Amid the flurry of silly jokes and razor-sharp bits, it’s obvious there’s something — or, more accurately, someone — important missing: the other member of the Beastie Boys’ triumvirate, Adam “MCA” Yauch.
It’s been almost two years since the 46-year-old Yauch announced he had been diagnosed with cancer of the salivary gland. Despite some erroneous media reports that he’d beaten the disease earlier this year, he continues to fight the condition. He’s been receiving treatment, and his health situation has cast an uncertain air over the Beasties’ future on the eve of the new album’s release.
Though Diamond and Horovitz keep up the jovial exterior, it’s clear that the issue of Yauch’s health is weighing heavily at the moment. “The primary thing for us right now,” says Diamond, in a rare, muted moment, “is Adam getting healthy.”
It was Yauch’s illness that scuttled the release of a new Beasties album two summers ago. The plan had originally been to follow up the 2007 Grammy-winning instrumental effort, The Mix-Up, with a pair of rap records, called Hot Sauce Committee Part One and Part Two.
“We were all ready to go with Part One [in 2009], but we had to change our plans,” Horovitz says. “Now we’re putting Part Two out first — for no real good reason. But we feel it’s a very groundbreaking approach.”
The Beasties began working on the batch of material that would comprise Hot Sauce Committee, some 30-plus songs, at their Oscilloscope Laboratories studio in Lower Manhattan in 2008 — and, given the forced delays, continued to tinker with the tracks until just a few months ago.
Even three decades into the game, the creative process remains pretty much the same for the group. “When we flip the switch and we’re working on an album, we’re showing up at the studio, and most days, not getting a lot done,” Diamond says, laughing. “Then there are times within that where one of us will take the lead.”
As you might expect, the Beasties’ textured, layered aural aesthetic is the result of constant work and revision. “It always starts with the music first. But the form of that music can be different,” Diamond says. “Sometimes it’s a beat, an idea for a keyboard or guitar line, or finding a sample and building around that. And then at the end, we might take out that sample and put it in a totally different song. We just pile stuff on and then try and reduce it down to where it works best.”
“But it’s ultimately a collaborative effort,” Horovitz adds. “We all are editing each other.”
In talking to the band — even two-thirds of it — it’s clear that the secret to the Beasties’ creative longevity is the fact that they remain close personally. Despite its massive success — some 40 million albums sold worldwide — the group hasn’t turned into a bloodless corporate enterprise like the Eagles, where the band members only get together every few years for the inevitable cash-grab tour or album.
“I find it interesting that you bring up the Eagles, of all the groups to compare us to,” Horovitz says, dryly. “As it happens, I think that we’re a lot like the Eagles.
“The truth is, we’re together a lot,” he admits. “From the time of [1989’s] Paul’s Boutique to [1998’s] Hello Nasty, we were constantly together, in the studio. It’s only in the last little while that we have had some quality alone time.”
This past March, after “four different passes at it,” the group completed Hot Sauce with French house-music artist Philippe Zdar handling the mix and decided the album was finally ready for release.
“We reached a point where we realized it was getting ridiculous and the process could go on forever,” Diamond says. “We needed to get it out. We’re not just making music for it to exist in a vacuum.”
“Although,” Horovitz grins, “we could partner up with a high-end vacuum cleaner company, like Miele, and do a one-off record with them so it actually exists inside a vacuum. I’m just throwing that out there.”
“How about Dyson vacuums?” Diamond offers. “I’ve had very good Dyson experiences.”
“As you can see,” Horovitz says, “we’re really working toward product placement here.”