I sat down with Irish superband Boyzone recently to talk about their new album Brother, moving on from the death of their bandmate Stephen Gately and whether they will bite the bullet and tour again as a four piece band…..
Their single Gave It All Away is out today to download and the brand new album, Brother, is out next Monday!
How are you guys?
Ronan Keating: We’re doing well, we’re really excited about the record. We are here and the album is ready, finished. Artwork is done, the packaging is done and we’re ready to go
I’m feeling a lot of positivity going on here..
R: You know, we had a tough day today was our first TV performance with the song on GMTV pre-record for Thursday, we knew it was going to be tough and we went into it that way and there were moments but we got through it
You were dreading the first performance without Stephen too.
R: I’ve been dreading it for a long, long time and I think that its going to continue. I think that there’s going to be a lot of moments where that hits us when we perform because that is the one time where the four of us are standing together and he’s not there and its very evident, you know. And you can take a photo and you can do this, you can do an interview and not feel it but when you’re standing there performing for me anyway is the most evident.
And it’s not like its some band where Brian goes and does his solo stuff and then you’re just the four……
R: We have no choice. That’s the saddest thing.
So tell me about the album beause I remember speaking to you really early on and you were talking about going in quite a different direction.
Keith Duffy: I think that, for the first time we have really engaged all as a band. As youngsters, we did pop music and that was fine. We released some amazing, amazing radio records but I don’t know if we were all there with it all. We went on a journey and we were a train called Boyzone I think that this studio album is something that we would pride ourselves. We’re genuinely excited about it and we’re like ‘Oh my god, I love that record’ as if it were someone else’s.
Mikey Graham: We’re fans of the album, we really are.
Was it a case of when Stephen died that you guys put new effort into it? Or was it nearly done already?
R: No, no. This was an album that we all made. The five of us.
M: I mean that this album was the album that we were going to make with Stephen, and we continued with the same plan really but we continued with a different frame of mind. It was something that became a different dimension to us that it previously had been and I think that it helped us all as well in a lot of ways to express our sadness and memories. Its almost been a therapy of sorts and here we are, absolutely thrilled to be releasing Brother.
Shane Lynch: Its exciting times
What about touring?
R: Just to get back on the album a second it a very different sound this album. It’s not really electro, we went that way when were doing Can’t Stop Thinking About You and we felt that that was the avenue but its amazing how it had just changed and evolved into the record we made. There are no covers, there are no proper ballads, it’s more pop/rock now than electro, I would say. A lot of the other lads are taking lead vocals on the album as well which is obviously a whole new dynamic to band but the songs have elements of Snow Patrol, U2 and Coldplay, it is a real mix. Great songs, great radio songs as the lads have said and we are all big fans.
I guess it’s a natural progression to go down that route with older boy bands!
S: Its the first album that we have made as adults and its clearly reflected in the sound. Keith said earlier on that it’s the first studio album that we’ve made in eleven years. In those eleven years we have all learned so much about ourselves and the industry. We’ve all gone through an awful lot of metamorphosis, its just a wonderful album, its a great sound.
The future then – what are we looking at?
K: Who knows? All we can do right now is what we feel is right and Stephen never would have forgiven us if we hadn’t finished the album. We would all love to believe that there is a huge future for Boyzone. At this moment in time there is no plan to tour, we can’t plan a tour for the unknown. Its the first studio album in eleven years, the last few tours that we did in 2008 and 2009 were off the old catalogue which was obviously a certain sound they were very successful back in the day.
S: This is a new sound for Boyzone, this is a new direction for Boyzone and we’ve absolutely no idea of how successful or unsuccessful its going to be. If the album is a big success & people love it and they’re playing it on the radio then we will just have to wait and see.
Are you nervous about it then?
K: Well obviously, because cutting through the shit the four of us are all doing different things at the minute. Ronan is going off doing the solo tour, Mikey is obviously Mr. Ice Man, Shane has a new car being built at the moment and he is working on a TV show in Ireland and waiting for his race car to be finished for his new season this year and obviously I’m up in Manchester doing Coronation Street. So we are all very busy and we are all very responsible in our own lives at the moment. Our dream jobs are Boyzone but we have to be real to ourselves and to each other and we would love nothing more then to be a unit again for the foreseeable future which isn’t going to happen until we see the success of this album
And then work out where to go from there?
R: I mean we love the idea of doing a tour this year and that will only reflect on the sales of the album.
How do you feel now? Because I remember speaking to you specifically and you said ‘I’m not sure if I can actually do a full scale tour’ Has that changed?
R: We’re still not sure, but we got through this morning you know, putting one foot in front of the other and you see if you can do the next one and realise that you can do that. Steo was the colour in the band, there was no doubt about it and that was everywhere when you were on stage.
S: I think that originally we said that we were releasing this record but not doing the promo for it and not going to perform this record or anything – just going to release it and let it happen and then it turns out that we promoted the record and then performed the record. It shows that we are involved in it ourselves and I think that instead of being afraid of it, we have to embrace it.
