Interview with Eric Gladstone
[Conducted in May 2005]
The best part of being Beastiemania.com is getting unsolicited emails from denizens of the greater Beastie Boys family. When Eric Gladstone wrote us with corrections to our Grand Royal Q&A piece, we didn't hesitate to ask an interview of a former editor of Grand Royal magazine.
Were you a Beastie Boys or Grand Royal fan before accepting the position?
Definitely. In 1994, I did an interview with the group for an Alternative Press cover story and clicked with Mike pretty immediately. He was always the one in the group most motivated by Grand Royal, both the magazine and the record label. By the end of the interview process, I was raving about the magazine and Mike asked me to do something for issue two .As I recall, he was surprised someone in the 'real' magazine world thought it was any good. My modest contribution is on page thirty-six. In that long 18 months or so before issue two came out, I had already done another story about the group, visiting Grand Royal (in the then completely backwater neighborhood of Atwater Village, now amazingly a desirable location) and meeting the legendary Bob Mack. Conveniently my then-girlfriend lived in Atwater Village and I ended up becoming a GR neighbor as I moved across country from NYC. When I heard Mack was leaving the magazine (or being asked to leave...!), I gave Mike the full court press for the job, but I was apparently a day late (and dollar short) because he'd promised it to Mark Lewman (of Dirt fame). Not a bad choice, in all humility. True to his word, when Lewman split, Mike called me. Funnily enough, I was told it took Mike a panicked week to contact me, though I was living only three blocks away
Our interviewee celebrating the discovery of rare blues 78s. In his hands, Blind Boy Fuller and Lightnin Hopkins to be exact, in Portsmouth, Virginia, the summer of 1997.
What is your favorite issue of Grand Royal?
I'm gonna kind of wimp out on this one and say all of them have real strong points. The first one sports that awesome cover (actually, I think all of the covers are great, my favorites being one, two, and six), the misleading album covers page, top ten feuds, and of course the amazing Joey Buttafuoco fashion spread. Number two has the inimitable Ted Nugent and Bob Mack throwdown, the cultural touchstone Mullet article, and of course the career-breaking Lee Perry section (did I forget the Biz Markie flexidisc?). Number three, Spike's Pool-hopping, the Weird Al stunt interview, and Mack's golf tournament debacle. Number four has the supercool turntable poster, Kojak, the career-making Kid Rock story, the Lenny & Squiggy reunion Wu Wear pictorial (probably better in concept than execution, but still, it actually happened!), Wu Tang Activity Page, and the Bob Mack FIRED spoof, perhaps the tutti di tutti of in-jokes. For issue five, we took Mike's idea of a Bass issue to illogical extremes (Indiana Tick, the mini Bass jeep, Dust Bros meet Tony Mercedes and my Hitchcock of Hootchie being my favorites), plus got ourselves in trouble making fun of the Tibetan Freedom Concert. In issue six, we basically made the impossible happen with the demolition derby thing. Note that we started planning on August 28 for an event on September 14. I still can't believe we did it. Plus the funky drummers and ABA section-this is probably the tightest, but least random, issue of the mag.
In short, I do probably lean towards five or six as my favorites (they're like children in a way), but then again, one and two were the prototypes, both still brilliant and supercool, and three and four both had some amazing moments.
Why is the first issue so sought after? Is it just because its the "first" issue?
Mostly I'd say yes, because it became hard to find so quickly. But then again, there's that shot of Adam Horovitz in a banana hammock...
What are the stats on how many where pressed for each issue?
It was my understanding that about 25,000 copies of the first issue were printed and sold out. For the second issue, they went way overboard and printed close to 100,000, which was too much at the time. The remainder of the issues I believe were 50,000 copies each, and had a "sell-thru" generally in the 90% range (sell through is how many copies actually sell versus total print run. A 40% sell through is considered fantastic). Because the people putting out GR weren't magazine professionals, they did not realize until late in the game that this was in fact an insane rate.
What was the greatest idea that never came to fruition?
Coincidently I was just going through some of my old computer files and came across an ideas memo from just before the axe dropped. One of the best was a tribute to Laff Records, the LA-based underground comedy label of the 70s which Don Waller was working on. I think he has since turned the concept into a black comedy box set project which is forthcoming. My favorite high concept of my own was to do an entire comics issue-that is, an entire issue of typical Grand Royal topics, but all done as comics. Insane, I know. For an insert, a board game was an idea being floated. I also wanted to do a Vegas issue (more radical then than it seems now, I know) mostly so we could have a Vegas edition of Spike's pool hopping. We were trying to set up an interview between Mike D and rodeo singer Chris LeDoux. An so on.
Why didn't the Grand Royal book ever see the light of day?
THAT is a VERY VERY good question. They certainly had people working on it. They certainly had a publishing contract.
Are you still in contact with other Grand Royal staff?
Had a nice conversation with Mike a few weeks ago. Always sharing the love with the Tick (now A&R at Interscope). I run into Ian "hobby squad" Rogers, Bob Mack and Evan Bernard every so often. And Spike is of course always in my prayers.
What have you been involved with since the final issue?
I joined Ian Rogers on a contract for America Online, followed by joining the staff of Raygun magazine, after which I joined the staff of US Weekly magazine (time to get paid), helped open a restaurant (not far from the original GR headquarters), and am now working consecutively on three different book projects. Still trying to perfect my soba technique.
Any final thoughts?
One thing I'd like to add, of all the many amazing contributors we had in the magazine, I've always felt not enough attention was paid to the two amazing designers that I worked with, Geoff McFetridge (who may actually be a genius of design, and who was definitely too good to do magazine work) and Camille Garcia, who I'm very proud to say I hired against significant in-house opposition (which she probably never realized). Geoff has since done some very cool film work (Virgin Suicides) and Camille is well on her way to becoming a famous artist.