As Designer Magazine meets Mark Owen at the Jury's Inn hotel he greets us with a firm handshake, looking elfin like with a fake fur hat and huge snowboarders jacket which dwarfs him. It's the fourth time we met Mark over the years with each successive solo album bettering the last and taking him on his journey. Today we met him for very different reasons, the return of Take That, of which Mark hopes to perform a number of solo tracks as well as write his as yet untitled fourth solo album on the road. Read on for an interview with the only person who could segue Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" into "Could It Be Magic?"

Q: So you're back in Manchester again - your spiritual home?
A: I was saying the other day that i've played every Academy since i've started going solo and I started in Academy 1 then it moved to 2 and then 3. I think Life Cafe's bigger than Academy 3 though isn't it. I heard they've got an Academy 4 now as well so if I end up in there I might as well just end it.

Q: Last night's gig you went in the space of one song from Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" to "Could It Be Magic?"
A: (laughs) I think we've got a good little setlist. It's quite an "up" set and we wanted this time the live shows to be a collection of all three albums, kinda my little greatest hits tour apart from that none of them were hits (laughs). I'm joking...Now don't be bad to yourself Mark, don't put yourself down....that's what were doing at the moment and it was great doing Joy Division in Manchester. It's a difficult one because you don't want to ruin that because it's a very special song to the people of Manchester, but I think we did it justice. And Could It Be Magic I thought we'd warm people up for next year back at the NYNEX and the Man City ground.

Q: When did you first start doing the Joy Division cover or was it just last night?
A: No, we started doing it on the European leg of the tour. I don't know why we did it in Europe first. I think we just wanted to practice it for when we got back here. It's hard when you want to choose something to cover because they're not always easy to do and you go through many songs before you find the right one.

In the past we've done Kylie's "Can't Get You Outta My Head", Beyonce "Crazy In Love", Radiohead's "Creep", Prince, "Touch Me I'm Sick" by Mudhoney and The Cure "Friday I'm In Love"

Q: When we saw you yesterday it was like the old days with the crowds queuing up hours before a show
A: I think people thought we were on a little bit earlier than we were really. There were quite a few people outside and I think some people may have come over from the European tour and there were some Israelis, Italians and Germans that were following us round. I think it's so they can get the front row and in that venue it's good because i'm only quite short so if you're on the back row you can only see the top of my head. God bless em, they're a good crowd

Q: So the reunion tour we all thought would never happen
A: The reunion I said a million times would never happen and why I don't know. I just think we've been spending some time together and we got approached to do it. I brought it up and told the other lads and expected them all to say no way and they went let's talk about it. Every day we went through yes we'll do it till no we won't and once the decision was made it was easy because I know what im doing from February till the end of June next year.

Q: Who was it who made that decision to say let's do it - was it yourself?
A: No. No one person can decide something like that. I was approached re: Take That, but I think the person who approached me approached from another angle as well. I brought it up one evening saying we've been approached to do a tour and I had to tell ya, obviously no-one wants to do it.

It's just going to be a bit of fun and put on the best show we possibly can. We're gonna try and get some great outfits and have a big production. And just enjoy it for a few months. I think you have to enjoy it. We never too ourselves too serious as Take That, that's what we were about, and I spent 9 years trying to take myself serious and trying to be something more than that. So now I have to forget about what i'm doing, go and do this for a while and just enjoy it.

And then back to my day job when it's all over.

Q: Are you gonna be ready for the dance routines?
A: I think that will be really interesting. When we go in there how we are going to perform it. We have to find the right way to put it together and do it. We've got to do a show that is similar to what we used to do so what I might just do is keep pointing at Howard and Howard can spin on his head and Jason can spin on his back. So i'll just be the man in the middle pointing to the other guys and they can do all the hardwork. And I just stand there looking great (laughs)

Q: The thing I find weird is a boyband doing a football ground - it just seems bizarre
A: I'm not blowing a trumpet for Take That at all really, but I think we're more than a boy band. We were a pop band, but i'd prefer pop band to boy band. We're from Manchester and I think we deserve to play Manchester City. We all like football, what's the difference? We still have guitars on stage. We still have drums on stage. We just mention the word love a bit more. (laughs)

I'm excited about playing the stadiums. I think it will be great. We had some big big songs. "Back For Good" was a world-wide number 1 and I don't know how many bands that have played there have had a world number 1. Oasis, U2 and the Chilli Peppers are great bands to follow in there, but it's a different kind of show you'll get from us. Take That always did their own things and that's was made us special.

