Mike D has talked about his experiences in sampling with two rock legends — Bob Dylan and Malcolm Young of AC/DC. The Beastie Boys sample Dylan’s, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” on “Finger Lickin’ Good.” The band paid Dylan “Seven hundred bucks, but he asked for two thousand dollars,” Diamond told Boston Rock in June 1992. “I thought it was kind of fly that he asked for $2000, and I bartered Bob Dylan down. That’s my proudest sampling deal.” Malcolm Young of AC/DC turned down the Boys’ request to sample “Back In Black” on “Rock Hard.” “He goes, ‘I’d love to do it for you guys, but it’s ‘Back In Black’ — one of the top three songs we’ve ever written!’,” Mike D told New Musical Express in 1999. “Whatever. AC/DC could not get with the sample concept. They were just like, ‘Nothing against you guys, but we just don’t endorse sampling.’”
In February 2009, Adam “MCA” Yauch launched his own full-service film distribution company, Oscilloscope Pictures. He formed the company with David Finkel, formerly an executive for Think Film. Think Film distributed the Beastie Boys concert movie, Dude, I F…g Shot That in 2006. It is a compilation of fan footage from Beastie shows and the first feature film Yauch directed. Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot, Oscilloscope’s upcoming release about the country’s top high school basketball players directed and produced by Yauch, is due in theaters on June 27. To view a trailer go to www.gunninmovie.com.
Oscilloscope Pictures, part of the Yauch's Oscilloscope Laboratories, is a multi-faceted studio, film, art and production company that began when the band built their second recording studio in downtown Manhattan in 2002. They recorded their 2005 release, To The 5 Boroughs there. It was the first album they had produced themselves. Bad Brains recorded basic tracks for their album, To Build A Nation in the Studio. Le Tigre and MIA also worked there. “If Oscilloscope Laboratories was an animal,” its web site read at the time, “This (the studio) would be its beating heart,” while Oscilloscope pictures would be its “eyes, nose and wings” and Oscilloscope Productions would be its “teeth and brains.”
Mike D remained a shareholder in XLarge Clothing in 2009, the company he helped to found. He has filled a variety of roles at the there since its start in 1991 as a retail store on Vermont Street in Los Angeles with original designs centered on skateboard fashion . Bob Mack, one-time Associate Publisher of Grand Royal Magazine, said in a 1998 issue of Spin, “That’s how XLarge got started. Mike D was the brainstorm behind it . . . not really the money, but the idea. He kept on thinking and the whole Grand Royal concept emerged. It’s about them not really being a band, but more of a culture thing, a way of life.” Throughout 1992, Mike D was constantly photographed with the XLarge gorilla logo somewhere in virtually every public picture taken of him. News about his involvement in the company was also heavily featured on MTV, leading to almost instant popularity for the line. XLarge opened another store in Tokyo in 1992, taking advantage of the Beastie Boys huge following there. A New York store followed in 1993. Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth opened a sister store one year later called XGirl. XLarge went on to open multiple stores throughout the US and Canada, but most closed by 1996, giving rise to the company’s mail order catalogue. That evolved into the current online store at XLarge.Com, where the T-shirt archive remains one of the most popular parts of the site today.
The Beastie Boys formed in New York with Adam “MCA” Yauch on bass, Kate Schellenbach, his former grade school classmate, on drums, Mike “D” Diamond as vocalist, and John Berry on guitar. Mike Diamond talks about their start in a band biography (www.angelfire.com/tx/COJACK/BeastieBoys/History.html). “Our first gig was in John Berry’s loft on 100th Street and Broadway, at a party for Adam Yauch’s 17th birthday in August of 1981 (it was also in John’s loft that we recorded the oldest of the old bull--- -- the previously unreleased, 4-track cassette versions of “Egg Raid on Mojo” and “Transit Cop.”) Yauch played bass, Kate Schellenbach played drums, John played guitar and I (Michael Diamond) sang. At the party our friend Dave Parsons was talking about starting a record label and asked us to record. Needless to say we were psyched. Prior to this, John, Kate and I were in a band called The Young Aborigines (and I had played drums while Kate Played percussion). Anyway, Yauch was our only fan, so when we broke up after two gigs (both on the same night), he started playing with John. Nobody wanted to sing, so I got stuck with the job.”
