Beastie be­hav­iour

As their new mem­oir, ap­pro­pri­ately ti­tled ‘Beastie Boys Book’, hits the shelves, sur­viv­ing mem­bers Adam Horovitz and Mike Di­a­mond re­mem­ber their friend Adam Yauch and look back on 40 years of hip-hop high­lights

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - PATRICK FREYNE - WORDS BY ANNA CAREY

Mike D and Ad-Rock on four decades of hip-hop crazi­ness

‘Mike,” says Adam Horovitz, aka Ad-Rock, aka one-third of the Beastie Boys. “Are you drink­ing some­thing through a straw?” “Umm … I might have been,” says Michael Di­a­mond, aka Horowitz’s long­time band­mate Mike D.

“You want to re­move that thing from in front of the [phone], please?” says Horowitz.

“I thought the steel ones were meant to be silent,” says Di­a­mond.

“We’re try­ing to have a con­ver­sa­tion,’ says Horovitz.

“You know that straws are banned here?” says Di­a­mond, and then his phone re­cep­tion breaks up.

“All right, well, they’re ban­ning straws,” says Horowitz. “Can you ask your ques­tion again? I apol­o­gise for Mike, he’s the worst.”

I’m on a con­fer­ence call with the two sur­viv­ing mem­bers of the Beastie Boys who, through­out the con­ver­sa­tion, en­gage in the sort of dead­pan mu­tual mer­ci­less mock­ery that is only pos­si­ble be­tween peo­ple who have been very good friends for a very long time. It’s 38 years since Di­a­mond met a boy called Adam Yauch at a Bad Brains gig and started what would even­tu­ally be­come the Beastie Boys; Adam Horovitz joined the band in 1983.

Yauch, aka MCA, sadly died of can­cer in 2012, but now Horovitz and Di­a­mond have doc­u­mented their ex­pe­ri­ences in Beastie Boys Book, a lav­ishly il­lus­trated and enor­mously en­ter­tain­ing vol­ume that traces the trio’s evo­lu­tion from hard­core teens in New York to break­through rap stars to so­cially con­scious hip-hop le­gends. Adam Yauch was a big fan of the 1979 Who doc­u­men­tary The Kids Are Al­right, and had talked of mak­ing a Beast­ies film in a sim­i­lar vein. After his death, his band­mates were, Di­a­mond says, just “too sad” to con­sider tak­ing on the project. “But even­tu­ally we felt: okay, it’s now or never.”

They de­cided to write a book. “We ba­si­cally met up and started mak­ing a list of things that would be in­ter­est­ing to write about and things that peo­ple might want to read about,” says Horovitz. “And then just divvied them up – Mike, you take this; Adam, you take that.” The book’s nar­ra­tive bounces be­tween their voices – al­though they each add foot­notes to the other’s chap­ters. “It wasn’t that dif­fer­ent to writ­ing lyrics for songs,” says Horowitz. “[In the band] we would just write our own thing and then bounce it off the other … and that’s what we did with the book, too.”

New York’s in­flu­ence

The book is not a straight­for­ward mem­oir. One sec­tion is a graphic novel. An­other is a se­ries of recipes. There are chap­ters writ­ten by other peo­ple, in­clud­ing Amy Poehler, the band’s fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tor Spike Jonze, and Kate Schel­len­bach, the Beast­ies’ orig­i­nal drum­mer, who was ousted in 1984 after the boys teamed up with Rick Ru­bin and Rus­sell Sim­mons of Def Jam. “When we were think­ing about what we thought the book could be like, we thought it would be cool in some way to have it be like our records,” said Horovitz. “We sam­pled a lot of mu­si­cians and so for this book we had guest writ­ers.”

All three Beastie Boys grew up in New York, and the book of­fers an in­cred­i­bly vivid pic­ture of what it was like to be a teenager in a scuzzy, bril­liantly cre­ative city. They be­gan as a hard­core band (the first time they were all in the same room was a Black Flag gig in 1981), but when down­town Man­hat­tan clubs be­gan to em­brace rap, ev­ery­thing changed. “We could only have been [what we be­came] in New York,” says Di­a­mond. “We could have grown up in the sub­urbs but the out­put would have been vastly dif­fer­ent.”

Their 1984 sin­gle Rock Hard was one of the very first releases from Def Jam Record­ings, and in 1985 they sup­ported Madonna on tour. “It felt like be­ing lit­tle kids in ho­tels when we were on those tours, “says Horovitz. “Like playing grown-ups.”

Things stepped up a notch in 1986, when Fight For Your Right to Party and the al­bum Li­censed to Ill be­came a mas­sive in­ter­na­tional hit. The band be­came the tar­get of Bri­tish tabloids, and Horovitz briefly ended up in jail in Liver­pool after be­ing falsely ac­cused of throw­ing a can of beer at a fan.

