I’m only a quarter of an hour into my interview with the Goss twins when Matt mutters that I’m giving Luke, his elder brother by 11 minutes, all the best questions. ‘I’m asking you the same things,’ I protest. ‘No you’re not,’ he says. At least Luke leaves it until we are finished to have a quiet grumble. ‘You definitely asked him more than me.’
I point out that some people – that would be Matt – take longer to reply than others, wandering through highways and byways of opinion and anecdote before getting to the point.
‘We’re neck-deep in negotiations with a major record label,’ says Matt, ‘back in the game, there’s no doubt about that’
Here’s an example. I ask the brothers, who were on squabbling terms for a long time, how they’re getting on now. Matt says: ‘The music industry is one of the most tumultuous places. You are swimming with sharks and me and my brother have sharpened our teeth but er, we genuinely prefer not to bite each other any more.’
Luke: ‘We have become great friends again and an argument doesn’t seem worthy of jeopardising that.’
Or when I ask about their rock ’n’ roll years. ‘I have never had a drug in my life, never had a cigarette, nothing, I love to be highly conscious, the colour of the sky makes me really happy right now and a leaf is a priceless item. I like to be present,’ says Matt.
Luke: ‘Erm, I have tried marijuana. Not now, though. I’m a clean, clean boy.’
He’s way more succinct, less given to sounding like he’s got a shelf of self-improvement books at home, but the addendum is that he frets he’s less visible, gets less air time, which was always how it was with their band, Bros, too. Matt was front of stage crooning and smooching while Luke was stuck behind the drums, in his twin’s shadow.
Luke (on left) and Matt Goss on stage at their height of Bros mania in 1988. They were the youngest band ever to headline Wembley
Well, if the band is back – and thanks to a sensational new documentary it is – then so is the old dynamic.
Its contradictions were picked apart in the fly-on-the-wall documentary Bros: After The Screaming Stops. It was supposed to chart preparations for a reunion gig at London’s O2 in 2017. (Twenty-eight years after they last played live together, the 12,000-seater arena sold out in seven seconds, which says something about the ardour of the original Eighties Brosettes.) In reality, it was about brotherhood and what happens when fame eats you alive and your manager trousers all your money. Sneaked out on BBC4 two days before Christmas, the programme went viral and was rebroadcast by popular demand on BBC2 a month later. It was 90 minutes of clashing egos, green-room fights, back-turning and tearful reunions between two men whose lives were taken hostage by their celebrity more than 30 years ago. Matt’s musings on it all – pearls such as ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day and we don’t have the time Rome had’ – became instant internet memes. It’s set to be aired in America soon and it’s this ‘Spinal Tap’ moment rather than the clamour from music fans that has put Bros back in business, about to head into the studio, selling out the O2 with £100-plus tickets and fixing more dates for a summer tour.
‘We’re neck-deep in negotiations with a major record label,’ says Matt, ‘back in the game, there’s no doubt about that. And this time I hope we’re represented, that the individuals we are is who people get to see. The truth is, it wasn’t like that first time around.’
As ever, Luke nails it. ‘We just want to make a hate-proof record.’
Hate-proof. It’s difficult to remember just how hated Bros were by the time they split in 1992, and even harder to work out why. They were discovered in 1986 and had a string of hits including When Will I Be Famous and I Owe You Nothing. Their debut album, Push, sold ten million copies and they were the youngest band ever to headline Wembley. Their public appearances routinely involved policemen with linked arms on crowd control and fainting teenage fans. The brothers remember girls arriving in their hotel rooms hidden in dumb waiters and once pulling the door clean off a decoy limo while they escaped in a tradesman’s van.
Few people in their adopted home of America (Luke lives in Los Angeles, Matt in Las Vegas) realise the actor and the singer are brothers, never mind twins
They were bona fide global superstars, yet they were vilified by the media and monstered by critics. One music writer even publicly wished a twin dead – he didn’t specify which – just to break up the band. ‘Our mum cried so much about that you could see the veins bulging, blue, out of her neck,’ recalls Matt.
They were also broke after making a fortune for industry executives rather than themselves. Luke knew it was over when his two Porsches were repossessed and he had to ask his wife for her engagement ring back so they could pay the bills. ‘It was really lonely, to be ridiculed and detested and not to understand why,’ he says. ‘People have to remember we are working-class boys, we have no silver spoons, nothing to fall back on. We had to roll up our sleeves and slog our way out. It was a big slice of real.’
Matt went solo and Luke went into theatre, the end of their double act. ‘There was no conscious exclusion of each other,’ says Luke, ‘but we had to succeed at what we were doing next and it put us in an isolated rhythm. It wasn’t as sinister as people think, it was just surviving life.’
