by Simon Rothstein
This week we put your questions to one of the hottest properties in pop. We caught up with Richard Breen - better known as Abs - in Simon Cowell's office for a revealing webchat.
As part of pop band Five, Abs sold 7 million albums worldwide, going platinum in 27 countries. They also scored 11 Top10 singles in Britain, getting to the top of the charts three times. Now Abs hopes the break-up of the band will mark the beginning, rather than the end, of an era as he launches a solo career.
His debut single What You Got is out on August 19.
Read on to find out what Abs had to say about his solo career, the break up of Five, what Simon Cowell is really like and his reputation as a party animal.
Are you still mates with the boys from Five and do you see them socially?
The only person I keep in touch with is Scott, on a now and again kind of basis. I don't really see the rest of them. I think that is just because they are doing their own thing. They've had five years of madness and are now back to living a normal life.
Is it true you are dating Suzanne Shaw from Hear'Say?
No that is not true, we are just good friends. We hooked up at the Spiderman premier and a couple of other times but that's it. There is no marriage or engagement on the cards.
I am single, 23 and taking advantage of my position in this industry!
What are your plans to make sure you are the next Robbie Williams and not the next Gary Barlow?
I'm setting my own path. I like the way Robbie is just Robbie and not Robbie from Take That. I'd like to be Abs and not Abs from Five - it would be nice to have that eventually.
I think Robbie is amazing, I think he is a wicked entertainer. Hopefully I'll follow along those lines but in my own sort of way.
Were you upset when Sean walked out of Five or were you planning on splitting up anyway?
We weren't upset, we were more concerned about how he was feeling. When the whole split first got mentioned, it died away and everything was normal. But then it would get mentioned again, and die away again. And then the gaps would get closer and closer between mentions until one day we just didn't turn up for work.
You've been described as a party animal. Where do you go to enjoy yourself?
I don't how I get this reputation - I go out and drink lemonade and that is it!
I am a bit of a party animal, I like a few drinks - usually a few shots. You know how it is, you go out for a quiet drink and someone turns up that you haven't seen in a while and then that's it, the shots come out and it all gets a bit crazy.
I sometimes do stupid things. That is why I always go out with a mate so they can look after me. You have a few drinks and then run into walls, eat champagne glasses and hurt yourself.
I hear Simon Cowell is a big fan of yours - were you scared when you first met him? Is like he is in Pop Idol in real life?
You know what, you see all this Pop Idol stuff and he comes across like a proper Mr Nasty. He is nothing like that, he is cool. I have got a really good working relationship with him.
When we first saw him, when we put the band together, he offered us a five-album deal. On my solo career he is really behind me. He is always back and forth from America but every time he comes back he always puts in a little meeting with me.
Plus he has got a nice car I want to borrow so I have to be nice to him.
Why are you called Abs?
My middle name is Abidin, which is Turkish. My first name is Richard. When we started the band there were two Richards, which would have got confusing. People back home call me Abs anyway so we used that.
How did you become a trained ballet dancer and does it help you in your routines?
I did do ballet. It is a well-known fact that ballet is actually the core, the main route, of all dancing. When I was at stage school I did a bit of ballet, I did tap, jazz and break-dancing too.
So I was trained as a dancer when I came into the band, which helped. Now I can get all my tricks and stunts in, whereas before we didn't because the other boys weren't trained. I now make sure I get all my stunts in there.
If you were stuck on a desert island with one person and one record, who and what would you choose?
I would take the girl in the new Darius video, as she's feeling me more than she's feeling him. I don't know what track I would take, it would have to be some good hot summer tune. I'd take my record - it's the perfect summer track.
Your first solo performance was in front of 70,000 people at Party in the Park. Were you nervous starting your solo career in such a high profile setting?
It felt nice to be back. I didn't get that much of a reaction as it was a new song and people didn't really know it. But the vibe that was going on there was cool.
Since then it has been getting bigger. I've done about nine more performances and it has got bigger and louder every time. People are getting familiar with the song and know what it is all about. It's going down really well.
I used to have four guys dance with me, one of them had a beard and an eye-ring, and now I've got six lovely looking women so it's a lot more appealing in that sense.
