TIM BOOTH (JAMES)

IN THIS VERY SPECIAL TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTIETH EDITION OF THE MOUTHCAST, RECORDED BACKSTAGE PRIOR TO A RECENT SHOW BY ENDURING MANCHESTER BAND JAMES, TALISMANIC FRONTMAN TIM BOOTH OPENS UP AND DISCUSSES HIS LIFE AND BELIEFS…

Pre-Order the new James album LIVING IN EXTRAORDINARY TIMES here
Live portraits for The Mouth Magazine by Molly Richards Photography. Visit her online here


KEITH DUFFY

AHEAD OF A SHORT RUN OF UK DATES FOR BOYZLIFE (A GREAT VALUE KNOCKABOUT ‘HITS AND AUTOBIOGRAPHY’ EVENING ALONGSIDE HIS FRIEND AND FORMER WESTLIFE MEMBER BRIAN McFADDEN), THE CORONATION STREET ACTOR AND BOYZONE MEMBER KEITH DUFFY IS IN FRANK AND AMIABLE MOOD. HE’S WILLING TO LOOK BACK AT HIS CAREER AND EXAMINE THE PRESSURES OF HIS SUCCESS, AND EXPLAIN WHAT IT IS THAT HAS KEPT HIM GROUNDED AS A PERSON IN THE FACE OF A QUARTER CENTURY OF FAME AND ATTENTION. I WONDER ALOUD HOW MANY INTERVIEWS HE MUST HAVE DONE OVER THE YEARS. “PLENTY! IF I GET ASKED SOMETHING I’VE BEEN ASKED BEFORE I TEND TO JUST ANSWER A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENTLY, TO KEEP MYSELF ENTERTAINED,” HE SAYS…

SO IN THE VERY FIRST INTERVIEW FOR BOYZLIFE YOU START OFF BY SAYING YOU AND BRIAN MET AT A GIG… AND THEN LATER ON IT BECOMES THAT YOU MET ON THAT CRAZY LADS NIGHT OUT WITH STEVIE WONDER, ROBERT DENIRO AND NEIL ARMSTRONG…
Ha ha ha ha… Yeah, that’s right. And don’t forget Muhammad Ali. He was definitely there too!

YOU’RE OUT ON THE ROAD VERY SOON WITH BRIAN – SO I SUPPOSE THE FIRST THING I’VE GOT TO ASK ABOUT THAT IS: WHY BOYZLIFE? WHY NOT WESTZONE?
Ha ha. We did actually think about that – but when we done our research we found out there’s a car park at Dublin airport called West Zone…

HA HA… SO HOW DID BOYZLIFE COME ABOUT? WERE YOU BOTH AT A BIT OF A LOOSE END, OR IS IT A LONG-STANDING FRIENDSHIP AND THAT YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO WORK TOGETHER SORT OF THING?
Well, I suppose it’s a bit of both to be perfectly honest with you. I’d just finished up in the West End – I’d been doing this brilliant play called A HANDFUL OF STARS, which was written by Billy Roche as part of the Wexford Trilogy. It’s a sort of look at youngsters stuck in small town Irish life. That was really good, and when that finished I kind of fancied doing a one-man show which incorporated my music business as well as the acting world. So I decided to try and write an autobiographical show – y’know, where I might open up the evening with a Boyzone song, but then talk. Try to explain to people who’ve followed me, us, over the years how it was that we saw what they saw. Try and explain how our success looked, from our perspective…

… WHICH WOULD PROBABLY BE VERY DIFFERENT FROM WHAT WAS PERCEIVED BY THE PUBLIC…
Exactly, exactly… Growing up in the North Side of Dublin with limited access to finances or opportunities, or anything like that… All of a sudden to be plucked from that and kind of rocketed to fame… Y’know, you’re expected to be able to deal with that – without anyone giving you any kind of training or guidance or anything like that…

… MUST HAVE BEEN OVERWHELMING…
Mmm. Anyway, I was nearly ready to take that idea out on the road and I happened to go see Brian gig as a solo artist in Whelan’s in Dublin, which is a very credible rock joint. To come from a boyband and get an opportunity to perform in this place, this venue, was pretty cool. So I went down to see him – and he rocked the place. He blew the roof off the place. We went out afterwards for a few pints of Guinness, as we do, and he said “What’s next for you?” – so I told him that I was trying to put together this autobiographical thing, incorporating some of the music and blah blah blah… He said “That sounds great, I’d love to do something like that”… I says “Well look, mate. There’s no feckin’ rules, is there?! If you wanna do it, then do it with me. I’ll rewrite it for the two of us and it’ll be much more fun. PLUS I won’t have to play golf on me own if you’re on the road with me”…

THE FIRST DATES SOLD OUT REALLY QUICKLY…
Yeah, the idea was kind of born in November 2016 over a few pints, and our first tour was in early 2017. We rewrote the show and then when we launched it to the public it sold out within four hours. We had a great tour, and so we toured it again later that year with new music, new stories, different footage and that.

