Ten years ago, Huck split up hip hop's most famous trio to get them talking. To commemorate the anniversary of MCA's death, we're posting the interview online for the first time.
Ten years ago, Huck split up hip hop's most famous trio in order to get them talking. Then they wouldn't stop. To commemorate the four-year anniversary of MCA's death, we're posting the interview online for the first time.
We’re standing outside a nondescript six-storey building in New York’s TriBeCa district. The intercom suggests a busy life within: there’s a law firm, an insurance company, a developer and even a plumber.
Moving up the list, two of the fifth-floor buzzers read ‘Oscilloscope Laboratories’. That, it turns out, is the unusual and multi-syllabic name for the Beastie Boys’ New York office. And we’re here to get them talking.
But there’s a problem: it’s 10:57 am and nobody’s in. After ringing the buzzer for a short millennium we finally notice this dude in baggy jeans, oversized T-shirt and baseball cap crossing the street and making a beeline for the door. His face is that of the average white man. His voice, however, is anything but common. Instantly recognisable, it is the signature tone behind planetary mega hit ‘Sabotage’. His name is Adam Horovitz, aka Adrock.
We make our way upstairs. Once inside, we pass a plastic basketball hoop, a lounge area cluttered with cups, dishes and piles of unopened fan letters and, finally, a studio. A peek inside reveals the usual array of sound tables, computers and a collection of CDs and vinyl covering every genre.
This, it appears, is where the magic happens. And despite the relatively new digs, for two decades the trio has been making that magic the very same way: researching, composing, rehearsing, recording and editing music on their own terms and on their own turf.
Eventually we settle for the cluttered lounge room. We’re barely ready – pens and pads still firmly in the bag – when Adrock looks up and fires: “So, what do you guys wanna know?”
We split you guys up to try and discuss a few things you don’t normally talk about in interviews…
Oh, like Mike’s porn career?
Yeah, that too. [laughs]
You should ask him about it. It’s like soft porn, not real hardcore porn.
Like an erotic thriller?
Yeah, something like that… [laughs]
We haven’t heard much about your childhood. What are your first memories?
My childhood was right here in this neighbourhood. I grew up 10 blocks up the street from here.
Did your family have money?
Yeah, we had some money. I had an interesting time growing up. My parents were divorced. My dad lived just over there and my mum lived there.
Your family is Jewish. Did religion play a role as you were growing up?
No, actually I didn’t have a religious upbringing. I don’t think any of us did. Like, my dad’s parents were Jewish. So I’ve been to a synagogue once, for a funeral 10 years ago. I went to junior high in a Catholic school. I don’t know why. So I went to church, like, four days a week.
What did you think of that?
We went first thing in the morning, it was very early so… My mum used to let me stay up very late at night, so I’d be very sleepy in the morning.
Were you a good student?
Oh yeah. I was on my way to going to Harvard or Yale… [laughs] I was not a good student. I had other plans. I definitely knew when I was little that I wanted to do something like this.
Like making music…?
No, just basically trying to get as much attention as I could from as many people. When we started playing I was, like, fourteen. So I guess that’s pretty young. But I never expected to be able to, like… Well, I never expected anything. I didn’t expect to be twenty-five years old, so… [laughs]
When did your interest in music kick in? Do you have a first musical memory?
My brother got me into everything when we were growing up. We used to go to a record store called Crazy Eddie’s and we’d get our money, like 50 cents, or whatever it was at the time, and buy 45s. So I remember me and my brother, at seven or eight years old, going to the store and buying Jackson 5 or Kiss or whoever was big at the time.
And I can remember being with my dad in the car, and he went to the store to do something and came back out, and I’ll never forget this, he came back with the Rolling Stones. For no reason, I have no idea why. I never heard my dad ever listening to the Rolling Stones. It was a used record and he gave it to me.
And how did you get to know the other Beastie Boys?
We used to all go to this record store called the Ratcage. I’d see them there and we’d also meet in punk shows around town. I grew up with my friend Jill Cunniff, who was in Luscious Jackson. We grew up together when we were little, and she was friends with Adam and Mike. They knew each other before I knew them.
How did the band start?
They were already a band. I had my own band, it was called The Young and the Useless. It was me and three other friends. Basically, if you went to the Ratcage, if you were a teenager on the scene at that time, you were in a band. We were all in a band, it was just something that you did.
