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Boyzone's Keith Duffy

May 2008

IT is true that rumours of a Boyzone reunion did pre-date those of a Take That comeback. And they weren't rumours without substance.
"We'd been in negotiations from before Take That got back together," says Keith Duffy.
"But with the politics of the business it takes an awful lot longer... especially when you have five individuals all trying to get time free in their schedules.
"No doubt the Take That thing enticed us to get our fingers out. Seeing their show really inspired us as it was absolutely fantastic. They really raised the bar. And we want to make sure we reach those heights as well."
It was in 2000 that Boyzone split, after a run of 16 consecutive Top 5 hits, which included six UK No. 1 singles and four chart-topping albums.
The reason was Ronan Keating's decision to pursue a solo career.
So weren't they all waiting in the car park to give him a good hiding at the first meet?
"Ah no, no need for that, man.
"We're all a lot older now, we've all got more responsibility with children and so forth and you grow up a great deal when you have children, I think. It makes you worry about somebody else instead of yourself.
"The last thing you want to do is create negative vibes.
"We're all getting on fantastically well. We know each other inside and backward, having spent so many years together as kids, so it's let's say harmonious."
Duffy is with the rest of Boyzone in rehearsals for the tour when we catch up. So how are those dance routines going now you're all circling 30?
"Well, we're ten years older now so you have to put the extra bit of work in, you know."
Have you slowed them down?
"We've actually speeded them up, believe it or not. Remember, we're going in to this tour nice and rested. Usually when we went on tour back in the day we'd be coming out of a promotional tour. You know we'd be knackered tired and we'd have six days to put the whole show together. This time we're giving ourselves a good four, five week's rehearsals so it should be the best show we've ever done."
Are fans getting the pyrotechnics and whatnot?
"Yeah, we've put a lot of money into the production. It would have been very easy for us to have just sold the tickets and have a basic production and made a lot of money but we decided to re-invest the money and put on the best show we possibly can.
"We've fantastic session musicians on there, eight dancers, the pyrotechnics and a lot of special effects. I think the show's going to be absolutely fantastic."
Critics agree. The tour opened on Sunday in Belfast and most reviews were positive, many going on about the lads' stripping to their underwear as part of the show as a sign that they're out to "out sex" Take That.
The show includes the hits Words, Father & Son, Baby Can I Hold You?, When You Say Nothing At All and Love Me For A Reason, plus a Michael Jackson medley and a mix of When The Going Gets Tough with Eric Prydz's Call On Me featuring the five topless on treadmills.
The tour runs for 32 dates but is it a one-off?
"It's difficult to say. But, judging by the ticket sales, there's obviously an audience out there that wants more Boyzone. We have a couple of new songs to be recorded at the moment and we hope to release a greatest hits album with these additional tracks. But who knows? Possibly a new studio album towards the winter."
During the eight year hiatus, Keating had a fairly successful solo career, Stephen Gately and Mikey Graham didn't, while Shayne Lynch opted out of the music business altogether and pursued his passion for motor racing.
Though Gately would later crop up in West End musicals, the group's most visible actor was Duffy, who spent three years in Coronation Street, as marriage-wrecking barman Ciaran McCarthy.
"That all came out of the blue. I said in an interview when I was promoting a short movie that it was very difficult getting acting work because I didn't have a drama background. The producers in Corrie read the article, called me up and gave me a three-month contract. And that grew into three years."
His decision to quit was simply a family matter.
"I was commuting from Dublin to Manchester for that whole period. The kids were missing me, I was missing them, so it got to a point when I need to go home to my family and spend time with them."
Particularly when his daughter Mia, now eight, was diagnosed with autism.
A Dublin school which specialises in teaching autistic children was the key reason he and wife Lisa (they also have a son Jordan, aged 12) have stayed in Ireland.
"I didn't want to jeopardise my daughter's future."
He's now involved in raising awareness of the condition as patron of Irish Autism Action.
"I didn't know anything about it until my daughter was diagnosed," he admits. "It's been a massive learning curve.
"I don't just lend my face to the charity, I am the charity. I do all the organisation of the fund-raising events myself. I have a team of volunteers that work with me and we run the whole thing ourselves. And in the past five years we've opened 12 schools and a diagnostic report centre.
"It's something that I'm very passionate about."
And no doubt has put your past squabbles with fellow members of your pop band into perspective.
"That's exactly it, man. There are more important things in life. My situation with my daughter was disastrous at the time and very upsetting. For Ronan it hasn't been easy either. He's had to bury his mother and his father-in-law recently."
Mid-way through the tour Duffy will pass his tenth wedding anniversary, so what has he planned?
"I'm going to be on stage, unfortunately. My wife will be in Spain because my brother's getting married over there the day after on the 25th of June. I'm the best man so I'm going to be coming off stage on the 24th, getting some sleep, flying to Spain a day late to see my wife on our anniversary and to be best man for my brother's wedding."
Is the speech sorted?
"It has yet to be finalised. But my brother is such a character I won't be short of stories, to say the least."
Boyzone have played Nottingham numerous times over the years so naturally he must have a story to tell about us.
"There was a health farm we were staying at in Nottingham and on one night in Sherwood Forest at three or four o'clock in the morning we decided to go an play hide and go seek, of all things. It wasn't as much fun when you started to sober up and you were hiding but nobody was finding you.
"And everyone's back in bed while I'm hiding in the forest on my own."

Boyzone bring their Back Again... No Matter What tour to the Trent FM Arena on Tuesday and Wednesday June 3 and 4.

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