http://chud.com/nextraimages/awesomeposter.jpgNobody could have imagined when License to Ill came
out the Beastie Boys would become an institution. Hell, at the time
nobody could have imagined that these three New York Ciy Jews with frat
raps about beer and partying would have the first number one hip hop
record (although a familiarity with the career of Elvis could have
prepared us all for that). Back in the day when listening to Paul’s Boutique (I hated License
on its release – full disclosure here. It came out just when I was
crossing over from all rock/punk to more inclusive tastes, and the
album felt like a co-option and cashing in. I took all my punk “ethics”
with me), I wouldn’t have for one second even considered the idea that
I would ever interview them. Now, 20 years later, they have a big
screen concert movie called Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That - which meant I would actually have that chance.

What makes Awesome unique
isn’t just the F word in the title – most of the footage in the movie
comes from 50 handheld cameras given to members of the audience that
night. What you’re seeing in the film is, for the most part, what
people in the audience saw.

Last week I had a chance to visit
the Beasties’ Oscilloscope Labs office in Lower Manhattan. I was there
with a bunch of radio reporters, and we had to wait some time because
the boys had just ordered lunch. When they came in they spent a good
five minutes discussing food (Mike D recommends a vegetarian place
called Wild Ginger, if you’re ever on the Lower East Side) before
getting into the topic at hand.

For the record, and for those of
you who aren’t that familiar with the group (a weird thought, but hey),
MCA is Adam Yauch, aka Nathanial Hörnblowér, the director of Awesome and many of the group’s videos. Mike D is Michael Diamond and Adrock is Adam Horowitz.

Q: I read a little bit about the cell phone inspiration for this movie, but maybe you could talk about –

MCA: You don’t buy the whole cell phone thing?

Q: I just want you to explain it.

MCA: I was looking on the internet and some kid had posted –

Mike D: What were you looking for, Adam?

MCA:
I was looking for porn, but I ran across our website by accident and
some kid had posted this thing he had shot on his camera phone, which
was like a 30 second clip of us running out on stage at the beginning
of a show. It was kind of cool because it was hand held and it was low
rez, and it was all grainy and it was at eye level. There was a certain
energy to it because he was so amped up that he was jumping around when
he was shooting it. There was a certain energy captured in the thing
where you could almost feel what it was like to be at the show, and I
thought it would be interesting to document a whole show like that.


Q: You definitely take a risk when you’re giving fans video cameras. Were you surprised at the quality of footage you got?

http://chud.com/nextraimages/beasties1.jpgMCA:
It’s a risk but the risk is that you’ve got 50 cameras out there and
the odds are that at any moment something interesting is going to be
happening on any one of them. In a way it’s what I would expect, but
you find the moments that work with the music. Sometimes a stable
camera works, sometimes a crazier camera works. You just play around
with it and find it.

Q: And you got them all back?

MCA: We got them all back.

Q: In working order?

Mike D: I was surprised that we got them all back – I figured somebody might accidentally have broken one.

Q: How was the editing? You have all that footage to go through.

MCA: It
was a lot. We digitized everything and then we got it all synced up –
we had to chop things up and move them around to get them all synced up
because the cameras don’t have time codes. Hi8 cameras all have their
own various speeds and float a little, but we got it to sync up. Then
we started out with three different cuts. There were three different
editors on it and they got 20 cameras each and did a cut of the movie.
We spent a month doing that, and then we started going through those
and picking the best parts. I started working with the main editor,
Neil, the two of us started building off of that. We pieced those cuts
together.


Q: You guys love the number 50 – 50 cups of coffee and it’s on, 50 cameras… any reason why that number?

Mike D: That
was how we selected the camera people. We were very into the numbers
and numerology, so we had to get everyone’s charts. What time they woke
up that morning is what played into the selection.


Q:
I have a friend who was at that show and who saw a screening the other
night of the movie. He thought that the audience was insane that night
and that the film captures that energy. When you’re performing is that
just another typical audience, or did it feel special?


Adrock: It could have been better.

[laughs]

MCA:
It wasn’t the craziest audience. When we played at the Garden in 95 it
was one of the most insane shows we’ve ever played, and that’s one of
the reasons we wanted to document this one. Thinking back on how crazy
that one was – it wasn’t quite as crazy, but it was interesting.

