, Chris returned to England to be sacked from both Signal FM in Stoke and Chiltern Radio, but shortly after, Capital FM spotted his potential.
Although it might appear seamless now, there was no grand plan, he says, and his move to Radio One in 1997 couldn't have been less premeditated.
"My only aim had been to get to London," says Chris, who this morning will present his show from Leeds city centre. "When I got the job at Captial I honestly thought, 'That's it, I'll be here for the next 10 years.'
"After a year, Radio One offered me the job. It was a great position to be in, but I didn't think I was ready to do five shows a week. But when Capital didn't fight to save me, I left. It was the best decision I ever made, but at the time it was out of spite rather than anything else."
Initially presenting the afternoon show, Chris moved to the breakfast show, generally acknowledged to be the station's flagship slot, in January last year.
He is now the identifiable face of mornings on Radio One, but insists it's very much a team effort and admits he hasn't thought of a
future without co-presenter
Comedy Dave, who was "pushing buttons for Mark and Lard" when he first arrived at the station and producers Rachel and Aled, "who always pops up like the shopkeeper in Mr Benn".
Chris admits he doesn't do much planning for the show, but its success is in part due to its easy informality.
With that success comes perks – two weeks ago he sat in on an intimate Robbie Williams concert and this week there's a private screening of the new Harry Potter film – and he admits he has yet to tire of meeting the great and good.
"I love meeting famous people," he says. "I'm slightly obsessed; I even spot people who have appeared in toothpaste commercials."
But for all his attempts to convince, there is a sense he's not entirely comfortable with the world of celebrity.
He lives, he says, a relatively quiet life, with girlfriend Sophie, whom he met while filming Top of the Pops some years ago, his brother has a flat nearby and he's more likely to be spotted in his local pub than at a red carpet event.
"I'm very lucky," he says, lighting yet another Marlboro Light. "There's no pressure on me to do the celebrity circus. I'm on the radio for three hours every morning, so I don't need to fall out of China Whites with a Page Three girl for people to remember who I am.
"I get papped quite a lot. In the early days I was in Heat magazine every week, but these days none of the photos ever make it into the paper. Whenever a flash goes off now, I want to tell them they are wasting their time, no one's going to retire selling pictures of me."
Part of the reason his tabloid credentials have gone down as his career has taken off may be in part his decision to turn down the opportunity to take part in the likes of Celebrity Big Brother.
"I was asked and if I'm honest I would love to do it," he says. "But there are a lot of crap reasons why I won't.
"The thing is the people who do take part are seen as being on the way down and if you say yes, it's almost like admitting you need a career boost. Then there's things like Shooting Stars. I said no to that, because I liked the show so much I didn't want to ruin it for myself and I was going to go on Have I Got News for You until my friends told me I'd be mad to.
"I don't do a lot outside radio, I suppose I should do more."
His reticence to juggle a radio and TV career may well be justified. In 2002,he agreed to front Live With Chris Moyles on Channel Five. The show was the brainchild of Chris Evans, but when the viewing figures failed to live up to expectations he was axed while on holiday.
"We were under no illusions," he says. "Even before we had done the first programme, we were calling it a poor man's TFI Friday.
"I always thought it would take time to establish, but suddenly the ratings plummeted and never got better.
"Channel Five sent out a press release saying Christian O'Connell was taking over and I was pursuing other projects. The reason they gave was because I also had a radio show there wasn't time to rehearse, but then they replaced me with another DJ. It just didn't make sense."
While he may have been burnt by his foray into TV, the radio show is a refuge and even the constant early starts can't dampen his enthusiasm.
"Anyone who tells you getting up at 5.15am every day is fine, is lying," he says. "Now with the clocks having gone back when I get up it's pitch black and it's still pitch black when I get into work.
"You can never predict what's going to happen. Of course, there will be a cut off point, but hopefully there will be a natural progression onto something else. It may sound twee, but as long as the audience is happy, then I'm happy."
For the foreseeable future it seems, the position of saviour of Radio One is taken