“We were re­spon­si­ble for some of the cau­sa­tion of the first wave of crazy,” says Di­a­mond. “But then with the tabloid stuff and es­pe­cially with Adam go­ing to jail, it went into this place of [be­ing] to­tally sur­real. It was to­tally out of con­trol. We were just the ve­hi­cle [for peo­ple’s fears]. It could have been us, it could have been the Sex Pis­tols, it could have been Eminem, Tu­pac, who­ever. Some­body has got to be the per­son re­spon­si­ble for ev­ery­thing that’s go­ing wrong in the world.”

“It’s like, you know when you put Men­tos in a Pepsi bot­tle?” says Horovitz. “We put the Men­tos in the Pepsi bot­tle but we didn’t know it would re­ally, like, ex­plode.”

LA club­house

The band moved on, re­lo­cat­ing to Los An­ge­les and re­leas­ing the bril­liant (but com­mer­cially dis­ap­point­ing) Paul’s Bou­tique in 1989. In 1990 they ex­panded their hori­zons when they rented their own stu­dio space in LA, which they named G-Son. It be­came a base of op­er­a­tions for var­i­ous projects in­clud­ing their own record la­bel and mag­a­zine, both called Grand Royal. Friends from Spike Jonze to Q-Tip from Tribe Called Quest would drop in con­stantly.

“With G-Son we had this club­house, this cen­tral meet­ing place [where we could] just hang out and do what­ever we wanted,” says Di­a­mond. “I think that’s why were able to move be­yond just mak­ing our own mu­sic [to] hav­ing the la­bel and the mag­a­zine and stuff.” Hav­ing G-Son also al­lowed for mu­si­cal

‘‘ It’s like, you know when you put Men­tos in a Pepsi bot­tle? We put the Men­tos in the Pepsi bot­tle but we didn’t know it would re­ally, like, ex­plode

ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. “We were very lucky to have the money to rent that space,” says Horovitz. “When you don’t have the money you have to get in the stu­dio and do it as quick as you can be­cause that’s all you can do. So we were very lucky to have the time and the space to just cre­ate.” After the well-re­ceived 1992 al­bum Check

Your Head, which saw the band playing in­stru­ments on record for the first time in years, they had a big hit with 1994’s Ill Com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Their eighth and fi­nal al­bum, the ex­cel­lent Hot Sauce Com­mit­tee, was re­leased in 2012. Over the years, the band grew up; in the book, Horovitz re­mem­bers the mo­ment he re­alised there were more tod­dlers in their dress­ing room than par­ty­ing adults. As their lives had changed, how did the band dy­namic evolve? “It stayed the same,” says Horovitz. “I mean,” he adds in a per­fect dead­pan, “Adam and Mike just looked to me as the leader and just gave me the ball and let me do my thing.”

“He was the fran­chise player,” Di­a­mond says with equal earnest­ness, re­fer­ring to the star player around whom Amer­i­can sports teams build their brand. “When you’re in the league a long time you re­alise you’ve just gotta feed the beast.

“And it’s hard [for me] be­cause I am LeBron James-ish,” says Horovitz. “And I’m work­ing with two Lance Stephen­sons.”

“Our bas­ket­ball ref­er­ences are not go­ing to play well in Ire­land,” says Di­a­mond, ac­cu­rately.

Yauch doc­u­men­tary

Beastie Boys Book is pos­si­bly the fun­ni­est mu­sic mem­oir I’ve ever read, but it’s also, ul­ti­mately, one of the most mov­ing. Adam Yauch is not here to tell his story, but his vi­brant pres­ence is felt on ev­ery page of the book, which is full of sto­ries that high­light his cre­ativ­ity, cu­rios­ity, hu­mour and gen­eros­ity. “It’s not as if one story can [sum him up],” says Di­a­mond. “The whole thing with Yauch was what wasn’t he in­ter­ested in, what didn’t he fig­ure out, what didn’t he try.”

So will Yauch’s plan for a Beastie Boys doc­u­men­tary ever see the light of day? “We had started to fig­ure out how to do that and we put it aside be­cause we needed to fin­ish this book,” says Horovitz. “So per­haps one day we might. It would be nice to do that. And there’s also a bunch of mu­sic that hasn’t come out yet that we might fig­ure out what to do with.” There’s just one prob­lem, he says. “I just have to fig­ure out how to do it with­out Mike. I think [his phone has] cut out again so he can’t hear this.”

“All you have to do is sneak in in the mid­dle of night and take that pil­low that I’m sleep­ing on [from] be­hind my head, and then put it over my face and just hold it for what, two min­utes?” says Di­a­mond. “And then there’ll be no more me and you’ve just got it all.”

“Just be­cause I stole a f**king ceil­ing fan once, now I’m a mur­derer?” says Horovitz in mock out­rage.

“Well, sta­tis­ti­cally, Adam, when some­one has a crim­i­nal past…”

MCA may be gone, but Ad-Rock and Mike D are still, for­ever, Beastie Boys.

COVER IM­AGE: LYNN GOLD­SMITH/ GETTY

PHO­TO­GRAPH: BRAD OGBONNA/ THE NEW YORK TIMES

The Beastie Boys’ Mike D, aka Michael Di­a­mond, and Ad-Rock, aka Adam Horovitz, in Man­hat­tan in Au­gust 2018.

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