Mike D: It’s better than the last time we played there, the Yawner.

Adrock: Yeah, it was a lot better than the last time.

Q:
Right now there’s a couple of concert movies out, and it’s been a while
since we’ve seen any major concert movies. There’s you, Chappelle, Neil
Young. Was therehttp://chud.com/nextraimages/beasties2.jpg something in the air that made you want to do it as a film as opposed to a DVD?


MCA: We’re
always in direct competition with Neil. Neil’s been trying to scoop us,
get ahead on us. Like with this one, he rapidly threw together his edit
just so he could get out a couple of months before us. It’s a
continuing drama.

Mike D: He drops an album, we drop an album. He plays Woodstock, we play Woodstock.

MCA: I order pizza, Neil orders pizza. What’s up with that?

Q: But was this originally thought of as a DVD, or was it always intended for the big screen?

MCA:
The original idea was to make a DVD. It was to document the show, we
were playing at the Garden, it was a pretty last minute thing, and then
once we started coming I started thinking about projecting it as a
theatrical release. We started talking to some distributors and we
started talking to ThinkFilm, and we got excited about it.

Q: Did you do anything different knowing it was being documented, or was this just another Beasties show?

Adrock:
We didn’t do anything different. We probably should have. We just
decided to do it a couple of days before we did the show, so there are
probably some things we should have done.

Mike D:
Looking at it in hindsight, thinking about it this week, the second we
had the idea we should have given the cameras to the people who were
going to shoot the show. It would have been interesting to see them for
a couple of days leading up to the show. But you know, that’s
hindsight. It’ll be in the sequel.

Q: So how did you select the people?

MCA: You didn’t buy the whole numerology thing we were throwing around before?

Nah, we posted on the internet and asked if people were interested in shooting the concert.

Q: How many responses did you get?

Adrock: 50.

MCA: The show was already sold out, so people had to have tickets to the show already.

Adrock:
It was a hot ticket. But so we asked on the internet, and they had to
send in and tell use what seat they were sitting in, and we picked
people in good spots.

MCA: They were spread out all over, people from different sections, as evenly spread out as possible. All over the place.

Q: There were some great, great audience shots, especially the girl who was dancing like you, Mike –

Mike D: She
was actually digitally manipulated. Her dancing wasn’t anything to do
with it and it has nothing to do with what I’m capable of.

MCA:
The truth is that it was really there. Mike does the dance step and you
can see that sees him and copies what he’s doing. It was enhanced a
little with the editing.

Q: Watching that it’s kind of cool and then you also feel kind of bad for the girl, because she’s on film copying Mike.

Adrock: I think it’s the other way around.

Mike D: It’s permanently scarred me and I’m suing for damages. Thank you very much.

Q: I looked up your IMDB profiles, and on Mike’s I found a movie called Over Exposed…

Adrock: Oh?

MCA: Tell us about this, Mike.

Adrock: Is this a porno?

Mike D: It was my teen porn thing.

Q:
The synopsis is that a beautiful rock singer in need of some extra cash
poses for some sexy photos for a men’s magazine without telling her
boyfriend. Can you tell us about your role in that? You played “George.”


Mike D: That oversimplifies things, but it was a very dynamic role. Not many people know about this film that I did.

MCA: You play George?

Adrock: George the doorman?

MCA: Dirty, scary George?

Mike D: Yes, Ugly George was his name.

MCA: Mike, come clean.

Mike D: Sometimes that’s how it is. Sometimes you have to do whatever to make ends meet.

Adrock: Adam and I are in a porno movie.

MCA: We think.

Adrock: We
haven’t seen it, but we have good reason to believe. A long time ago we
were playing basketball and these guys were filming something at the
other end of the court and they asked, ‘Do you mind being in the
background of our “student movie”’, and they weren’t really playing
basketball.

MCA: They
didn’t know how to play. And they were wearing short shorts, and they
kept on bending over and touching their toes and doing all sorts of
weird things.


Adrock: This was leading up to “Let’s go back to the locker room together” scene.

Mike D: I wasn’t there for that one. By that point I was already more financially stable.

http://chud.com/nextraimages/beasties3.jpgAdrock: This is really awkward.

