Take That: ‘I Feel Proud That We Put The Graft In’

14 February 2024 | 11:28 am | Bryget Chrisfield

Take That will tour Australia later this year. To celebrate, Howard Donald discusses new beginnings, closing the Coronation concert, the helpline set up for Take That fans following their 1996 split and more.

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After teasing an Australian tour during a morning TV promo appearance late last year, UK trio Take That have finally locked in a string of dates for October and November 2024.

The group’s best dancer, Howard Donald Zooms in to discuss new beginnings, closing the Coronation concert, the helpline that was set up for Take That fans following their 1996 split and the whereabouts of all those perfumed teddies that fans piffed on stage back in the day.

“We’ve always been together”

Howard Donald: “Some have said, ‘Oh, what made you get back together again?’ And it’s like, ‘Well, no, we’ve never been away anywhere,’ you know? I think we look at it like when we did the Odyssey album [2018], and then we went away. I think you can only tour every two, three, or four years anyway because it creates that excitement rather than trying to tour every year. We’ve always been together, we’ve always been writing, so it feels like a different part – a new beginning, I guess – with a new album, a new record company.”

Ruling the Coronation 

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“It was amazing! I mean, the fact that we were asked to do it and, you know, finish off the whole night was incredible. I think that being the first performance in a while, I was actually more nervous of the crowd, really, more so than the fact that I was performing in front of royalty; I don’t even think that really entered my head when I was actually on the stage performing because you’re performing to everybody, you know? And you wanna give it your best after all that time. And I think I was very nervous about the situation, especially when it came to me singing my own vocal. But, all in all, when I came off stage, I was buzzing.”

Did your kids reckon it was cool?

“I mean, my eldest daughters obviously saw [the Coronation concert], and they’re really proud. I think [my two young sons] would’ve seen it, but I don’t think they would’ve seen it live – they probably would’ve been in bed, ‘cause we have quite a routine when it comes to bedtime – but, yeah! I think they must’ve seen it the next day. But, you know, my youngest is still sort of working out who I am.”

“Maybe we are national treasures?”

“It took me a while [to come back down to earth following Take That’s Coronation performance], actually, ‘cause we had to fly out to record the album [2023’s This Life] the next day. I remember being at the airport speaking to my wife, and I think I broke down in tears because I felt so emotional with the whole situation; all this adoration had come back. ‘Cause the stage was so full of musicians and dancers and choir singers when we walked off, everyone was literally stood up clappin’ as we went through them to go back to the changing rooms, and I thought, ‘Oh my God! This is…’ – it was almost too much for my heart, you know?

To get all this after all this time and people still, you know, look up to you and love you. And maybe it is right, maybe we are national treasures? I don’t know. Maybe in a lot of people’s eyes. Maybe we’re just annoying bastards in other people’s eyes [laughs]. But it just felt absolutely incredible, and it was a real honour.”

That hilarious Twitter slapdown 

HD: “What was it? What was it?”

Tweet: “Howard needs to move away from the scouse market trader look."

HD’s slapdown: “You’ve obviously been hanging round the Liverpool markets too much. Wanna buy a fake Rolex?!!” 

HD: “Hahaha, yeah.”

Recording the Take That: This Life podcast

“I loved it. You’re guided on certain subjects, but the great thing about podcasts is that you can go off on a tangent and you can go somewhere you’ve never, ever been before. And you’re not being asked the same questions – whether it’s by journalists, the fans or whoever it may be – you’re going off on this little story, wherever it goes, and the people are hearing something they’ve never heard before. And we’re hearing stuff that we’ve never told each other before, almost like a therapy session again. And that’s what I love about it: the fact that the fans who are listening, or whoever was listening to the podcast, were getting a deeper insight into our lives in Take That and, you know, partly our personal lives.”

On the helpline that was set up for Take That fans following their 1996 split 

“I mean, I think when you’re in this bubble, and stuff like this happens to you, you’re actually getting over your own grief of splitting up – which I went through, you know; there was a bit of stuff going on with me – and you don’t think of all that stuff that’s happening to anybody else. And then when you find out about it, you think, ‘Oh my God!’ And then when you have daughters, and they become teenagers, you exaggerate that, and you think, ‘Oh my God! What must’ve them teenagers…’ – because now you’ve got teenagers, you know what they’re like. I was thinking, ‘Well how are them teenagers feeling when all of a sudden they lose somebody that they’ve been following for six years and all of a sudden they’re gone?’ And I really felt for them. 

