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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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Billboard: Bad Brains to rock the “Nation” with Beastie Boy Adam Yauch

Billboard — As standard bearers of the East Coast hardcore scene in the early 1980s, Bad Brains were partly responsible for helping the Beastie Boys first get into the recording studio. As previously reported, one of the Boys is returning the favor, as a long-awaited Bad Brains record produced by the Beasties’ Adam Yauch will see the light of day this summer

“Build a Nation,” recorded with the classic Bad Brains lineup of enigmatic singer H.R., guitarist Dr. Know, bassist Darryl Jenifer and drummer Earl Hudson, is slated for a late May/early June release on Megaforce Records, Billboard can exclusively reveal.

For Yauch, producing the record was a labor of love. Bad Brains were one of the groups, he says, that shaped the Beastie Boys’ early hardcore years. “Those guys are really of a different caliber in terms of their songwriting and musicianship. We always used to throw songs together and play a little bit, but they were really intense musicians,” he tells Billboard.

With that in mind, Yauch went into “Build a Nation” with a plan. “I kind of felt like I knew the way they should sound, because I grew up listening to them, going to see them when they first came up to New York from [Washington] D.C. and were playing CBGB and Max’s [Kansas City],” he says. “My feeling was that the ROIR tape [Bad Brains’ self-titled debut record, released on cassette only] really sounded right-a lot of the stuff after felt to me like people were trying to clean them up and make them sound more palatable for radio. So I guess I sat around thinking, ‘Man, if I could just get in there.'”

Jenifer agreed, and when he and Dr. Know got together to lay down early riffs in his Woodstock, N.Y., studio, they aimed “to show fans who we are. Bad Brains has always experimented, forging ahead in terms of riffs and searching for unique ways to approach rock music, but we said this time we’re going to take it back to the way we used to kick it,” he says.

The two camps nearly worked together a decade ago. According to Yauch, Bad Brains were in negotiations to release a record on the Beastie Boys’ now-defunct Grand Royal label, but Madonna’s label Maverick Records stepped up “and offered them a whole bunch of money, and I understood they had to go that route.” (That record, 1995’s “God of Love,” was more reggae-oriented than its predecessors.)

But in 2002, Yauch found himself talking again with Jenifer, who mentioned that the band had been mulling new material. Yauch offered use of his studio, and the reunion was born. “For some reason or another it kept circling above the airport [since then],” Yauch says. But with vocals and overdubs now complete, it’s finally ready to go.

Beastie Boys and Bad Brains will appear at the Sasquatch Festival, to be held May 26-27 at the Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Wash.

Bad Brains will play some live dates this summer too, but “we’re not looking for 30-date tours,” Jenifer says. “We’re looking at dates in New York and San Francisco, to ease our way into doing this. There’s no mystery in our dysfunction, but we’re not a band. We’re like troubadours out there to give peace and love, and we’re very serious about wanting people to feel it.”


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