According to Diamond, the group’s name, “Beastie Boys" stands for: Boys Entering Anarchistic States Towards Internal Excellence. "That might sound kind of serious or it might sound idiotic, probably both," he once said, " but it seemed funny at the time.”
After the party, the band opened shows for The Bad Brains, The Dead Kennedy’s, The Misfits and Reagan Youth at clubs like CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City, where they opened the show on the club’s last night at the request of headliners, The Bad Brains.
“We played our first club gig at A7,” Diamond writes in his biography. “If you came up in N.Y.C. hardcore, you probably know the place. If not, it was like playing in your aunt’s living room - that is if your aunt’s living room had cat pee all over and was a part-time crack house. Then we opened for Reagan Youth and I think Even Worse at what was once the legendary club, Trude Hiller’s. H.R. of the Bad Brains saw us play and gave us a gig opening for them at the closing night of Max’s Kansas City. Talk about irony. Then we broke up. “
Dave Parsons, their friend from the party, got them a chance to record at 171-A Studios, owned by Jerry Williams, where the Bad Brains recorded their famous ROIR tapes. “This was Jerry Williams’ place,” Diamond explained in the biography, “...Dave ran a record store in the basement where we all hung out called Rat Cage. The Brains were on tour and the studio was going out of business, so we had an opportunity to record....We showed up on a freezing winter day, borrowed a guitar from some guy we had never met and proceeded to record with a North Carolina friend of Parsons, named Scott Jarvis.”
“At the time, Jarvis seemed like a madman, but he knew how to manipulate four tracks and an Echo Plex. We recorded the whole thing in two days, but then the landlord kicked the studio out so we had to mix in Jarvis’ apartment.” They released the results, their first EP, Pollywog Stew, in 1982. Jarvis became a good friend of the band’s and later, DJ and tour manager for their opening slot on the Madonna “Virgin” tour.
The Beastie Boys broke up again after recording Pollywog, but decided to play some reunion shows after it came out. They broke up again when John Berry left the group to form Twig, then Big Fat Love and San Francisco’s Bourbon Deluxe.
Adam Horowitz (Ad Rock), previously with punk band The Young And The Useless, joined after Berry left. The Young and The Useless had opened for The Beastie Boys many times and even covered some of their songs.
“We lasted for a while like this, playing around, writing some songs, waiting until we had enough material to go into a studio and record,” Diamond writes in his book, “Somehow Yauch hooked us up with this guy who was a chief of an engineer or a chief engineer named Doug Pomeroy. Anyway, he hooked us up with a studio where they just did commercial jingles, so it didn’t really have the hardcore vibe, whatever that means.
The group Meco had recorded their disco Star Wars sh-- there. So the only stuff that came out that we really liked was the sh-- where we were just f------- around trying something different. These songs, or whatever they were, became “Cooky Puss” and “Beastie Revolution.” Again our friend Dave helped us put the record out, but this time we were collecting Sugarhill and enjoying 12” singles more than hardcore 7” singles, so “Cooky Puss” became our first 12” single. The weird thing was that people started to like this..., clubs were playing it and we even got to travel as far as Detroit, Rock City, The Big Time. We’d play our instruments for a bit, then put them down and MC. Funny enough, here we are again.”
The band’s first rap track, “Cooky Puss,”
based on a prank call to Carvel Ice Cream, became a New York underground dance
club hit. When Rick Rubin, a producer for
Def Jam Records, started to work with the band, they changed from punk to a three-man hip hop group, releasing the 12-inch "Rock Hard" in 1984. Shortly after, Kate Schellenbach left the group over creative differences, citing conflict with Rubin. She later joined Luscious Jackson in 1991.
The three-man Beastie Boys line-up opened for John Lydon’s Public Image Limited in 1995 and supported Madonna on her North American Virgin tour. They were also part of the 1994 Raising Hell Tour with Run DMC, LL Cool J and Timex Social Club. The band had three releases that year — the track “Hold It Now Hit It,” which made national R&B Dance charts, “She’s On It” and the Double-A Side 12-inch "Paul Revere/The New Style". In 1996, they recorded Licensed To Ill, releasing it at the end of the year.