M: I think that you know, apart from the obvious, we are maturely watching and enjoying the changes that are happening within all of us at this time but certainly we’re all kind of learning out about how each other honestly thinks and how each other works and who each man, as men have the strength to honestly speak your honest, open opinions about everything. I think that we are learning more about each other now then we ever did before.
K: We love an excuse to spend time with each other, I can’t think of a better one.
What is the future for you? Are you going to be in Coronation Street for a long time?
K: I’m in Corrie until such time that we can give up our jobs and come back to Boyzone.
So is Boyzone a priority to you then?
K: Boyzone is a priority to all of us but we can’t go out and buy 250,000 tickets to see ourselves. That’d be nice. Like I said, if you could have your dream job, my dream job is just doing what we do together, successfully.
Who would have thought that when you were kids growing up that you would still be doing this?
R: It is nuts! We were sixteen when we started.
Ok, what about getting older? Is it harder staying fit & healthy?
R: We are much healthier now.
K: Listen, it wouldn’t have been half as much work back then as it is now if we only knew that, you know. It would have made it a lot easier on ourselves now.
S: I think that funnier things are education and being educated to go on to do college degrees to know the simple facts of dieting and although dieting isn’t eating grass. It’s not extreme stuff and it’s not crash dieting it is just being that little bit more responsible for your own body and I think that we all took that on board on the first tour originally, we were like ‘Oh my god, we’re going on stage’. So we were all mad on diets, mad in the gym.
M: All apart from me. Now I’m forced to work out at the moment and I don’t have any choice to be there if you know what I mean? I mean that I do like the idea of having a fit body and all the muscles but give me a glass of wine and a hamburger or a slice of pizza and the diet starts tomorrow – that is my way of doing it. Oh its great, it keeps me fit. I’m the oldest, I know that you wouldn’t think it.
Would you get ‘man surgery’ any of you to look younger?
K: No, I don’t need it.
S: I’m not against it. One thing that I know for sure is that Stephen was always mad about skin. He knew everything.
R: he was our ‘on the road beautician’.
K: And I think that you know, he introduced us to looking after ourselves. So, personally, looking at the programmes and looking at how things go, I wouldn’t mind an old nip & a tuck if I needed one. I’m cool with all of that stuff. And just in case someone is offering – I am okay with that!
With Stephen, what is the future planned? Is there going to be a memorial planned?
R: We’ve a couple of things that we’re putting together ourselves for our way of dealing with it. We’ve got a special on the 1st March which is the launch of the Boyzone album and it’ll also be a tribute to Steo and that is our thing and its also a TV special. That is for us – that is our thing. We’ve also got a couple of things that are happening in Ireland at the moment which I think that we will have up and running by the summer, please God. There a couple of things, personal things that we want to do for his memory – so his legacy will live forever.
It seems that nowadays, when there is tragedy, it is turned into a whole song and dance concert.
R: No, we’ve got a record out and we’re trying to be the new band we want to be. We have to forget the band that we were and that was the most amazing years of our lives. We now have to go forward as this four piece – a new Boyzone. We don’t have a choice – we have to go on as we are.
When Stephen died did you think about calling it a day?
M: Yeah, we did, we didn’t know what to think. We had a multitude of confusing emotions going on at that time, it was just too difficult to imagine doing anything as a band together without Stephen but as time has progressed and we have certainly realised that we prefer being in each other’s company rather than not regarding our loss. Only the four of us understand how the four of us feel – there is a comfort in being with each other. Because only the four of us understand how the four of us feel.
And what about Stephen’s husband Andrew – have you been able to comfort him?
R: Andrew has dealt with this his own way and he is grieving his own way. He has travelled quite a lot, he has got his teeth stuck into a couple of things that he had planned for the memorial, that he put on, and also finishing his book. To be honest, we have kind of stood back, we asked if he needed help and he said “No, no. I want to do this”. He has had good days and bad days – we call, we text, we hear from him every now and then. He is trying to rebuild his life. You know, he is going through the hardest time that he will ever know.
And what about your solo career Ronan?
R: I start on Thursday & then I’m on the road for a month and then that’s it – I’m back with the boys and while the tour is going on we are doing promotion and so on. I’ve got a month left and that is it, I’m done, and then it is Boyzone for the rest of the year.
Are you going to LA to be an actor Ronan?
R: No, I’m just going out with the kids & Yvonne for July & August, just going on a holiday. Yeah, I’ve got a few bits of work while I’m over there.
Are you all still going to be going when you’re sixty?
S: I think so, yeah. Why not! The Stones did it!
You’ve got Boyzone mafia, did you know about that?
M: Yeah, that’s right, I heard about that on Twitter. Its a group of followers for Boyzone who are proper hardcore who will protect us.
K: That sounds cool doesn’t it?