Abz Love, Shane Lynch and Ben Ofoedu of the new supergroup, Boyz on Block have reflected on overcoming the devil, spiritual enlightenment and Ben’s possible proposal renewal to his partner Vanessa Feltz.
After releasing their first single, a cover of Stay Another Day this month, the 90s pop stars spoke on dealing with the temptations of fame and finding light in the darkest corners of the music industry.
In an exclusive interview with MailOnline they also discussed bringing back the ‘innocence of youth’ to pop, and explained why explicit songs such as Cardi B’s track, WAP, shouldn’t be aired on mainstream media.
Open: Abz Love, Ben Ofoedu and Shane Lynch of the new supergroup, Boyz on Block, spoke to MailOnline on Wednesday to discuss overcoming the devil, Abz’ spiritual enlightenment through the drug Ayahuasca, and Ben’s possible proposal renewal to his partner Vanessa Feltz
When asked what his proudest moment outside of music is, Phats and Smalls’ star Ben, 48, said: ‘I’m proud of my relationship. I’m in a relationship with Vanessa and obviously a showbiz relationship can be quite hard to keep, but we’ve been together almost 15 years.
‘It’s the most amazing thing and I’m thinking of re-proposing to her. You’ve heard of renewing your wedding vows, but I’m going to renew our engagement.’
Ben met Vanessa, 58, through their mutual friend, Boyzone’s Keith Duffy, and he confirmed they are stronger than ever: ‘I couldn’t imagine being with anyone else and I’m really proud of having a life partner.’
Former Boyzone star, Shane, 44, reflected on his memorable accomplishments: ‘I’m forever looking for new projects and new experiences that let me step out of my comfort zone, I’ve got shoe brands, I’ve got gyms, I’ve got my own TV studio, I’ve got barber shops.’
Reflective: After releasing their first single, a cover of Stay Another Day this month, the 90s pop singers spoke on finding light in the darkest corners of the music industry
Former 5ive singer Abz, 41, added: ‘My proudest moment is probably conquering the devil. Within the maddest moments I’ve found myself in, I’ve found resilience and I’ve found grace after all the ups and the downs, from zero to hero. I feel at the moment I’m back at zero and on my way to being a hero again.
‘The devil I met him so I know he’s real, I’ve got nothing to lose anymore. I’ve met the biggest, hung out with the lowest, from royalty to gangsters. I’ve done it all.’
Abz admitted he hasn’t kissed a girl for over nine months due to the pandemic. But by channelling his creativity through the band and by developing his spirituality through the use of Ayahuasca, he has found solace in his struggles.
He laughed: ‘I’m 41 now, I haven’t got the relationship like Ben’s got but god-willing I’ll find her and have children if that’s what is meant to be, but if not, I’ll leave the planet on a UFO in 2021!
In Love: When asked about his proudest moment, Ben, 48, said: ‘I’m proud of my relationship… and I’m thinking of re-proposing to her’ (pictured with partner Vanessa Feltz in February)
‘I leant on darkness a lot to get me through hard times, and I realised it wasn’t getting me where I needed to, that’s when I faced my demons. I used Ayahuasca which takes you into the inner earth and opens up your spiritual side, and now I feel like I’m out of the shadows.’
Ayahuasca is a ‘psychedelic brew’ containing dimethyltryptamine (DMT) which is hailed for creating a ‘waking-dream’ state, and for giving an insight into the nature of consciousness.
Shane also revealed he has battled inner demons, but has found strength through his relationship with god. He said: ‘When we go from the dark the light, it’s hard. I’ve been through the same struggles as Abz. If you find your life as a Goliath, a giant, god knows there’s a David in you, and that’s how you survive.’
The three band members and Dane Bowers, 41, decided to team up to create Boyz on Block when they bumped into each other at a Bournemouth Pride event in 2019.
The stars all shot to fame with their respective boybands in the 90s, but according to Ben, music executives would pit them against each other to boost sales.
Where it began: The three band members and Dane Bowers, 41, decided to team up to create Boyz on Block when they bumped into each other at a Bournemouth Pride event in 2019
He also revealed that he wouldn’t have been able to survive the enticing but dangerous pitfalls of the industry without his faith.
The singer added: ‘We’re an incredibly unique bunch of people because we’ve all had massive hits which have exposed us to many things and it’s exposed us to the world in it’s entirety where you’re surrounded by yes-men, you get things for free, you take things for granted.
‘We’ve all had to find our own ways in dealing with that exposure because we’re humans and we’re flawed and we’ve had to learn to deal with that. I didn’t take religion seriously until I was 19 or 20, but it’s kept me afloat, I don’t know how I would be able to manage fame without that.
‘It’s access all areas when you’re in the spotlight, it’s the women – or men depending on your orientation – who throw themselves at you, it’s a massive doorway into drugs, into greed. Even the record companies would pit us boybands against each other because it was good for sales, and that’s dark!’
The pop stars reflected on the changes to the industry in the last 20 years and what they describe as the loss of innocence in contemporary music.
Competition! The stars all shot to fame with their respective boybands in the 90s, but according to Ben, they were pitted against each other by music executives.(L-R 5ive band Abz, 41, Ritchie Neville, Scott Robinson, Sean Conlon and J Brown in 1997)
Excess: The Phats and Smalls singer added: ‘It’s access all areas when you’re in the spotlight, it’s the women who throw themselves at you, it’s a massive doorway into drugs, into greed’ (pictured with Boyzone’s Keith Duffy in 2000)
Ben continued: ‘I feel like in the 90s they really valued music and I felt that everything you did, whether that’s buying or borrowing a record, you had to have a vested interest.
‘And then through streaming and downloads it became tap water, you do need it but you don’t really value it.’
Shane voiced his concerns: ‘We came from a beautiful time in music where there was innocence. I think teenagers were able to hold onto that in their lives through music, and bands like 5ive, Boyzone, Take That, etc. They gave people identity, a purpose, and it was a lovely time that captured the innocence of youth.
‘There’s a reason why particular beats and music were called “underground,” only certain people would seek that, find that, and know how to deal with that.
‘I come from an era in the late 80s where there was a lot of influence from American hip hop, and it was pretty “nasty”. However we’ve made that “nasty” underground music mainstream now, which kids are listening to and the innocence is robbed.’
Heyday: The pop stars reflected on the changes to the industry in the last 20 years and the loss of innocence in contemporary music (pictured L-R Keith, Ronan Keating, Stephen Gately, Shane, 44, and Mikey Graham from Boyzone in 1996)
According to Shane, we shouldn’t hold the artist responsible, but rather the people who are delivering the art/music.
However, Abz believes some of the accountability lies with the artists, such as Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. The American female rappers hit the headlines in August with their song, WAP, which explicitly explores women’s sexuality.
Abz added: ‘The first thing that popped into my head is Cardi B’s WAP. Stop that, stop it! I’m not from that whole era and that’s what young boys and girls are looking at now.
‘That’s what they think music is while I’m here jamming out to my country music which I think is what the world needs, I believe our musical influence can make a change, because that’s my purpose.
‘I haven’t been through all of what I’ve suffered and endured to be listening to songs like WAP.’
Changing times: Abz said explicit music such as Cardi B’s song, WAP, needs to stop as he concluded: ‘I haven’t been through all of what I’ve suffered and endured to be listening to songs like WAP’