Interview: Beastie Boys “Mix” it up on new instrumental record

beastie_boys_02lBillboard — Long-known for their relatively epic waits between studio releases, the Beastie Boys surprised fans this spring with the announcement that their new record would arrive a scant three years after 2004’s “To the 5 Boroughs.”

But the Beastie Boys are also long-known for sudden stylistic left turns, and shortly thereafter, they revealed the album would be comprised solely of instrumentals.

As promised, “The Mix-Up,” due June 26 via Capitol, goes heavy on the groove, especially the splashing, crashing Meters-inflected funk the band has been consistently serving up since 1992’s “Check Your Head.” But there’s not a rhyme to be found.

“If we were trying to maximize our demographic or whatever, I’m not sure we’d come with an instrumental record right now,” says Michael “Mike D” Diamond, whose bad self runs things on the drum kit throughout the album. “But I think we have to give people who’ve been listening to us some credit. They’ve gone to different places with us already, in terms of the influences we bring to the music we make, so hopefully they’ll be able to hang with this curveball as well.”

The curveball began taking shape about a year or so after “To the 5 Boroughs” was released. “With ‘5 Boroughs,’ we were each working on beats, sitting in front of our laptops and samplers,” Diamond says. “This time, we thought, ‘Let’s do a 180 from that, and sit down and play some instrumentals and see what happens that way.’ We just didn’t really stop until we finished.”

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The 12 tracks on “The Mix-Up” are all new and were never seriously considered to contain verses, although Diamond concedes the band is mulling highly tentative plans to release a second version of the record with guest vocalists. “The more we kept working on these songs, the happier with them we became, and the more confused in terms of where there was room to put vocals on them,” he says.

Tour plans are still in the works—including some U.S. dates that haven’t been announced yet. Some shows will be instrumental-only and some will be more “traditional,” but that will be determined on a market-by-market basis. (Prior to their recent two-night stand at the Sasquatch Festival in George, Wash., the Beasties played a surprise show for several hundred fans at Seattle’s Crocodile Cafe.) “We’ve got plenty more work ahead of us,” Diamond says. “We kind of have a pretty broad list [of songs] to pick and choose from.”

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About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official BruceSpringsteen.net, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

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