What year was that?
It was around 1980, ’81.
When did you guys realise that the whole thing was getting serious? I mean, having a band and all.
Hmm… Probably around the time we were in South America last. Like, 1994, something like that.
Really?! Because in 1986 you sold like a million copies…
Yeah, but that’s not real. Imagine if that happened to you right now, how long is that gonna last? Know what I mean? It was this crazy thing, so you go like: “Wow, that was crazy.”
When did you realise you were a famous guy?
I don’t know, it’s weird because there’s something about New York. I walk around the streets and it’s not like anybody stops me and goes: “Hey, you’re that…”
Do you like being famous?
Oh, fuck yeah! Of course…
Do you think it’s easier to be famous in New York City?
I don’t know. Some people I know, if they walk around the streets anywhere in the world, people will stop them. And anywhere I go nobody ever notices. I walk around at our own concerts and people don’t notice. [laughs]
I’m telling you, I’m not lying. We all look the same, you guys could be up there on stage also. We look the same.
Do you wish you were recognised?
No, I’m pretty happy right now as it is.
Once, you said that the first phase of the band…
Oh wait, sorry. I can also… I walk around like this [lowers the baseball hat on his head], no one notices. But when I go like this [lifts the hat up on his head], it’s instantly different. And I don’t know why. If I walk around all day like this [hat lowered down] nothing happens, but if I take my baseball hat and walk around like that [lifting the hat up]…
No, Mike D. [laughs] Always. Mike D!
Do you sign ‘Mike D’ when you write an autograph?
[laughs] Yeah, yeah.
Was it hard to be successful at such a young age? Was it a bad thing?
No, it was awesome.
I mean, do you think it was too early to become that famous, at just 18?
I mean, everybody is different. I guess, for a while there, I took it too seriously and thought that I was something more… Ultimately no, for me, at least. If you can make money and don’t have to work, what’s the problem?
There’s this whole thing about basketball players coming straight from high school and they want to stop that, you know? If that’s what you do, that’s what you wanna do and that’s gonna help you pay the rent and help your family to have money, what’s the problem? But that’s just me.
But did you think you were mature enough?
No, of course not. No one is mature enough. Even if you’re 60 you’re not mature enough to have people look at you and think that you’re more important than them and all that stuff. There’s no right time for that to happen.
Is it easier to handle it now?
I guess because it has been going on for a long time. But if it happened all of a sudden right now, I’d be an asshole. I’d be the worst person. [laughs] You never know.
Do you think you were an asshole back then?
Er… Yeah, definitely. There were times, I’m sure.
Did you enjoy breaking things?
Yeah, all of that stuff: ‘I can do whatever I wanna do. I’m famous, I’m gonna break this, I’m gonna smash this up.’ But you never think about the person that has to clean up after.
And when did you stop breaking stuff?
I mean, there are certain things that are okay to break sometimes…
A camera, maybe a microphone…?
Yeah, when it calls for it, it calls for it. I guess around that time, ’87, we started to… We were teenagers, and people say you’re important and you start to think you really are.
Was that a catalyst for your first experience with drugs? Or had it happened before?
Oh, yeah, it happened before. Growing up in New York… You know, kids do drugs… I just happened to be able to have money for it when we started to make records.
Did you ever have a problem with drugs?
No, not really. I managed to keep it under control. Mostly ’cause I had a different perspective on it. My mum died when I was a teenager from alcoholism. So I can tell sometimes when I’m taking it a little too far, know what I mean? And my brother will definitely let me know, too. So I’m lucky to have my family.
Do you still use?
Yeah, I smoke a ‘J’ now and again. But no, I don’t mess with narcotics or anything like that. I’ve dabbled, I’ve experimented. But at this point, no. I have no use for anything like that; I have no interest in doing coke. God, that’s just… I’d be embarrassed for myself, I’d be ugly on cocaine. I’ve seen myself and it was not pretty.
How do you see music these days? Is there anything good out there?
Somebody somewhere is doing something interesting – I just haven’t heard it. But maybe that’s good, maybe I shouldn’t hear it. I’ll be 40 soon.
Do you like 50 Cent?
