Dad stuff. Two of the dads, though, are the surviving members of the Beastie Boys: Adam Horovitz, with upswept gray hair and a white T-shirt with a faint graffito on the front; and Michael Diamond, wearing a bright red button-up, his hair still dark, his face creased and tan from years living in Southern California. Ad-Rock and Mike D, in other words. The third Beastie, Adam Yauch — MCA, the conscience, shaman and intellectual backbone of the group — died in after a three-year battle with salivary gland cancer. His absence, six years later, is a palpable fact in the room.
His name comes up a lot in the conversation, as it does in the new book Horovitz and Diamond have written. The volume, full of old photographs and comics, with a riot of fonts and layouts, is a nonmusical summa of Beastie aesthetics. Some scores are settled, some beef is squashed, and no doubt some ugly business gets airbrushed or skipped over. Bad behavior is acknowledged; feminist-ally bona fides are upheld. In the beginning, in the early s, the name was an acronym for Boys Entering Anarchistic States Toward Internal Excellence, Diamond writes, and the lineup included a girl, Kate Schellenbach.
The group migrated from hardcore to hip-hop when rap looked more like a fad than like a dominant force in pop culture. Yauch was a Buddhist and an outspoken feminist. The Beasties practiced cross-platform brand extension before those awful words became cultural currency. Around the same time, they started a magazine called Grand Royal that was also sort of a record label and also sort of a lifestyle consumer emporium and also sort of a clubhouse where you could feel simultaneously like a noob and a savant.
It was like a website, but on paper. Silly and do-it-yourself, it had the disarming, off-the-cuff, look-what-I-found sense of artistic integrity that is central to the Beastie legacy. The three of us talked about that, and about a lot of other things. These are edited excerpts from the conversation. So how did the book come about? It was like an obsession. Then there was talk of somebody doing a book on the band so we were sort of like, we should get our act together and do it.
Then Yauch died and we were too sad and it was definitely not the time for us to touch it. And then we got back into it and it went through different manifestations. We started with the idea of getting people who were around the band and our friends and people who were involved at different points telling the story.
What did you most want it not to be? Were there places where you remembered things differently? It was more like: Do either of us remember? Because it was so formative and because of when it was in New York City. How do you remember that now — the music you listened to, and what gave you the idea that it was something you could do?
I could do that. The only accessible music that we could possibly do would be hard-core. Even punk seemed sophisticated. Prior to that, big rock bands were on the stage and that was unattainable. But if you went to a club like A7, the whole club was maybe the size of this hotel room, and there was literally a couch like this couch on the side of the stage. Another interesting thing that was happening when we started going out to clubs as teenagers — whether it was Mudd Club , or Danceteria or wherever — was this culture of everybody doing something.
Everybody had some creative hustle. Did that put pressure on you to do something different? Except maybe we had a sense of humor about it.
We were like the downtown rappers. There was no one else rapping downtown. The bridge was that we met Rick Rubin. We were all going to the same clubs but he was a little bit older and he had a drum machine. Rap inches started coming out, and that seemed like a really exciting thing to jump to. Something was connectable as far as us wanting to make rap records, besides just loving rap records.
Were you at all self-conscious about being white kids working in the rap idiom? Nobody downtown was rapping. Nobody we knew was rapping. So we were like, we should do it. They turned the fluorescent lights on when we came on doing our two songs opening for Kurtis Blow, and we were like, man, we look stupid. We somehow realized we had to be our own version. A lot of kids are growing up now in a Beastie-created world, where music, sneakers, clothes, food, so much of what they consume is connected and cross-branded. And you were pioneers in that kind of thing.
How did that grow out of the music? That you could self-publish anything. To play gigs you were stealing access to a Xerox machine and making fliers. Punks do it all themselves. I feel like we always tried to get back to that. Grand Royal started because we were on the Lollapalooza tour and we wanted to send this message to people that the mosh pit is corny. Stop doing that. And then it just went to the next level.
We got lucky that we had the money. The fact that we actually had a larger audience for these things we made is still a minor miracle to me. When I think of you guys, I think of two moments. The first one, the early and mids, we were talking about.
Somehow you were in both of those places. How do you think you got there? They had punk-rock songs, and reggae songs, and melodic songs, and they just followed what they wanted to make, right? Even though they were presenting rap music and alternative music, they were presenting them in a segregated way. We were trying to throw everything together, and somehow we were the weird child whose videos could play on both. One thing that was definitely true of the early Beastie Boys was the playful, obnoxious persona.
There was the inflatable penis onstage at your shows. It was a hydraulic penis. And already, probably 20 years ago, you distanced yourself from some of the most offensive parts of that. DIAMOND All of us, growing up, either had the experience of behaving badly, or doing a bad job of how we treated others in any kind of relationship. For us of course a lot of that was within the public persona that we created. We really could have handled this better. But maybe we had to be [expletive] to learn our lesson. How are you supposed to end this book?
Me and Mike sitting here? Me and Mike going to the movies? That was a gratifying thing, something we miss every single day. He started the band. Supported by. Home Page World U.