SELLING OUT STRAIGHT AWAY MUST HAVE BEEN GREAT, BUT WHAT WAS THE REACTION TO THE ACTUAL SHOW?
The feedback from the fans was really good. “We love the show! You guys are gas characters – you rip the shit out of each other and then you walk off the stage hugging”… – so people enjoyed it a lot. It’s a good sort of friendly and warm night out, y’know? It’s much better for the audience when it’s not a school night, but it’s still a good night out whatever. But one or two of them said “We would have liked to hear yous sing this song or that song”, so… It just became apparent that they wanted to hear some of the hits as well, rather than just our feckin’ stories, ha ha…

HA HA… SO DID THAT MEAN MAJOR ALTERATIONS TO WHAT YOU WERE DOING? 
Well, we had a chat and we decided we’d keep the idea but we’d also make it a bit more of a concert. We decided we’d do it as a more sort of Boyzlife Number Ones… We worked out that between Boyzone and Westlife we had over twenty UK number ones. So we went down that road. We did a lot more music, it was a lot more unstructured and unscripted. It was great fun – everybody just had such a laugh. So that’s we’re gonna do again this time – we’re gonna do all the number ones, pull all the nostalgia stops out, let it all hang out and let everyone pretend they’re 17 again, and have a lot of fun…

TO CARRY ON PICKING UP ON SOMETHING YOU SAID: BEING ‘PLUCKED’ FROM YOUR ENVIRONMENT AND DROPPED INTO THE MIDDLE OF BEING REALLY REALLY FAMOUS… I DON’T DOUBT THAT YOU WEREN’T QUITE ‘PLUCKED AND DROPPED’, ‘COS IT WILL HAVE TAKEN A LOT OF VERY HARD WORK TO GET WHERE YOU GOT…
Yeah, it did…

… BUT THE POTENTIAL WOULD HAVE BEEN THERE TO GO COMPLETELY MAD IN THE MIDDLE OF ALL THAT FAME… SO HOW DID YOU COPE? HOW DID YOU STAY CLOSE, AND HOW DID YOU STAY GROUNDED…
Well you know what? When you’re young you’re very durable, d’ya know what I mean? You pick things up quite quickly and you settle into your situation quite quickly. The pressures that come on actually come on a bit later, I think…

… WHAT DO YOU MEAN?
It’s the effect that your life has on your immediate family. You mess up along the way, you do something wrong, and you’re in the newspapers – and it’s actually your family that becomes the victim of that. It’s not so much you…

… ‘COS YOU’RE SORT OF INSULATED FROM IT?
Yeah, you’re in a bit of a bubble. But you work out that you have to be responsible for the people around you as well as for yourself. You come to realise that with every action comes a reaction and they’re the ones likely to feel it. So you have to be decent. If you’re a decent person and you care about the people around you, then you’re gonna have to take responsibility for your actions. You’re going to have to take the responsibility quite seriously to make sure that the people around you don’t get hurt. You have to make sure that you behave well so that you protect your loved ones.

YOU WERE ALL FAIRLY GROUNDED CHARACTERS, REALLY…
Yeah. Good old Irish Catholic boys, to be fair. Irish boys and their mammies are very very close, traditionally – so our mams would have been the biggest influence in our lives, for all of us. Our mothers would have been quite strict when we were growing up, so we’d actually already have had manners bedded into us by the time we got famous. We would have known how to behave, and we’d have known how to treat people. There’s that whole lesson of treating other people the way you’d like to be treated yourself. So we all had that as we were growing up. We’d have had all those important life lessons already – from our mothers. Obviously becoming famous threw up more life lessons – and I believe you need to be aware of life lessons and be thankful for them, actually. And never take them for granted. We all came from humble beginnings and we all worked really hard to make a few bob. We’d watched our mams and dads work really really hard to put bread on the table, and then we were given this opportunity to be famous and become successful and make a lot of money – and be able to change our families’ lives and give ourselves a better quality of life. We never forgot that we were lucky, really. So I believe that’s why we all stayed so grounded for the majority of the time that we were in the band.

