Interview with Beastie Boys
[Conducted in June 2004]
Thanks to Jim Shearer, we have an interview with the Beastie Boys. In his words: "I interviewed the Beastie Boys on June 9th of last year for their $2 Bill Concert on MTV2. Anyway, we didn't end up using any of the footage from the interview, and it would be a shame for this to just go waste. Maybe you could put it to good use..." We certainly could.
We're here with the Beastie Boys and I may cheat during the interview.
MCA: Cheat sheet? (grabs for the list of questions)
You can't see the questions.
I was going to have a wrist band, and tape the questions to them, but I forgot the wrist band.
MCA: I read the whole thing and memorized it already.
Mike D: It would've been a good technique-a lot of times you see the singers have the wrist bands, and that's probably a technique that they rock with the lyrics.
Quarterbacks always do it-very Peyton Manning-esque.
Mike D: Oh.
First question, at what point during the last six years did you guys decide that you were going to put out a 100% pure hip-hop album?
MCA: Maybe like a year recording it.
Mike D: I was just going to say that-so about a year ago probably. The album took us about two years to record, so let's say we got it done like just this last mid-April or something.
MCA: Like halfway through the recording process.
Adrock: Actually it's longer than that, but that's cool.
Mike D: You think later than that?
Adrock: Don't worry about it, it's alright.
Mike D: Earlier? Or later?
Adrock: Two years ago, at least.
Mike D: When we started recording?
Adrock: When we decided.
Mike D: Are you saying right at the beginning of making the record we decided?
Adrock: You heard it.
Mike D: Wow, obviously there's some controversy within the group, but by my theory and Yauch's theory, notice how we agree.
MCA: You know someone's wrong, but there's nothing wrong with being wrong.
Were there any instrumentals or punk songs shelved for future use?
Adrock: Oh yeah, we did like three albums just last week.
Mike D: What's sad is that there's also a lot of hip-hop songs that were shelved and they need to stay on the shelf-but that's the way it is for all our records. With our last few, we might have done some hip-hop and then we'll decide, 'Okay let's try this thing or that thing-a whole bunch of different things.' On this one we started with the hip-hop and just decided to stay there. We didn't leave that zone if you will.
What are your thoughts on the current state of hip-hop?
Mike D: We all listen to hip-hop. To me hip-hop, I've definitely said it before, is an always evolving form of music. I think a lot more so than a lot of other kind of music you hear. Hip-hop is based on what the newest thing is, or like a song coming out and changing the way everything's been. So there's always going to be something exciting coming out in hip-hop-like every six months or something.
Adrock: So you're excited by it?
Mike D: I am.
Message-wise, what do you think about the current state of hip-hop?
MCA: I would say some of the lyrics are not exactly my taste, but a lot of the rhyme flows that I hear are nice, a lot of the beats are real nice, so it's definitely still cool to listen to. I don't know? Sometimes I even like listening to lyrics-that are kind of-not saying much.
Adrock, during the live shows, you're doing the "What!?" and "Okay!" Is that an ode to Lil' John?
Adrock: Yes. We met Lil' John and we're very big fans of him, and I hope we can call him friends, cause he's very nice.
Mike D: In fact I miss him today, cause we had this little thing where we kept running into him everyday, and now today we haven't run into him.
Adrock: John, we miss you.
MCA: We saw him at the Laker game the other day-when the Lakers lost-sorry Lakers fans about that.
Mike D: Another thing too with Lil' John, it's not like he was there and we were here and we saw him. It's like 'boom,' he just popped up-all of a sudden he's next to you. He's kind of magical.
I wanted to talk about two songs on To the 5 Boroughs, "Crawl Space" and "Hey F#%! You." They're pretty serious diss tracks. Are they aimed towards anyone in particular?
Adrock: Yes and no.
Mike D: "Crawl Space"-do you guys mind if I tell? Cause it's a bit of a security issue.
MCA: Whatever you got to say Mike.
Mike D: "Crawl Space" is a true story. We had our studio in New York and there was a lot of times we busted other MC's-or not even necessarily MC's-what was worse is that MC's would send out their spoies (the word 'spies' with an added Mike D-ism). They'll own up to the fact that they have-on their retainer-you know they got a lot of people. They may have security, they may have a barber, but they also got spoies. So they send out their spies-like on the roof-with the big dish-antenna-type things and the microphones, or they'll be reading our lips when we're doing our vocals.
