When Take That split up in 1996 all of you didn’t think there would ever be a reunion. But now you have really started all over again. Why?
Howard: This time is all different. We now have much more freedom, much more control about our fate as a band. In the past 11 years much happened, we’ve all changed a lot. Three of us are fathers now, we have a family life that is very important to us. For me personally Take That is now only a pleasant job.
Gary: It’s not all about the band anymore. We all have our families, our private lives. We wouldn’t give this up for anything in the world. I rather regard Take That as a well-loved hobby.
Jason: And yet my first thought after the idea about the reunion came up was: Please not again! To be honest, I was afraid that everything would start again from the beginning: the extreme emotions, the dynamics inside the band, the fights with the management. It took me years to cope with all this.
Howard, you openly talked about your suicidal thoughts after the end of the band. What was so terrible for you?
Howard: I just wasn’t ready to go. It was as if my first love had called me and said “It’s all over. I don’t want you anymore.” I just couldn’t believe it. For me everything was going perfectly. I was completely shocked.
Jason: For me it completely different. I was thankful. It was really time we got released into reality!
What was it like in those days? Wasn’t there any other life for you all apart from the band?
Gary: No, there wasn’t anything else. We spent every single minute together.
Howard: We never had some time away from the band and there were hardly any moments to deal with everything that was happening. It just happened to us, we were completely over-directed. Today we decide ourselves what we want to do and in what amount. If it’s no fun anymore we will give it up.
Mark: We all went through difficult times. None of us wants to go through this again.
Back then you were a boyband, teenie stars. How do you feel now: as a “man-band” that produces grown-up music?
Gary: At least we don’t feel like fallen stars that desperately try a comeback. If there’s one thing we really want to avoid, then it’s looking desperate. None of us has spent sleepless nights in the past ten years wishing to be famous again.
Jason: I still fight with the idea that I’m now a pop star in an ex-boygroup again. I try to deal with things in a relaxed way, but I still feel that deep down I’m at distance.
Howard: I know exactly what Jason means. As much fun as it was back then it still felt wrong really. We were a fake band that produced successful popsongs. And I was an ordinary guy from Manchester who wouldn’t really have bought a Take That CD.
Do you like your own music better today?
Howard: I wouldn’t waste any time today with a band whose music I didn’t like. Today we work under completely different circumstances. This album is the first that is really our own. I’m very proud of it and every award that we get for it is much more precious to me than the whole amount of awards that Take That received in the early days.
Five weeks ago you won the Brit Award for your single “Patience”. The day before your former colleague Robbie Williams went into a rehabilitation clinic. How did you cope with this?
Mark: At first I thought: We can’t perform there, it would be completely wrong! But then I talked to the others and we agreed that Rob has nothing to do with the band anymore. It’s his private thing now. He had already received our personal wishes for his recovery; this is nothing to be dealt with on stage or in the media.
Gary: Anyway, he likes what we’re doing, he loves our album. I’m sure that he wouldn’t have wanted us to cancel the Brits because of him.
How close is your contact with him today?
Mark: We sometimes talk on the phone. And we’ve always told him: It would be the happy end for us as a band if the five of us would go back on stage together. We’re still hoping for it. I read in an interview that Robbie would have liked to join us on our revival-tour last year, but he had to be on stage himself.
Do you believe this?
Mark: I don’t know. It would probably be easier to say: It’s over, and everyone would continue doing their own thing. But it was important for me that we approached each other privately and said that we were sorry. This approach couldn’t have happened in public or in the papers.
Robbie Williams said in an interview that he would swop all his money and all his awards if he could live your life, Gary, with a wife and kids…
Gary: How old is he? 31, 32?
Gary: Then what are we talking about? He still has half his life in front of him. It’s not as if he couldn’t have all this. It’s his decision. I don’t think it causes him sleepless nights.
But obviously he doesn’t manage to keep his girlfriends for more than a few months. And he is addicted to pills…
Gary: Maybe he enjoys his life as it is. Do we know that? Maybe looking happy and balanced is the wrong image if you’re Robbie Williams. I don’t know him well enough anymore to judge this, none of us does. We all wish him the best, but I can’t really answer questions concerning his goals in life.
Do you regret how you behaved towards him back then?
Mark: There are a number of things that I regret. Not only how the splitting up with Robbie went. I wish I’d had more self-esteem. I didn’t get involved enough, didn’t speak my mind often enough. I wish I’d already been the man I’m now. But I didn’t know myself yet back then.
Jason: The band was a difficult thing. There was a clear pecking order, a hierarchy. I never felt good enough, didn’t feel equal. In the aftermath I kept the feeling to have lost the fight against the others.
Howard: We were all a bit brainwashed. It wasn’t just the management, it was mainly us. I didn’t have such a strong personality to be able to stand up for myself or the other lads. I just went along with everything. We lost control about it.
You let everyone know officially back then that you’d had enough of Rock ‘n Roll and wanted to bury the band at the height of your success. Now you want to know whether you can still do it. Do you thing it’ll work: Take That without the girls, the drugs, all the provocation?
Jason: A lot of it was made up, you know. Take That never really was Rock ‘n Roll. On the contrary, we had a much too clean image. The band didn’t have anything to do with drugs. Of course, we did have a drink or a smoke from time to time but there were no hard drugs. Rob’s problems really only started after he’d left the band.
Mark: When I watch the old footage I can hardly believe how mad everything was. All the girls that lunged at us. There were some who were singing “Babe” all night in front of my window. Incredible!
And how’s the situation with the fans today? A few civil requests for autographs and that’s it?
Mark: It’s all much less hysteric. The fans support us rather in a sportive-friendly way – like football supporters cheering their team. I have the impression that they’re happy as well to meet old friends again. I think they don’t care that much about us anymore. They finally only want to tell their stories of the past ten years to each other.
How do your families cope with the comeback? Do your children know that their daddies had been thrown knickers at?
Gary: No, they’re still too young. My son is six, my daughter is four. Howard’s older daughter slowly becomes aware how famous the band once was. But when we are on television or we take them to a gig where a 30-piece-orchestra is playing our songs – that’s what they love of course.
How are you going to arrange both in the future - band and family life?
Mark: We need regular times away from the band – it wouldn’t work otherwise. We work for a few months, produce, go on tour, give everything for our fans, but after that it’s time for the family. Then we go home to be daddies again. Man, I can hardly wait!