Well, he might say that but the epic sibling rivalry that existed back then, and which is so evident in the documentary, never really went away. Today, at the Event photo-shoot, there’s a small outbreak over who has the most meaningful body art.
‘You didn’t ask me about my tattoos,’ Luke chastises. He’s right. I’d asked Matt about his inkings because, even if Luke’s are as numerous as his brother’s (and reader, I’m not in a position to say), they’re less visible when they’re sitting on a sofa wearing jackets.
The brothers remember girls arriving in their hotel rooms hidden in dumb waiters and once pulling the door clean off a decoy limo while they escaped in a tradesman’s van
I try to redress the imbalance. ‘Sorry Luke, tell me about your tattoos.’
‘I have the Lord’s Prayer down my spine.’
‘Can I have a look then?’ Seems a fair request since Matt had invited me to read one of his, some lines written by their late mum about her sons, which now flow in a facsimile of her cursive script across his left collarbone. He’d tugged at the neck of his shirt, pulling it down far enough for me to see her epitaph.
Luke lifts his T-shirt for a second and then changes his mind. ‘No.’
‘Oh go on, I wasn’t wearing my glasses.’
‘OK.’ I get a second speedy peek of ‘forever and ever, Amen’ tattooed onto caramel-tanned skin – though I would have preferred to have started up by ‘Our Father’ – before he covers himself again. At least they’re even now.
Yet for every moment of friction like this there is a counterweight of something truly bonding between the brothers. It’s the sense that even when they are jostling with each other, they are still standing shoulder to shoulder against a world that alternately snipes and swoons.
Matt is single, Luke has been married since 1994. I ask him if his wife Shirley, who was one of George Michael’s backing singers, ever acts as peacemaker. ‘Absolutely not. We’re like that classic image of a comic-book fight, a big dust cloud with Bam! and Kerpow! coming out of it in speech bubbles. Everyone knows not to come between us.’ Yet asked the identity of their twin’s best friend, they both look faintly surprised and say, ‘It’s me.’ To them that’s obvious.
The ‘isolated rhythm’ Luke refers to saw them both seek exile, separately, across the Atlantic. Matt says, ‘I remember sitting in a Virgin airport lounge in bits, knowing I would not see my country for a long time, but I just could not be here any more.’
Luke says, ‘I was truly and utterly heartbroken by having to leave home, being forced out. But we’d been so battered.’
If you ask most people what happened next, they’d suggest the Goss twins fell into the abyss of showbiz oblivion.
The brothers still get a lot of female attention, although ‘we’re not sending out invitations for it’
‘The public thought we were sitting in a back bedroom singing our old hits and doing Airfix,’ says Luke. Except they weren’t. Matt never stopped performing and today has a residency at the legendary Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, where his band nickname him Iron Voice because nothing silences him. He’s been headlining somewhere on the strip for a decade now.
Luke, meanwhile, put down his drumsticks to become an actor and is a veteran of 50 films. He’s best known as a badass in the Hellboy and Blade movies and turns up on credits alongside Hollywood stalwarts from Samuel L Jackson to William Hurt. The fact that this is not often acknowledged frustrates him. ‘I can be in a multimillion-pound film that goes to number one in 30 countries, but you won’t see two paragraphs about it in Britain.’
Few people in their adopted home of America (Luke lives in Los Angeles, Matt in Las Vegas) realise the actor and the singer are brothers, never mind twins. That’s because they no longer look like two halves of the same whole. In childhood photos they can’t even pick themselves out, but at 50 it’s easy. ‘We are individuals within Bros now and I think the visuals help,’ says Luke astutely.
These days Matt is 6ft 2in of lounge lizard, all slim suits and dandy fedoras with Crème de la Mer skin, and is that a slick of man-scara on professionally curled eyelashes? His fingernails are immaculately manicured, painted the kind of nude pinky beige known in the beauty business as ‘wedding day’. ‘I shake a lot of hands, it is respectful to be groomed,’ he says unembarrassed, adding that his toes match.
The brothers’ relationship was picked apart in the fly-on-the-wall documentary Bros: After The Screaming Stops
Luke is skinny, ripped and 20lb lighter than his brother, with lucent blue eyes. He’s bald now. The luxuriant Scandi-white hair that was the twins’ style signature fell out from stress-related alopecia when he was 23. ‘I woke up one morning with handfuls on my pillow. It took another three weeks and then it was like this.’ You have to wonder at the deep, toxic trauma – the hatred he refers to – which caused his body to malfunction like that.
They both still get a lot of female attention, although ‘we’re not sending out invitations for it’, says Luke, who’s not available anyway. Matt is single after a decade-long relationship with an American MTV presenter and model, which ended in a broken engagement. He’d still like to get married and have children. ‘I have never had someone say, “That’s my husband”, and the hopeless romantic in me would love to hear those words,’ he says.
