5ive spill the beans
The thing about 5ive is that they were a proper boyband. They swore, they drank, they got into scraps with each other. They had celebrity girlfriends [Ritchie Neville went out with Billie Piper for two years] and threw tellies out of windows [once]. Most importantly, they made really good pop songs. They had three UK Number Ones, sold 15million singles worldwide, won a BRIT award in 2000 for Best Pop Act and toured with *NSYNC. From 1997 to 2001, Ritchie Neville, 33, Abs Breen (now Abz Love), 33, Scott Robinson, 33, Sean Conlon, 31, and Jason ‘J’ Brown, 36, larged it as the bad lads of pop.
Then, it all went belly up. Sean left and there were stories of serious burnout. Their last single, Let’s Dance, went to Number One in September 2001 (the video featured a cut-out of Sean) and the band split, leaving a nation of 5ive fans in mourning.
Now they’ve reformed (yay!) for ITV2’s The Big Reunion, which has summoned six ’90s bands back from the pop wilderness (Liberty X, 911, Atomic Kitten, B*Witched and Honeyz, too) to put on what is being billed by the show as “the performance of their lives.”
The lads seem genuinely thrilled at being back together. But behind the banter flying round the room is a cautionary tale about the dark side of pop. All are frank about how they struggled after the split. Even Scott, arguably the most grounded 5ive member, did nothing but drink and play on his PlayStation for a year. Abz, a rather fragile, philosophical little soul, fared the worst, his woes culminating with a stint in rehab two years ago.
Today, happily, they’re all in a good place and there’s a decade of gossip to catch up on. But, before we start, there’s one tiny point. They’re called 5ive but there’s only um, four of them…
Ritchie: He came to the initial meeting for this show and he was all into it. And then he watched a documentary about fame and sent us an e-mail saying, “I’m out.”
Scott: He’s not interested in the limelight or the publicity.
Are you p*ssed off?
Scott: You can’t be p*ssed off. It’s his choice. The door’s still open; he’d have to come through it…
Sean: Not wide open. He’d have to go through the same process as us.
But how can you be a foursome when you’re called 5ive?
Ritchie: We’re 5ive.
But there’s four of you…
Sean: The thing is, with Westlife or Boyzone or Take That, they all had a member short and they didn’t change their name.
Ritchie: People go on about the name, but at the end of the day that’s what we were known as and that’s what we’ll always be. Take That didn’t come back as “Take Tha” did they? Without the T?
Is it weird being together again? Are there the same tensions?
Sean: We argue about the same stuff.
Ritchie: The important stuff like, “That doesn’t look right.” “Yes it does…”
Sean: Everyone knew we had our problems, because sometimes we fell out on live telly. There was a bit of darkness with us which upset people.
Scott: We still have the banter, but with no bullsh*t.
Have you had a big night out on the lash?
Ritchie: We went out before Christmas.
Sean: We were back home by 1am.
Scott: I do the school run in the mornings [Scott married girlfriend Kerry in 2001 and they have two sons, Brennan, 11, and Kavan, six].
Don’t say that, you’re meant to be a pop star…
Scott: I do!
Ritchie, you own a bar in Sydney now, don’t you?
Ritchie: Yeah. People think having a bar is fun, but I tell you what, when it’s 1am and you’re taking the bins out…
Do you ever think, “I was Ritchie from 5ive and now I’m taking the bins out?”
Ritchie: No. I’ve done painting and decorating since, and I worked in a gastro pub, because I wanted to learn how to cook. I couldn’t let pride get in the way.
Abz, you’re covered in tattoos now. What’s that one on your hand?
Abz: It’s a flower of life. I had it done yesterday.
Sean: He’s about peace and love, is Abz. He lives on a farm. He’s got chickens and horses. He eats trees.
Abz: [Cracks up.] You make me sound like some kind of loon! I don’t eat trees, but I’m back to nature. I gave up all the bright lights and the clubbing for a bit of gardening, man. I’ve got carrots. I’ve got a nice little herb garden. I don’t need the Range Rover or all that sh*t no more. All the Louis Vuitton sh*t. I’ve got one bag left from the heyday and that’s it.
It’s all gone?
Abz: All gone. After the band, I went on a rock ’n’ roll one for about five years. Lost, like a quarter of a million pounds, which was everything, my whole life.
