Gary Barlow, Howard Donald and Mark Owen speak to tabloid! ahead of their weekend gig
In America, boy band pandemonium was hitting a fever pitch by the mid-’90s. The Backstreet Boys and NSYNC had begun to sweep the nation with their baby-faced looks and weepy vocal runs.
But a decade earlier, the mould was being carved out by New Kids on the Block: five Bostonian boys who were brimming with colour-blocked ‘80s charm.
The band knew the formula to make fans go slack-kneed — sticky hooks, catchy choruses and perfectly coiffed quiffs. They were so successful, in fact, that one man across the pond in Manchester took note. Nigel Martin-Smith decided the smart thing to do would be to make another NKOTB, except in England.
The musical manager recruited 19-year-old Gary Barlow from Cheshire for the project, naming it Kick It. Barlow made an impression with his original song-writing that he’d worked on since 15. Howard Donald, Mark Owen, Jason Orange and Robbie Williams auditioned successfully to join him. The lads were young — Howard the eldest at 22 — and eager to make a mark.
Kick It eventually became Take That, releasing eight albums and 56 number one singles worldwide. They bagged eight Brit Awards and significantly more teenaged hearts. The band experienced ups, downs and line-up changes over the decades — Williams left, re-joined, then left again with Orange in 2014.
But the remaining three — Barlow, Donald and Owen — have soldiered on, and will perform on November 29 at Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, giving the UAE a taste of their 2017 album Wonderland. Gulf News tabloid! chatted to them about their past, present and future ahead of the gig.
First things first, what do you have planned for your Dubai show? What’s the set list like?
Barlow: We’re really enjoying this second round of touring 2017. When we tour the UK, we have an all singing [and] dancing show, but when we travel, we have to rely less on the theatrics and concentrate on the performance and music. It’s more challenging but audiences feel it’s much more intimate. We will be playing songs from as far back as 1991, right through to our current album Wonderland.
What’s your current favourite Take That song to perform live, and why?
Barlow: I always like Back For Good as it takes me back to 1995, which seems like such a long time ago.
Looking back at how you approached your work when you were first starting out, how much has changed, in terms of your creative process, etc?
Barlow: Well, to start with, I’ve changed, so that means everything I do has changed. I think I beat myself up more now as a songwriter. Sometimes I’ll re-write a song quite a few times before I’m 100 per cent happy with it. I do seem to enjoy it more, though; the pressure is not as intense.
Back in the day, were there any rules that you had to follow within the band? Did you have to look or act a certain way?
Owens: I think we were given many guidelines when we started off as a band. We were teenagers at the time and had very little experience in the music industry, let alone life in general, and so a lot of the time we were — and still are — learning as we go along.
There’s this notion among some critics that boy bands are less “serious” because girls/women are the main target audience. What are your thoughts on people who still think that way?
Owen: I think the people who are thinking it are taking themselves too seriously. I don’t know, maybe we have been lucky to be able to evolve over time and be able to be involved creatively in all things Take That from the song-writing to the live shows. I feel that we have been able to mature as a band over time as I believe our audience has been allowed to also.
Speaking of boy bands, One Direction, one of your successors in the UK, have all gone their separate ways. What do you think of their solo music so far? To what would you owe their individual success?
Owen: Only the other day I was saying how great they are all doing, and they all seem to be able to express themselves the way they want which is wonderful to see. I wish them all the best of luck in life and in music.
Is there anything on your playlists that we would be surprised to know you listen to?
Donald: I have the song Rabbit by Chas and Dave. It’s stupid but very catchy! I play it loud when I need a good sing along.
What’s the first thing you do when you get home after a long tour?
Donald: Change a nappy and do the things I have missed out on. That’s after, of course, I give my children a big hug and a kiss. I also get a little depressed as being on tour is great.
We’re a couple months away from 2018 — what are your new year’s resolutions?
Donald: Same as all the years before! Seriously though, from 2018 I want to write some quirky books which show off my dark side and whacky sense of humour.
Finally, what’s next for Take That? Do you envision more albums in the band’s future?
Donald: We have a greatest hits album at the end of 2018 and will follow it with a big tour in 2019.
*Tickets to see Take That in Dubai start from Dh350. Doors open at 7pm. Show starts at 9.30pm.