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People are saying “it’s okay to like Steps” laughs Lisa Scott-Lee ahead of 2018 Colchester gig

Steps - Ian

Steps - Ian "H" Watkins, Lisa Scott-Lee, Faye Tozer, Claire Richards and Lee Latchford-Evans - visit Colchester next June. Photo: Contributed

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Not everybody got Steps, especially the critics. They still became one of the biggest acts of the 90s and noughties. The resurgent chart-toppers visit Colchester next year so we spoke to Lisa Scott-Lee.

Steps - Faye Tozer, Ian Steps - Faye Tozer, Ian "H" Watkins, Lisa Scott-Lee, Lee Latchford Evans and Claire Richards - perform at GAY in London Saturday. Photo: Myung Jung Kim

During a recent interview, music mogul Pete Waterman said record companies and radio stations still don’t get Steps. It was never about the critics though says Lisa.

“Our success has spoken for itself. We’ve never tried to win them over because they never thought we were cool. We just did our own thing and it was all for the fans. It’s really incredible we’ve got so much support (since reuniting). Funnily enough the reviews have been wonderful. I guess people are saying ‘well, it’s okay to like Steps’.”

She, Faye Tozer, Lee Latchford-Evans, Claire Richards and Ian “H” Watkins broke onto the pop scene in 1997 with debut single 5, 6, 7, 8. It was the start of an unbroken run of 14 top five singles including three number ones, two four-times platinum albums and one five-times platinum album.

By the time of their headline-making split in 2001, they’d notched up 20million in record sales and seven sold-out arena tours. They reunited a decade later, shooting to number one with their 2011 The Ultimate Collection compilation and selling out a 20-date tour.

Pete Waterman (top centre) with Faye Tozer, Claire Richards, Ian Pete Waterman (top centre) with Faye Tozer, Claire Richards, Ian "H" Watkins, Lee Latchford-Evans and Lisa Scott-Lee. Photo: Yui Mok / PA Archive / PA Images

Waterman - also the musical force behind the likes of Rick Astley, Kylie Minogue and the recently reunited Bananarama – always felt Steps’ initial separation was premature.

“Steps were huge; the media didn’t realise how big Steps were, only the public realised how big Steps were. They never, ever achieved what I believe they could have,” he said while being interviewed about The Hit Factory CD, celebrating 30 years of Astley’s hit Never Gonna Give You Up and Minogue’s I Should Be So Lucky,

“We were about to start another album at that point. But that really left the story unfinished and that’s what I guess people still buy into. Steps didn’t go out on a down; they went out still at the top. The public bought - they’re the most successful group of that time - in record numbers. They were phenomenal. They made me more money than Kylie did. You look back; we never discounted a Steps record, ever.”

Talking about the current state of the music industry, radio and record labels he went on to claim radio doesn’t play Steps, which is why they probably endured longer; because they are the still a “hidden diamond”.

Ian Ian "H" Watkins and Claire Richards, whose departure signalled the end of Steps. Photo: PA Photo / William Conran

“You look at, because I still work in radio, you won’t find Steps on anyone’s playlist... because they’re snobbish... they still don’t get what that was all about. The record companies still don’t get Steps. They’re male-dominated, they don’t get that every young girl wanted to be one of Steps. Because they’re men, they all want to be in a heavy rock band like Kiss. And that’s our industry, it’s still like that.”

That may be but Tears on the Dancefloor – including smash single Scared of the Dark – achieved silver status in just three weeks. It’s since been re-released as a deluxe edition, featuring new single Dancing with a Broken Heart.

They’re thrilled with the album. It’s the sort Lisa’s always wanted them to make.

“It’s really right down my street, I’ve always been more into the dance side of things and I love having new music to play. We thought the fans deserved new music; we didn’t want to do a tour with just our old hits.”

Boyband Blue - Lee Ryan, Antony Costa, Simon Webbe and Duncan James - will support Steps in Colchester next June. Photo: Yui Mok / PABoyband Blue - Lee Ryan, Antony Costa, Simon Webbe and Duncan James - will support Steps in Colchester next June. Photo: Yui Mok / PA

The last two decades have passed scarily quickly.

