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You've gotta admit, these last months haven't been easy for the 'NSYNC fan. With the start of the new school year came news that the fiery Florida fivesome had jumped to Jive Records, delaying their November-slotted album. Just before Halloween, the group was smacked with a $150 million lawsuit leaving everything, right down to the group's name, in limbo. When fans should have been celebrating the release of "No Strings Attached," they were instead reading the group's filed complaints regarding their former mentor, TransContinental honcho Louis J. Pearlman. In the end, a bittersweet holiday gift came in the form of a settlement between all parties just before Christmas Day, leaving the band members free to keep their name, continue their careers with Jive Records, and get back to work on their album.

Now that "No Strings Attached" is almost finished and ready to roll into stores on March 21, some may be wondering if this recent ugliness has been the first sign of trouble in boy-band paradise. The squealing reception of the group's new single, "Bye, Bye, Bye," seems to suggest otherwise. 'NSYNC even managed to cause the shutters of "TRL" to come crashing down during a recent appearance to prevent teen fans from running into the street. Now that's a group with moxie, baby.

Roger Coletti of the MTV Radio Network was lucky enough to sit down with all five of the guys on January 26. He got the scoop on the symbolism of strings, the thrill of creative control, and how the group is gunning to tour with Twisted Sister. Dig in...

MTV Radio Network: What does the concept of the "Bye, Bye, Bye" video mean in relationship to the song?

Lance Bass: You can tell that guys made it up.

J.C. Chasez: Yeah, it's fast car chases...

LB: ...Dobermans chasing people, and of course there's a fine, fine, fine supermodel chasing us, being the villain. It actually has a "Mission: Impossible" type theme, where we're puppets on a string and we get cut loose. And so through the whole video, we're running away from the mastermind woman, and she's trying to get us back on the puppet strings.

MTV: Did you guys have any input on this?

JC: We did it. We did the video. We wrote the treatment between the five of us. It was all us.

MTV: The video goes with the theme of your album title "No Strings Attached" right from the beginning, where you guys are getting cut. How much, from the album's title to the songs on it, was influenced by everything that's happened over the last year?

Justin Timberlake: First of all, when we thought of the name of the album, [it] was actually before a lot of this label stuff went down. But yeah, I think it definitely has a little bit of meaning in there. Basically we're not puppets on a string. That's basically the meaning of it. We actually have a song on the album called "No Strings Attached," which J.C. wrote.

MTV: With all the changes and with the new album coming out and the single out now, do you guys feel a lot freer? Is this more your album, do you have more control?

Chris Kirkpatrick: Yes. We had a lot more creative control on this album, since we went through management changes, through record label changes. We made sure that whatever happens, we keep creative control, and we keep control of our own destinies. We controlled our tour and things like that before, but now we have a lot more say on the album. We have a lot more say in most of the promotion and things we do.

LB: For a while there, especially in the summer, we had no record label. We were totally independent, and so we had to independently do the album. We had to pay for it. We had to go out there and search for songs, write songs, and record in a little bitty studio at our manager's place.

MTV: Did that give you guys any more pressure on the album? Or was it less pressure, not having a big label on your back at the time?

LB: Whew, less pressure.

JT: I think a little bit of both. Since we said to ourselves, "Well, right now, we are paying for this, so how do we get the producers that we want to produce our music? Just get them." Sometimes you run into problems. I know we have with our past record company. "Oh he's pricey, and so-and-so's pricey, and we don't want to get them."

JC: Or they say, "That doesn't really sound like an'NSYNC project," and we're like, "But we thought of that. We're 'NSYNC!"

JT: Exactly, exactly. The thing that I love about our new record label, Jive, is that they're so open to our ideas. They don't shoot'em down. Even at the tip-top, [Jive CEO] Clive Calder is so hands-on with us in A&R-ing this album. He's worked with us on it, and he's always asked us, "What do you wanna do?" And that, you can't beat that. When you have a record company that is behind you and works with you on A&R-ing your album, everybody's happy.

MTV: What do you think fans are gonna get with this album? Are they gonna see a big difference between this one and the last one?