Oh, yeah. Why not? I don’t own any of his records, you don’t need to, you can hear him on the radio all day. Eminem, I don’t own any of his records – you can hear him all day, and he’s great.
You don’t mind if he’s singing about sexist stuff and…
‘I’ll take you to the candy shop?’
Well, what you’re gonna do? That’s what he’s into. If rappers are still talking about their cars 15 years after, no one gives a shit about you and your cars. But when you got a nice car and it’s all happening, you’re excited about it.
If 50 Cent in 10 years time is still talking about going to clubs and drinking champagne, his friends need to do an intervention and say: “Stop drinking the champagne.” But, you know, if he’s feeling himself, that’s great, why not? Rap music is helping a lot of people.
This tattoo on your arm is New York, right?
Did you have it done after 9/11?
Has the city become more ‘American’ since 9/11?
Yes. Nobody had American flags, nobody supported the troops, nobody gave a shit about any of that. And now it’s the most important thing to everybody. If that’s how you feel, that’s how you feel. I don’t feel that way necessarily. I mean, I love America, I live here, I love so many things about America. But I’m not shocked about what happened.
Am I pissed? Of course I’m pissed off. Two thousand people died, how could you not be? But I feel just as sad for families that are dying in Iraq right now as I feel for people that have died in my neighbourhood. Maybe that’s fucked up, maybe that’s un-American, people may be pissed. Anytime people lose their life for somebody else’s politics, that’s fucked up.
Have you been involved in politics since then?
On the last election and this election, I went on MTV, by myself, and said: “Please don’t vote for this man. He will not help you, he’s not your friend. Don’t trust him.” I felt I used my ‘celebrity’ in a way to get people’s attention…
When you travel to other countries, do you feel that the perception towards Americans has changed?
People loved America for about a month. From September 2001 until about November 1, 2001. People loved us. That stopped. People still feel the same way they used to feel about America, I don’t think that’s much different. It’s not like, after Afghanistan or Iraq, what we were doing there was some new thing like we’ve never invaded other countries for some other bogus reason.
Are you recording a new album now?
No. But we are recording. That’s political record company stuff that you don’t need to know about. [laughs] Yeah, we’re writing, we’re in the writing stage. Writing new material. Awesome, great music. [laughs]
Do you ever think of retiring?
I don’t really work anyway, so why retire? [laughs]
Or at least stop being in a band?
Never. Never, ever.
What would you be doing right now if the whole music thing hadn’t happened? Or if you’d stopped being in a band?
I don’t really know how to do anything else, so I don’t know. I mean, I can wash dishes, I’ve washed dishes before. [laughs] I could probably sell food, I can run errands.
You know, I was a bike messenger for a day and I quit after about an hour. It was pouring rain, it was like eight in the morning and I swear I almost started to cry, it was awful. I was a foot messenger too, after the bike messaging thing. I fell asleep on the train and ended up like in Coney Island. I’m better at this, I think.
How long have you been surfing?
Not even two years.
How did you get started?
I started with a friend of mine. My oldest son, he’s really into surfing. So I figured I had to get into it if I was to have a couple years being better than him at it. In a couple years he’s gonna be way better than me. I only have a couple years of superiority…
You’re, like, this cool dad right now…
[laughs] Exactly. I better take advantage of that now.
So we were watching interviews of you guys and…
Wait, I’m sorry, can I interrupt? I have to ask a question. I know it’s a little different format, but I have a question…
Yeah, sure, go ahead.
How come you guys didn’t want to interview all three of us?
Yeah, it has a bit to do with what I was about to ask you.
You were scared? You were scared of the band.
Yeah, a little bit.
You met us, there’s nothing to be afraid of… [laughs]
It’s not like we were afraid, but we saw some videos and you always make fun of the journalist. It’s very funny to watch.
Oh, it’s fun, but you don’t like it.
No, we love it. [laughs] But we wanted to separate you guys to try to show the individuals behind the band. When you guys are together you suddenly become a band, you stop being Adam, Mike and Adam.
Yeah, yeah, that’s true. But what’s good is that when we get together you get to see the fighting. Some good, honest fighting, you know? Which you don’t get one on one.
Do you fight a lot?
Constantly. But it’s good, that’s what keeps us happy.
But it was good that you brought this up, it was an issue we were curious about, because you seem to always make fun of the press.
