FIVE GO MAD IN CORSETS
Transvestites, booze, gambling and Mariah Carey-baiting. loaded joins boy band Five for a top night of debauchery in Sweden.
As J chats up a transvestite by the bar, Rich is working his way through a packet of Bensons, Abs and Sean are gambling stacks of cash, and Scott, like everyone else, has necked far more booze than his mother would be happy about. Oh, and they’re swearing like troopers. I’m shocked and sickened. Pop combo Five’s promotional tour of Stockholm has shoved a landmine under my lazy-arsed preconceptions of how a boy band works. And nobody wants that before breakfast.
You see I was under the impression that Five, like boy bands since the beginning of time, had one simple mission: that, through the medium of song and dance, they should moisturise the virgin-white gussets of Glitter-friendly girlies worldwide, and translate this fervour into merchandise sales - all the while keeping a shiny veneer of boy-next-door innocence. So why is Sean drinking sambuca and embracing a 6ft man in a dress?
Recent research has proved that the first ever boy band was the Disciples, managed by a man called Jesus O Nazareth back in the year 18AD. While no one knows what their music was like (the lyrics have survived in a book called Psalms). The Disciples were massive - they made The Beatles look like Gay Dad. Tragically, it all ended in scandal and recrimination when, like Malcolm McLaren, manager Nazareth’s fame outgrew the band and he started showing off, expanding fish and surfing with his feet. NAz was found murdered in a park, strung up in a macabre echo of the Jim Morrison pose.
Anyway, from the Disciples, through the Bay City Rollers, Wham, Bros, Take That and now Five, the world has always packs of men to entertain them. And loaded has made it its mission to find out why, God, why.
We catch up with Five in the luxurious backstage area of a Swedish TV studio. Their dressing room is huge and comes replete with creaking leather lounge, free sweets and a big mirror like the one out of Fame. Five are lounging about on the sofas. There’s Rich, the lucky bleeder who’s banging Billie; Abs, who claimed to be “wiggy wiggy, getting busy” on a recent single; Sean, dry Northerner, only smiles by appointment; Scott, who once made his head bleed with hair wax; and finally leader J, with a goatee beard and a head made out of angles.
Before we’ve even shaken hands, we’re plunged into disaster. Sean’s got a nosebleed minutes before they’re due on stage. A buxom Swedish TV exec runs in, panicked.
“What if Sean starts to bleed again?” she blurts
“What do we do?”
J’s blue eyes twinkle with mischief. “Well, we fuck off!”
“We fuckin’ do one,” agrees Sean.
“But can’t the other four finish the song?” pleads the Swede, on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
“No,” grins J. “We’re only miming, you know.”
As loaded snuggles up to Five on the sofa, it quickly becomes apparent they aren’t quite the manufactured automata of boy-band legend. Maybe, after all, their souls haven’t been sold to Our Price, and Five are actually a bunch of ordinary blokes who just happen to be irresistible to the under-16s.
But if that is true, surely they’ve got to feel a bit wanky with all the make-up and dancing and that?
“Oh yeah,” J grins widely, “I must admit, when Take That and East 17 were the big bands, I’d sit there with my mates saying, “Look at them wankers, I wouldn’t do that if you gave me three million quid.”
So why do you do it?
“I’d been writing hip-hop for a few years but nothing was happening. Then I saw the audition advertised and thought, ‘I’ll get in one of those boy bands, make my money, go back to the hip-hop.’ Sure it was still dancing, feeling like a ponce…”
He looks nervously at the others. “But now I’m loving every minute of it.”
Yeah but you’re not Motorhead. You can’t go out on the piss every night, you can’t fuck your fans, you can’t…
“This might surprise loaded readers,” J butts in, “but we do go out clubbing, we get back at about seven in the morning, put our heads under the shower and go to work at nine. You shoukd have seen Sean this morning - he was wrecked!”
Aha! So what happened last night?
“We pissed Mariah Carey right off,” Sean grins. “We heard she was having a party in Stockholm so we went along. The owner gave us a load of Jack Daniel’s and we were having a really good night. Then she came in fucking singing. The whole fucking crowd just stood up and started clapping! In a nightclub! So I stand on my chair, and I’m shouting, ‘Oi, love! Nice one, like, but sit down and shut up, yeah?’ So she says something like, ‘I’m doing it for the atmosphere.’ And I went, ‘Yeah, yeah, love. Just sit yourself down.’”
Getting pissed up and shouting at Carey? In a nightclub? Axl Rose would spin in his grave if he wasn’t still alive. So what about the ladies?
“Since we had the Number One,” says J, his eyes sparkling, “things’ve started picking right up. We were in Dublin the other night for the MTV Awards, and they were literally queuing!”
Just to clarify, you bed your fans?
“Girls Ive met in clubs and that, yeah, sound,” Sean shrugs, “But I’d never sleep with a really young fan.”
Hmm. How’s about you, J?
“I have never, ever, ever gone to bed with a 16 or 17-year-old fan,” he insists. But he’s smiling.
The other great boy band taboo is drugs. I know there’s no way Five are going to admit to cavorting with the crazy chemist. But, godammit, I have to ask them anyway. Rich was the first one to pipe up.
