Shane Lynch talks about Boyzone, burnout, cars and the occult
Boyzone's Shane Lynch admits he was the angry one in the otherwise clean-cut Irish boy band. He tells Gabrielle Fagan about life on the road, his new car TV show and how he battled his demons
ASKING Shane Lynch to recall his memories of being in Boyzone – the hugely successful Irish boy band who, at the height of their fame in the 1990s, sold 25 million records worldwide – proves surprisingly challenging.
"To be honest, I don't have any memory of that time, when we first found fame, set in my soul – it was like an out-of-body experience," admits the 40-year-old Dubliner. "I didn't have time to enjoy it – at one point we were performing in three countries in a day. It was absolute madness. The most time I ever got home for was three days in seven years. We were teenagers who were on this express train of work, heading to fame and success, but with no time for anything else.
"Sharing stages and songs with Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Pavarotti was incredible, but the only way I know I was there is because I'm in the photo, otherwise I'd have no recollection. It's all a blur."
Soon he'll be forging new memories. The band (Ronan Keating, Keith Duffy and Mikey Graham) are recording a new album to be released next year to coincide with a tour marking their 25th anniversary.
"Me and the boys are like brothers and we just can't let 25 years go unmarked," says Shane, who these days proudly sports a beard. "Nowadays I can look like I want – we don't have to stick to an image – and that's great. The others have beard envy!
"I'm really looking forward to stepping back on stage. It's addictive, that huge adrenaline rush you get from performing to thousands of people, and totally turning your back on that is hard."
When the band aren't performing – they've regularly reunited over the years – he fulfils his adrenaline-rush craving by motor racing, a career he's enjoyed for 20 years. He presents and drives on TV's Supercar Megabuild on National Geographic.
"I always need to get that high and buzz from risk. Driving crazy cars at high speeds – I've just driven one at 200mph for supermodel Jodie Kidd – and risking my ass, is pretty much up there with the thrill you get from walking out on stage. It's mind blowing," says Shane.
"I feel so lucky I've literally been able to live the dream – have an extraordinary pop career and race cars, which are my passion."
The Donaghmede-born star first won his place in Boyzone, he reveals, despite the fact that "I couldn't sing or dance. I'd got kicked out of school early and was working as a car mechanic for my dad, when this guy, a former classmate, knocked on my door. He said: 'I want to start a band like Take That and you look just right for it'. It was a gamble and I went for it."
Shane made waves from the start with his tattoos, body piercings and rebelliousness, which included, famously, an expletive-filled outburst in 1999 at the MTV Europe Music Awards in Dublin.
"I was the extreme guy who stuck out like a sore thumb. It was a squeaky-clean kind of band and there's me with nose rings, tattoos and a bit of a swagger. I felt I had to play up to all that because that was my identity in the group. As I have dyslexia and find reading and writing difficult, I couldn't read autocues and so didn't get the chance to speak much. That was frustrating and I'd get angry sometimes, and that definitely got worse over the years as I struggled to cope with life on the road."
By 2000, when lead singer Ronan Keating had quit to pursue a solo career, and the band, after six chart topping singles and four No.1 albums, took a break, Shane describes himself as in a "dark place and lost".
For two years he shunned the outside world and stayed at his home in Surrey.
"I turned into a recluse because I didn't know who I was. From the age of 18, I'd been totally controlled by the record company and suddenly it was over. I'd been in a fantasy world – I had a £1 million house, a Porsche and everything money could buy – but there was a void within me. For a while I tried to fill it with all the kind of sex, drugs and rock 'n roll things which are supposed to be cool," he recalls.
"I dabbled in the occult and was dancing with the devil, and doing all sorts of negative things looking for escape from myself. I'd lost respect for myself. I have no regrets because going through that made me the man I am today, and it was just the price I paid for that fame.
"I really admire Zayn Malik, who quit One Direction [in 2015]. He was brave enough to take control of his life and recognise being on the 'train' was killing him, and bail out. I didn't and ran myself into the ground in the end."
Now happily married to former backing singer Sheena White – the couple have two daughters, Billie Rae, who's eight and four-year-old Marley Mae – those days are a distant memory.
"I was very immature and selfish during that time, but I worked my way through that, found my Christian faith and understand the world and myself nowadays.
"I wouldn't say I've grown up yet, but who knows – one day I might. I've never regarded myself as a celebrity. I'm just a guy who loves racing cars, working to look after my family, and every now and then I'm in a band called Boyzone.
"Experiencing that every so often is great, but when it finishes, I step back into being a normal guy again."
:: Shane Lynch appears on Supercar Megabuild on Thursdays nights on National Geographic.