I PICKED up the phone to hear the PR rep say I had a strict 12 minutes interviewing Abz Love – which suited me fine. Any more than five minutes I’d be reduced to a giggling wreck with heart palpitations to boot.
But as soon as she passed over the phone, a kindly and familiar Cockney voice boomed: ‘Nah, Helen, I’ll give you 13 minutes, don’t worry ‘bout it.’ I had already turned into the giggling wreck.
Hot from their successful stint on ITV2’s The Big Reunion documentary and subsequent tour, 5ive - that’s right, spell it correctly – will be branching out on their own for the first time in more than 12 years with a brand new UK tour.
Being an avid audience member of the show, and being one of the very few who saw them wandering through the streets of Nottingham being filmed, Abz, Ritchie, Sean and Scott seem as popular now as they were in the 1990s.
And no one is more grateful for the faithful fanbase than Abz who admits: “All of a sudden we had this amazing platform. I mean a year ago I was barely able to pay rent.”
He references a bad investment he made which resulted in losing the majority of his money.
As charted on The Big Reunion, Abz now lives the quiet life, tending to his garden and generally keeping away from the public eye. The mad rock and roll years have taken their toll on the rapper, and a large selection of tattoos is the only constant reminder of what once was.
It was never widely documented the troubles the members had at the time, such as claims of bullying and a never ending gruelling schedule which took its toll on youngest band member, Sean. But Abz lapped up the attention, and told me: “I never wanted the band to split up and I wanted to get the band back together. Now we are together I am really proud of what we have done and what we have achieved.”
And what about the fan reaction now, especially from a Mail reporter who found him lurking in Nottingham and subsequently stalked him to Nottingham Arena? “It surprises me when we get that reaction, it makes me proud.”
Abz, Scott, Ritchie, Sean and Jay enjoyed incredible success worldwide, particularly in the UK. They split up in 2001, after selling more than 20 million records worldwide, having 11 top ten singles, three number 1’s, and four top ten albums in the UK, selling out arena tours, and picking up just about every achievable award including Brits and MTV awards.
And since they have reformed: “To come back has been amazing,” and in typical Abz style he adds: “I can still feel the love.”
He says, this time, the lads will appreciate 5ive a lot more than they did the first time round.
However, it is slightly different with the notable absence of fifth member, Jay, who was accused of bullying in the show – a point he was keen to dismiss, adding that he did not want to get back into 5ive especially when told he had to get himself on Twitter.
Abz is closest to Jay and still speaks to him, but despite me asking him to persuade Jay to return to the group, he said: “I don’t think (he will come back). I am still talking to him. He is just happy and wishes us all the best, he is doing what he does.”
Jay won’t be taking part in 5ive’s new solo tour coming off the back of The Big Reunion, which Abz says will feature all the old favourite routines, but asked fans to forgive him if he sometimes ‘forgets the lyrics’, admitting: “The rock and roll lifestyle has taken its toll a bit.”
And looking to the future? “We don’t look too far into the future. It makes me anxious, we just take small steps as the pressure can be overwhelming.”
I couldn’t close the 13 minute interview by not mentioning his stint on Celebrity Big Brother, in which he won the silver medal.
While his role in the show was very laid back, quiet and not what you would expect from a former hell-raising boybander, Abz quickly became known as the loveable, very chilled out housemate, and cuts himself a mean swan apple. He admits his party trick could become his new career ‘making balloons animals’ if 5ive didn’t work out.
5ive will be touring up and down the country next month and December and will be performing at Leicester’s De Montford Hall, on Wednesday, November 27.
Tickets are available online by visiting WWW.GIGSANDTOURS.COM or phoning 0844 811 0051.