Licensed To Ill, the Beastie Boys’ first full-length release, was Def Jam’s fastest selling debut to date and was the best selling rap album of the 80s. It was the first album defined by the record industry as rap to reach #1 on Billboard Album Charts and #2 on Urban Charts. Today, it remains one of the most purchased albums in North America, lit up by “Fight For Your Right To Party,” which hit #7 on Billboard’s Hot 100. The song’s video, directed by Ric Minello, made the Boys party friends to everyone through frequent plays on MTV.
The Licensed To Ill Tour the following year was full of controversy, lawsuits and even arrests, when the band was accused of provoking the crowd at one show.
According to Diamond, The Beastie Boys did not receive any money for Licensed To Ill due to their licensing agreement with the label. They ended their association with Def Jam and Rick Rubin afterwards, signing with Capitol Records and releasing the thoroughly groovy Paul’s Boutique, in 1989. It was their first recording produced by longtime collaborators, The Dust Brothers. It’s huge, eclectic selection of multi--layered samples, loops, scratches and funky beats made it a hip hop landmark. It is regarded as one of the group’s best albums. Rolling Stone called it “Hip Hop’s Pet Sounds/Dark Side of The Moon.”
Check Your Head was the first album recorded at the Beastie Boys “G-Son” Studios and released on their own Grand Royal record label. The album, released in 1992, was the start of a new direction with a more jazz and funk inspired sound. The band played live instruments on the tracks, joined by future longtime collaborators, Money Mark (Mark Ramos Nishita) on keyboards and Mario C (Mario Caldato, Jr. ) as Sound Engineer. It even includes one hardcore song “Time For Livin.’ Check Your Head went double platinum and reached #10 on Billboard album charts. The video for the album’s single “So What’cha Want,” which made both urban and modern rock charts, became another MTV regular.
The Beastie Boys formed Grand Royal Records in conjunction with Capitol in 1992 when their friends, Jill Cunnif, and former band mate, Kate Schellenbach, gave them a demo tape for their band, Luscious Jackson, and asked if they knew anyone who would put it out. After many times being asked for help by friends and not liking their demos, they found that the Luscious Jackson tape became one of their favorite things to listen to on the road, leading them to start the label so that they could release it. Check Your Head was the first album released with the Grand Royal label. Luscious Jackson’s In Search of Manny, was Grand Royal’s first independent release. After Manny, Grand Royal released My Crazy Life, the first album by hardcore legends, DFL which, at that time, included Adam Horovitz as a member. Other Grand Royal artists included Atari Teenage Riot, Big Fat Love, Diane Schuur, Jimmy Eat World, Ladies Who Lunch, Sean Lennon, Ween and Russell Simmins.
Grand Royal Records went out of business in 2001. Its assets were purchased in 2004 by GR2 Records which currently markets the Grand Royal catalog in its online store at www.gr2records.com/store.
Besides naming the mullet, the label’s associated Grand Royal magazine also named the band “Sneaker Pimps.” It’s first issue, which had an initial run of 50,000, featured a story on Ben Lee, artwork by George Clinton and interviews with Kareem Abdul Jabar and Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest.
The magazine started in 1993 as a collaboration by all three band members, but became primarily the work of Mike D by issue six which carried the following disclaimer from Adam Horowitz, “I was a fashion (I mean supermodel) in the first issue of Grand Royal. But since then I’ve had nothing to do with the magazine. So not only are my views and opinions not expressed, but I don’t agree with everything in the damn thing.”
Mike D told Select in 1997 “We didn’t sit down and think, “Hey, let’s make a magazine. It was more pathetic than that. We had all of these people writing to us using the address (listed in the Check Your Head liner notes) about the band and we weren’t getting back. We had the ambition of a newsletter, but we saw a couple of other band’s fanzines and they were just like, ‘This is what the band is up to now and this is what they’ll be doing.’ We were like, ‘no way!’ So we made it into a proper magazine.”
