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Adam Yauch: “Whatever feels right”

June 28, 2012

Mr. Yauch, is it important to not take yourself too seriously in order to remain creative?

I think so. I think it’s also important to keep in mind that being a famous musician is pretty ridiculous.

What are the most ridiculous aspects?

The whole thing.

At least you have people coming to your concerts going crazy for you…

I love seeing people watch the The Beastie Boys, seeing people screaming the lyrics and jumping around.

Is that why you still keep going?

Do you think we should hang it up?

Definitely not.

Should we still be out there in 40 years? With walkers?

You can be The Rolling Stones, I don’t care.

I don’t know, we’re just kind of winging it. We’re usually planning out what we’re going to do in the next couple of months, not so much what is going to happen in the next ten years. We don’t have any immediate plans to break up; we’ll be doing things for a long while yet.

Since the very beginning you’ve been following your own ideas rather than those of the masses. What is it about taking risks that fascinates you?

It is interesting when you see someone doing something that is taking a chance, or doing something that is a little further out from the norm, from what everyone else is doing. It is sort of refreshing.

Is it necessary for you to take risks with your work?

I don’t know if we’ve really thought about it in those terms. We have just made whatever feels right. We kind of get into the studio and mess around with things and make whatever sounds interesting.

Do you think “gangsta” hip-hop is interesting?

I have mixed feelings about it. In a way it is an inherent part of it – that’s what it comes out of– and sometimes that is the most interesting hip-hop around. Music that does come out of that background with some sincerity is interesting. The stuff that Dre and Snoop did and people like Biggie, it’s pretty interesting, but I don’t know… I have mixed feelings about it. I don’t like the idea that violence is being promoted and glorified for kids, but it does make for some interesting music sometimes.

Were you able to experiment more on Grand Royal, your own indie label, than you were on Capitol?

I don’t know. We were on Capitol the whole way through. We had Grand Royal and we were also distributing the record through Grand Royal, but it was still basically on Capitol. That hasn’t changed, but I guess the indie label helped to support that aspect of it, which I do kind of miss. We just went straight through Capitol after Grand Royal went defunct, but I kind of missed that part of it. Having an indie label is just a different vibe. I don’t know quite how to explain it, but it is a different thing.

The Beastie Boys have had some of the most influential music videos in the history of the genre. Why did you start directing them yourself?

One of the reasons that I wanted to direct our music videos was that I disliked music videos so much. I basically hated music videos. From early on I was pretty much trying to go against what music videos were doing, so I was intentionally editing minimally, trying to leave shots on as long as I could just to go against everything that was on MTV that was like cutting as fast as they could.

Was there a film that made you want to be a director?

I can’t think of one film. I definitely watch a lot of movies all the time, and when I watch them I’m obviously looking at things I like and don’t like – lighting, acting and camerawork, when things are working and not working and why they work and don’t work.

Who were the directors that have influenced you?

I like [Michel] Gondry’s stuff a lot and Spike [Jonze]’s stuff, but that was after I started making videos myself; it’s not stuff that influenced me. I like Gondry as a director; he did a lot of good things, great music videos. I’m trying to think who else… Kurosowa probably.

What are your favorite films?

Wow, there’s a lot of them. I really like Terrence Malick. I like The New World and I like The Thin Red Line a lot.

What is it about The Thin Red Line?

Some of it was actually the sound design. I think that some of the sound design is really incredible, like the way that it goes to silence when you would normally go to some sweeping crescendo of movie score. There is something about the pacing of that film which is really unique. Similarly, with The New World I thought he took it even further with some of the ways he took chances with his cutting. I thought the editing was really amazing in that.

Malick is known for giving rather unknown actors a chance. Throughout your career you’ve worked with many people and have even given a lot of them their break. Is that something you particularly enjoy?

Yeah, it is definitely cool. It’s nice to see people we’ve worked with rising. There are certainly people who helped put our stuff together…

Like who?

Going on tour and opening for people like Run–D.M.C. or Madonna was amazing, so anyone we’ve being able to hook up with and have their shit jump off, that’s all good, it’s cool.

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Short Profile

Name: Adam Nathaniel Yauch
DOB: 5 August 1964
Place of Birth: Brooklyn, New York, USA
Occupation: Musician



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One Response to this Interview

  1. I don’t understand the dating system of the Talks… very sadly, Adam was no longer living when June 2012. I’d rather see the date of the interview (and/or image) than the date it was posted to the site.

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