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How Max Martin Turned a Fart Into the Epic Beat in Backstreet Boys' 'The Call': AJ McLean Tells All
As Billboard chatted to all five Backstreet Boys for the 20th anniversary of their debut album Backstreet Boys, each member shared some pretty hilarious memories from recording it and breaking into America (and you can read them all in our oral history of the album).
But even though the guys were supposed to be talking about the songs on their self-titled album, AJ McLean couldn't refrain from telling one about their Black & Blue single "The Call" -- because it's probably one of the funnier tales in BSB history.
"You know what, there is one that I’m probably going to get in trouble for," McLean acknowledged before getting into the crux of the story, which involves super-producer Max Martin (who mixed the song).
"So when we were in the studio with Max making the song “The Call,” Howie [Dorough] was in the booth and we were doing that vocal break down, [sings] 'dun dun dun, dun dun dun dun.' Max gave Howie his harmony, and I think he was just putting so much air into the vocal that as he was singing, he went 'dun, dun' and he farted -- but he farted not only on the beat, but in key. So Max tweaked it and made it sound like one of his patented bass sounds, and it stayed on the record."
Clearly flashing back to that fatefully awkward moment, McLean adds with a laugh, "Howie’s fart became an instrument and is on the record for the rest of our lives." And after telling the full story, McLean gave Martin some credit for his masterful mixing: "[Max] could turn a fart into a bass sound, that's pretty damn genius if you ask me."
Naturally, we couldn't help asking Howie if his bandmate was fibbing or totally on point. "I plead the fifth to say anything," Dorough initially says, laughing, before deciding to back himself up.
"I’m sure there were a lot of beverages consumed back in the day. It’s one of those kind of things... Everybody at that age -- especially Nick [Carter] -- was constantly passing gas, just being young 20-year-old guys doing guy locker room kind of stuff. And coincidentally, I got in the booth, was breathing in really heavily singing my part, and I guess some extra air kind of came out. It made everybody laugh, and Max decided to take that and sample it to turn it into the 'dun dun dun, dun dun dun dun.'"
Even if the moment was a bit embarrassing for Dorough, Martin was clearly onto something, for turning passed gas into a beat. The "dun dun dun" part is easily the most intense of the entire song, and essentially what defines "The Call" as yet another BSB classic.
"If it was me, the guys can definitely thank me for that," Dorough laughs, "and thank what was consumed the night before singing those songs."