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Bring the Sauce 

To live, love and leave before dying in L.A.: how the Beastie Boys beat the very odd odds

Wednesday, Sep 9 1998
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PRE(R)AMBLE

Prior to interviewing Mike D for this piece, my friend and one-time employer set forth some "terms and conditions," namely, that I correct a few errors I've made in writing about him in the past, such as:

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1) AdRock did not play the beat on "Pass the Mic," as their producer and my former landlord Mario C once, I thought, told me in a discussion about how Mike is more Lars Ulrich than Steve Gadd behind the drum kit;

2) AdRock did not do the whole song "Sabotage" in, like, an hour at the end of the session, as I was quoted as saying in the current Spin.

My Spin quote on "Sabotage" was juxtaposed with Q-Tip's, saying that Adam composed the music for "Get It Together."

Mike: "And who did the music to 'Get It Together,' Bob? You know that."

That was your shit, wasn't it? The Dick Hyman shit?

"See? And I get slighted again! [Classic Mike mock indignation] That whole thing they made, the oversimplification, that I'm the businessman, Adam's the musician and Yauch's the spiritualist - I mean, these people may as well be playing video games!"

The fifth full-length Beastie Boys album, Hello Nasty, takes its title from the way the super-duper group's publicity firm answers the phone. The firm, Nasty Little Man, is named for its hot-headed but warm-hearted head honcho, Steve Martin - not the gray-haired comedian, but the former hardcore guitarist (Agnostic Front) and critic (Thrasher, Spin) turned flak. (Go ahead, try it - call Nasty Little Man's offices and hear them answer "Hello, Nasty!")

And that in a nutsack is how 34-year-old bassist/Buddhist/ball-buster Adam "MCA" Yauch, 32-year-old drummer/dreamer/diplomat Michael "Mike D" Diamond and 31-year-old guitarist/goof-off/goldsmith Adam "King AdRock" Horovitz, a.k.a. Beastie Boys (not The Beastie Boys, and don't call 'em Beasties), for the better part of two decades have done more for the White Negro than Norman Mailer ever dreamed. Kids across America wake up every day to find out that overnight they've become black, just like Godfrey Cambridge in Watermelon Man - the only difference being they don't try to remedy the situation by bathing in milk.

Yet Hello Nasty is at first, even second glance not exactly a conceptual title like, say, Tales From Topographic Oceans, though it should be noted that on Beastie Boys' current tour of America's arenas (including September 11 and 12 at the Forum - SOLD OUT) the band (augmented per usual by keyboardist "Money" Mark Nishita, their new DJ "Mixmaster" Mike, percussionist Alfred Ortiz and punk drummer Amery "AWOL" Smith) will perform "in the round," on a rotating circular stage that doesn't rotate totally like the one Yes used to yada yada yada on, but! . . .

"Bob, you know, pretty soon I'm gonna have to hit our Rush-like stage."

No, it's like Yes. You're "in the round," right, Mike?

"Yes. And yes. With a small y and capital Y."

Do you actually rotate at times?

"There are some rotations. Did Yes rotate?"

Not as much as you, I hope.

"How often did Yes rotate?"

So despite the seat-of-the-pants way they no doubt came up with the top-selling album's title, despite the scandalously cheapo cover art of the new LP, despite the whole anticlimactic kit and caboodle that is Grand Royal, their boutique-label-cum-pop-culture-empire, despite the erratic concerts and absurd interview responses that seldom confirm their reputation for being the best and brightest band in the land, and, of course, not despite but because of their deliberately low-fi music and hopelessly highbrow lyrics, Beastie Boys have gotten not just by but over via sheer shock-the-bourgeoisie Situationism.

Thus, after mulling over what to call the album for who knows how long, one of them must have called the publicist one day and ("Hello, Nasty!") DING! the bell goes off and a light goes on and a bright idea for an appropriately vague title that will enter the lexicon of lamebrains forevermore is finally arrived at. What does it mean? What doesn't it mean? Hello, Nasty!

One thing Hello Nasty has meant is Goodbye L.A. It's the first Beastie Boys album to be recorded in their native NYC since the flaky-fluke debut Licensed To Ill. It's also their best-selling album since that 1986 Def Jam disc sold in excess of 4 million copies Stateside alone. Jealous or dismissive as any Angeleno worth his or her salt should feel about the fact that Nasty was recorded in New York and not here, the album does, fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how disturbed you are by the way they came, saw, conquered and caught the first train, plane or automobile out of L.A.), contain several of the best cuts the trio has ever done.

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