For it’s early issues, the magazine rarely met any type of deadline, but maintained a huge consumer and advertiser demand. The second issue was delayed by one year. “Oh yeah, they (advertisers) can get pretty irate,” one-time associate publisher, Jamie Fraiser told Select, “But that’s part of the allure. You can advertise in any magazine that comes out on time.”
The magazine initially sold subscriptions, then switched to sales in record stores and newsstands for its later issues, which were its best sellers and met deadlines repeatedly. For creative reasons, Grand Royal moved strictly online, then stopped publishing. One fan of the magazine has scanned and posted some of his favorite articles at www.geocities.com/frankpario/GRmagazine.html. Old issues are currently available for $3-$5 at the GR2 Records online store at www.gr2records.com/store. As Mike D told Select, “This is an extremely collectible magazine. All the time I hear about people going over to other people’s houses and reading it. It’s phenomenal! It’s shelf life is just huge.” According to him, “Every issue is designed to age gracefully, with mellow undertones and a fruity finish.”
Ill Communication, released on Grand Royal in 1994, debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 and hit #2 on the R&B/Hip Hop charts. Their video for “Sabotage," its first single, became an MTV favorite.
In May 1994, the same month they released Ill Communication, the Beastie Boys started their continuing campaign to bring public awareness to the plight of the Tibetan people under Chinese occupation, financing the foundation of the Milarepa Fund and performing at a series of concerts over five years to benefit the Tibetan people’s cause. The band donated royalties from five of their concerts and two of their singles “Bodhista Vow” and “Shambala” to Milirepa, a Tibetan nonprofit formed to bring awareness to Tibetan rights issues and the exile of the Dalai Lama. The concept for the Milarepa Fund initially came in 1993 during the recording of the album, when the band decided to give royalties to the Tibetan monks sampled on the songs. The foundation was named after 11th Century Tibetan Saint, Jetsun Milarepa, celebrated for influencing people with his music.
Adam Yauch co-founded the Milarepa Fund with Erin Potts. The two first met in Nepal where she was studying as a graduate student while he was pursuing an interest in Eastern religion. He contacted her about his interest in creating the Foundation later, when they had both returned to the U.S. The purpose of the the Milarepa Fund is the bring public awareness in the West to the struggles of the Tibetan people and ultimately, to bring them freedom from Chinese occupation.
The Fund used The Beastie Boys place as co-headliners of the 1994 Lollapalooza Tour to promote its message through information tents at shows, setting a trend for future rock mega-fests.
From 1994 to 1998, the Beastie Boys spent a large amount of their time organizing the Tibetan Freedom Concerts, a series of festival-sized events happening each year in June. The concerts featured unheard of musical line-ups rivaling Live Aid. Many of the performers, including Alanis Morisette, Ben Harper, Eddie Vedder and REM, helped Milarepa in other areas like signing petitions and writing letters to the President and government officials.
As early as 1995, Beastie Boys fans began to speak out against the band’s intense involvement with the Milarepa Fund. They would continue to suggest on fan bulletin boards, mailing lists and in at least one letter to Grand Royal magazine, that the band’s side projects, like Mike D’s X-large Clothing and Yauch’s work with Milarepa, were interfering with their work in the band, citing this as a reason for the four year wait for Hello Nasty.
Tickets for the band’s 1995 North American tour sold out in only minutes. The band donated $1 from every ticket sold to local charities at each venue. Later that year, they released Aglio Y Olio, an 11-minute, eight-song collection from their 80s hardcore punk start.
One hundred thousand people attended the first Tibetan Freedom Concert, a two-day festival held in Golden Gate Park in 1996. Yauch and Potts spent a great deal of time personally planning and coordinating details for the concert, which raised over $800,000 and, along with the Beastie Boys, included performances by Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against The Machine, De La Soul, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sonic Youth, Beck, Bjork, The Fugees, A Tribe Called Quest, and Yoko Ono. At Lollapalooza, the information booths revolved around the concert. At the Tibetan Freedom Concerts, the music revolved around the information. The performances were, most of all, a vehicle for the Beastie Boys to use their influence in music to gain the attention needed to educate the audience and the public, through media coverage, on the problems in Tibet. Expert speakers addressed the crowd on the Tibetan struggle as they would at all of the concerts. News on the concert and coverage of Erin Potts and her work with the Foundation was heavily featured on MTV.