Q: Are you getting the old outfits, especially your baby powder top?
A: The old Johnson Baby powder top. I'm so glad that that never really took off. At the time I thought I was being a fashion guru, I was just being a fashion idiot. Do you know what's going to be nice? I like being creative. I do enjoy being creative and I enjoy being creative when you can have anything you want. For me I have to be creative in trying to arrange the lights and the setlist, but to be able to have a massive production and be creative in that sense it's like being a kid with a load of new toys. It's like brilliant - fireworks, the lot!!!

Q: And the thing about Take That coming back is there's not a great deal of pop acts around at the moment?
A: Do you know what we're just coming back to do some shows. We're not restarting, we have nothing to promote. We want people to come to the shows, but we're not trying to sell anything. I think that's the good thing about it. It's a bit of a different situation than normal because usually when you're doing gigs it's like our new album is out now. We're just trying to give people a good night, have a good night ourselves, sure we'll make a bit of money, but hopefully we'll get to know each other a little bit more. People will come out as a mates night out, have a few drinks, sing some old songs and hopefully everyone will go home happy.

That's our challenge We've got to make sure it's a good show, because we always did good shows. I actually won't get up on that stage if it's shit cos i'd be embarrassed. All of us are like that so now we've just got to work out how to do it.

Q: How it came across on the documentary was that you were the bridge between Robbie and the other guys. Was this the case?
A: I think it's taken care of itself really. I think there was a time when I was a bit of an inbetweener if anything needed to be said. I think that's passed by now. Everybody still hopes that Rob will turn up and do a song with us, that would be fantastic, but i'm not going to ask him to do that. He's his own person, has his own mind and does what he wants to do. If he fancies it he'll know where we are and if he doesn't we'll go and watch him on his tour.

Q: And the other thing on the documentary - when did Jason become so camp?
A: You know what, I've heard a few people say that and I just don't understand it. I don't see it at all. I think Jason has always been someone that has always been quite expressionate and I think that's all it is really. He's passionate about every word that comes out of his mouth and I think that's what comes across more than anything.

Q: Sugababes and Beverley Knight have been announced for the support slots, but we still want to see you support yourself?
A: The lads have said I can perform some of my songs in the set so I can do an hour and a half and Take That can do 10 minutes. I'm gonna be happy to get a couple of songs in there though. What would be my ideal would be to get my band out there and do it myself, but I haven't talked to any of the other lads about it.

I'm going to write the new album while i'm on tour. It's my challenge for myself. I would love to have supported us but I think it would ruin it to be honest. It's a shame really.

Q: Have you started on the new album yet or at least ideas for it?
A: I have up here (points to head), but i've not put anything down. I've had a cold for the past week so i'm trying to sing as little as I can until I get on-stage. I think i've got two good songs in my head. I want to do a really really big album and I think the recording of it's important this time as well. I've been chatting to the band and I really want them to be involved a little more this time.

Q: I noticed last night you'd changed some of the arrangements around - you'd definitely got a post-punk influence going on for the live shows
A: Yeah, there was wasn't there. I think when I was doing the rehearsals for this tour I was doing all the Take That promotion so at the end of the day i'd end up kicking against all that. One of the songs in my head is a bit post-punk so maybe that's the way i'm heading. I've not got my finger on the pulse at the moment so i'm not sure what's going on at the moment.

I'm not listening to anything at the moment. I had to review some albums the other days so I heard Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, but the last album I actually sat down to listen to was probably Antony & The Johnsons. Give us some tips

Q: M.I.A's "Arular" is one of our albums of the year. My Chemical Romance "3 Cheers For Sweet Revenge" has been out for ages.
A: See I told you I was out of touch. I got the Bloc Party album earlier in the year. We haven't stopped this year and it's so easy to lose touch, but my guitarist Ben is a bit more on the pulse so he's always putting his IPOD on for me and saying listen to this. So these are the albums I should listen to before I finish this tour then

Q: Yeah, and if you have got access to the net check out Lucky Soul ( ), think St Etienne style Motown pop.
A: Sounds brilliant. I saw one of the bands on at Glastonbury, The Deadbeats, they won the Glastonbury new bands competition. I liked them and I did a gig with them as well. I feel like I'm a bit more in touch now

Words: Alex McCann
Photos: Karen McBride

"How The Mighty Fall" is out on Sedna Records
Take That tour throughout May & June
For more information

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