You auditioned a bevy of beauties for your video - is this something you insisted on or just a perk of the job?
I said that I wanted to pick the girls in my video. I didn't want to leave it down to some crusty old man who works for the production company. I got sent a tape of a hundred girls for extras for the video and I would pick "her, her, her". For the dancers, again there were a hundred girls in the dance studio, ten at a time, dancing and jumping around in front of me.
I picked the girls on a purely professional basis and I had to make sure that they all had rhythm. It was nothing to do with the fact that some of them were dressed scantily and looking sexy!
What is your favourite biscuit?
I'm having a tough one at the minute - it is either chocolate hobnobs or just plain old digestives. Sometimes you can't beat digestives and a cup of tea, just dunking them in. Right now the new little hob-nobs are really doing it for me.
If you could describe your sound/music style in less than five words what would you say it was?
Norie, Auckland, New Zealand
That ain't happening, so many people ask me this but it is too hard to describe. There are so many different styles of music in there. It is just Abs in the studio in a creative way doing whatever I want.
What aspects of being in a group such as Five do you miss?
Norie, Auckland, New Zealand
Seriously I don't miss anything. There are things I do now, like when you turn up to a venue, that I remember doing with the band and you reminisce a lot. A lot of that happens and I am sure there is more of it to come.
But as far as the travelling, performing and recording goes I don't really miss anything. I don't have to get up in the morning worrying about what kind of mood someone is in.
How do you 'keep your feet on the ground' and what do you to unwind?
I think you are either like that or you're not, I am just a down to earth person with a mad job. I can see how people can lose it and get complacent with themselves and their position.
It was mad to get a No1 when I was 18. But the maddest thing is that I look back now, and I'm only 23, and I've already had a Greatest Hits record. Hopefully there will be an Abs Greatest Hits too in a little while, that will be an achievement.
If you could pick anyone to sing a duet with, who would it be?
I have sent one of my songs to Jay Kay from Jamiroquai and I am hoping he is going to collaborate with me. I am into all types of music and just something different would be cool to do.
Where is the most exotic place you have been to?
We played a festival in Rio, called Rocking Rio, which was mad. There were quarter of a million people and that was one of the biggest gigs that we did. We also did something in South America. In Argentina there was a little beachy vibe going on with loads of women in bikinis - that was nice and exotic.
I hear you write/co-write your own songs, is this true and does it get you more respect?
All the Five singles were co-written by me with a couple of the boys and on the solo album all the lyrics are mine and I co-wrote a couple of the tracks with the producers.
To be honest, whether people know that I write does not really bug me and is not a major thing I need to get across. As long as people like the song, at the end of the day, that is what counts.
Who are the biggest influences on your style of music?
I listen to all types of music back home and I believe if you are writing songs, or if you are a musician somewhere, you can hear in your music what you have been influenced by.
I have been listening to everything - chilled stuff, R&B, old-school soul, hip-hop, swing, dance and all types of music.
What is your ideal night out?
I like friends being around me. I am not really bothered whether I'm in or out - I can have a good time either way. If I am going out then lots of drink, women and good music.
How did you get into the music business?
My mum used to go to tap-dancing classes in this little hall in Bethnal Green for ?3 a lesson. I used to go along with her and watch all the women dancing. The teacher would ask if I wanted to join in and I would say forget it, I'm not interested in girlie dancing - says Abs who does ballet!
Eventually I joined in and I started to enjoy it and got quite good at it and then the teacher said I should take it onto a stage school and develop it. I was at the stage school for a few months and one of my singing teachers told me about the audition for Five and Bob's your Uncle.
What is your new single and video like?
The new single is called What You Got, it is a sample of an original track from the 70s called Uptown Top Ranking by Althea and Donna. It is a summertime tune so listen while the sun is shining. The video is on the Box number 120 and various other channels so if you want to see it then ring them up and request it.
When the ideas came in for the video I said it had to be somewhere hot as it is a summertime song, so I thought they might fly me to Rio. But we later ended up in a grotty East End studio with a lot of blue screen and they put the sun in later. Not quite the same but it still looks good.