Fifty-thousand people attended the second Tibetan Freedom
in June 1997 in New York City’s Downing Stadium. Patti Smith, Foo Fighters, Porno For Pyros, U2, Sonic Youth, Biz Markie, Alanis Morisette, Radiohead, Ben Harper, A Tribe Called Quest, Rancid, Bjork, Pavement, Blur, Michael Stipe, Mike Mills, Taj Majal, De La Soul, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Eddie Vedder and even Noel Gallagher all performed at the concert which raised over $250,000. Chuck D of Public Enemy was one of many speaker during the two-day festival show.
In 1998, The Beastie Boys released The In Sound From Way Out, a collection of previously unreleased jazz/funk instrumental versions of songs from their last two commercial albums.
The third Tibetan Freedom Concert at RFK Stadium in June 1998, was attended by 120,000 and raised over $1.2 million. The Beastie Boys played along with Radiohead, Sean Lennon, A Tribe Called Quest, Dave Matthews Band, Sonic Youth, Wyclef Jean, Herbie Hancock, REM, The Wallflowers, Pearl Jam, Luscious Jackson and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Kraftwerk, Beck and others cancelled after lightning strikes during Herbie Hancock’s set on the first day. One fan was struck by lightning, treated, then released in the incident in which 12 people were injured. The concert was held in Washington, DC in conjunction with a protest on the Capitol lawn intended to support an end to favored nation trading status for China and to influence President Clinton before his trip there.
The Beastie Boys produced and recorded their next album 1998’s Hello Nasty in their native New York City. Rolling Stone and Playboy both named it “Album Of The Year.” Mix Master Mike replaced DJ Hurricane on the album. It went straight to #1 in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia and #2 in Canada and Japan. The album’s single, “Intergalactic” became the first to win a Grammy in both the Rap and Alternative categories.
Later that year, both Yauch and Diamond mentioned in interviews that the band would release a country album. In the liner notes of the 1999 Two-CD Anthology, The Sounds of Science, Adam Yauch writes “At some point after Ill Communication came out, Mike got hit in the head by a large foreign object and lost all of his memory. As it started coming back, he believed he was a country singer named Country Mike. A psychologists told us that if we didn’t play along with Mike’s fantasy, he would be in grave danger.”
Country Mike’s Greatest Hits, actually a project of all three band members, was never released. It was pressed on red vinyl on the Grand Royal label and given by the band to family and friends as a Christmas gift in 2000. Copies were once offered at auction for thousands. It is available on E-Bay and as a bootleg.
In 1999, Free Tibet Concerts, held simultaneously in Amsterdam, Alpine Valley in East Troy, WI, Sydney, Australia and Tokyo, raised $50,000. The Alpine Valley show included Run DMC, The Cult, Blondie, Tracy Chapman, The Roots, Eddie Vedder, Rage Against The Machine and The Wu Tang Clan.
Critics of The Tibetan Freedom Concerts have said that they did little to further the Tibetan cause. One U.S. State Department report in 1999 found that there was “no improvement” in China’s human rights policies and “serious persecution” occurring in Tibet. However, the Milarepa Fund had donated over $800,00 to various non profit agencies. Iin a 1999 Fast Company article, Milarepa Co-Founder Erin Potts told of the real influence the Foundation’s work, “The Premier of China was recently in the U.S. He said ‘wherever I go, two people follow me, the press and Tibet protesters.’”
The Tibetan Freedom Concerts took the Millennium off, scheduling a fifth concert for 2001 in the U.K, which was cancelled.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, the Beastie Boys organized and headlined the New Yorkers Against Violence Concert in Oct. 2001. Funds went to the New York Women’s Foundation Disaster Relief Fund and the New York Association for Americans (NYANA).
In 2002, the group started work on their new album, To The 5 Boroughs, at Oscilloscope Studios.
“In A World Gone Mad,” a protest against the Iraq war released by the band as a free internet download on sites including Milarepa, MTV, MoveOn.Org and Win Without War, became the most downloaded track in April 2003. The Beastie Boys performed at the 19th and 20th Tibetan Freedom Concerts in Tokyo and Taipei and headlined the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in late 2003.