YOU DID HAVE YOUR MOMENTS, THOUGH…
Yeah, I suppose we did. Everybody’s only human – so eventually everybody’s gonna fall victim to the fame thing at some point for a while. But the thing is – in Boyzone if someone did kind of lose the run of themselves a little bit, started to fly a little bit high with the effects of the success and the fame and all that, the other four would kind of pull them back down to earth… To be honest that sort of thing never really happens to all of you at the same time. It really only happens to one person at a time. You all take it in turns at being the band arsehole, ha ha… So, we all understood, and we were close – and we were very lucky that way.

DID THAT DYNAMIC CHANGE WHEN STEPHEN DIED [IN 2009]..?
That was a real eye-opener. That was a scary, very sad and really horrible time. But in the end what it did was make us all realise how important we had been to each other. It made us realise the love that we have between us. As brothers, I suppose, y’know? We’ve become much better friends since Stephen died – much better friends. Since he died, I do believe that the rest of us have actually taken even better care of each other. These days we’re much more aware of and sensitive to each other’s sensitivities… and, I suppose, vulnerabilities.

I SUPPOSE THAT DESPITE ALL OF THE FAME, THE SUCCESS, THE SALES, THE EXPERIENCES, THE TRAVEL… THE DOORS THAT BOYZONE OPENED UP FOR YOU… THE ‘REWARDS’, I SUPPOSE… IT MIGHT STILL BUG YOU THAT THERE’S OFTEN THAT DISMISSIVE ATTITUDE TOWARDS BOYBANDS? EVEN THE WORD ‘BOYBAND’ OFTEN SEEMS TO BE USED AS A CONNOTATION FOR ‘CHEAP RUBBISH’…
Yeah, I know exactly what you’re saying. It does get used to mean that. We were very very very successful. We had lots of hits, and we played venues like the O2 in London or Wembley or whatever… and then you’d come home to Ireland and you’d get guys on the street shouting at you. They’d find it obligatory to tell you what they thought of you. Your sexuality is never questioned, but you’re called a lot of homosexual names when you’re walking down the road – like it’s a jeer or a slag that because we’re in a boyband we must all be gay… Ireland is such a rock-renowned country, with Irish people really proud of their music history and heritage: U2, The Cranberries, Sinead O’Connor, The Script, and even Picture This who’ve been coming up recently… Singer / songwriter, guitar playin’, trad music bands… Irish people are very very proud of all that, their heritage, and then you get us who…

… DIDN’T FIT THE TRADITION?
Yeah, exactly. We didn’t. So you’d got that strong tradition of guitar type bands and all that. Then you’ve got us: this pop band, very commercial, very Americanised… I mean, I know we’d had Take That but, actually, I think New Kids On The Block were the original boyband and I think were probably more of an influence on us, as a band and as people… Anyway, Irish guys don’t do that. Irish guys are not cool in the same way as American guys are cool… It was an ignorance thing, I think. Like, a profound ignorance of other music. So, y’know: “What do these idiot lads think they’re doing? They’re never gonna be successful… They’re crap“… That was often the attitude towards us. So when we did get really successful I think there was probably also a bit of a jealousy thing? But I think, given half the chance, them that were rotten about us would probably have jumped into our shoes. But, yeah, it did bother me that there were people who thought we were crap. Of course it bothered me. But it actually didn’t bother me all that much…

I SUPPOSE ALL CELEBRITIES ARE ‘CONSTRUCTS’ OR PROJECTIONS TO SOME DEGREE… BUT MEMBERS OF A POP BAND ARE USUALLY MARKETED ALMOST LIKE THEY’RE CARTOON CHARACTERS… SORT OF INFLEXIBLE BEINGS – JUST LOOK AT THE NICKNAMES FOR THE SPICE GIRLS, FOR INSTANCE… THAT MUST HAVE BEEN INTOLERABLE AT TIMES, ‘COS YOU’RE ACTUALLY A THREE-DIMENSIONAL HUMAN BEING?
Yeah, you are, and it can bug you a bit. Definitely. But when you’re at the centre of that kind of thing I really do think you have to just take it with a pinch of salt. The important thing about it all is to appreciate the success you have, and make sure you respect and take care of your family. At the end of the day your health is your wealth, but there’s no getting round the fact that great opportunities were bestowed on us, in Boyzone and after that. We’re very lucky people – but, more importantly than that, we’re very very grateful for the luck that we’ve had. We’ve all tried our best to make the absolute most of the opportunities that have been put in our paths.