Who were they spies for?
MCA: Can't say.
Mike D: A lot of big names in the game though. With "Crawl Space" we're just serving notice.
MCA: There were a number of times we found surveillance devices within the studio which was one level of a problem, but then we started finding dudes up in the crawl space.
Adrock: That was creepy.
MCA: That's a whole other thing when there's people up in the crawl space. So then we started going in other MCs' crawl space to find out what's going on-not to steal any rhymes, but just to make sure no one's stealing from us.
Mike D: And just to try and also serve notice, like to let them know, 'Huh, we're here.' They think everything's fine, they're about to go to bed, they have their nightie on, and then they we are-in their crawl space.
MCA: Are you going to play the video now for "Crawl Space?"
Is there a video?
Adrock: Oh there will be?
Mike D: We have the video, but it's all up here (points to his head). You couldn't watch it. We can watch it, because we know what's going to happen in it.
MCA: It's kind of a claustrophobic video.
Mike, is the "3 The Hard Way" a Def Jam diss?
Mike D: No, no, no.
How about the lyric: "I can see Def Jam doesn't recognize me/ I'm Mike D the one who put the satin in your panties?"
Mike D: Again that's something all blown out of proportion and everything. I think it was in the Star. All what had happened was Russell Simmons was our manager-he also had the label Def Jam that we were on-and Def Jam was blowin' up.
Rick Rubin was also part of Def Jam at this time too.
Adrock: But not part of this thing.
Mike D: This was a personal thing between me and Russell, and I took a look at him and I could tell from the look in his eyes that the man (giggles) likes to color-but in addition to that, he was at a point in his career trajectory where he didn't need to be wearing cotton drawers anymore. The man needed a little more confidence, something that made him feel in charge, and that's why I felt like a little satin in his panties would let him know.
MCA: So not a diss, but this was a kind thing you did for him-this was love.
Mike D: So I presented the man with the satin.
Adrock: And look what happened-look at him now.
Mike D: All of a sudden he has Phat Farm, he sold for what? Hundreds of millions of dollars. Def Jam hundreds of millions of-
Adrock: I'd like to see some money from that, but that's cool.
Mike D: But it's cool, cause Russell has given away money literally now.
Are you guys cool with Russell Simmons? Have you run into him or Rick Rubin within the last few years?
MCA: Truth be told, Mike just broke into Russell's house like a few months ago, and he had found canvass drawers up in his house.
Adrock: And that's got to hurt.
MCA: Mike was concerned that it would chafe him in the winter and that he would have all kinds of problems, so Mike just sewed some satin into those canvass panties Russell had.
Mike D: Well, it was a little harsher than that. I took out a big knife and I cut the canvass drawers to shreds like a madman-I went into a frenzy.
MCA, in the early 90's Nathanial Hornblower was said to be your cousin, in the mid to late 90's Nathanial was said to be your uncle-which one is he?
MCA: He's actually my great uncle twice removed which makes him my cousin once removed, so it's a little complicated.
Mike D: You would need a big chart to really understand it.
MCA: Yeah I could draw it out
Mike D: You would need a computer program dealing with ancestry.
MCA: But you're right, he was in his mid-90's at the time.
For the "Ch-Check It Out" video he finally got his explosion-cause I know MTV made you guys take out the explosion in the "Sabotage" video.
Mike D: He's still to this day resentful about the censoring that he felt went on with the "Sabotage" video with MTV-and you should have seen the expression of glee on his face after he filmed the explosion for the "Ch-Check It Out" video. He was like (Oppenzell accent), "FI-NALLY!"
MCA: And some say we owe a debt to Janet Jackson for that.
For the explosion?
MCA: Well for shifting the arena of attention from where to censor.
Mike D: People are more nervous about sex than violence, which is good for Hornblower, because he likes violence but he's not too sexy-or not anymore-maybe.
Sir Stewart Wallace, it's amazing how you got him to appear in "Ch-Check It Out," because I thought he wasn't going to work again after appearing in "Sabotage."
