In the early Noughties, Blue was one of the biggest boy bands in the world. Nine years after they split, they’re back with a new album, big projects (hello potential tell-all book!) and a world domination plan. Two of the four, Duncan James and Simon Webbe, were in Dubai to play at Ahlan!’s LOUD event at Cavalli Club, since DJing is one of their many side-projects. We caught up with the boys at Wild Wadi Waterpark in the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, where despite Simon snapping his Achilles tendon playing at a charity football match with TOWIE’s Mark Wright just days earlier, we managed to get them in the water.
What can we expect from your new album?
Simon: It’s kind of old Blue meets new Blue and we’re very proud of this album. We’ve orchestrated it and put ourselves through business school to know how to run a record label. We’re not signed to anybody, our label’s called Blue World.
Why did you start your own label?
Simon: Since I got into Blue I’ve always wanted to venture out and be a power house. When we looked into it, we made EMI £20 million (Dhs120 million) over three years but we didn’t get anywhere near that money!
Duncan: For years we were almost like puppets on a string, being manipulated by a big record company and manager, and blinded by the glitz and the glamour of fame. Lady Gaga is on her s***. She’s not just an artist who just turns up, performs and then leaves, she wants it to be the best. She knows everybody that works for her, she’ll go into the truck afterwards and edit the rushes, she knows what costumes she likes, and she works with a team to create that brand that she’s established.
How did you guys end up getting back together?
Simon: It was Duncan who orchestrated it. I was in America at the time and I got offered a record deal, and he calls me up and goes ‘Do you think we should get back together for a ten-year anniversary?’ I thought about it and I’m better as a team player so I walked away from the US deal.
Duncan: When we split, it wasn’t because we didn’t get on, we were just tired of being pushed around by record companies. Also, radio DJs were coming in saying boy bands are fake and all manufactured. A lot of indie music was being played and boy bands were being pushed out, so we came out at the right time. But we realised we’re fantastic as four. We’re the fantastic four!
Simon: Take That opened the doors for boy bands again. One Direction and The Wanted make boy bands cool as well!
Eurovision was your first big comeback. Did you enjoy it?
Simon: Straight away I thought it was too cheesy, but I loved every second of it. It is what it is, and I’d never diss it because without Eurovision we wouldn’t be here. We were penalised because we were an established band, but if you look at the telephone votes, we came fifth, which was amazing!
Is it true you’ve worked with Ne-Yo on your new album?
Simon: Yeah we have worked with Ne-Yo but his songs didn’t make the album! It just wasn’t the right feel. We’ve gone a bit more grown up!
What do you prefer, DJing, theatre or being in Blue?
Duncan: Performing! I’ve just come back from a two-week stint in a musical and loved every second of it. I love being on stage. Whether I’m performing as Duncan James with Blue or in a musical, it’s still a performance.
Simon, we know you had a difficult childhood. Was it hard to get out of that lifestyle? Simon: Being in Manchester, Moss Side, it was either being in gangs or staying on the dole. Luckily for me, I’m a little bit of a sheep. I like to follow my friends. My mum and I moved away from my dad when I was six because he was a bad guy and a bit violent towards my mum. My only family was my friends. When I moved back, it was really hard not to get into the gangs, but I had my career.
Are you dating?
Simon: Oh yeah, I’ve got a beautiful girlfriend, Maria. She’s from Athens, raised in Zimbabwe. It’s really hard for her to be going out with someone in the public eye but she’s very supportive and we’re building a future together.
Can we expect a Blue concert in the UAE soon?
Simon: Yes! We’d love to come back and do that, definitely.