“ANYONE who watched us that night on The Late Late Show dancing like eejits wouldn’t have thought we would last 20 minutes, let alone 20 years!”
Keith Duffy is laughing away as he works through dance rehearsals alongside Boyzone bandmates Mikey Graham, Shane Lynch and Ronan Keating.
This year sees the group celebrate its 20th anniversary, a huge achievement in any industry, never mind one as fickle as the world of pop music.
With a new album, a new single (Love Will Save The Day) and a big tour getting under way there is plenty to talk about and as ever Duffy is a livewire. The night he is referring to has gone down as one of the funniest moments in Irish TV history.
Back in 1993 Gay Byrne introduced what he said would be hailed as “Ireland’s answer to Take That” and out stepped Boyzone, bopping away madly to some awful tune.
The audience looked bemused, Byrne looked somewhat confused and I’m sure people at home must have been laughing at some of the moves being thrown by Duffy and Keating, in particular!
Duffy continued: “Looking back now it’s hilarious, but at the time we just went for it. We were so young! That’s the thing that strikes me now whenever I see that footage, just how young we were. Everyone laughed at us, I guess, but we worked very hard to make it.”
And make it they did.
Under the guidance of manager Louis Walsh Boyzone started racking up the number one hits and selling albums by the bucketload.
The figures are startling. 19 singles in the UK top 40; six UK number one hits; 25million records sold worldwide, four studio albums and seven compilation albums.
“I’m immensely proud of what we have achieved together,” says Keith.
“20 years is an amazing milestone for us and we are all still the best of friends, one big family really. And the fans are what make it all so special, the support we have had over two decades now, from day one really, has just been immense.”
While the band members have worked on solo projects over the years, they always come back together and the past few weeks have seen them spending a lot of time in rehearsals preparing for their new tour that keeps them busy on both sides of the Irish Sea until Christmas.
Keating is now a hugely successful solo artist with a huge following in Australia as a result of his work as a judge and mentor on their version of The X Factor, while Duffy has honed his acting craft, appearing for years in Coronation Street and most recently in the cult Irish crime drama Love/Hate.
“Over the years we have all worked on our own projects but we remain Boyzone,” said Keating.
“This is a hugely exciting time of the year for us. It’s just great to all be back together. I can hardly believe 20 years have passed, but we’re still here and I love that.
“It’s going to be a great buzz getting out there and doing what we do best. The new single is getting a lot of play and tickets have sold really well in all of the venues. The loyalty of the fans is just brilliant.
“I can’t wait to get out there and get going. 2013 has been a very busy year for all of us, but this is what it’s all about.”
Boyzone’s journey has had its share of sadness too, with the untimely death of Stephen Gately in October 2009, at the age of 33 from a congenital heart defect while on the Spanish holiday island of Majorca.
Stephen was incredibly popular with the fans and his funeral in Dublin was something I will never forget, the love and support that the community showed for him and his family. And Boyzone.
His bandmates spent the night before the funeral inside the church with his coffin after Stephen’s mother had told them that he had always been afraid of the dark.
Keating sang at the service and each of the bandmates gave a special eulogy, except Lynch who couldn’t find the words to express just what his friend meant to him.
Duffy continued: “I have never seen anything like that day on Sherriff Street. I’ll never forget the turn out and the kindness of people. Stephen was loved.
He would have been so proud that the band has got to 20 years together. And we’re going to do him proud.
“Those were difficult days, they really were. But they brought us closer. We were always close anyway, but what happened was just such a shock. We stuck together and were there for each other. So this album and this tour is a celebration of everything really.”
The lovely thing about the group is the chemistry between Duffy, Lynch, Graham and Keating.
They’ve been around each other for so long you often forget that they aren’t actually family members, the way they interact and joke and laugh and genuinely have time for each other.
Lynch is known for his love of cars and racing and is often to be found at his business in west London working away on his latest project. It’s a lifelong passion, as much as his music is.
He’s a brilliant character. One of the funniest anecdotes of the last 20 years involves him and a certain famous American rapper who ended up getting a “slap” from Lynch on the night the MTV Europe awards came to Dublin!
The less said about that the better, but who could ever forget the tabloid headline ‘Rough Paddy Hits Puff Daddy’?!
He said: “Everybody knows I’m mad about motors! I always have been really. But first comes the band and the lads. We’ve had some great days and some great nights together and I’m looking forward to more. 20 years together means so much to us.
“I just want to say a massive thanks to all the fans who have followed us through the good times and the bad, they mean the world to us. This tour is going to be very special.
“The dance rehearsals have been great craic, learning new moves and getting into shape for the next few weeks. I can’t wait, it’s a great buzz.”
And the quiet man of the band, Mikey Graham, agrees.
He said: “So much has happened in the last 20 years, it’s incredible. I can still remember going for the audition and then that night on the Late Late and then suddenly whooooosh! Off we went. It has been some journey and we are still together.
“I just want to say a massive thank you to all the fans who have followed and supported us, right from the very beginning. They are brilliant. We’re going to go out there and do them proud now.
“It has been great fun getting back into the studio and going through everything again. Bring it on!”
BZ20 by Boyzone is out now. Boyzone’s 20th anniversary tour continues in Birmingham on December 6.