Neither of them took advantage of the female fans who threw themselves at the band. ‘There are women knocking on your door at 2am wanting you to open it. It didn’t get opened but that didn’t stop it happening,’ says Luke. This seems to have been in part because he didn’t feel he could live up to their idolatry. ‘I always had a sense of not wanting to encroach on someone’s perception of me because it’s greater than anything I could give them, not just as a lover but as a person.’
Neither of them has been caught up in a #MeToo furore. ‘MeToo is a very valid movement but there are a lot of gentlemen out there, and we are gentlemen,’ says Matt.
All the Goss on Bros
How well do the Goss twins really know each other?
Matt on Luke
Teen pin-up? ‘The girl in Weird Science, Kelly LeBrock.’ Luke: ‘Correct. But only after I’d got over Debbie Harry.’
Favourite movie? The Godfather. Luke: ‘Wrong. It’s Gladiator.’
Nickname as a kid? ‘Pooh Bear.’ Luke: ‘Yes!’
Most irritating habit? ‘Always being on his phone.’ Luke: No. [Matt nudges me a minute later pointing at Luke, who is on his phone.]
Drink of choice? ‘Red wine.’ Luke: ‘Yes.’
Holiday destination? ‘Barbados.’ Luke: ‘Yes.’
All-time music idol? ‘Chris Cornell of Soundgarden.’ Luke: ‘Yes.’
Favourite book? ‘Desert Conversation.’ (Luke’s own) Luke: ‘No, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.’
Coolest phone number in his contacts? ‘[Director] Guillermo del Toro.’ Luke: ‘Yes.’
What he spends most money on? ‘Watches and cars.’ Luke: ‘Yes.’
Luke on Matt
Teen pin-up? ‘Maybe Debbie Harry, I was mad about her too.’ Matt: ‘No. Rita Hayworth.’
Favourite movie? ‘The Italian Job.’ Matt: ‘Yes.’
Nickname as a kid? ‘Maffy.’ Matt: ‘Correct’.
Most irritating habit? ‘Sticking his tongue in my ear all the time, but if I’m honest it does make me laugh.’ Matt: ‘And I enjoy it too!’
Drink of choice? ‘Scotch.’ Matt: ‘Yup.’
Holiday destination? ‘Barbados.’ Matt: ‘Oh yes.’
All-time music idol? ‘Stevie Wonder.’ Matt: ‘Yes’
Favourite book? ‘Don’t know.’ Matt: ‘It’s Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss.’
Coolest phone number in his contacts? ‘Matt’s got a lot of them, too subjective to say.’ Matt: ‘True.’
What he spends most money on? ‘Watches and clothes.’ Matt: ‘Definitely.’
At the end I ask him for Luke’s motto for life and he suggests ‘Kindness Is King’. I ask Luke the same question for his brother and he says ‘Civility Costs Nothing’. Both approve of the answer their twin has offered on their behalf. The question is, now they’ve got Bros back together, will the music business be kind and civil to them this time around, and can they continue to be kind and civil to each other?
They can hope for the former and promise the latter. ‘We realised when we reached out to each other that we would not break up again,’ says Matt. ‘The relationship I am building with Luke is more trustful than it was when we were kids because we are men now, we are more conscious, and we live in a state of continuous wonderment and gratitude. Luke is a central character in my life and in my heart.’
‘Likewise,’ says Luke, still admirably to the point.
Bros play O2 Academy Brixton on July 5, ticketmaster.co.uk
The funniest quotes from the Goss twins’ unintentionally hilarious documentary
‘Please can we start a Bros petition for this ridiculous thing where you can’t even play conkers, you have to wear goggles. That is the biggest problem… You can’t play conkers in England.’ Matt
‘I made a decision because of Stevie Wonder not to be superstitious.’ Matt
‘Once bitten, twice shy. Twenty times bitten, a little shy.’ Luke
’The best toy we had growing up was a dart. No dart board, just a dart.’ Matt
‘Rome wasn’t built in a day. And f*** me that’s true. But we don’t have the time Rome had.’ Matt
‘I was a rectangle and Luke was a rectangle and we made a square that became a fortress. Matt
‘It’s one of those situations. If you fall asleep, then you’re definitely going to miss the train.’ Luke
‘The letters H.O.M.E are so important, because they personify the word… home.’ Matt
‘I’m a London boy. You know: Big Ben. Embankment. Cab drivers.’ Luke
‘Everyone has to be on the same page otherwise you don’t get to turn the page. Because somebody gets left behind and then somebody has lost the page of the story, which may be the key to the ending.’ Matt