Beastie Boys Freak As Album Skates Off

Posted: May 27, 1992

Beastie Boys' rapper/drummer Michael "Mike D" Diamond says he is creating a list of personal beefs he intends to fax to his friends. Uppermost on the list: "People who won't let us skateboard in their studios."

According to Diamond, the Beastie Boys - Diamond, bassist Adam "MCA" Yauch and guitarist Adam "King Ad-Rock" Horovitz - were rehearsing in Prince's Paisley Park Studios in Minneapolis when Yauch decided to "get in a little skateboarding time." To say His Royal Badness didn't appreciate the Beasties' prankish behavior would be an understatement.

"Prince called our manager and told him he was going to throw us out if we didn't stop," Diamond said. "He could've asked us himself. I guess Prince is not familiar with the expression, 'Skate and destroy.' " Prince had no comment.

During a 10-year career, the Beastie Boys have grown accustomed to

destroying things, particularly popular notions about what the group is about. The group's new Capitol Records album, "Check Your Head" - a merger of industrial noise, sludgy punk-rock and rap - recently entered the Top 10 of Billboard magazine's pop albums chart.

"I'm getting freaked out now that the album is starting to sell a little bit," Diamond said. "I'm trying to learn how to be comfortable with that. I would never deny anyone the pleasure of selling a lot of records, but it's strange for us. We're this group that's just totally passionate about music and just playing around, and all of a sudden everybody's into us."

The enthusiastic initial response to the new album is surprising, considering poor sales of the Beasties' 1989 effort, "Paul's Boutique." A confounding mash of soul-jazz, funk and rap influences, "Paul's Boutique" fell off the pop charts after selling 500,000 copies - a far cry from the 4 million copies sold of the group's debut, "Licensed to Ill," which in 1987 became the first rap album to reach No. 1 on Billboard's chart.

Though radio listeners and consumers kept their distance, critics have turned "Paul's Boutique" into an unsung classic. In their well-regarded rap reference book "Bring the Noise," authors Havelock Nelson and Michael A. Gonzales cite "Paul's Boutique" as a rap masterpiece.

"The fact that people seem to be into it is enough for us," Diamond said of "Paul's Boutique." "People were sleeping when it first came out. But now they've woke up."

Horovitz joked about the reason for the band's renewed popularity. "I think it's because we've so far avoided taking our shirts off. This tour we're going to take off our shirts and start wearing leather pants. That will be the end of it."

"People ask us if we're still a hip-hop group," Diamond said. "To me, it's about bringing hip-hop into a new direction. That's always what hip-hop has been about - innovating. People would do something totally off the wall, in their own style. Then another record comes along and it's a new school. That's what hip-hip is about."

Released in late April, "Check Your Head" has garnered critical raves. The band has embarked on a tour of clubs and theaters, and another tour is being rumored teaming the group with Cypress Hill and Sonic Youth.

Diamond is at a loss when asked to describe the new album.

"The only thing I can say is that it's as different from 'Paul's Boutique' as 'Paul's Boutique' was from 'Licensed to Ill,' " he said. "For us, it's always been about doing whatever we're into at the moment."

Diamond's dismissals notwithstanding, "Check Your Head" is quite a departure for the Beastie Boys. The album marks a return to the group's punk- rock roots, with all three members playing instruments.

The Beasties were not concerned about how their musical performance would be assessed, said Diamond.

"We didn't look at it like, 'Gee, people are really gonna be skeptical of this,' " he explained. "We just set up and started playing. There's no way we'd ever think we could compete with the CTI (jazz) session guys. I look up to (jazz drummer) Bernie Purdie, but I can't compete with him. The goal is just to play grooves."

"Every song came out differently," Horovitz added. "Lots of times we had songs done in rehearsal, and we'd go into the studio and try to improve it. But after we restructured it, we would end up going back to the original. The feeling was the thing, not laying down some perfect (performance)."

Fans are getting two views of the Beasties on their current tour. The group performs the new songs with instruments, and the others accompanied only by a disc jockey. "The ratio keeps fluctuating," said Diamond, referring to the mix of live and prerecorded music.

"We've got a lot of old songs that wouldn't sound appropriate played (with instruments)," he said. "The opposite applies to the music on the new album - the only way to do it justice is to play it live."

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