Here come the MIB. The Men In Black. This time not Will and Tommy, but Ronan, Stephen, Shane, Keith and Mikey. As our brand spankin' new photos show Boyzone have got a new look. Ronan, the King of Pop, and his Boyz have taken on a new image and a new attitude. Blimey! They look different, they look all cool 'n' serious and they look a bit hard. Not that we're scared, of course, 'cos we chatted with Ronan and he explained the changes happening in the BZ camp. Sinve shooting to stardom on the Hits tour in 1993 the Irish whipper-snappers have grown up on Planet Pop. They've had loadsa hits, toured the world and generally tops for ages. In the last four years young tykes like 911, Damage and Hanson have appeared and Boyzone are the big-boys in pop's playground now. They even look a bit like school bullies. But thanks-a-lordy they're not, they are, like veryone else, just getting older.
OK Ro, what gives with the new look?
"I know, what am I like? Jeez, it's all my fault (he jokes)black is my favourite colour. We're old fellas now, that's the thing. We have to look like the old men we are, ha-ha."
Explain Boyzone's thoughts behind doing the pics and the new image?
"It's been a while so a shoot like this is very important for us. Boyzone are at a turning point as we've been here for four years. We may have started after Take That but we're the only band left out of the old crew of us, Take That and East 17. Now we have to find out where we need to go. We want to go somewhere without alienating any of our fans, still being Boyzone, but opening ourselves to a wider audience like we did with Picture of You. We all realise these photos are important. Usually we just get dressed in nice clothes and smile for pictures. The changes are something that've been happening for a while within the band. We are starting to look older, the clothes we wear are older - maybe it's a change but it's a natural progression. If George Michael hadn't beaten us to it we'd call the next album Older."
You haven't changed the clothes much, you've always been a sucker for a black suit!
"It's not dissimilar in look to our last shoot, the differences are more in the faces."
We noticed! Some of you look quite scary. We wouldn't want to meet Mikey in a dark alleyway!
"Ha-ha, I'll tell him you said that. I guess that's getting the more serious vibe, before it was all fun, smiles..."
Steve's still a smiler, though...
"That's Stephen through and through, always will be, however much changes."
You look like you'd scare Liam, Keith Prodge and Mel B. So c'mon 'Scary Zone' are you startin'?
"Am I startin'? Erm, I don't know...well, erm, no I'm not startin'. I don't want to get meself in trouble! It's not an aggresive look at all, we're not trying to be tough lads, be something we're not. We're just having a bit of a laugh. In the last four years we've always been the smiley, nice boys. We're decent, down-to-earth boys, basically we're getting more relaxed in photos."
Do you worry fans might be scared?
"We hope they won't be alienated, it's something different for the fans, a new way for us to look. Hopefully it'll stop them getting bored with seeing the same photos day in, day out."
Does it reflect any change in your personalities? You're more than three years older than when we first met you.
"We've learned a lot, we've gained a lot more character. When you're younger you're very easily influenced, you're not sure what you're about. You're still learning where you're going, what you're doing. Now we've learned a bit more, who we are as individuals and we can portray it."
If the changes are happening bit by bit, where are you going next? Should we be prepared for leather-clad bikers with pierced nipples and mohawks?
"By no means. Although you know I love my motorbike and I like leather! What you see is what you get in Boyzone, we're not aiming to go anywhere. We are what we are."
Were you tempted to have one of those TV makeovers, like on 'This Morning'?
"No, I'm fine doing it myself. I'd find it impossible letting anyone else do it. I don't think I'm vain enough to go in for that either."
Would you have split up if you weren't allowed to change like this yourselves?
"Yes. If someone tried telling us what to do, where to go we wouldn't be here now. The strength of Boyzone is individuality, our own personality and us controlling things."
You've grown up so much, you now look more mature, can you still be called Boyzone?
"We often talk about changing the name. When we started Boyzone, the logo and the name depicted exactly what we were and where we were going at that time. Right now, obviously, we're not boys. Basically, it's a just a name now. If we could abbreviate it to BZ, that would be perfect, a lot of people call us that anyway and it's much easier to write."
Being the old skool boy band do you want to distance yourself from new kids like Five, Kavana, 911 and Hanson?
"I don't think there's anything deliberate we've had to do, it's happened naturally. People see us in a different light for some reasons because our songs aren't all that 'Ooh baby I love you' stuff anymore. Isn't It A Wonder, Different Beat and Picture of You, they're from a different angle. We write and co-produce our own stuff, they're still good melodic songs - but I can't see us suddenly turning into Bon Jovi or something like that."
Can you sing Love Me For A Reason looking like this?
"No, not really."
Should we expect a harder edge for the music too?
"I don't think harder, but definitely more mature. Still the sort of melodic songs we enjoy performing and singing. Songs that our fans, young and old, will enjoy listening to."
...BZ go gangsta rap, perhaps?
"No, ha-ha, not yet. We're still making music in the same field, just in a different corner of the field. There's a different feel to it, we couldn't just release another Different Beat album."
So is this the end of your dance routines then?
"Well you never know, I'm not going to say anything at this stage."
You're coming back to Britain for a big tour later this year, will the tour be really different?
"There will be changes, but not so much this time. This is going to be our last tour for a while. We've done so much touring in the last three years we decided it's time to do other things. After this tour we're going to take a break from touring for a while, hit you with something big and new at the end of the year. We hope to see you all there."