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'Bit of a laugh' ended in chart success.

Byline: BY SHEREEN LOW

STEVE BROOKSTEIN may have scooped the prize in 2004's X Factor show, but the real winners of the competition were the runners-up, G4The operatic quartet's debut self-titled album entered the UK charts at No 1, and has already reached triple platinum status, and they've also played a sellout 25-date UK tour over the summer.

"Steve's problem was he didn't capitalise on the show, and bring something out straight away after winning," says Ben Thapa. "The popularity was obviously there, as his single and album went straight to No 1, but he chose to go away for three months, and it's difficult to generate that amount of interest again.

"When the public vote for you to win, it's a shame if you don't follow it through with a release. That's the nature of the game."

It sounds harsh, but G4 - Ben (the one with the eyebrows), Matt Stiff (the oldest), Jon Ansell (the blond angelic one) and Mike Christie (the tall slim one) - have been put through their paces.

Classically trained - the name stands for Guildhall Four as they met at Guildhall School of Music and Drama - it's been a whirlwind year for the quartet.

"After we were voted off, we thought that was it, but we were approached by Sony BMG and made the first album soon after," says Matt, 25.

"It's been a really mad year," adds 23-year-old Ben. "People always ask if we expected anything like this at any stage of the competition and the answer is no, we had no idea what would happen. Many people dream of fame and success, but not us."

The year so far surpasses their wildest imaginations.

"We're a blag! The four of us met and entered for a laugh just to see what happened, and it's been a complete fairytale," says Ben, grinning.

"You never dream of doing fantastic things like recording an album. That's what makes it more incredible."

Matt adds: "It's been fantastic, but it's also been very difficult too. This life is very pressurised."

The guys were drinking buddies before X Factor, which put their friendship under intense pressure - but they insist they're good friends on and off stage. They've even experienced back waxes and eyebrow threading together.

"We had our backs waxed once out of curiosity," says Ben. "Matt was the first, and despite his screams, I thought I'd be a man and try it. It was one of the most painful experiences of my life."

"Our eyebrows were waxed and threaded," adds Matt.

"I've never experienced a pain like that before!"

"We didn't pour our heart and soul to each other, we just had a laugh," continues Ben.

"But when the group started, we became a clique, going out and busking.

"Initially, on X Factor, it was more intense than we were comfortable with, but when you spend so much time together, you may as well just be open about it or it becomes apparent. We've got a lot closer, and learnt so much about each other."

p THE new G4 album, G4 and Friends, and new DVD, G4: Live At The Royal Albert Hall, are both out on Monday, November 28

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X Factor losers and chart winners, G4
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 25, 2005
Words:539
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