Joey Fatone: Yeah, it's another step above the first one. We experienced a lot of things over the year and a half, two years since the first elbo -- elbo? -- album came out. We've grown up a little bit more, so it's taking it to the next level. And hopefully, probably the next album as well, we're gonna evolve with our fans and evolve with the music, 'cause we love all different types of music. We're adding, like, different little different beats here and there, little different sounds, just to make it a little more edgier. But it's still gonna have 'NSYNC harmonies and sound.

MTV: Any guests on the album?

LB: Pat Robertson's coming in.

JC: We're going to record with with [TLC's] Left Eye tomorrow, actually, to put the finishing touches on the album. It'll be the last thing we'll do for the album, pretty much. She's rapping on "Space Cowboy." When we did the song, we actually just put a dance break in it, and she's been doing all kinds of collaborations, and she comes across really cool. We thought would be really cool, because we did the duet with Gloria Estefan, but this is a fast song. It's something totally different. I think it would be cool to have a female's perspective on a male album. Like you got five guys on one record, and then just to throw a female perspective in there for a second to see what they're thinking about -- it's cool. So we definitely decided she was the go-to. As far as female rappers, for her, she was the go-to right away.

JT: She's bad. Ain't even no thinking about it. She's bad.

CK: Teddy Riley produced some stuff. Richard Marx. She'kspere. Diane Warren.

JT: That's who we look up to.

JC: They're famous to us. [Laughs]

MTV: You're up for two Grammy Awards, one for your performance on "Music Of My Heart" with Gloria Estefan, and the other for the version of "God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You" with Alabama. Do you want to win one over another? Is one more important?

JC: No, 'cause we aren't gonna win any, thanks to Santana.

LB: Thanks, Santana. No, I mean just being nominated, like you always hear, is just an incredible honor. And especially a song like "Music Of The Heart," that you care so much about, with Gloria on it and Diane Warren writing it and David Foster producing it, I mean, it was just such a major step for us in our career. It opened up a lot of doors to a broader audience. We're just very proud of it, and we hope it does well.

JT: We didn't expect to be nominated this year for any Grammys, because in '99 we really... besides "Music Of My Heart," you know, it wasn't like we released an album. We just did some duo work and projects with other artists and kind of diversified our style a little bit. And we had no idea it was gonna get nominated for a Grammy. I mean, we're shocked and definitely happy. We're happy to be able to be sitting in the audience.

LB: We're very happy to go to Santana.

JT: Just to be around the people you look up to is more than enough for us. I think you can only say you hope, after you release an album this year, the next time around, you hope to be nominated.

MTV: Let's talk about the tour. Once this album comes out, are you guys gonna go out before it comes out or right after?

JT: We're gonna wait for the album to come out. There's a lot of things we have in mind right now for the tour. Of course, we don't want to speak on them yet...

JC: ... because they're not done.

JT: It's gonna be big and bad and better than the last one. I mean, last year we toured off of the album we released a year before.It did so well that we toured for seven months straight. So I hope this album does just as good and we get to tour, just as long off of that album. The ideas we have are still being put together and meshed.

MTV: Any particular bands you guys want to take out with you?

JT: Who knows?

CK: Limp Bizkit.

LB: Limp Bizkit, Blink-182...

JC: They got their own tours, guys.

LB: Janet Jackson? Michael Jackson?

JT: They already got their own tours.

JC: Um, actually, we'd open for Janet.

CK: Bruce Springsteen...

JT: He's got his own tour.

JC: He was the second highest last year... Stones were number one.

CK: We could get the Stones to open up for us. That would be cool.

LB: The Stones. Yeah, what are they doing? I bet they're not selling out any tours.

JF: What about Twisted Sister? [All agree.]

MTV: They're back together.

JC: Every '80s band is back together. You got, like, Poison and all of them. [More discussion ensues until Lance suggests "that newband 2Gether" and Justin threatens to leave.]

MTV: Have you figured out what your second single is gonna be?

All: No.

CK: Even if we did...

JT: ...we wouldn't tell anyone.

JC: The whole album is a single. Every song. You will not skip a song on this. You know how, like, you get a record, and you're just like [mimics skipping songs], "Okay, this is my song." We feel likethis album, you're gonna put it in from the first song and listen to it all the way through.

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