Catching Up With The Backstreet Boys


By Noah Michelson

Brian Littrell and A.J. McLean chat about crazy encounters with groupies and supporting their gay fan base.

How do you guys feel about the term "boy band" being equated with the Backstreet Boys in 2010?
Brian: It blows.
A.J.: It sucks.
Brian: Yeah. [Laughs]
A.J.: You can call us a boy band -- we don't care. Back in the day, when we first started and we were over in Europe, we kind of were blindsided by the fact that we got thrown into this big melting pot of the boy band era. We were the only group really like us coming out of the U.S. So going over there, there was Take That and all those bands. And now, it makes us feel young again if you want to call us a boy band. I mean, you can call us a "man band," too. But we've always prided ourselves on just being a vocal harmony group. And we fought tooth and nail for the first, probably, five, six years of our actual career to claim that name. And now, if you wanna call us a boy band, call us a boy band. It's kind of cool -- it's retro.
Brian: It's cool, in a way, and also it sucks, on the other side. Because, to be honest with you, the label "boy band" or the facade of what people think boy bands are, you think of Backstreet Boys and, "Oh, yeah. They're like the king boy band of the 1990s." But, at the same time, there is a future, unfortunately for a lot of people out there, there is a future for the Backstreet Boys, and fortunately for a lot of fans that we have. We have another 17 years in us. There's more music to be made, there's more history, there's more events, there's more moments that we can share with our fans in the future, and, you know, someday that term will probably go away. Or it'll transfer to the Jonas Brothers. They didn't really call Boys II Men a boy band. It's a European term that we kind of got smashed with. But again, in the U.S., it's turned against us to try to be played on the radio today. In today's market world of radio, if you're not working with the right guy or you have the label that we have right now, people kind of run from it. So we're tryin' to change people's thought process on -- it's still good music, and it is what it is.

Perez Hilton is looking for the new big boy band. He's conducting a search with Simon Fuller right now.
Brian: It's not going to go away. [Laughs]

You're one of the biggest-selling boy bands in history. Do you still worry about competition? Where's your head at when you think about new bands?
A.J.: I think it's cool, in some aspects, that if another group does come out like us and does very well, it just opens the doors for us, as well as any other new artists, and even seasoned artists -- it kind of starts that whole pop explosion again. Look at the New Kids again, for example. I mean, they were gone for 15 years and came back, and it was like they were never gone. No pun intended on our end.
Brian: Never gone.
A.J.: But -- like what Brian said -- it's always going to be happening. People like Perez that are knee-deep in the media and in the public eye and know and have seen so many artists --
Brian: And have a huge influence --
A.J.: I think it's something great. Hopefully it's a good group and it does very well. We've been around for so long that, if we can even help, you know, in any way, to any new groups, and give them any kind of advice... We're always here to kind of give our side to what we've been through for 17 years. Obviously something's been working, if we've been doing it for so long, and we have such an amazing fan base.

What has been your most insane encounter with a fan?
A.J.: If we wrote a book about it, between the fans and tour life, it would be bigger than War and Peace. Some of the craziest things I can remember, we had a girl stow away on our tour bus. She was a girl that was actually trying to get to me. She had given me these two rings. I didn't think anything of it. Come to find out that they were both real, and that they were her parents' wedding rings and realized that she was in deep caca. And she just hopped on our bus and stowed away in a bunk. Our old manager was rummaging through his bunk and he felt a leg and was like, "What the hell?" We were like four hours away from the city that she hopped on the bus. We had to put her in a cab and send her back home.
Brian: We had gone, like, 200 kilometers, it was like...
A.J.: Yeah. We've had girls be sitting in our dressing room when we show up to a gig. We had these girls -- I think we were in Spain -- we walked into our dressing room and there's two girls with their jeans ripped, they're bleeding, they had jumped over a barbed-wire fence, and they're just sitting there. When they see you, they don't really know what to do because they're like, "Oh my God, you're really here." And then when it comes time for them to be asked to leave, that's when they put you in a choke hold, and they don't want to let it go. We've had girls jump on stage. We had a girl once, on the Millennium Tour, Brian tends to sing with his eyes closed a lot.
Brian: No I don't.
A.J.: This girl was just freaking. This girl was standing right in front of him when he opened his eyes, and she bumped the mic and hit him in the face.
Brian: We were singing "I'll Never Break Your Heart," and we were on the center of the stage where the center used to rise up in the middle, and it would turn around. And I was singing, "I'll never break..." and it was like, [makes sound of mic hitting him in the mouth]. My mic hits me right in the teeth, and my lip starts bleeding, and I'm like, "What the heck?" And I look up, and this girl's going, "Hruuuuh" [sound of inhaling horror], right in front of me. And our security guard, Marcus, about that time -- she'd timed it perfectly. I don't know how many shows she had seen to know right when the stage lifted up, because it separated from the rest and lifted up. So our security guard is trying to climb the ramp as the stage is lifting, and he can't even get up there, he's sliding down, and he's going, "Come here, girl! Come here, girl!" trying to get this girl off. And then she runs and gets Nick in the headlock, after she bashes my mic into my lip. So that was interesting.

We had another two girls. We always have a press schedule that we look at, or an e-mail that comes in, of the city that we're at and the stations that we're doing interviews at and who's working that day and who's doing press. I was backstage with my security guard getting ready to have dinner, and these two girls -- they were probably in their early 20s -- come walking down the ramp to the arena. And they had these huge press badges on that were laminated with their picture and all this stuff, and it says underneath it, "Makeup." And I was thinking -- I'm not shy in saying that when we do TV, or whatever, we try to get a little touch up so we look like we're young pop stars. But I knew on that day that we did not have any press, so we didn't have makeup that day. And these girls just walk right down and backstage, so I asked my security guard "Raul, why don't you run and check on those girls because we're not -- one, we don't have press today. Two, we're not doing makeup. And three, they don't belong back here." So he goes and gets them, and they're walking them out, and she's like, "Oh my God. We made these passes, and we love you." It was kind of one of those situations like A.J., where I was their favorite. And she was like, "We just want to meet you and say hello." So I ended up taking pictures with them, and I was like, "All right, you guys have to go." They get pretty smart, they get pretty smart. The older they get...
A.J.: Fans get really creative nowadays, especially with the Internet. They can burn a copy of a backstage pass, or whatever, which is also scary at the same time, cause we do have the occasional stalker-fan that, like, "I'll kill you and then kill myself." It's like, "Whoa. OK, you've got issues."
Brian: It's only music.

Tags: Music