Howie D talks about BackStreet Boys' comeback and why his heart will always belong in Ireland
We are backstage in Dublin's 3Arena and all is quiet before the hysteria that will erupt in a few hours when BackStreet Boys take to the stage. Outside, a long queue of fans - almost exclusively female and in their thirties and forties - snakes down the quays and the merchandise stand is already doing good business.
Backstreet Boys' arena tour in 18 years is in town and while founding member Howie D may have seen it all before, the disgustingly well preserved Irish-American (more of which later) is still taken aback by the fan fervour.
"We are still blown away, especially now with this second coming, this comeback for us," says the 45-year-old native of Florida. "We’re very blessed because we know that a lot of artists are very lucky to have lightning strike in a bottle just once. For that to happen twice we know is very rare. I’m going to church every Sunday, good Catholic boy here, to say a prayer that it continues!"
"I definitely know that I love a good pint of Guinness and I love corned beef and cabbage, that's for sure. I’m a good Catholic boy, that’s for sure."
The Backstreet Boys, nineties heartthrobs and the New Kids on The Block it was OK to like - largely by dint of their party anthem Everybody (Backstreet's Back) - have made quite a comeback. Their latest album, DNA, stormed to the top the Billboard charts and their recent 14-month Las Vegas residency was the fastest-selling in history.
This second coming put the band in a good place to view those early glory years but looking back is there anything Howie regrets? "It was good fun but the only thing I regret is not having a brain that could remember more of it. Maybe I had one too many Guinnesses when I was here in Ireland. As a group, everything happened for a reason.
"A lot of groups go through trials and tribulations, stuff that’s out there in the public, legal situations that we went through, rehab for one of the guys," Howie adds.
"Nowadays everybody knows everything . . . but that’s one thing - we’ve always tried to be honest with our fans. We’ve never tried to hide anything and I think that’s what has made us who we are and given us staying power."
The music industry has certainly changed dramatically since Backstreet Boys made their debut way back in 1993 and Howie sees both good and bad in that shift. "Definitely for the artist and for the labels, social media has been a benefit in many ways and putting out a record, because record sales ain’t what they used to be, to be able to with a click of a button to be able to do a massive release of a record I think is awesome."
The band have been frequent visitors to Ireland over the years but Howie’s connections to Ireland involve more than downing a few pints of plain. His late father, Hoke Dwaine Dorough, was Irish American and his son is interested in learning more about his family roots.
"With the blessings, the craziness and the madness, I can admit that it wore on us at some point. When Kevin decided he wanted to take a break I contemplated it myself actually."
"I’ve always been very proud when I come to Ireland to be able to claim some heritage and I’m still trying to do some investigation into my DNA," he says. "In fact, I was just talking to our record label to see if they could help me out. I’d love to dive in and find out what my roots are here because it really is something that is part of me and I appreciate it.
"I definitely know that I love a good pint of Guinness and I love corned beef and cabbage, that’s for sure. I’m a good Catholic boy, that’s for sure."
Closer to home in America, he’s about to release an album for kids and adults called Howie D: Back in The Day. "When my son was five years old about five years ago, I had a very hard time connecting with him with the music that was out there.
"I watched a lot of movies with him but with music I felt I couldn’t relate to him but then I looked out at our audience one night and I saw all the fans from the nineties had grown up and were now bringing their own kids to see us so I thought why not have an album that kids and adults could like?"
The new record, out on July 12th, is loosely based on his own life as a kid and several issues he went through. That inspired a stage musical called Howie D: Back in The Day, which he is set to debut next year in Nebraska.
"It’s about me growing up with an Irish-American police officer father and my mother being Spanish," says Howie. "The two of them coming to America with their deep roots back in their different countries and raising a family and us trying to fit into American culture and trying to be a kid who realises he wants to be an entertainer but doesn’t know how to fit into being the macho breadwinner of the family."
It’ll provide a nice breather after Backstreet Boys complete their current tour but looking back over the madness of the band’s first success and their more sedate comeback, did he ever think of throwing in the towel and calling an end to all this pop madness?
"With the blessings, the craziness and the madness, I can admit that it wore on us at some point. When Kevin decided he wanted to take a break I contemplated it myself actually but I came to my senses and thought you know what? This is such a blessing," Howie says.
"The four of us actually look maybe a year or so off and I thought that was enough for me. I think we all needed a break just to find our individuality again. Then once we found it I think we realised that we all miss each other and the fans and the business so I’m glad I never threw in the towel."
Alan Corr @CorrAlan2