Boyzone talk about their love lives, plans for Christmas and coping with the death of Stephen Gately

It’s a hard job but someone’s got to do it. Boyzone are back and they’re in town, so obviously we jumped at the chance to relive our teenage dreams with our favourite Irish boy… ahem, man band. We meet them to chat about their new album Dublin To Detroit – an album of Motown classics. It takes them in a new direction for the first time since Stephen Gately died in October 2009 from a heart defect aged just 33.

With Christmas around the corner, Keith Duffy, 40, Mikey Graham, 42, Shane Lynch, 38 and Ronan Keating, 37, are all in good spirits. ‘Are you going to go easy on us today, then?’ winks Keith. We’d love them to just line up in front of us and sing all day, but we’ve got a lot to talk about…

Your new album Dublin to Detroit is very cool, but which of you is the coolest?
Ronan: It’d have to be Shane. You don’t have to even ask that – look at him sitting there in his cool chair with his beard like he’s in some arty magazine!

Oh yes, we like the beard! What do the fans think of it?
Shane: It’s been interesting for Boyzone fans. I don’t think they particularly favour the beard. They’d like to see the face of a 19-year-old from back in the 90s, so the general idea in the Boyzone camp is they don’t like it. I love it. On Instagram and Twitter most of my followers are tattooed, bearded lads – or tattooed, bearded ladies! It’s quite interesting.

So, who’s the least cool?
Mikey: Oooh, me.
R: No, I am. I’m really uncool cos I like naff things. I like 80s music, gadgets, technology and motorbikes. I’m a bit of a geek

The new album is a change of direction for you. Do you wonder what Stephen would have thought?
R: He would’ve been brilliant on this album. Oh my God, brilliant.
Keith: Some songs we had to steer clear of because we don’t have the right vocal for them. Stephen could reach the top notes – he would’ve owned this record. It would’ve been right up his street, those Smokey Robinson high notes.

Do you still feel his presence?
R: We always will. It’s what brings us back together. And when we’re together we always celebrate him. When it comes to his sound, his emotions, his character – it’s left a proper stamp on our lives and we often use his phrases. He’s always around, never forgotten.
K: It’s very hard and very sad still, even five years later.
S: We’re never, ever going to get over it. We all expect and hope that life will be for all of us to grow old and it’s a little easier to accept when somebody 90 years of age passes away, but anyone else and it’s absolutely shocking.
K: We were all out for a beer the other night and we were talking about when we stayed in Detroit with Stephen and it just brought it all straight back. Jesus, it knocked me for six, absolutely crippled me. I’d been OK for ages, but the grief comes in waves.

That sounds so difficult.
K: Do you know what? There’s something really nice about being brought to tears over someone that you’ve lost. We do celebrate and we do enjoy a laugh, but Jesus, it’s still emotional.
R: It’s just so hard [chokes back tears]. We’re still left five years on wondering where he’s gone. We all had plans – he had so many plans. He had a life to live. It’s just so hard to believe that he’s been taken away.
M: It’s as hard to believe he’s gone now as the day he died.

Is it hard performing without him?
S: Professionally you have to stay strong as you’re performing to thousands of people. But when you think you’re all good and you’ve got it together, you let your guard down and that’s when you don’t expect it and your emotions take over.

Do you think your strong bond will keep the band together, and not lose members like Take That?
R: We don’t know. Take That never thought they’d be a three-piece, we never thought we’d be a four-piece, but you don’t know what life’s going to throw at you.

Do your wives or partners get excited they’re with one of Boyzone?
All: No!
K: It’s embarrassing for them.
S: My wife [Sheena White], bless her, I have to bring her to concerts to remind her I’m important.
M: When we get together they have a great time. They don’t watch the show – they sit backstage and get drunk. They live with us. You’re not a pop star in your own home – we wouldn’t get away with it.

Ronan – you’ve been over in Australia, on their X Factor for a while. Will you be returning to the UK next year?
R: I haven’t any plans to. I’ve done five years there and they’ve been great to me. I’ve loved it, but I’ve sacrificed a lot – most importantly being around my kids. I’m planning on working this side of the planet next year.

You said recently that you and your girlfriend, Australian X Factor producer Storm Uechtritz, would like to have babies…
R: We’re just seeing what happens. Life is good and we’re just taking every day as it comes.

There’ve been rumours recently about Zayn Malik from One Direction and drugs. Have you got any advice for them?
S: Nowadays drugs are rampant in our society – they’re in every pub, every club, everywhere. If you want to do them, they’re on every corner and it’s no different for bands, but I don’t think the boys have time for drugs. I think they’re too busy!
K: Noel Gallagher once said that being in a band it’s expected of you. He said: ‘How f***ing weird is that?’ And he’s right. How bad is it that people expect that’s what you do because you’re a pop star? When we were growing up, we loved a drink and that was great, but drugs? Not in the pop world. We don’t have time to be on a comedown – we’re too busy!

Finally, what are you doing for Christmas?
S: We’re just hoping for a white Christmas! [All laugh]

Boyzone’s album Dublin To Detroit is out now

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