Q:
In the film there’s a clip of Ben Stiller singing along, and what’s
cool about it is that he’s not being Ben Stiller, he’s being an excited
fan –


Mike D: See, he’s a good actor.

Q: I was wondering for you guys if you can still get excited at shows, or if being professionals gets in the way of that.

MCA: We get excited at Ben Stiller movies.

Adrock: Zoolander is very funny. I am a big Zoolander fan.

Q: But can you guys go to concerts and recapture that fan thing?

Mike D:
Sometimes I’ll be psyched that I actually got excited, but yeah, it’s
hard. You tend to watch shows and see the flaws and critique it in your
mind because it’s what you do. You wish you could just have the
experience and be non-critical.

Adrock: I go to a show and I don’t want to go up front. It’s just a different thing.

Mike D:
It’s also a weird thing because sometimes I’ll go see a show and I’ll
send the band notes afterwards, completely unsolicited, telling the
band how to improve upon what they’re doing. And often it causes hatred.

MCA: I invited Glenn E Friedman to a screening.

Mike D: I sent him notes afterwards, too. Notes on him watching the movie.

Q: Some actors have a hard time watching themselves in films. Is it easy for you to watch yourselves performing?

Mike D:
I lose focus on what we’re doing because I’m much more interested in
watching the audience, because that I don’t get to see when we’re
playing. That, to me, was the most fun in watching the footage and
watching the movie come together.


Q: Is there a favorite song that you guys play?

MCA: It’s not exactly the question, but it’s always exciting when our DJ, Mixmaster Mike,http://chud.com/nextraimages/beasties4.jpg
throws in a lot of beats unexpectedly, other people’s beats. Sometimes
when you’re doing a song and coming into the second verse he throws in
a new beat, and 90% of the time it works really well. Sometimes it’s
amazing, and it keeps it real exciting and interesting for us, because
we don’t know what’s going to happen and we have to figure out how to
make our lyrics flow over that beat. It keeps us on our toes.

Q: And that’s not planned?

MCA: It’s planned that he can throw in whatever he wants.

Adrock:
You know some weird thing is going to happen at some point soon. It’s
amazing to be in this band and we’re playing shows every day, but this
DJ, our DJ, is the best DJ there is in the world. Everything he does,
we’re in awe.


MCA: Sometimes
if the record skips he turns off the beat and we keep rhyming a
cappella, and he’ll throw in some other beat to fix what’s going on –
it’s definitely interesting for us, being in the moment and keeping
track of what’s going on.

Mike D:
The other night we were in Austin Texas and we did a little surprise
show, and we were doing a song and the power cut off to the turntables,
but the PA was on. We just kept going and –

MCA: We went the whole first verse.

Mike D: Yeah, and then the power came back on and he dropped right back in for the chorus in exactly the right place.

Q: Do you ever forget the lyrics?

MCA: Sometimes we do.

Adrock: Often.

MCA: Usually if you hear the lyric before, you know the next thing coming up. Sometimes we mess up the beginning of a verse –

Adrock: And it’s a domino; if I mess up, the next person messes up. It sets everybody off in the wrong direction.

Q:
In most of the other arts you can write a book or paint a picture and
that stays in the past. No one asks a novelist to keep doing the same
book. But as performers you have to keep revisiting songs you wrote 20
years ago, when you were very different people. How do you relate to
those songs?


MCA: Some of it’s just funny. There are some things where the lyrics are kind of dumb, but they were dumb back then. It’s a goof.

Mike D: They’re
definitely not lyrics we’d write now. But not to harp on it, that’s
what’s great about having Mixmaster Mike in our band; we basically end
up on the fly remixing those songs every night. It’s not like we’re
doing Brass Monkey over the same Brass Monkey beat for the past fifteen
years.

Q: Judging from the audience response you don’t even need to rap that song anyway.

MCA: Every now and then you do that too.

Q: And the crowd also goes nuts when you guys come out with instruments.

MCA:
For this tour we were thinking of doing just a hip hop show, that was
the original plan. Then we thought it might be cool to do some rock
cuts at the end, and then we threw some instrumentals in the middle.
That’s how it worked out – some past shows we did half hip hop, half
instruments.

