"I Still Love Billie" - Rich

[Hello! Magazine - August 2000]

Hit boy band Five are on a roll after their sensational collaboration with Queen and their unforgettable performance at Party in the Park in London. Now as they prepare for their upcoming UK tour, the group's tabloid gossip fave Ritchie Neville reveals the truth about his relationship with Mariama from The Honeyz and why he can't forget ex-girlfriend Billie Piper

How did the exciting collaboration with Queen come about?
It happened when we were recording the second album and we wanted to do something along the same lines as Everybody Get Up. We were thinking about a rock song and We Will Rock You was top of the list. So, we contacted the Queen camp to use the sample and Brian May said: 'No, you can't use the sample. But I'd love to come in and re-do it.'

Were you flattered that they chose to work with you?
Yes! That was really, really cool. Queen have made a lot of great songs that I really like.

What were Brian May and Roger Taylor like to work with?
They are both just so down-to-earth - they were a total laugh to work with. From our point of view - and even theirs - it's been a whole learning experience.

It's quite a rock anthem. Does it signal change of direction for the band?
Not really, because we've always been a bit 'edgier' than other boy bands and we've always experimented with difference sounds. You never know quite what to expect from FIVE.

Are you working on any new material at the moment?
Not yet, but we will be working on the third album in the autumn. We never know ourselves what a record will be like until it happens. But there will be a bit of rock, rap and hip-hop all chucked into the pot and mixed around.

After three years together, does everyone in the band still get on well?
Yes, now more than ever - we're really close.

You preformed with Queen at London's Party in the Park - did you have a good time?
It was absolutely brilliant, really cool - apart from the rain, but you can't control the weather. It was nice having the chance to catch up with other bands and to have a good old chat.

You've been romantically linked with Mariama from The Honeyz.
We've been out a couple of times - she's cool, but it's nothing really serious. I really don't want to get into another serious relationship for a while. I'm just playing the field and enjoying myself!

So, you like being single?
To an extent, yes. But I do like having a girlfriend and I do miss being in a relationship. There are pros and cons on both sides.

Were you pleased to see your ex-girlfriend Billie Piper top the charts recently with Day and Night?
Yes, definitely! We have spoken since the break-up and we're actually really good mates again. I still see a lot of her.

It must have been hard leaving the home you shared when you split up.
It was. Billie kept the flat in London because it was hers to begin with, and I've got a house in Dorset

Did you ever discuss marriage?
Oh yes! We were dead serious about it. We were together for two years, so I'm definitely glad we're still friends. And who knows what will happen in the future? We are still very, very close and just because it's not working now due to our current circumstances - we are both so busy - it doesn't mean to say its not going to wok in the future. I'd say we're definitely both still in love.

Was it the pressure of touring and fame that contribute to the split?
Yes. It's just hard and we are both quite possessive of each other, which added extra strain to the relationship.

Are you still going ahead with your 21st birthday party celebrations?
No. I'm going to be in America now, promoting.

Your break-up with Billie was so well documented - do you have girls throwing themselves at you now that they know you're single?
Well [laughs] I haven't been doing badly!

Seriously, how do you cope with all the attention from fans?
It's part and parcel of what I do - it comes with the job. I think it's funny really, and it hasn't become a problem for me, yet. But I do get recognised everywhere I go now.

You've had a bit of a tough time with the break-up and other things going wrong for you, but are things looking more positive now?
I had a run of pretty bad luck. But I did grab a week's holiday when I got back off the tour. I'd been ill with chicken pox and crashed my car, so I needed a break. I'm definitely much happier now. Things can get you down and it has been hard getting used to criticism in the tabloids. But now I just take it on the chin. I don't let anything get me down anymore. I'm young and carefree!

You've mentioned several times in the past that you'd like to have a solo career. Have you thought any more about it?
It's definitely on the cards. I want to explore other avenues of music and I also want to get into acting and movies. I'm going to conquer the world! [laughs] Well my mum always said. 'Think big and you will be big!' and I've come this far so why not?

If you were to go solo would you stick to the same music as FIVE?
I wouldn't want to be categorised in to any particular niche. It could go in any direction. Whatever sounds good to me at the time. I'll go for it.

What other plans have you got lined up?
We've got a UK arena tour coming up in December. Before that we're doing European and American promotion and recording the third album for release next year.