Once a boy band, now men in Block

15 years later, the New Kids regroup and come 'round with a new CD - and they're having fun again

By Rachel Leibrock

It's been almost 15 years since New Kids on the Block called it quits, but some things, apparently, never change.

During their heyday the Boston-bred boy band Donnie Wahlberg, Joey McIntyre, Danny Wood and brothers Jordan and Jon Knight burned up the charts with a funky, neo-soul sound that incited millions of girls to scream at ear-shattering decibel levels.

Now, after pursuing acting (Wahlberg, McIntyre), solo projects (Jordan Knight, Wood, McIntyre) and real estate (Jonathan Knight), the Kids have returned with a new tour and album.

"The Block" is vintage NKOTB (just a little more club-oriented and a lot sexier) and, debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard Album Chart, shows the group still draws in listeners.

McIntyre was only 12 when the New Kids first arrived on the scene. Calling from a tour bus in Boston, the "Dancing With the Stars" alum now known as Joe talks about growing up, making new music and the power of lasting friendships.

Q: How's the tour going?

A: Aww, it's ridiculous I'm honestly surprised that you don't know that we're taking the world by storm (laughs). I'm astounded by it we have the greatest fans.

Q: So, who's coming out to see you? Are these fans from back in the day, or are there some younger faces, too?

A: Definitely a majority are fans who are, average age, 28, 29. But it's all over the spectrum you'll also see a group of young girls having a blast.

Q: How has it been doing this tour and record? Did you find yourself slipping into old, familiar roles, or has the dynamic changed?

A: No, the dynamic is much like old friends when you get together after many years. Everyone's got their personality and we all just bounce off each other.

I mean, obviously we've lived a lot and we have families and careers, but once you get back together it's all the same vibe. You know, back in the day it all blew up so much and we didn't always make the savviest business moves. But we remained friends and were always in that foxhole together.

Q: Were there any reservations about reuniting?

A: No. The fact that (we all) wanted to go at it again is all that matters. These are four guys that I respect and care about and that's enough.

Q: So, why now? What made it right?

A: It goes back to 15 years ago when we wanted to do our own thing and discover what else was out there. We spent half our lives as a group, so then we had to just live and make mistakes and make our own music figuratively and literally. And so we all did that and then, finally, the time was just right.

Q: Were you going for a particular sound when you started the album?

A: It started with "Click Click Click," written by Nasri Atweh, this young kid who grew up listening to New Kids records, and we thought it was a great direction. It was mature and sexy, and the lyrics spoke to me because they celebrated women, they didn't objectify women.

We did three more of his songs, then we met this producer, RedOne, who infused some energy. Between those two sounds RedOne's more urban club and Atweh is more urban R&B it just felt right.

Q: What about your former producer Maurice Starr you had some problems with him in the past. Do you ever cross paths now?

A: The only trouble with Maurice is that we were trying to fight for our credibility, and he was coming onstage and saying he could make anyone a star. There's no reason not to still love him, though he gave up everything to make us happen. He believed in us.

He's a good man but he's always had a chip on his shoulder and it's not about us, it's about the world and the music business. Obviously that chip produced millions of records, but it also punched a hole in our (relationship). We're not going to work with him again. We've moved on, but he'll always be a friend and a part of our history.

Q: Looking back, are there any things you'd do differently?

A: Not a thing through all the crazy we tried to deal in an honest way. You're going to make mistakes.

Our management made mistakes on the merchandise and we became commercialized, but that's not what the group was really about. Aside from that we were just five guys and it was just about the stage and being an artist.

And now we're having a blast and, personally, I wouldn't change anything.

Call Bee pop music writer Rachel Leibrock, (916) 321-1176