MCA: Well you noticed he was very cautious-he didn't want to get into any trouble with the police again.
Mike D: Was he put away by Scotland Yard or something? Or what happened?
MCA: I don't know?
Mike D: He's an international traveler, he's an international man of mystery-Sir Stewart.
MCA: He's a treasure.
With the "bread" incident in the video, he seemed sort of shocked.
MCA: He's afraid. He's on the lam.
Mike D: He was taken aback, but you know he's very mysterious. The man just appeared-he's an old-time friend of Hornblower's, and so it was good to see him on the scene.
MCA: Good to see he's still wearing the same outfit.
Who's the guy on the cover of Ill Communication?
Adrock: Just a guy in a picture.
Mike D: That's a photograph of-who is it by again?
Was it a stock photo?
Mike D: It's not stock it's by this famous photographer.
Adrock: Bruce Davidson.
Mike D: He has this famous book of all photos taken in the subway in New York City.
Whatever happened to John Berry (one of the original members of the Beastie Boys)?
MCA: Here's around somewhere.
Mike D: Last we saw-
Adrock: I saw him in Brooklyn about a year ago.
Mike D: Oh you did?
Adrock: Yeah, at the Black Dice at some place in Brooklyn-maybe more than a year ago?
Did you say hey?
Adrock: He was-seemed like he was in a little something-
MCA: A cypher?
Adrock: A thing at the bar.
You guys ooze with cool-you have to know that. What is your all-time favorite piece of clothing?
MCA: We ooze with who?
Adrock: When you ooze like that, you got to be aware of the dead skin cells.
How about the Knicks ringer t-shirt?
Mike D: That was a nice shirt, but I just like when shirts-when you wear them-and they get to this point when they get really thin.
MCA: A little sheer. He likes a little sheerness.
Mike D: Exactly-when a regular t-shirt turns to being sheer.
MCA: (to Mike D) You want to show people what you got.
Mike D: Not that, I just like the way it feels against my skin.
That's my last name.
Mike D: Do you wear cotton?
Mike D: How about mesh?
I wore mesh in the 80's.
Mike D: As a goth thing? Or as a hip-hop thing?
As a sports thing. I wear the double mesh when I'm playing basketball.
MCA: One time when I was in school this kid had on this kind-of-like fish-net/mesh-type shirt and somebody lit a firecracker and chucked it-and it got stuck in his shirt and it made a big hole in his mesh shirt.
The dangers of wearing mesh.
MCA: I caution you.
BS2000 and Latch Brothers? When you're brewing up beats for these respective groups, do the Beastie Boys always get the primo beats?
Adrock: No. You should hear what I got at home now for my solo album that's coming out June 16th.
Mike D: Wow, June 16th, the day after our album. This is big news cause we didn't know this.
Adrock: I know.
So there are many primo beats that haven't gone to the Beastie Boys?
Adrock: All kinds.
Will there ever be a triple bill? Beastie Boys, BS2000, and Latch Brothers? Or is that too much work?
Mike D: That would be hard to do, because that's too much beats.
Adrock: We could get paid twice.
Mike D: Oh that's true-that's an upside. I'm going to have to have my people negotiate this.
Would you guys ever mix in the "Cookie Puss" instrumental with a current song? Or does Mix Master Mike not have that in his arsenal?
MCA: You think it would hold up?
I think it would.
Mike D: I don't know if it would really sound-how do they say? "Knock-out."
On "Three MC's and One DJ," what song is Mix Master Mike cutting up?
Mike D: Ooh.
Adrock: That's a question for him.
Mike D: I think it's from a pressing he custom made up. He'll have records made up that he'll use, like where a kick is placed in a certain place or a snare-but I could be wrong, so you'll have to check with him.
Finally, is there any way you could demonstrate-for us-how you do the weave?
Adrock: Not nearly enough room.
Mike D: (surveys the room) Well-
Adrock: No, we'd have to stretch out and-
MCA: Maybe we can do the weave tonight. We'll try to work it in.
Mike D: Yeah, cause on stage there's more room. We could it as a special request for you tonight in the show.
That'd be great.
MCA: Maybe we can even start off with a little bit of the weave. We'll see how the set-list comes. It's been a long time since we've done the weave.