“Ch-Chek It Out,” the first single from To
The Five Boroughs, debuted on
the “Vegas” episode of The OC airing in April 2005. The album was another
#1 chart hit.
The Beastie Boys began work on tracks for The Mix Up In 2006.
Mike D was born in Manhattan and attended Vassar College for six months before he was expelled, according to rumor, for throwing a beer keg from the ninth floor of a residence hall. For a time he served as CEO for Grand Royal Records. He is married to director Tamra Davis. They have two sons, Davis and Skylar.
Adam Yauch was born in Brooklyn. He produced the Bad Brains’ 2007 album, Build A Nation. He is a Buddhist. His wife, Dechen Wangdu, has Tibetan parents but was born in New York. The two were married in a traditional Tibetan ceremony. They have one daughter. An avid snowboarder, Yauch is featured as an unlockable character in the video game Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground. He has directed many Beastie Boys videos under the name Nathaniel Hornblower (Nathaniel is his middle name), but David Cross played the title role in the video, A Day In The Life Of Nathaniel Hornblower.
Adam Horowitz, born in S. Orange, N.J., is the son of playwright Israel Horovitz. In addition to playing with Los Angeles Hardcore Legends, DFL He has released music with his side project, BS2000 and produced albums for Teryaki Bay and Northern State. He has appeared in films including Lost Angels, Roadside Prophets and A Kiss Before Dying. He has created remixes for Fatboy Slim, Le Tigre, Lady Sovreign, Beck and MIA, often under the name, 41 Small Stars. He has been romantically linked to celebrities including actresses Molly Ringwald, and Ione Skye, to whom he was married from 1992 to 1999, and Kathleen Hannah, frontwoman for Bikini Kill, Le Tigre and Julie Ruin. They married in 2006. Hannah, one of the founders of the original riot grrl magazine, told Glasgow Women’s Library in 2000, “I don’t need to convince men that feminism is important, that just isn’t a goal of mine. I can’t even have that conversation, of whether or not it’s important, because if someone asks me that they’re my mortal enemy and I don’t want to have a conversation with them until they grow up.” She appears in the Sonic Youth video Bull In The Heather.
By Frances Brennan
THE BEASTIE BOYS
One of the longest lasting and most respected groups in rock and hip hop, the Beastie Boys have constantly improved both since their start in New York City hardcore, earning regard from the most important players in all three genres.
In their early days as the CIA, hip hop godfathers NWA got their start
rapping over Beastie Boys songs on “My Posse” and “Ill-Legal."
Four Beastie Boys albums, Licensed to Ill, Ill Communication,
Hello Nasty and To The Five Boroughs have reached #1 on
the Billboard album charts. Rolling Stone named their song “Sabotage”
one of the “500 Greatest Hits of All Time” in 2004, and ranked
the Beastie Boys among their “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”
in 2006. They were one of nine nominees for this year’s Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame inductions.
The Beastie Boys won a Grammy this year for their June 2007 all instrumental release, The Mix Up. They began writing material for the self-produced album in 2006. The band has been recording all instrumental tracks since their start in hardcore. At least one appears on each of their albums, usually with Mike Diamond on drums, Adam Horovitz on Guitar and Adam Yauch on bass. The Beastie Boys have said that The Mix Up is inspired by the 70s funk they sampled on Paul’s Boutique, especially The Meters.
Beastie Boys shows supporting the album have focused largely on festivals including Sonai in Spain, Raskikl in Denmark and Southside in Germany, along with British festivals Bestival at Isle of Wight and Electric Picnic in Ireland. They also performed “Sabotage,” “So What’cha Want” and “Intergalactic” on the UK leg of Live Earth 2007 at Wembly Stadium. They worked with Reverb, an environmental non-profit, for their 2007 summer tour and recently performed at the Langerado Festival in Florida.
The Oxford English Dictionary credits the Beastie Boys with the first use of the term “Mullet” to describe the iconic hairstyle. The dictionary’s definition of the term states that the word was “apparently coined by U.S. hip hop group, The Beastie Boys.” The band first used it when they published the lyrics to their 1994 song “Mullet Head” in their record label’s sister publication, Grand Royal Magazine.