Monday, March 1, 2010

After years on the backburner, Backstreet's back

March 2, 2010 - 5:39AM

Their baby-faced youth is now well behind them - some now have children of their own - but that doesn't mean Backstreet Boys will ever become Backstreet Men.

Or so says the band's 'bad boy' AJ McLean who, at 32, is recently engaged and busily hitting the gym in preparation for his group's whirlwind tour Down Under.

"People think that we're old and we can't do it any more now," McLean says.

"But we're like come on now, please, we're [only] in our thirties.

"Backstreet Boys is our trademark - it's our brand - and so, if the Beastie Boys are in their 50s, the Beach Boys are getting older, the Backstreet Boys will always be the Backstreet Boys."

They'll just sound a little different, look a little different and do things a little differently.

McLean describes the many ways in which the band has grown since they exploded onto the world music scene in early nineties, namely their approach to music and the business of making it.

Reflecting on their early days as a teenage vocal group managed by Lou Pearlman, a former air-ship entrepreneur who hoped to replicate the commercial success enjoyed by New Kids on the Block, McLean says there was a lot of grunt work that went into what the world saw as overnight success.

"In the early days before we had a record deal, we were really kind of paying for everything and he [Pearlman] was taking us around to middle schools and high schools [to perform]," McLean says.

"A lot of nose to the grindstone, pay your dues.

"We did some clubs, we did the opening of a pet store, we sang outside of a Ford car dealership - whatever we could do to be seen and get some sort of recognition. Then by 1996 we were signed to Jive and the rest is kind of history."

Said history comprised a series of very public highs and lows - from over 100 million worldwide record sales and countless awards to the scandal surrounding Pearlman's eventual conviction for conspiracy and money laundering.

The criminal charges against their former manager followed a successful lawsuit lodged by the Boys in the late nineties that accused Pearlman of fraud and misrepresentation - reportedly the band had only received $300,000 for their work while the 'sixth member' of the group made millions.

"We learned a lot," says Mclean.

"We've become a lot more business savvy whereas before, there were people who did our business for us; which sometimes was good, but sometimes was bad.

"I mean I had my little spat with drugs and alcohol and it's still a struggle for me every single day... Even as a group we've had moments when we've all been through personal things as well as things as an actual group, but we always seem to achieve coming out on top."

With sights firmly set on the future, Mclean says the group is confident things will only get better, likening the Backstreet Boys of 2010 to an old couch, rescued from the elements and extensively refurbished "until basically, it's a brand new couch".

"Our entire aura is different now, we're on a different level," he says.

"Nick has lost a lot of weight, he feels good and looks good, we all feel good and sound good and we're ready for this whole new tour and whole new record."

And while McLean mightn't admire the state of the modern music landscape ("The industry today sucks, it's unfortunate ... the entire industry has kind of gone down the crapper") there's no way he and his band will leave it unconquered.

"If you're in this industry as long as you keep your head above water and don't succumb to this business you will be successful," the sage, seasoned professional muses.

"As long as you know that you're successful within yourself first, that's all that matters."

The Backstreet Boys will bring their This Is Us tour to the Brisbane Entertainment Centre next Monday, March 8.