Mike D of the Beastie Boys on Curating His New Show at MOCA

Mike D
Mike D
Joe Termini

Mike D, Beastie Boy, recent Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, mad collector of modern furniture and, in general, the man with all the fly juice, has now found the time to curate his own museum show.

"Transmission L.A.: AV Club" is a free, 17-day festival of art, music and food, opening to the public Friday, April 20, at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. In keeping with the museum's recent pattern of splashy, nontraditional events, Mike and Mercedes Benz's bring together a heavy-hitting roster of L.A. and New York artists, including painters Sage Vaughn and Will Fowler, sculptor/installation builder Tom Sachs and designer/director Mike Mills, as well as DJs (Peanut Butter Wolf, Z-Trip) and musicians (Santigold plays the VIP party Thursday night). Throw in superstar Kogi and A-Frame chef Roy Choi, who does a pop-up restaurant on-site every Thursday, and you've got a party worth fighting for.

L.A. Weekly got the opportunity to do an interview with Mike D, aka Michael Diamond, over email on the new show, the hall of fame and what exactly is the proper way to do the Jerry Lewis (a dance move not to be confused with the Brass Monkey).

Mr. Diamond's concept for "Transmission LA: AV Club" doesn't take an all-out academic approach, but encompasses everything that inspires him -- good music, design, food and even coffee. Going to MOCA will be like visiting him at home -- whether that's in Brooklyn or L.A.

What were your criteria in choosing the artists for "Transmission L.A.: AV Club"? Are they representative of your own collection?

The process evolved. Interestingly, not unlike when we make a record: You start with a few basic ideas and start to execute them but before you know it, the project takes on a life of its own. In this case the criterion I was given was to pick 10 artists that inspire me, but pretty quickly I realized it was about this dialogue between visual art and music.

Mike D of the Beastie Boys on Curating His New Show at MOCA
Sage Vaughn

What does an artist like Sage Vaughn or Tom Sachs represent in this festival context?

Both are friends. Tom's Toyans is kind of a centerpiece for the show, as it is simply stunning and beautiful in a number of ways and it is totally inspired by Jamaican sound systems. A body of Sage's work for the show is based on Wagner's Ring Cycle. It's a whole different musical vocabulary.

How did you meet Roy Choi? What other L.A. food do you look forward to while you're here?

I met Roy at his restaurant A-Frame one night. Kind of an embarrassing story: We were loving his food. The music was loud, but also really good (I usually get bummed on the music selection at most spots). Then "So Wha'cha Want" by my band comes on. So I kind of tuck my head down. Then Roy walks over and introduces himself. We laugh about the song playing. Talk food, music, life and right away we were good with each other. The thing is that I really think Roy is an artist. He creates and plays with perceptions. You read the menu and think one thing, then what you see is another, and then what you taste explodes in a complexion of flavor that goes way beyond what you thought it could have been.

I have actually been really happy working out of the (MOCA at) Geffen exploring eating in Little Tokyo. Sushi Gen, Baco Mercat, and coffee from Café Dulce.

What's your idea of a perfect day in L.A.?

That would involve surfing with my kids in Malibu, having food and wine with friends and family alfresco, backyard style. Though I am in a different mode right now!

Are you still an avid furniture collector? Will this be reflected in "Transmission L.A.: AV Club" in any way?

Design is one of the main reasons that I was intrigued by the offer to curate the show. One of the biggest and most rewarding challenges of the show has been to design the entire experience: from installations, to the restaurant to the coffee bar. My co-designer for all of this is Robert McKinley, who is a close friend and designer that I trust completely. We also share a design assistant, Paula Rodriguez, with whom I just finished designing and building my family's Brooklyn home, so the whole thing was seamless. We can all finish each other's sentences when we are in work mode.

How have you been affected by your induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

It was actually a lot more substantial and more emotional then I had anticipated.

You're working with Mercedes-Benz's How does the term "avant garde" apply to you and how would you define it?

You know, honestly, I am not that comfortable defining it. That is more the work of academics. All I would say is that I think of the place that people are in when they see (or hear) work that is new and unfamiliar enough that they can't quite get comfortable around it. Hopefully we have some of that in "Transmission L.A.: AV Club."

We have had heated discussions in the L.A. Weekly office about what is involved in "the Jerry Lewis." Can you elaborate and settle the score?

Check the film clips of the master auteur himself when he does his intoxicated dance!

Can you see yourself doing more art-centric projects in the future?

Yes, as long as I get a month off after this one!

What are you working on next?

Getting my kids to school on time.

"Transmission L.A.: AV Club," curated by Mike D with concept by Mercedes-Benz, runs April 20 to May 6. For more info see

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Museum of Contemporary Art (The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA)

152 N. Central Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012



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