“I think the more you learn about life, and when you have daughters, you sort of actually start getting into the mindset of what they were actually going through. And it was quite sad, really, when you think about it. People were devastated. And to a lot of them, we were probably the only thing in their lives that made them happy – the music – and, you know, brought their friendships together with other people from other countries – with no internet, pen-pals or whatever they may be – and then all of a sudden, we were gone.”

Revealed: The whereabouts of all those perfumed teddies that fans piffed on stage back in the day

“They were all donated. We donated those to children’s hospitals. But half of them had to be de-perfumed, though, before they were given because they stunk of perfume. And, you know, there was a couple of them with knots tied ‘round the neck and a pair of knickers, you know? [laughs] All those sorta things are thrown [on stage] with them as well, at the same time.”

The greatest dancer

“I think maybe I became the best dancer when Jason [Orange] left [laughs]. So, I never looked at it like that. It’s an honour that me and Jason used to choreograph the routines to all the ‘90s songs and stuff like that. And we have a massive say in what goes on the stage as well, or what we should be doing when we’re doing our shows. But, yeah! I think, as you get older, your dancing obviously becomes less and less energetic [laughs].”

“Always singin’, always dancin’ at the same time”

“When rehearsing prior to a show, you’re always doing the dance routines and always singing in the microphone anyway, whether you’re miming or not. Or you’re normally singing into a dud mic because you’re rehearsing in a dance studio – always singing, always dancing at the same time. So that is your training.”

Have you picked up a trumpet in a while?

“Hahahaha, no… I’m learning how to play the guitar, funnily enough.”   

“I feel proud that we put the graft in” 

“I’m proud of the fact that we started out and we handed out little cards with numbers on them and, ‘Join the fanclub, join this’. And you’d receive fan mail that was handwritten and then you used to write back to people thanking them for their letters. And word of mouth was either you did a radio station, a TV station or a live performance. 

“So, you would never have been able to perform anything on Instagram or Twitter, or X as it’s called now, or do any TikTok videos to promote yourself – or YouTube even. A lotta stars have been born on YouTube, and even TikTok and social media, which is fair play – if they’re good enough artists, that’s amazing – but I feel proud that we put the graft in and we had to go to all the countries – to actually visit them and do the TVs there – rather than something that works on the internet.”

Proudest Take That-related musical moment 

“I think the latest album, This Life. I mean, we all had free rein and went off separately and wrote our own songs with whoever we liked. Then we worked on the songs together and made them into all of us, really, and our sound and what we wanted. We really put a lot of very, very equal work into this album – as in, we’ve all written songs – and I’m really proud of that fact.” 

Is Take That’s giant mechanical elephant coming to Oz? 

“If you can pay for it, we’ll bring it [laughs].”  

Any chance of a cheeky Down Under DJ set?

“I would love to DJ over there, absolutely love it. I play funky house, so if you know anyone [laughs] I take bookings... I’d love to DJ out there, and I’d love to play golf out there as well, so…”

Take That are touring Australia in October and November 2024 with special guest Sophie Ellis-Bextor. They’ll be joined by Ricki-Lee at the A Day On The Green dates.




WEDNESDAY 30 OCTOBER - RAC Arena | Perth WA (Boorloo)

SATURDAY 2 NOVEMBER - Peter Lehmann Wines | Barossa Valley SA (Kaurna) – a day on the green*

WEDNESDAY 6 NOVEMBER - Rod Laver Arena | Melbourne VIC (Naarm)

THURSDAY 7 NOVEMBER - Qudos Bank Arena | Sydney NSW (Eora)

SATURDAY 9 NOVEMBER - Bimbadgen | Hunter Valley NSW (Eora) – a day on the green*

SUNDAY 10 NOVEMBER - Sirromet Wines | Mount Cotton QLD (Meanjin) – a day on the green*

THURSDAY 14 NOVEMBER - Spark Arena | Auckland NZ (Tāmaki Makaurau)

*Ricki Lee is exclusively appearing at A Day On The Green shows