Listen, man, the press is making fun of us. We’re just trying to keep it even. That’s all.
What do you think of the press?
Like, in terms of us or in general?
I don’t know. It’s interesting because, like the airport thing over here when they got all scared about what almost happened in London and all. They were all like: “Oh, get to the airport three hours in advance and do this and that.”
Well, I got to the airport in advance, and it was no big deal, no different than it is every time. It seems that the gap between what’s in the media and the actual experience, what the actual reality is, is bigger than ever right now.
What about the music press? Do you get along with them?
It’s a sexy genre. I don’t know, I guess sometimes they like us and sometimes they hate us.
You also had a magazine for a while, Grand Royal, as well as the label. What happened to them?
Both were just fun things that we wanted to do. [With the label], we managed to put music out made by friends or by people that had inspired us, stuff that we thought was good and wanted to get out there. And then, with the magazine, that kind of started because we wanted to do a fan newsletter kind of thing, but then we thought, “These things are so cheesy…”
We would feel stupid being like, “Dear fan…” So we decided to just do a magazine that’s about things that we are into. And that ended up being a bigger deal than we though it would be, taking up a lot more time.
Which is cool because I’m happy about the way it came out, but it was a lot more work and a lot more money to make it. In the end, with the label, we just wanted to do it for the fun, but it became a business. In hindsight, the minute it became more like a business, we should’ve said: “You know what? We don’t wanna do that anymore.”
And then you did Oscilloscope Laboratories.
Yeah, this was really to record the last record. Everything else started to come after that.
Was it a way to try to continue with that feeling of putting out things you like?
I guess. I mean, we were probably worried about keeping the habit of working on our own. We’ve been doing that with our records for a long time, but also with our videos and our album covers. We kind of just do it all and hand it to the record company, and it’s been that way for a long time.
For a while, all that stuff was set up in LA, we had our studio there, G-Son, where we did Check Your Head and Ill Communication. And then, when we came back here, we needed some place to kind of set up shop. I don’t know, maybe some bands are happy, they just make the music and the record company is like: “Why don’t we try to bring this person to do the record cover? Or this person to do the video?” For us, that’s stuff that we like doing.
You’ve always talked about making a movie and now you’ve finally made one. What was it like to make Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That?
The filming actually did not take very long. Editing took a very long time. That took, like, a year. It’s 60 cameras or something times two hours of footage, so… That gives you a lot of options. Lots of editing time.
How did you come up with the idea?
Yauch was on our band message-board and someone had posted a clip that they shot on their cell phone camera. It was just a little short clip of us running on stage or whatever. He kind of took that idea and multiplied by 60. It came together pretty fast actually.
I remember we were on tour, we were like on a train, and he was telling us about the idea. And we were going to play in New York in a few days, so we thought it would be cool to do it here, since we grew up going to shows in Madison Square Garden. So we did that and then a year later it was done.
How did you select the people who filmed it?
We put a message on the message board saying that the concert was sold out and asking people that already had tickets if they wanted to film the show to e-mail us telling where their seats were. So our producers went through all those e-mails to see where people were sitting. They did a seating chart to make sure we got it covered from all angles.
Did any of the cameras get stolen?
No! I thought they would. I figured that two or three people would take their camera and be like: “Okay, cool. I’ve got a video of the show, I’m gonna go home and show my friends.” But everybody returned their cameras. I was a little bit surprised. I thought a couple of people would keep theirs.
You guys seem to enjoy getting the fans involved in what you do. Is this part of a creative process or is it a political statement?
We always thought about music that way. We wanna have people involved. Except if they suck, then you have to keep them out. [laughs]
You kind of democratise your work that way…
Supposedly. It’s interesting because I was talking to a friend that had just come back from China about their economy and how big Shanghai is. And then I was like: “It’s interesting, sounds pretty cool, but what you’ve got is basically capitalism, so isn’t it weird that you also have no democracy?” And he turned to me and said: “Are you crazy? How is that any different from what we have here in the US?”
And I was thinking that it’s basically true. Here we have capitalism, so we have freedom in this way. But we don’t really have a representative government, it doesn’t represent the people here. It represents the interests of the biggest corporations and the wealthiest people, but it doesn’t represent what the people think. So it’s kind of basically the same thing we have here. It’s funny because we’re given this illusion that China is a tyranny or it’s different.
