Beastie Boys return older and sillier
WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. ñ On a wind-swept balcony at the posh Chateau Marmont hotel, Michael “Mike D” Diamond, one-third of the legendary hip-hop trio the Beastie Boys, is recounting to Adam “Ad-Rock” Horowitz what happened at a party that he departed early the night before. Among the recollections is that the DJ spun “Jolene.”
“He killed it,” Diamond recalls. “That’s a great song though. Dolly Partner is a great songwriter.”
“Yeah,” Horowitz replies without missing a beat. “Dolly Partner’s penned like over 1,000 songs.”
When asked if the pair are intentionally flubbing the country icon’s name, Horowitz reveals that the mispronunciation is actually an inside joke stretching back to the 1980s when the group would study musician-filmmaker Don Letts’ mixtapes of dancehall music from the United Kingdom. On one edition, a deep-voiced DJ incorrectly bellowed the name “Dolly Partner.”
“From that point on, she was no longer Dolly Parton but etched forever in our minds as Dolly Partner,” Diamond explains.
“And that’s no disrespect to Dolly Partner because she’s an incredible musician,” Horowitz deadpans.
It’s been 25 years since the Beastie Boys released “Licensed to Ill” and proved three bratty Jewish guys from New York could deliver hip-hop as deliciously as Run-D.M.C. Despite gray hair for Horowitz, fatherhood for Diamond and cancer for Adam “MCA” Yauch, the group is as goofy as ever, as evidenced by the old-school flavor on their new album, “Hot Sauce Committee Part Two.”
Yauch, who discovered he had cancer of the salivary gland in 2009, is notably absent from the balcony jokefest. He’s still undergoing treatment. (“It’s hard that he’s not here, but it’d be harder for him to be here,” Diamond says.) Yauch’s condition has put the tight-knit group’s near future in limbo.
“It is what is,” Horowitz says seriously, not long after extinguishing a cigarette. “You deal with it. He’s getting treatment. That’s the most important thing. We’ve been friends since 1980. All of this doesn’t matter. If we go on tour, we go on tour. If don’t go, we don’t go. We’ll figure it out. Yauch getting better is the most important thing right now.”
Diamond says Yauch’s illness didn’t influence their new music because recording was mostly finished before Yauch was diagnosed. However, the bad news made the group, whose ages now range from 44 to 46, more appreciative of their time together when they returned to the studio to morph the originally planned “Hot Sauce Committee Part One” into “Part Two.”
“It made us enjoy sticking with the vibe that we had already established,” Diamond says. “It was that much more of a relief for us. Ultimately, we just realized that we wanted to enjoy ourselves while we were making this record. That became a fun thing for us, and hopefully when people interact with this record, they will be enjoying themselves, too.”
The Beastie Boys’ first lyrical effort in seven years ó 2007’s “The Mix Up” was an instrumental affair ó is a return to the group’s signature roots of uncomplicated beats and clever rhymes. For instance, one moment on the carefully crafted track “Long Burn The Fire” finds Ad-Rock hollering, “I’ll make you sick like a Kenny Rogers Roaster.”
There are also wacky references to Tippi Hedren, Ted Danson and Andre Leon Talley. The album’s tone is more akin to 1994’s “Ill Communication” and 1998’s “Hello Nasty” than the decidedly more serious route the Beastie Boys took with 2004’s “To the 5 Boroughs.” Each of those albums debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts when they were originally released.
While the Beastie Boys were originally known for their bad boy personas, they’ve evolved. In recent years, they’ve presented themselves as poster boys for pacifism. They headlined the Tibetan Freedom concert series, protested the Iraq war and supported Sept. 11 attack victims. Under the searing California sun, Diamond and Horowitz seem conflicted over the recent news of Osama bin Laden’s death.
“It’s a very complex issue,” Diamond says. “What would’ve been the downside of holding bin Laden accountable by our own values of justice by which our country is based on? I don’t know that killing people then tossing them in the water is part of the democratic process. I’m not defending him. We just have to be careful of our actions as world citizens.”
The duo still finds more comfort in cracking jokes than talking politics. When questioned why they haven’t capitalized more on their fame like LL Cool J and Queen Latifah, Diamond proclaims that he angled for Horowitz to judge the NBC talent show “The Voice.” (“The network went with Adam Levine,” Diamond matter-of-factly notes.) He eventually relents though.
“All the music I listened to in high school that I loved and that moved me wasn’t the same music other kids were listening to in school,” Diamond discloses. “I got into punk rock and new wave then dub and hip-hop. I still feel like I’m an outsider. I still feel like we’re doing this thing that’s outside of the People’s Choice Awards.”
Of course, that’s exactly the way Beastie Boys like it, and they’re not done. The Grammy-winning group hopes to revisit “Hot Sauce Committee Part One.” They’d also like to follow in the footsteps of idol “Dolly Partner” ó who’s name-checked on the track “Funky Donkey” ó and open their own theme park. Horowitz would call it B-Boy Village, and Diamond dreams of an attraction that’s filled with a cough syrup concoction.
“We have to have a good flume ride because that’s a highlight at any theme park,” Diamond jokes. “When the log-shaped device you’re in plunges into the water, and you get completely drenched, it’s very satisfying. You would get (expletive) soaked up in our theme park. We’ll have a DJ playing crazy records and screaming. Instead of water, there’d be sizzurp.”
Horowitz interrupts him and suggests that the ride should instead be filled with the neglected soda brand Faygo and the DJ should also blast an air horn, which prompts the pair to dive even deeper into their cheeky concept, but a lone empty chair next to Diamond and Horowitz on the sunny balcony suggests the Beastie Boys’ imaginary theme park is far from complete.
Beastie Boys return older and sillier