Music

If You Hear Any Noise...: An Interview with Beastie Boys

Dan Nishimoto

Beastie Boys take you to the stage with their concert film Awesome: I Fuckin' Shot That!.

Mike D: Look, Adam. You found a VW sign. Did you wear it around your neck? No, you...

Adrock: I gave it to you. It's actually Laura Schulson's.

Mike D: Right, but that's what I'm sayin, see.

MCA: It's weird, it's coming back.

Mike D: What I'm sayin', Adam, is that you blessed me with [the VW sign]. And I tried to bless you with the paper chase look. [laughs]

Adrock: And I appreciate that.

Walking into a Beastie Boys conversation midway is enough to gather their appeal. Like neighborhood stoop buddies, like a barbershop social club, or like three guys that have grown up with each other and played music together for over a quarter century, Michael "Mike D" Diamond, Adam "Adrock" Horovitz, and Adam "MCA" Yauch live in their own world. Granted, the trio has the distinction of being historic, commercial, and critical notables in hip-hop and, subsequently, the rest of the world clamors for a peek over and over and over again. However, in person, they appear unfazed and impartial to the outside. Their greatest pleasure still appears to be their selves as they unconsciously graft each other's thoughts into seamless exchanges -- a dizzying flurry of ideas, thoughts, and wisecracks.

So, it's only natural to wonder why the group would subject their selves to the formality of a press conference, even to promote their own concert film Awesome: I Fuckin' Shot That! The premise alone should sell the film: at the group's 2004 homecoming show in New York's Madison Square Garden, 50 pre-selected audience members were given camcorders and asked to film the concert. The result is a 93-minute document of the entire show -- from pre-show warm-up chants to post-show congratulations in the green room -- culled from this amateur footage, as well as some back-up pro coverage, that looks like ... a 93-minute concert film. As one can expect from the B Boys, especially after outdoing themselves in packaging their Criterion Video Anthology, the show is brisk, the sound is crisp and the film is a sure-shot hit for any fan. So, what is foremost on the minds of these three MCs? Aliens.

In the cozy confines of the group's office in a converted Tribeca warehouse with five other journalists huddled around a rickety table for two, the Boys spring to life when ruminating on their own ideas. Clubplanet's Naomi Baria asks the eye-opener, "So, say we [screened] this film in outer space, what do you think aliens would think about our civilization?" Before the question is even finished, Adrock has already leaned in and drops his voice, "Very good question, we've been talking a lot about that." MCA hypothesizes a positive reception, but Mike D quickly interjects that there may be technological barriers, "Do you think they have the sub-bass?" Adrock reminds his colleagues of gravity's effect on sound's ability to travel through space. MCA finally concludes, "Can the aliens decode Dolby E? I think that is the real critical question." From theorizing like Richard Feynman to riffing like Groucho Marx, the Boys share and pass ideas like a hot mic: quick enough to avoid a burn yet playful enough to eagerly anticipate another chance to speak.

Asking for specs -- Who edited the film? Why did you film in New York? What was the inspiration for the film? -- results in a litany of predictable responses: Neal Usatin edited the film. New York is their home and filming at home felt special. And why not film a concert properly, especially when fans are posting camera phone clips on your own website? But give their imaginations room to roam, such as asking about their latest tour's costume design, and the three promptly lighten up. After clarifying that the proper term is "work clothes," they expand about their wardrobe selection process. "Work uniform catalog," MCA deadpans while Mike D expands, "We have experts that look at the conditions. Because... we need fabrics that breathe. That allow movement." Even when Adrock breaks character to add that the outfits were courtesy of a sponsor (Adidas), Mike D jumps back on track, "We also had Jean-Paul Gautier design us a full line of clothes. But we didn't wear them."

As conversation about the nationally distributed film winds down, each Beastie Boy finds humor and wit in explaining their current projects. "I'm currently working on a big album by Faith Hill," says Mike D. "I don't know if you're familiar with the artist. I do some of the digital editing. And some of the special effects and the graphics. The album cover. The airbrushing. And I play the glockenspiel on it, too." On the flip, Adrock has production work in the pipe for Lady Sovereign and MCA is working on another film, a drama about graffiti writers in 1981. Not that the group is already past the Awesome: I Fuckin' Shot That! experience. In discussing the inevitable release of the film on DVD, they quickly recognize the bonus features as the final frontier of their imagination. Perhaps the best summary of the group's personality is an exchange over the inclusion of the video clips that were played during breaks in the show and were edited out of the final cut of the film:

Adrock: But none of them are funny. I was talking with Fredo [Alfredo Ortiz, Beastie Boys percussionist] about this: the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding one?

Mike D: That was funny. The crowd didn't play well?

Adrock: Why was that in Detroit? The Olympics weren't in Detroit.

MCA: Mission Impossible was all right.

Mike D: Mission Impossible was great.

Adrock: I don't remember it.

MCA: A guy came in. There's blow all over the table. Everyone's doing blow. Then there was the...

Mike D: The Mad Max joint. What's the one where we shot the guys in the band?

MCA: Yeah, that's Mad Max. They come on the golf carts.

Adrock: Slipknot.

MCA: You guys don't know what we're talking about.

So, go the Boys: let them play ... and maybe they'll let you in on the joke.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Music

Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.