Do you think you can do something to help change things?
We do what we can do and hope that everybody else does too. I think that part of the problem, when we were talking earlier about media, is that if you ask people if they are happy about the government or if they feel that the government represents them, by and large people are gonna say no. They feel so disconnected from the process that they don’t feel that there are any means for them to be involved to actually make a difference.
Would you say your most recent album was like an anti-Bush manifest?
Not the whole thing, only about 40 per cent. There were a lot of silly lines on the album too.
But it was a lot more critical than anything you’ve done before…
Yeah, for us it was maybe the most direct we have ever been on a record. I think that was why people made a big deal about it.
What’s your take on the current state of pop and street culture? A lot of it seems intimately tied to consumerism, brands, clothing, etc? You come from a punk rock scene that was kind of the opposite of all of that.
Well, I remember when we were in LA, doing Check Your Head and Ill Communication, people we knew that started clothing lines were the same type of people that would start a record label. But instead of doing a record label they decided to make T-shirts.
It’s kind of the same thing, something completely independent. Something they wanted to do without thinking about selling in Macy’s. They just made it and then their friends started wearing, and then other people saw it and started wearing too. When those clothing lines started it was the same as independent hip hop or punk rock labels when they started. Gradually, just like in music, it became a bigger business. Def Jam is a huge record label and P. Diddy sells a lot of socks and underwear…
Isn’t it strange for you, though? I mean, when you started, hip hop was kind of a counter-cultural thing…
Yeah, I don’t know… I figure the people who are starting things now have the same feeling as before. I don’t think it puts an end to that. But it’s strange, if you’d asked me 15 years ago if all these independent hip hop companies would be sold at Macys and distributed all around the world, I don’t think I would have seen it going there. I would not have foreseen Diddy making more money out of underwear than he does out of records.
[laughs] I don’t know, that’s my guess! I’m a shareholder, I have to look at my portfolio. [laughs] But I’m thinking that the underwear thing is big right now for Diddy. Colognes, underwear, the whole genre.
You have kids, right?
Do they listen to the Beastie Boys?
They like ‘Brass Monkey’. That’s their favourite.
Do they go to concerts?
Yeah, but usually they fall asleep.
We pretty much just put them to sleep. Mostly it’s because we get on late. But if they were watching Michael Jordan or Allen Iverson play, or Kelly Slater surfing, would they fall asleep? No. But they go see us and bam! – they fall asleep. We finish the show thinking that we’ve played a pretty good show and then the kids are sleeping. “Okay, we got a little more work to do.”
Do you like being famous? Do you feel famous?
Not really. I think we are really lucky being able to come here and make music and be left alone. We are not big celebrities, we are not people that other people recognise so easily.
But you are a huge international band.
We’re a big band, but we are not celebrities, know what I’m saying? I go to the park with my kids, do normal things, so I don’t feel like I’ve missed out or compromised to have that.
Do you have a big ego?
Huge. That’s why we fight so much.
You gotta have a big ego to come on stage and play, right?
Yes, if you want to be in one of the best bands in the world.
Do you still do yoga?
How did you get into it?
I think maybe my wife was my first teacher. Sometimes people get too much into talking about stuff. Just do what you’re gonna do, man. To me, when I watch people who are surfing and really living their life, that’s kind of a form of yoga to them, too.
Because when they are in the ocean, they immediately know where they are, you have to be so hyper aware of so many conditions beyond your control that are happening around you. To me that’s one of the most amazing things about it. You have no choice: if you’re not aware of things, that’s when things go wrong. You’re not in control of that…
You are recording your new album now, right?
It’s a little top secret, but yeah, that’s what we are doing here. We are just coming here having fun playing. We’re really at the beginning of it, that’s why it’s so much fun.
Will it be much different this time?
It’s pretty different, but that’s always how we feel when we start to make records. We’re trying to do this or trying to do that. It’s so early on we don’t have to worry about when it’s gonna come out or when we’re going on tour or whatever. It’s just doing this every day.
Has the process changed?
Not necessarily. The ideas and how we decide to do it changes, the technology changes, but the heart of it is just the three of us coming together and deciding what we’re gonna do.
Do you write the songs together?