What? Are you saying you don’t take drugs?
What about you, Abs?
I'm not going to get you to admit a thing, am I?
“No chance,” grins Abs, as a groomer swoops in to dust a bit of powder under their noses. “I don’t even know what they are.”
Show time. Sean’s nose has finally stopped bleeding, and the band are being led to the stage. Suddenly, we clock the crowd - there's a hormone storm going on and we’re caught in the middle without a raincoat. It’s all arms, wailing and filthy banners. Five walk out and the crowd go mental. Not mental like people at a Stereophonics gig, but proper, psychiatric mental. The band, utterly unfazed, put on a superb performance. And then another disaster: Rich’s trousers split. He runs offstage and there is chaos.
Scott grabs a microphone and tries to rescue the situation. “We’ve got a treat for you ladies…”
“We’ve got loaded with us here tonight!”
The effect couldn’t have been worse if he’d pulled down his pants and shat on the front row. Thankfully he rescues the situation, by singing. Yes, singing. In tune. Live. Hang on a minute, I thought pop stars weren’t meant to do that. They have no talent, they’re exploiting the kids, they’re manufactured suckers of Satan’s blah de blah de blah de blah blah blah…
“People are always going to say that,” a sweaty J tells me when we resume our chat backstage. “You don’t look any further. No one knows that Sean can play piano, no one knows that I can run a studio and produce. No one knows that we can actually sing well.”
And, to be fair, not just anyone can get up on a stage and call themselves a boy band. Five have excellent tunes (you can tell a good pop tune by the length of time it takes to leave your head, and Five’s last single ‘Keep on Movin’ has started squatting in mine), they’re real showmen and, most importantly, they don’t take themselves too seriously. They actually look like they’re having fun.
“We are just having a laugh with it,” nods Rich. “Bands like the Backstreet Boys get carried away with it all and think they’re doing really, really serious, serious music. But we just think, “Hey, we’re pop, and we know we’re pop.’”
And all this has added up to one monster of a successful act who have sold a staggering 12 and a half million records worldwide. But success at what cost? If I was famous and desired throughout the world at the age of 21, by the time I got to 29 and no one gave a toss, I’d be a psychologist’s adventure playground - either sectioned, hooked on tranquilisers or starring in a musical. Maybe all three.
“I know for a fact that this is affecting us every day,” agrees J. “We are really fucked. Big time. In our heads. We are five of the strangest people.”
“Yeah,” says Rich. “When you go back home for Christmas, you just think, ‘Shit, man, I am really fucking weird.’”
“You know in every school,” adds Abs, “you’ve got, like, one friggin’ weirdo? Well we are that person. You look at the way you’ve acted and you think, ‘This really isn’t normal behaviour.’ It really has twisted us up. We all know that we’re gonna end up nutcases.”
“I can see myself after the band,” says Scott, “just sitting there, rocking like a madman and obsessively signing my name on everything I see.”
So what’s the best tonic for too much work and a sore signing hand? Well a night on the juice, obviously. We meet up with Five at 12.30am. The band are accompanied by a three huge security guards: black suits and discreet microphones. Having security is brilliant. When we get to the first club, they get us straight past all the bouncers and barriers and into the VIP area. Which is full of blokes with laser-cut sideburns and stupid Swedish hair. It’s hell being in a boy band. I have a sly word with security. “Look,” I whisper, “I;ve had a chat with the lads and they’ve asked me to take them somewhere a bit more… interesting.” I wink. “Something y’know, a little different.”
“Well I know a place,” the big Swede begins. “There’s gambling, an all-night bar and, how you say, interesting scenery.”
Within minutes, we’re being ushered out of the clu and round the corner to Stockholm’s red-light district. We enter bar number two and, to our amazement, there they are. Running loose, free as a bird, a pack of 6ft Scandinavian transvestites waving bottles of champagne. I turn to Five, “Look, lads, I'm sorry about this. I ahd no idea…”
But they’ve gone. I stare about me. J is getting in a round of sambuca for a huge trannie called Trixie, while Rich and Sean are in the corner chucking money at the Blackjack in a cloud of smoke. So this is the real Five: raucous, chain-smoking, trannie-baiting pissheads. I knew we’d get there in the end.
By half-three, of course, we’re talking about dancing.
“Our last single, it was ummm, what’s called…?” slurs J, his head on the bar. “Umm, ‘If You’ve Got The Feelin’? Well we hate performing that one.”
“But it’s the one the kids love,” declares Abs, tearing himself away from the Blackjack. “But that dance with the track combined, it’s just like rolling yourself in Gorgonzola and smearing yourself in Edam, it’s a full-on cheesefest, that one.”
By 5.30, Five are medically pissed, but they will be up at 9.30 in the morning for another round of photo-shoots and interviews. J collars me.
“I just want to tell your readers,” he stumbles, “when they see us on TV and call us ponces or whatever, just put yourself in our position, realistically, without saying ‘I wouldn’t do that for three million quid.’ Think about it properly. You would. So if you see us in the street, don’t give us any grief. Shake our hands and we’ll go for a beer, because we’re nice lads.
“But if you see Scott,” he adds, “bludgeon his face into a pulp.”
Special Thanx To: JPS for typing this up!