Abz: I’m not going to get into it…
Abz: Nah, nah. A few wrong investments.
That’s what they call it these days?
Abz: I started running round with a millionairess. I was kind of her pet. [Everyone cracks up.] I got, like, “Delicious” tattooed on my neck.
For the millionairess?
Abz: Not for her, it was where I was at the time. Changed my name to Love. I went on a bit of a mad one and nearly killed myself. Seriously. Then I met my [current] girlfriend [Vicky], who saved my life, and now I live on the farm. My missus was like this white beam of light.
She’s a good influence?
Abz: [Nods.] She was this angelic voice calling me over.
You were really thinking about killing yourself?
Abz: No – like, my lifestyle.
Are you off the drink and drugs now?
Abz: Yeah, I’m a good boy now. I’m all about the nature. I love it.
Let’s talk about the good old days. Ritchie, you described yourselves as “delinquents”…
Ritchie: Yes. [All laugh.]
What was the most rock ’n’ roll thing you’ve done?
Scott: I spent £45K on a car on my Visa card.
Collectively, how many women did you sleep with?
Abz: [To Ritchie] Probably 90 per cent is you, innit?
Ritchie: New girlfriends always ask me this. My honest answer is I don’t know. However, I did most of it between the ages of 15 and 19. Since 19, I’ve been a serial monogamist.
We’ve heard you’ve got a big willy...
Ritchie: Where’d you hear that?
We can’t reveal our sources...
Sean: It is pretty big, actually, Rich, to be honest. I remember seeing it years ago when we were having a shower.
How about the rest of you boys?
Scott: I was with my girlfriend [now wife] the whole way through. I was never tempted.
Abz: At the start, I was teetotal and with my girlfriend. It was after the band I got a bit wild.
Sean: I’m a council estate kid. I did all my drugs and drinking when I was 13.
Were you all depressed when the band split?
Sean: Ooh yeah. Big time.
Ritchie, you also said you drank a lot. Was it as bad as Abz?
Ritchie: I was definitely really depressed and lost. I’m not going to lie; I was also smoking a little bit too much. I didn’t know what I wanted to do.
Scott: I think we’ve all been through that.
Did you all leave 5ive with enough money not to work?
Ritchie: We weren’t multi-millionaires.
Sean: For our ages, we had a lot of money.
Have any of you worried about paying the bills?
Abz: F*ck, yeah. I had nothing. I’ve had to go to my mum and ask to borrow rent.
Ritchie, are you lying when you can’t say how many fans you’ve slept with?
Ritchie: Not fans. Women. I honestly can’t remember…
Ritchie: Not thousands.
Ritchie: I would say in the region of 50 to 150.
Others: No way!
Abz: I’d say 500 to 1,000, and 80 per cent was between the age of 15 to 17.
Sean: I’m saying 504.
Ritchie: I don’t think it’s that high.
Are there any old conquests on The Big Reunion?
Ritchie: Er, no.
Scott: Ritchie was quite lucky with the band selection.
Who have you pulled? It wasn’t anyone from Steps, was it? Maybe Lisa [Scott-Lee]?
Ritchie: I’m not going there.
Faye [Tozer]? H?
Sean: Just say it.
Ritchie: Er, Lisa.
Abz: A full-on f*ckfest!
Did she see your huge member?
Ritchie: I’m not going there.
What’s going on in your love life now?
Ritchie: I’ve been going out with a beautiful Australian girl for a year.
How about you, Sean?
Sean: I’m married.
Are you all scared about getting up on stage?
Ritchie: I was big time, but less so as time goes on.
Sean: We’re not over- confident and we’re not under-confident.
Scott: I think we’re going to smash it.
What advice would you give One Direction
Abz: I couldn’t tell them sh*t. They’re killing it.
Are you doing this show for the music, or do you need the money?
Ritchie: Like anything, you do it for a number of reasons.
Do you need the money?
Ritchie: The money’s good, but it’s not like I need it. More than anything, it’s unfinished business.
Sean: You want to be back on the big stage.
Ritchie: I broke down in tears when a Coldplay song came on in Pizza Express. I broke down in tears because I wasn’t doing music any more.
Sean: What pizza?
Ritchie: [Sounds slightly irritated.] I don’t know.
Abz: Did you cry into it?
Ritchie: No, because it hadn’t come yet.