Passport: Mike Graham - Flat on the floor in the back of a van: travelling the Boyzone way

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The Independent Travel
THERE IS a beautiful old mining town called Broken Hill in Australia, where we went to shoot the video for `Isn't it a Wonder'. The landscape around there is amazing. We flew from Melbourne late at night on a little seven-seater jet, and due to some engine trouble, the pilot had to make an emergency landing at a tiny airstrip. We were left on the runway for hours, drinking beer and playing basketball, waiting for a car to come and pick us up. Eventually, as dawn was breaking, it arrived. As we drove along, we saw kangaroos bouncing across the red-coloured earth and the scenery was breathtaking. Later that day, it heated up to 45; it was really lethal."

Quite a contrast to the lush green countryside that Dublin-born Mikey grew up in. He is the quieter member of the all-boy band phenomenon, Boyzone, and had never travelled beyond Ireland before pop stardom took him all over the world.

"When I was 17, I worked for a sign-erecting company, and me and another chap used to travel around Ireland in a van putting up signs. We were away for days at a time. It was a bit of a culture shock being taken from rustic corners of Ireland to places like Bangkok."

One of the first overseas trips that Boyzone did was South-east Asia. "I don't know what it is, but Asian girls are fanatical about boy groups. They stand there, very quiet and polite, but as soon as you turn your back, they go crazy. European fans, on the other hand, are crazy all the time!"

At the end of the four-week tour, the band stopped off in Bombay for a day to do some interviews. "We were all pretty worn out and to our amazement, when we boarded the plane, it was full of fans who had booked onto the same flight. We were in business class, but the fans were running up and down all over the plane.

"We got to the airport and it was jam- packed with thousands of fans. They took us out the back way with an escort. All along the road from the airport there were cars with fans in them, all ringing each other to give out our location. Even the local radio station knew exactly where we were - we heard them broadcasting updates.

"Suddenly, up ahead, there was this massive crowd of about 20,000 people. It turned out that they were the fans waiting outside our hotel. We only had two security guards with us and they couldn't handle the situation. Everyone was cheering so there was a good feeling but we felt nervous. We finally got close to the hotel and all these kids' faces were pressed up against the windows looking at us. Then the police turned up and started beating them back with sticks. Eventually we got into the hotel and did the interviews, but the crowds were still waiting outside. We were escorted out the back into a little white van and told to lie on the floor to make our getaway. On the way back to the airport, people were lining the route, standing side-by-side wearing little more than their underwear.

"I have to say that I felt guilty but glad to be back on the business- class flight to London. But it did make me realise how lucky we were."

Boyzone's new single, `I love the way you love me', was released on Monday.