Mostly, yeah. Sometimes one of us comes up with an idea and shows the others, but it’s a pretty collaborative thing.
You always said that you wanted to make a movie with the band. How did the idea for Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That! come about?
It was a pretty simple thing. I had seen something online. Someone had filmed part of the show on their camera and it just looked cool. It was handheld, something about the way that it was shot – you really got the feeling of being at the concert. It seemed like a pretty interesting idea of how to document a concert.
But when you wanted to make a movie, was it always about a concert?
No, I was really more interested in working on narrative films. Like script-based stuff.
Have you written a script?
Yeah, there’s a script I wrote with a friend of mine. We’re currently looking for funding. It’s about graffiti writers. It takes place in 1981, in New York. It’s kind of focusing on a certain period of time in New York when the transit authority was trying to stop the graffiti writers from writing on the trains. It’s about that time and that world.
When we came here we were a little worried. We saw some videos of you talking to the press and you always make fun of them…
Yeah, you were very clever to split us up! [laughs]
Do you not like the media?
Yeah, sometimes people ask questions that I just… I don’t know, sometimes somebody’s asking: “Who’s your favourite fashion designer?” I mean, what the hell are you talking about? [laughs]
Tell us about the album you’re working on. Is it going to be much different from the last one?
I think it will be. Last album we did was basically all sampling, and programming drum machines, and rhyming. So far all the stuff we’ve done has been playing instruments. I’m sure it will be different from the last one. [Note: This would become 2007’s The Mix-Up]
How come you guys have never done a love song?
You’ve never heard of a song called ‘Boomin’ Granny’? There’s ‘Netty’s Girl’, too. And there’s that other one, what’s it called… oh, it’s ‘Some Dumb Cop Gave Me 2 Tickets Already’.
Is that a love song?
[laughs] There you go. We got three love songs! [laughs] I don’t know, I guess some people are better at it.
Do you still snowboard?
Not too much. In the past 10 years, I’ve been snowboarding 10 times or so, just every now and then. I still skateboard around the city, but only for transportation. I don’t do ramps anymore. For a while I was obsessed with snowboarding.
When the snow was falling somewhere else, I’d fly there, you know? I kind of have tunnel vision about different things. I kind of have blinders. I focus on a few things at a time. For a while I really focused on that.
But where did this obsession come from?
It’s hard to explain. It was a combination of being out in nature, isolated, on a beautiful place with an adrenalin rush. And there was something interesting about the learning curve, pushing yourself.
One day you are not able to do something and then you are able to do it the next day, you’re challenging yourself. There’s definitely something addictive about it. It’s probably similar to surf.
Is it different from the adrenalin rush that you get when you’re on stage performing?
Yeah, I think so. Maybe there’s some similarities, but it’s different. You’re not risking your life; if anything you’re risking being embarrassed when you’re on stage. With snowboarding, you’re risking physical damage. Fear makes a difference, actually.
On that note, do you fear death?
I don’t really fear death as much as I probably should. I feel more scared about getting hurt than getting killed. You know you’re gonna die at some point, right? I really would rather not die of old age…
Most people are aware that you’re a Buddhist… How did you get into it?
I started reading some books around 1988 and then I started travelling in that part of the world. I went trekking in Nepal in 1992. And when I was there I met some Tibetan refugees that were on their way to India to meet the Dalai Lama.
Meeting them was just so interesting. “Why would you guys travel all this way to see the Dalai Lama?” So I think I got interested because of their interest.
When did you realise you were actually a Buddhist?
I took some vows and really started around 1996.
Did you have any kind of revelation or epiphany?
Not exactly. I think being a Buddhist means that you completely believe in those principles of reincarnation, karma and those things. But you’re gonna focus on the Buddha and the Buddhist community.
Do you think you have good karma?
I think it’s mixed. From a Buddhist perspective, I’ve been building bad karma and negative karma for like infinite time. If I had no bad karma I’d be an enlightened being, I’d be a Buddha, you know? I wouldn’t be here. If you wanna look from that perspective I think I have infinite shit to work out.
Did you have any other spiritual beliefs before the Buddhism thing?
Not really. My mum was raised a Jew and my father was raised a Catholic. Neither of them was really interested in religion. That’s probably part of why they married each other. I think that they decided early on that they weren’t going to push any religion on me.
