Music Interviews

Interview: Beastie Boys

A few hours before the Beastie Boys kicked off their latest US tour in Philadelphia, the hip hop legends held court with musicOMH in a funky little trailer backstage.

Mike Diamond set the Beastie-tone before they had even sat down as he began venting his frustration at being passed over for the just-filled opening on the TV show, The View. Think of a hip-hop Three Stooges – minus the eye-gouging
For this meet-and-greet, the otherwise socially aware trio covered no weighty topics, whatsoever, unless you count Ad Rock (Adam Horowitz) explaining what a buzzbee is: “It’s a frisbee with a bowl on top and a little compartment on the bottom where you keep your, um, tobacco. You take a puff and throw to your friend.”

When it was suggested that the Beasties could perhaps finally market their own line of buzzbees, Ad Rock said that it was actually something the band “has been talking about for a long time.” MCA (aka Adam Yauch) also divulged that the group already had similar plans for a Bart Simpson Bong “collabo” with The Simpsons folks, which, according to MCA, is in the works.

On a briefly serious note, concerning the genesis of their new, all-instrumental, post-punk, lounge funk CD, The Mix-Up, Ad Rock explained why they made an all-instrumental record:

Ad Rock: The reason we started playing instruments after we did the To the 5 Boroughs, an all rap record, we did a bunch of shows, that were just, ya know, ‘rap shows’, and we missed playing our instruments so we started playing instruments and it just sort of happened.

Yet, MCA also let it slip that the real reason for an all-instrumental CD was that they missed their record label’s deadline and they didn’t have any vocals done, so they just sent in whatever they had. But now they apparently have their act together, again.

Ad Rock: We’re trying to kind of get a jump on the next record.

MCA: We are doing the vocals first, so we might end up with an all vocals record, Acapella (to laughter all around).

“It’s a frisbee with a bowl on top and a little compartment on the bottom where you keep your, um, tobacco. You take a puff and throw to your friend.”
– Ad Rock elaborates on a buzzbee.

Ad Rock was also asked about an ongoing (and not very troubling) beef with Roots drummer Questlove, apparently relating to a game of Scrabble.

Ad Rock: I don’t wanna talk about that because we finally put it to rest – even though I was winning. He’s a nice guy and he’s bigger than me.

Mike D: I just want to say that we met up with him a couple of weeks ago and it ended with a tight hug.

Ad Rock: Not tight.

Mike D: It was pretty tight.

I have also always wondered how the trio has managed to stay so focused–and seemingly always on the same wavelength–and continue to be so successful for over twenty years. They probably have the greatest longevity and consistency of any rap act, ever. What is their secret to harmony and creativity? I had to know.

Ad Rock spoke a bit on how the group “vibed” together, and MCA noted that “usually we have a similar mind about stuff – we kick around ideas back and forth.” But Ad Rock also added, “That and we have a two vote rule.”Aha, they just bully each other. Interesting. After a pause, Mike D helpfully added, “And we have veto power.” Sensing the inherent contradiction, he then tried to better capture their creative process, “You see you also have to understand that within that overall framework we fight… a lot.”

Thus, for thirty minutes the Beasties entertained as they always have, bouncing in and out of each other’s thoughts like one of their verses. Of course, for all their clowning, the group are also as influential as any act of the last twenty years. A recent book even enshrined the three into the (mythical) Rock Snob’s Hall of Fame, meaning that along with Elvis Costello, Cameron Crowe, and Wes Anderson, the New Yorkers have the coolest taste in music, in the history world. So when Ad Rock says that he is currently into Chromeo, you had better buy you some Chromeo

Finally, I was also able to ask the group a question I have been mulling over for 20 years: What is a fly skimmer? (“Kick it over here baby pop, and let all the fly skimmers feel the beat. Ummm…drop!).

After some brief reflection, MCA and Ad Rock both stonewalled me with deadpan responses, Ad Rock simply saying, “you know, it’s a fishing reel.” After 20 years I don’t get a straight answer? It’s the first time the Beastie Boys have disappointed me in 20 years, so I guess I can live with that.

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