With the recent passing of the Beastie Boys Adam Yauch, aka MCA, we've trawled through the Scene vaults to bring you this exclusive interview with all three members from issue #544 that hit the streets on June 22 2004.
You want old school? You can count on the Beastie Boys to give you old school. After four long years in a musical hiatus, or “the off season” as the B Boys like to call it, the New York-based rap trio is back with 'To The 5 Boroughs', a new album brimming with the party sounds of early-’80s New York City.
Named after the five boroughs of New York — Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island and Manhattan — the 15-track album is a fan letter to the city that brought them together.
“We're giving a little love back to New York,” says Adam 'MCA' Yauch, the man the other two — Mike 'Mike D' Diamond and Adam 'Adrock' Horovitz — refer to as “the enforcer” or the “cleanser” on the album the three produced on their own for the first time.
“'Licensed to Ill' (1986) was where we were at the time — just drinking beer and acting silly,” says Mike D. “'Paul's Boutique' (1986) was moving to LA; that was a whole different fantasy, hooking up with the Dust Brothers. 'Check Your Head' (1992) was getting back to the three of us. This album is really New York; all of us living here.” “Having fun in troubled times,” adds MCA.
To honour the city, the album's cover art even features a pencil drawing of the lower Manhattan skyline including the Twin Towers as they were before the September 11 attack in 2001.
Recorded on and off over the last two years at the Beastie Boys' own studio in downtown New York City, 'To The 5 Boroughs' is the first proper Beastie Boys record (the band's sixth studio album) since 1998's quadruple-platinum 'Hello Nasty'. ‘Nasty’ sold nearly 700,000 in the first week of release in the US and entered at the top of virtually every chart in every country in the world. In Australia, 'Hello Nasty' was a platinum plus selling album (over 70,000 copies sold).
The first video, 'Ch-Check It Out', was recently directed by longtime Beastie Boys collaborator Nathaniel Hornblower ('Intergalactic', 'Body Movin'', 'So What'cha Want') and features exclusive cameos from Lorne Greene and DeForest 'Bones' Kelley.
Sitting down with MCA, Mike D and Adrock in Oscillopscope, the Manhattan recording studio they built in 2002, it's pretty difficult to get them to be serious on any subject.
They joke about going into “training” for six years for this album and then recording it all in one day; they say their coach said they needed to work a little more on their defence; there was talk of trading Horovitz in for the lead singer of Creed; they confess to punch-ups, make-up kissing and bloodshed in the studio; they insist they are into tight pants this year and can't work out why marbles aren't so popular anymore. All of this is delivered in a deadpan manner.
The B Boys, all dressed in jeans and shabby T-shirts, are sitting side-by-side in simple wooden chairs in the offices of their studio. The room is immaculate with sunlight streaking across the plywood floors. A shaggy dog lies at their feet. It's 'Freddie' the dog, who is credited on the album as Assistant to the Regional Manager.
Here are some of their random thoughts. Take any, or all of it, with a grain of salt.
Partying in a crazy world:
MCA — “When we started working on the record it was much closer to 9/11 and Bush had only recently gotten into office. We did more of the serious stuff earlier on and then we started loosening up and having more fun with it as we went along.”
Adrock — “In a way, things are more crazy in the world than they've been in a long time and some of this record is definitely a reflection of that. But a big part of it is just doing our best to live life and have a good time in the midst of the insanity.”
Kissing in the studio:
Adrock — “After not making a record together for a long time. It felt really good, I like not being near them. They're weird people, these two, and I'm very uncomfortable around them”
MCA — “You know, you say that now but when you came into the studio you were trying to kiss Mike.”
Adrock — “I know, because he was trying to patch things up!”
MCA — “He's a liar and a thief.”
Adrock — “I know I'm a liar and a thief but…”
Mike D — “I'm sorry I've been trying to be quiet on this but I want to tell the truth right now. Which is, I mean look Adam, you've made uncomfortable advances toward me and I know it's to patch things up and that's fine. But I had to put the tape line down the studio, I put the tape there for a reason… ok, it got heated and that's what we do together too which is fine, it's not a childish thing but you know the record got done so there you go.”
Adrock — “We are almost exclusively computer-users at this point.”
Mike D — “In my house I got two MPC2000s and they're just gathering dust right now, nothing against them, they're hot machines. But it's so much easier being able to do it all on your laptop.”
MCA — ”When we started working on 'Licensed to Ill' (1986) I remember we wanted to loop a beat and in order to do that we played it onto a quarter inch machine and then we made a tape loop that went around the room and we had the tape dangling under the mic stands and we were being really careful to make sure the tape would keep feeding around. To loop a beat like that now, it takes two seconds.”
This album is tight:
Mike D — “The album is about 41.50 minutes long.”
Adrock — “It's comparatively short because we're into tight things right now. Tight clothes, tight pants, tight dance routines. It's a rough, short, tight brief. Tight briefs.”
Mike D — “We have a very tight relationship. We like to bunk up together.”
Adrock — “'Tight' and 'awkward' are the two key words.”
Mike D — “Another thing that's happened over the years is when things switched from vinyl to CD, you could suddenly make a record 70-80 minutes long and people felt obligated to use all those extra minutes, including us. But it didn't make for a better record so we kept the songs tight. The album is tight and the briefs are also tight.”
Producers hate us:
Adrock — “We produced it ourselves but it’s not that different from the other records we've made. The others we co-produced with someone else but we just basically do it all anyways so this time it's just the three of us. Yauch is the cleanser. He's in charge of the final cleaning.”
Mike D — “He uses the scrubber tool, for all you ProTools fanatics out there.”
MCA — “We actually did reach out to almost every producer in the game but everyone refused to work with us. From Phil Spector right through to the Neptunes.”
Adrock — “Well, Phil Spector is in jail so he had a good excuse.”
MCA — “We did offer to go into jail with him and work but he said no. We asked Quincy Jones, but no, he said he hates us.”
Mike D — “He said we weren't relevant to his genre.”
The video really hurt:
Adrock — “The director of our new video ('Ch-Check it Out') Nathanial Hornblower, he's a real hip hop head.”
MCA — “I'm personally still mad at him about what went on.”
Mike D — “Well, it was rough on us that video, we got hurt. Do you wanna explain?”
MCA — “It was way out of line. We turn up to do the lip-syncing of the song and all of a sudden we're getting attacked during the video. Adam got hit with a fish, some French guy smacked me in the head with a loaf of bread, some jogger punched Mike. And later we found out, the director had paid people to do it.”
Mike D — “We haven't spoken to the director since that day. We were all hurt and hurting after the video. It just seemed a very savage way to create art. It was at the expense of us.”
MCA — “I'm going to punch him in the balls when I see him again.”
The British song:
Mike D — “'Triple Trouble' features a new British MC named Crayons. He's someone we're bringing out even though he's already blowing up. This song is like a routine, like the old hip hop groups.”
MCA — “The British influence on the song is undeniable even though it has some old school American hip hop on there. Some people have been asking which is the British song and that is it.”
Mike D — “It's as British as Worcestershire Sauce.”
Change the world:
Adrock — “The song 'We Got The' is about maybe we can make positive things happen in the world. One thing that's happening in America right now is the election for a new president is coming up in a few months. So maybe if people can hear that song, they could vote President Bush out of office. That could be a positive thing that happened from our record.”