“Each time I find myself saying 20 years I have a moment and think ‘how did that even happen’,” she laughs. “It’s amazing people still want us to do what we do. We all feel very lucky because there aren’t many bands from back in our day still going strong today.”

Lee and Faye were both coy when I asked them about Steps reuniting several years back. Lisa, who I last spoke to when the group performed at Newmarket Racecourses, confesses it was always on the cards.

“Everybody said ‘would you be up for celebrating such a big milestone’ and we all said yes very easily; it wasn’t as if we needed to be persuaded. We wanted to give something back to the fans after 20 years. We still got daily messages on social media saying how much love there is for Steps and how they wanted new music.”

When they first started talking about it, they had no idea what scale it would be. One idea was a one-off gig at London’s Albert Hall. They decided to dip a toe in the water with a New Year’s Eve comeback gig at G.A.Y. Blown away by the reaction – not just in the UK, but worldwide – things started to snowball, from a single to an album, to an arena tour that sold out so fast extra dates were added.

“It really does show the critics out there,” says the now Dubai-based Lisa, who laughs she can’t pick up her duty free perfume and what have you at airports recently without hearing one of their tracks.

“This keeps happening to me. I tell the guys ‘I can’t get away from you’. I’ve always been very proud of what we’ve done, I’ve never felt the need to shy away from it so, yeah; I’ll be going round the duty free smiling at people.”

Looking at promo shots for the 2018 tour, everybody looks as if they’ve been in suspended animation for 20 years.

“I like it, thank you,” she laughs over the sound of a blow-dryer while sat in make-up.

“I think everybody’s looked after themselves and we all wanted to be fit for the tour. We all feel stronger and better than ever and that’s certainly the feedback we’ve had from everybody. So many people have said it’s our best tour yet which is an amazing compliment. We’ve worked really hard on it, we won a BRIT for it and it’s been very creative.”

Strangely, performing together again it doesn’t feel like any time has passed at all, she adds. It feels like this is exactly what they should be doing.

“It’s fantastic. We revert back to our 20-something year old selves. We’ve all got the same characters and strengths and we’re all very comfortable with each other, we know each other so well. The bottom line is we are friends and it wouldn’t be pleasant being on the road with people if you didn’t genuinely get on with them. We’re having so much fun on stage and I know that the audience love seeing that side; you can’t fake it and, to be honest, I wouldn’t want to.”

Lisa says their surprise split in 2001 played a part in them being here today.

“We addressed it and we did it publicly when we did our documentary. It wasn’t for the TV; they were real conversations and real questions that certainly I, Faye and Lee had because we weren’t aware of the split at all. We were just as shocked as the public were,” she laughs.

It was rumoured H and Claire left because of their ongoing unhappiness. The official explanation was the group believed they should end on a high.

“We felt we had to have these questions that we’d kept for 15 years answered in order to move on. We were all younger then and I think it’s very difficult when you’re in a famous pop group. It’s constant and I loved it but certain people handle stress in different ways and it was difficult, obviously, for H and Claire at the end.

“I think the public can see we genuinely have moved on, nobody’s harbouring any issues now, they’ve all been addressed. So, as much as it was very difficult for everyone at the time, I feel it’s all played its part in the Steps story.”

Next year marks the group’s 21st birthday. They’re celebrating with their Grandslam 2018 Summer of Steps tour, which visits Colchester Castle Park on June 16.

“We’re really excited about it; it’s such a beautiful venue. We’ve got Blue (Antony Costa, Duncan James, Lee Ryan and Simon Webbe) supporting us as well, it’s just going to be a poptastic day for fans. The boys are fantastic; we’ve obviously known them a long time. There’ll be something for the whole family.”

Planning set-lists has been a difficult process. “We’ve got so many hits, you have to leave some out and that’s an incredible position for any band to be in regardless of the genre of music.”

Take note critics...

• Visit www.colchester-events.co.uk for Grandslam 2018 Summer of Steps tour tickets.

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