KEITH DUFFY tells Shelley Marsden why his band feels no rivalry towards One Direction and that their fans bring their own kids to gigs these days
IN November 1993, a bunch of enthusiastic young lads from Dublin’s north side made their now infamous debut performance on Ireland’s The Late Late Show.
Twenty years, twenty five million record sales, four number one studio albums and six number one singles later, Boyzone are still going strong – and celebrating with a new album with the hip-hop sounding title BZ20 on their new label Warner, and a UK/Ireland arena tour – their first since 2011.
There are dissenters who think a ‘boy’ band whose members are now pushing forty should probably call it a day; young whippersnappers like One Direction have gone bigger than any boy band before them.
The facts, however, speak for themselves as the new album climbs steadily up the charts. Their audience may be a little older these days, but it’s there and putting its money where its mouth is.
Keith Duffy, 39, taking a break from a “rollercoaster” of promotional activity for the band that involves a continuous stream of tour rehearsals and interviews, admits the frenetic pace isn’t as easy to take as it used to be.
He says: “We’re double-jobbing it. It’s like years ago, when we’d be running about London like headless chickens doing lots of promo and you’re working 25 hours a day, except this time we’re older, wiser and more appreciative of the opportunities we have. We’re really embracing it.”
There are, one suspects significantly fewer late nights though, and Keith admits that more often than not it’s not partying at Mahiki but getting home and relaxing with a glass of wine and a nice steak.
“To be honest with you, we’re just not able for the hangovers anymore”, he confesses. “Years ago, you could do a week of partying on the trot and it wouldn’t bother you. Now, it’s one late night and two or three days’ recovery time. We’re aul fellahs, we need our eight hours sleep.”
Similarly, as well as the low threshold for wild nights out, their fans aren’t the hordes of screaming girls they once were; more often than not they’re women (and a few men) of a certain age, bringing their own children to concerts.
Says Keith: “We’re not that band any more. That manic hysteria has died down; leave that kind of thing to the likes of One Direction. With our back catalogue of hits, our show is very reflective of the last twenty years, with songs from the new album in there too. We’re not going out there guns blazing, trying to chase bands for the number one spot; we’re just enjoying ourselves and having a laugh”.
Though he’s mentioned the 1D boys a couple of times already, Keith maintains there’s no rivalry: “Bands themselves don’t create rivalry. The press create rivalry between bands. Of course your goal is to have success, but we’re charting in the top ten at the moment, we’re very happy with that. That success gives us the opportunity to perform the songs – and that’s really all we’re after, to enjoy the live shows.
It’s been a long time, says Keith, since the four lads have been able to clear their solo diaries to give them enough time to record and prepare for a tour.
As a four-piece, the dynamic is different and they’ve had to come to terms with that, but they are, he says in a good place. They’re also being very sensible and middle-aged, looking after themselves with regular trips to the gym and salad and chicken rather than “a McDonald’s on the road, like the good old days!”
Keith, Mikey, Ronan and Shane have gone off and pursued various projects on breaks from the band, but the bond (“we know each other inside out and backwards”) is always strong: “We’ve been together since we were kids; we’ve had the highest highs of our lives and unfortunately some of the lowest lows as well. There’s nowhere to hide between us. There’s a great honesty there; there’s no point in anything else because we’d see through it straight away.”
One of the lowest lows was of course the shock death of band member Stephen Gately, who passed away suddenly at his second home in Mallorca from an undiagnosed heart condition on October 10, 2009. He was just 33.
They were extremely close, says Keith, and though they were and still are utterly devastated, “life goes on” and they feel, in some way, that Stephen is always with them.
For the full interview, see this week’s Irish World newspaper (7 Dec 2013).
Boyzone are on UK tour and BZ20 is out now. See http://boyzonenetwork.com.