Artist of the Year: The Beastie Boys

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As businessmen, do you worry that the success of enterprises like the Grand Royal label and the Tibetan Freedom shows hinges on the sales of Beastie Boys records?
Diamond: I hate to dispel myths here, but there is an illusion that all of these activities are a lot bigger than they really are. The Milarepa Fund – which is the nonprofit organization behind the Tibet concerts and was started with royalties from a couple of songs on Ill Communication – is doing amazing work. But it is not a huge organization. With Grand Royal, it's cool to put out people's music, whether it's Sean Lennon or Luscious Jackson – people who are friends and make cool music. But it is not a huge enterprise.

Yauch: In putting together those [Tibetan] concerts or lobbying for stuff in Washington, I'm very aware that the more successful the band is, the more leverage we have.

Diamond: In this day and age, things are supposed to be along the lines of five-and ten-year business plans. But each of the things we've done has been an individual idea that we felt strongly about without thinking of the ramifications. And it's not like if we decided to focus on music that we would necessarily put out Beastie Boys records more often.

What is Grand Royal's A&R policy? Sean Lennon told me that you first suggested he make a single with his trio, IMA, and then record something on a boombox. Finally, he made a Brazilian-pop version of Rubber Soul.
Yauch: He felt a bit weird about what to do, about how people would perceive him, because of his dad. He had all these cassette tapes of him and his friends jamming that sounded cool. I said, "Why don't you make a seven-inch, cut up some cool parts of those tapes? You don't even have to put your name on it." Then he started working with his girlfriend, Yuka [Honda, of Cibo Matto], making songs he felt comfortable with.

Diamond: At one point, he and Yuka were going to Sear Sound [in New York] to record. I remember saying to him, "Are you sure you don't want to start out doing it at your place?" We looked at each other and laughed. I said the exact opposite thing of what a record-company guy is supposed to say: "The demos are great, but we're going to put you in a real studio with a real producer."

What does a Grand Royal contract consist of – a handshake and a kiss?
Diamond: The best one I ever did was for the Butter o8 record. I did this handwritten one . . .

Yauch: On a napkin with a crayon.

Diamond: No, it was a pen. But I had things on it like quarterly breakfasts. Once every three months, I had to take the band out to breakfast at a certain restaurant.

Horovitz: You know, you're in breach of that contract.

Diamond: I am, I'm behind. [Pauses] But they broke up. Do I still have to take them to breakfast? They should be taking me to breakfast.

What records are you listening to now? Anything that suggests the kind of album you'll make another four years from now?
Horovitz: I've been buying off-Broadway show tunes from the early Seventies.

Yauch: Are you sure you want to give that away? You might want to take that off the record.

Diamond: You'd be giving up your beat. That's an untapped source. I've been listening to a lot of Indian spiritual music. At the same time, after listening to that live Dylan album [Live 1966 The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert], I went back to the bootleg box set, Ten of Swords. That brought Bob back to the fore for me.

Yauch: I've been playing Beatles records for my daughter, because my parents used to play Beatles records all the time when I was a little kid. There's something about her being here that makes me want to play them, and then it reminds me of being a kid.

What do you think hip-hoppers will do for samples in the next ten, twenty years? Are they still going to be using Seventies funk beats and riffs in the year 2010?
Diamond: The question is, what will people be doing with that same material that hasn't been done before?

Yauch: It's going to go in some direction that is entirely inconceivable now. If someone had been asked twenty years ago what direction they thought music was going in, they wouldn't have said sampling.

Horovitz: People are still going to be sampling [James Brown's] "Funky Drummer" in 2010.

Is there anything from the 1990s that will be worth sampling twenty years from now?
Diamond: Probably. But it's not for us to say. That's for the kid in 2020 to figure out.

This story is from the January 21st, 1999 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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