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R.I.P. Adam Yauch (1964-2012)
So sad about the death of Beastie Boy Adam Yauch today after a long battle with cancer of the salivary gland. Yauch, also known as MCA, was a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame rapper, a director and a political activist. He will be missed.
More on Yauch's death from Newsday's Kevin Amorim
The magic of the Beastie Boys was in the interplay of all three of the strong, quick-witted rappers, as I found out when I interviewed them last in 2006. Here's part of that interview from March 30, 2006:
The Beastie Boys never set out to make a feature film. It just sort of turned out that way - the same unplanned path their single "Fight for Your Right" took 20 years ago to success.
"The idea came from some footage I saw that a kid had shot on his camera phone," says MCA (aka Adam Yauch, aka filmmaker Nathanial Hornblower), sitting back in his chair in a makeshift interview room at the group's Oscilloscope Laboratories studio in lower Manhattan. "It just looked like a cool way of documenting a concert. And it expanded from there."
It kept expanding until it became "Awesome; I -- Shot That!" a full-fledged concert film that debuts in limited release tomorrow before opening nationally next month.
The Beasties - MCA, Adrock (aka Adam Horovitz) and Mike D (aka Michael Diamond) - thought it would be cool to try to have fans shoot their concert at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 9, 2004, and see how the footage turned out.
"The show was already sold out," Mike D says. "So on the Internet, we contacted people who already had tickets. We used a seating chart to see that people were spread around so that we had as many angles covered. Then we went out and bought 50 cameras and handed them out."
"There was no training," Adrock says.
"Just a short orientation," MCA says.
"And in hindsight, I think that's where we blew it," Mike D says. "We should have had them go through some mandatory training, like break-moshing, some hazing, like they couldn't eat for two days."
"Boot camp," MCA says.
"We should've had them walk to Junior's in the middle of the night to get us cheesecake," says Adrock, recalling the Diddy demand of contestants for "Making the Band 3."
"Stayed in the woods with no food for three days," MCA says.
"Exactly," Mike D says.
"We basically said, 'You should start filming at the beginning of the concert and you should not stop until the end. You can film anything you want, but do not stop rolling,'" MCA says.
One of the film's 50 shooters was Chris Connolly, a 24-year-old garden center owner from Westhampton Beach, who answered an ad on the group's Web site looking for people with tickets to the show at the Garden.
"We thought it was just going to be on a DVD," Connolly says, adding that he hopes the DVD release of the movie will feature more of his footage. "Then, it's showing at Sundance and everything. It's been an incredible experience."
Though Connolly and the rest of the shooters had no formal training as photographers, he says they made up for it with their knowledge of the Beasties and their music. "We know who's singing and we know who to aim at," he says. "We know when to shoot the crowd because they're going to go wild for a song. I think we caught the motion of the performance more than if it was all just steady shots. It was more spur of the moment."
Once the Beasties saw all the footage, they knew they were onto something. Not only did "Awesome" pull together their energetic performances, often in the shaky-cam style of a bootleg and the multiple-cut style of a music video, it showed the fans' experiences.
At a sneak preview of the movie last week, moviegoers reacted just as much to the fan experiences - whether it was the guy who took the camera into the men's room or the guys who unsuccessfully tried to rush the stage - as they did to the concert footage.
The project, which took more than a year to edit, is the latest way the Beasties have involved their fans in the creative process. They were one of the first groups that allowed fans to create their own CDs, letting them pick their own Beastie Boys "greatest hits" and have the songs burned on a customized CD. They recently made a capella versions of their raps on their Web site - www.beastieboys.com - so that fans can use them to create their own remixes. And on their "Video Anthology" DVD, fans can remix the group's videos, picking camera angles and alternate music tracks.
"We're willing to collaborate with them, but on our terms," MCA says.
"We're trying to boost their creative juices, if you know what I'm saying," Adrock says.
"I hope they don't take it the wrong way, but I wish they would stay the hell out of our creative process," Mike D says.
"And out of our business," Adrock says.
"We're making what we're gonna make and it's great that they support it," Mike D says. "But don't go trying to remix everything."
The Beasties even tried a people's press conference at the South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas, earlier this month, which they thought had mixed results, as they took random questions for an hour.
"It was a weird scene," Adrock says.
"I don't think the audience appreciated it," Mike D says.
The press conference ended awkwardly, as Adrock talked about a link between Scientology and radio monolith Clear Channel, though he later learned there wasn't one.
"It was an awkward note to end the press conference on," MCA says.
"Yeah, it was pretty dumb, pretty bad," Adrock says.
"Upon hearing about it, Adam's wife called him an idiot," Mike D says.
"Yes she did," Adrock says. "'Idiot' was the exact word. But I have been called that plenty of times."
"I don't know that we had any points we wanted to get across," MCA says.
"We just like to talk with the people," Adrock says.
"I think that's the problem we have with those things," Mike D says. "We don't have enough of an agenda."
That seems to work for the Beasties, though. At last week's screening, Adrock said the group is in a recording studio, but not working on a specific project. And their lack of agenda worked well for "Awesome."
"Maybe because it was such a roll-of-the-dice thing, I really had no expectations," Mike D says. "I was really psyched the first time I watched it. I was like this really works."
"I'm still entertained watching it, which is kind of odd since I've seen it so many times," MCA says.
"That's my pulled-quote for the poster, 'Wow. This really works.'" Mike D says.
"It's not so bad," Adrock says.
"It could be worse," MCA says. "That's what it should say on the poster."