Were you more or less happy before becoming a Buddhist?
I think that’s a good question. Because I never felt like I was completely depressed and there was some void in my life, like a lot of people say, you know? I think that there are some principles in Buddhism that I’ve been able to apply to my life, like a way of looking at things that can be useful sometimes. I think that’s the most important thing.
Like what principles for example?
Well, if something bad happens to you, from a religious perspective people would say, “Oh, that’s God’s will, God did this to me.” But from a non-religious perspective, you might think of it like: “Oh, why is everything going so bad with me?”
From a Buddhist perspective, if you look more in terms of karma you would be like, “Well, what have I done in the past that’s somehow causing it and how can I remedy it?”
So you don’t believe in luck?
So, from a non-Buddhist perspective, you don’t feel like a lucky guy?
I don’t know, I guess so, in a sense. I know a lot of musicians and a lot of bands that have worked really hard and things haven’t come together for them. It is amazing that our band has been so… lucky or whatever you wanna call it.
Once you said in an interview that happiness was more about helping people than buying and having stuff…
I wanted to see if anyone would believe that. [laughs]
I’m saying that because the kind of culture that you guys represent, hip hop and street culture, besides the music, is a lot about brands, consuming, cool clothing…
It’s not like we’re wearing Gucci or Versace, know what I mean? When we got into Puma and Adidas, people had basically forgotten about those brands. You couldn’t get those cool-looking suede kind of sneakers. We’d go to thrift stores that had back stock and had a couple of pairs of those sneakers in stock. Some of those things we liked was like finding something weird, our little thing.
Where were you on 9/11?
I got up early that morning and I was playing with my daughter on the couch and then I heard an explosion outside. It was the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. But I thought it was a car backfiring or something like that. And then a little while later I heard another sound like an explosion and a bunch of people screaming: “Ohhh!” I was like: “What the hell?”
There was some guy fixing our roof and he came downstairs and said: “Oh my God, it’s terrible, the World Trade Center is burning.” So I went up on the roof and looked and I could see the fire and my neighbour said to me: “Oh, it’s really weird, one building was on fire and the fire jumped to the other building.”
That was not possible. Those things were like a block away from each other. I was watching and then my wife came upstairs and said that another airplane had just hit the Pentagon. I remember just getting a chill down my spine, you sort of realise there’s something crazy going on, you know? And then the first one collapsed – I saw it going down.
It was definitely a crazy feeling. I remember seeing the dust coming towards our house, this huge cloud. We could see on TV all the people covered in ashes and dust, so we decided to go up to my wife’s mother’s house. Our daughter was two years old or something like that, we didn’t want the dust to come to our house while she was there.
Do you still think New York’s a good place to raise your kids?
Yeah, I think so. Hopefully nothing crazy will happen. But it’s nice to have a place you can go to spend time in the country too. It’s nice to be able to be around trees and beaches.
Did your life change a lot when you became a dad?
Yeah, definitely. It’s like a job, you’re responsible for somebody else. I love hanging out with her, either teaching her stuff, going bike riding or listening to what she has to say, she’s really funny. I don’t know if I can put my finger on it, exactly how it changed.
How old is she?
She’s gonna be eight in a month and a half.
Does she like the Beastie Boys?
Yeah, I think so. She doesn’t listen to it much, like once in a while. More goofing on me. We were in the car and ‘Brass Monkey’ came on the radio and I went to change it and she was like: “No, leave it!” And she kept singing, looking at me, just goofing around.
That’s funny because Mike said that his sons also like ‘Brass Monkey’.
Really? That’s funny.
Are you still optimistic about the world?
I guess so. I think I am a bit of an optimist. The world is in such a crazy, terrible state but I do have some optimism and imagine it turning around. I do imagine it being more positive in the future. Of course it’s possible that it becomes a lot worse, too. It could be crazier, a nuclear bomb could go off tomorrow and everybody will talk about how good it was a couple years ago, we might miss 2006. But change comes slowly. If you look at the way things were in the 1500s and compare it to the way things are now. Slowly it’s getting better… I hope my kids live in a better world.
Are you a happy man?
I think so. I don’t know why. The main things in life, like work, family, health, food… seem to be going well. So I feel very happy. Things could be worse, for sure.