Five with BBC Radio 1

Interview: 3rd August 2001

So, we meet Five (or rather, three of Five) in a trendy bar in North London on a baking hot day. The lads are hungry. They're pacing about wanting something to eat (and they still hadn't ate by the time we left the bar about an hour and a half later) and are frustrated. They look like they're just on the right side of an argument, though they're pleasant to all the various reporters and film crews who are interviewing them all day about the upcoming release of current single 'Let's Dance' and album 'Kingsize'.

On the bar is a mountain of clothes for Abs, Richie and J. They're downstairs in a dimly lit room ready to be interviewed and we get the call to go down. Stepping over about 10 pairs of desert boots (why that many?) we meet the lads...

They're speaking on the day of the final of Big Brother 2001, about 8 hours before Brian wins the 70 grand. So it seems relevant to ask them who they're supporting. But Abs is the only one that shows any interest. 'Bryan, because he's funny' he says.

Continuing with the idea though, I ask them if they can see any parallels in the Big Brother lifestyle to the life that you lead? "Goldfish bowl" asks J?
"Yes, like, your whole life is planned out for you..."
J: "No, cos ours isn't at all."
Richie: "It is when we're working in that we come to work, and we have a day's schedule."
J: "Yeah, but that's like anyone."
Richie: "But when we go home it's not like that."
J: "But unlike a lot of bands, our whole thing isn't planned out. We just stumble month by month, fortnight by fortnight or something. It isn't planned for us."
R1: "What I thought was a bit scary was that on your new website, you've got a diary of what you're doing.
J: "Yeah, well when you're promoting something, you know next month or two months or something."
Richie: "And we have actually said at some points, more in the first year when we were just doing 18 hour days and it wasn't pleasant to be honest. We used to go ah, life in a goldfish bowl. So you can relate to it, yeah."

R1: "So when you're at this stage, and you're about to start promoting a new album, a new single and everything, is there this kind of dread or fear, just thinking 'Oh no, I've got to get on the conveyor belt again...'"
Richie: "Nah..."
J: "Not anymore there isn't. I could say there used to be."
Richie: "We know what to expect now..."
J: "A) we know what to expect and B) we know we're not going to let anyone work us anywhere near as hard as they used to work us.
Richie: Cos they come up with blind threats as well sometimes record companies. They're like 'Oh, well if you don't do this then we're gonna do this, this and this...' - and it's like, well, do it then..."
J: "Before we would have gone 'No, no...' but now we're like 'Well, do it' and they never do it, so you just realise. So, no, you wake up now and it's like, 'Cool!' Especially promoting this album and single out so far, it's actually been very pleasant."

Five have been away for about a year now, and the boys mention in the next part of the interview (coming next Monday) that they were worried about how they'd be seen when they returned to the pop world after such a long break. But during their break to record the new material, there's been another development. "Around the start of this year, there was this whole spat between 'cred' acts and 'pop' acts" I ask. "Elton John and George Michael and U2 had a go at your Westlife's and Spice Girls' and so on... you kind of missed out on that - what's your opinion on that - do you think they've got any right to have a go?"
Richie: "We don't really go in for that - purely because, we've always lived by the rule that we don't see anyone else as competition unless we're releasing on the same week. We're doing what we do, they're doing what they do, and there's no correlation between that."
J: "And there's no reason for people to have a... If it was completely churned out crap, nothingness pop music, like a lot of pop music is, then I can see them having a go, but you do genuinely get good pop songs, like you get good songs in any genre of music - people need to stop being negative and just having a go cos it's pop music and they don't see it as being hip and cred to like pop music."
Richie: "They've got to understand there's a market for it, and that some people actually really do like pop and fine - but pop doesn't really need to be crap."
J: "And plus, people like George Michael started out in Wham - which is I'd say very much more pop than we could ever hope to be, and also the stuff he writes nowadays is pop anyway. And Elton John, and U2, it's pop music. It's all kind of amalgamated into one thing now, whereas U2 can release a song and it goes into the pop charts and there's no real defining thing now - apart from when you do get really really crap watery pop music that shouldn't be released, cos people have just put it together to be released just as a song to make money."
Richie: "Yeah, it's a formula."
J: "Yeah, if there's something in it, and you have actually put something into writing the song, then you can't actually have a go at it, really."
R1: "I see it as them trying to cast off what they've done in the past..."
J: "Of course they are."
Richie: "Yeah, probably."

J continues: "We hope that after we've disappeared, or now, that people are gonna see pop music as a bit more of a positive light, that it doesn't have to be this crappy form of music that anyone can do cos there's no talent in it. You can be as into pop music as you are into rock music if you're in a rock band, you can put as much pride and as much into writing your songs - it's just a lot of pop bands are that typical thing where it's completely put together and the songs are just written for them. Like the whole Britney Spears thing was round - every song that loads of people were releasing had that same kind of Scandanavian pop sound cos people know it'll do well - and that's what gets it a bad name 'cos there isn't any feeling or thought going into it. We're not denying we wanna make money, but that sort of music is just to make money, and there's no feeling goes into it. So I can understand when people have a go at that kind of pop music."

"What happens when you drop a member - is it like growing another arm? How do you cope?"
J: "Because we're the last minute boys as our manager used to call us, we always managed to pull everything off at the last minute or put stuff together at the last minute, even though it's all rushed and it doesn't look like it's going to come off. Whatever happens to us, or whatever comes into the equation, if it's a big thing like two members being off for instance, we're like 'How we gonna get through' at first, but somehow we always just manage to get through it - it just always sorts itself out - it just works."
Abs: "Yeah - there's no slacking either. We re-choreograph the dance moves, and three of us re-record the vocal."
Richie: "Course it feels different, cos you're going from five people to three."

...end of part one...