Q: You
guys were one of the first groups to come out with an anti-war song for
Iraq. Do you think that the music industry and pop culture are doing
that enough, or do you think there aren’t enough people in the music
industry speaking out?


Adrock:
I don’t think enough people – I don’t understand why everybody’s not
outraged with what’s going on. It’s crazy. You can’t judge someone for
not saying something against the war or against the president, but…
it’s everybody’s choice to say what they want. It’s definitely fucked
up what’s going on, that’s it still happening.

Q: Is it possible that your next album might go more political? Are you working on a next album?

http://chud.com/nextraimages/beasties5.jpgMike D: We
don’t know until we get there. If you had asked us before our last
album, we wouldn’t have known. But making it here, down the street from
the World Trade Center, post-9/11, obviously there were a lot of things
going on that influenced the record. Whatever record we make is a
reflection of what’s happening in our own lives.


Q: Have you started working on a new album yet?

MCA: Not really. Just riffing, you know.

Adrock: Just jamming. Seriously jamming. We haven’t done anything, though.

Q:
How do you guys make records? Do you hang out and jam and see what
comes of it, or do you write songs at home and bring them in?


MCA: We play dominos and talk shit.

Mike D: We
literally just hang out here and order lunch. A lot of lunch ordering
goes on. Some ideas get thrown out there and we’ll play each other
things we’re listening to or that we’re working on. Then we’ll order
tea. And then it’s pretty much time to go home.

Q: What are you listening to now?

MCA: I was listening to some Bob Dylan on the way over here. Blood on the Tracks.

Mike D: On the way over here I was listening to Erik B For President. That just sounds great when you’re walking down the street. And I listen to it on my new iPod jacket.

Adrock: His jacket has speakers in it. It’s really silly.

Q: How do you feel about hip hop right now? Do you listen to modern stuff?

Adrock:
We grew up on it and we still listen to it and what’s being made right
now. It’s just kind of – I think people ask that question of us and
they expect us to be like, ‘Oh, hip hop today is nothing compared to
when we were kids.’ But hip hop is always changing, always evolving,
that’s kind of its nature, so whatever hip hop is today, it’s going to
be something different three months from now.

Q: Do you like what it’s evolving into?

Adrock: Yeah.
And it’s always evolving into something different. On one hand I think
maybe have problems with hip hop in that I don’t think anyone could
have seen it becoming the dominant form of pop music that it is. At the
same time people are making super underground records.

Q:
You guys ever take a step back and think about how you guys had
something to do with hip hop breaking through, becoming so mainstream?


Mike D: That’s for other people to do.

Q:
For somebody like me you guys were such a large part of growing up. How
do you process that, there are so many people out there who have the
Beastie Boys as a big part of their lives, their identities?


Adrock: That’s cool I guess. It’s weird…

Mike D: I
ride the subway and sometimes people come up and say, ‘Hey I grew up
listening to you dudes!’ That’s cool, but what do you say?

MCA: We
grew up listening to a lot of music that meant a lot to us, so I guess
for me the Clash meant so much to me, and I know how much it would have
meant to me to meet somebody from the Clash when I was 17. It would
have thrown my wig back.


Adrock: You wear a wig?

MCA: You didn’t know that?

Adrock: I didn’t know that.

Mike D: As a teenager he wore a wig.

Q: With all the footage that you have, when this comes to DVD will there be plenty of extras?

MCA: There will be some stuff.

Adrock: There’s a barbeque contest as an extra.

Mike D: That was big.

Q: What are the rules?

Adrock:
You know what, I don’t want to get into the rules because I am very
much upset – not very little upset, but very much upset – about the
rules.

MCA: We wrote them up.

Adrock: I wasn’t listened to. I feel that nobody paid attention when I was talking about the rules.

MCA: You’re crazy.

Adrock: I am not crazy.

MCA: In Australia we drew up the rules and you were there.

Adrock:
Somehow he gets involved – and I am pointing at Mike Diamond right now
– and something happened. I said it should be one type of item to be
cooked and judged on that item. Then all of a sudden you’ve got
chickens and salad and different kinds of meat and guacamole. Come on.

Q: You wanted it the Iron Chef way.

Adrock: One ingredient. Well, yes and no. But you know what, I’m going to have my rebuttal on the DVD.