… AND I SUPPOSE AFTER BOYZONE YOU HAVE TO BE AWARE OF STAYING AFLOAT, AND FOR THE SAKE OF THAT YOU THEREFORE MIGHT HAVE TO TAKE AS MANY OF THE OPPORTUNITIES AS YOU CAN… THERE MUST BE SOME PRETTY DAFT THINGS PUT IN YOUR PATH?
Yeah, there are. And it depends on whether your profile is high or low. When it’s high, you’re more sort of prominent in the media or whatever, and obviously you get a lot more offers. Then there are times when it’s low and the band is dormant, and it’s a quiet period where you’re spending more time with the family… and the offers don’t come in as quick and as clean. But after twenty-five years in the business you should have learned the pattern of your success. You know what needs to be done if you’re having a low period or a down period. If you’re not happy ‘cos you’re not busy enough… well, come up with something like Boyzlife to keep you busy, y’know!? And then doing that opens up a whole new era for you. Boyzlife’s opened up a whole new era of fun and games for both Brian and myself. I mean, we’ve both travelled all over the world with that concept. Singapore for the Grand Prix with Macy Gray, Beijing for the closing ceremony of the Beijing Film Festival, y’know? We’ve been out to UAE and Asia. We get invited to perform at a lot of the black tie functions for major golf tournaments – and we get to play in the Pro-Am, so that’s amazing… Brian plays off a 9 and I play off 11 – so not too shabby eh, ha ha?! There’s so many new things that this Boyzlife idea has given myself and Brian – and that’s apart from the fact that it helps to pay the bills and keep our families in the life that they’ve become accustomed. We’re both actually having new life experiences and making memories, y’know?

ONE OF THE THINGS I’VE PARTICULARLY ADMIRED YOU FOR IS THAT YOU HAVE USED YOUR CELEBRITY TO PROMOTE AWARENESS OF AUTISM – AND VERY CLEARLY NOT AS A SORT OF ‘LOOK AT ME, I’M DOING GOOD’ KIND OF THING… YOU’RE CLEARLY PROPERLY ENGAGED WITH IT – BECAUSE YOU’VE HAD VERY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF IT… YOUR DAUGHTER IS AUTISTIC AND YOU’VE GONE THROUGH RAISING HER…  
Thank you so much for asking about this. It’s very important to me. The most crucial thing I can help with is to raise awareness of autism – what it is and what it means. I would say to people that if they don’t actually know what autism is, they must please find out, and not make their judgements on something they’re actually too ignorant to make judgements on. Children affected by autism are children. They’re beautiful people. They hear everything you say and they understand. They just find it difficult to live in the same way, in quite the same world, as other people. The main thing is, it’s very important to provide the appropriate intervention and the appropriate schooling for children with autism. That’s what I’ve learned from my family’s personal experience with my daughter…

IT’S BEEN A PROFOUNDLY VALUABLE LIFE EXPERIENCE FOR YOU…
You know what? It has. It has been very hard at times, truthfully. Our daughter was very isolated in her own world – no eye contact, not very tactile, quite content to stay under her bed for most of the day. My wife and I, we just wouldn’t let that happen. We intervened. We got intensive intervention put into my daughter’s life. Now… well, she’s the most beautiful, tactile and loving young lady you could meet. Eighteen years of age. Socially she can still be a little bit shy and reserved, but she’s just full of love and she loves to sing and dance. Academically she’s doing good – great, in fact. She’s just finished the exams and she’s got herself enough points to take her first choice in University. Her achievement just goes to show you. We were told “No, no, no, no. It’ll never happen, she’ll never do anything” – but we just wouldn’t take that for an answer. We invested a lot of time in her, and obviously she’s worked really hard herself… And now here she is. My point is, if everyone made a little bit of effort to find out a little bit more about autism than they already know, and acted from out of having more knowledge about autism, the world really would be a better place…

 

To read more about Keith’s work to raise awareness of autism, visit his website here

Tickets for the following Boyzlife dates are available here

Tues 9 Oct   NEWCASTLE   Tyne Theatre
Wed 10 Oct   MANCHESTER   Club Academy
Fri 12 Oct   PRESTON   Guildhall
Thurs 18 Oct   EXETER   Lemon Grove
Fri 19 Oct   OXFORD   02 Academy
Sat 20 Oct   HULL   Welly
Sun 21 Oct   BATH   Komedia
Thurs 25 Oct   SHEFFIELD   Foundry
Fri 26 Oct   ISLE OF MAN   Gaiety Theatre
Sat 27 Oct   WREXHAM   William Aston Hall
Sun 28 Oct   NORWICH   Waterfront