The Beastie Boys arrive at Grand Royal headquarters, in Los Angeles, wearing fly-eye sunglasses, big tennis shoes and devilish smirks. For the past two weeks, earthquakes have been rattling the old structure, which houses the band's in-house record company, studio and magazine, but the staffers hardly flinch as the Beasties thunder up the wooden stairwell, simulating a healthy 4.1. Mike Diamond, Adam Horovitz and Adam Yauch strut past amateur wall sketchings of naked women and marijuana leaves and stow their baggy jackets in a set of lockers. From the skateboard ramp in the studio to the velvet paintings in the executive office, Grand Royal is Beastie territory all the way.
"We always dreamed of having a studio where we could just hang out," says the trio's main talker, Mike D. He's sitting in the control room with Yauch, a k a MCA, and Horovitz, a k a Ad-Rock. "A place where we could have a skateboard ramp and play basketball and make music whenever we want," Mike D mocks presidentially. "What we've done here is to close the gap between fantasy and reality."
It's inside this Beastie Xanadu that the trio has spent the last year setting up Grand Royal, the record company, publishing Grand Royal, the fan magazine, and recording their fourth album,Ill Communication, on, you guessed it, Grand Royal/Capitol. All comes on the heels of the group's highly acclaimed 1992 album Check Your Head, the Beasties' biggest resurgence since the 1986 pubescent anthem "Fight for Your Right (to Party)."
"In the last few years, we just got more involved in executing our own ideas," says Mike D. "It's something we've wanted since our early days with Def Jam."
But don't expect the band to get all mature or anything. The brattiness that fueled early songs like "Cooky Puss," a prank phone call set to a beat, can be found en masse on the new Beastie compilation, Some Old Bullshit. The collection of early hardcore tunes is one of Grand Royal's first releases, along with Luscious Jackson's In Search of Manny.
You can read all about Jackson, an arty female rap group, and D.F.L., the hardcore outfit Ad-Rock plays bass for that has a new record on Grand Royal, in Grand Royal, a glossy version of an early-'80s punk 'zine. The premier issue features an interview with Los Angeles' Pharcyde, an ode to Bruce Lee, an editorial, "Why the Gap Is Wac," and a visit to the annual Kiss convention.
"It started as a practical concept," says Mike D. "Our last album didn't have room enough to put the lyrics on the CD or cassette, so we said, 'If you want lyrics, write to Grand Royal.' So many people kept writing in, we thought we'd switch it over to a subscription base. It was supposed to be just a simple newsletter." Ad-Rock says, "We should call it Grand Royal: The Magazine That Fronts As a Fanzine."
Here in the control room there's a shelf of beat-up records labeled MIKE'S SHIT and a wall chart listing songs from the new album in the categories NYHC (New York Hardcore), Inst (Instrumental), Rock and MC'n. "The new album took six months, and that's fast for us," says MCA. "We hadn't really played together in a while. We just went in the studio and made... a mess."
Ill Communication, due for release in May, is full of cool Shaft- inspired instrumentals and hip-hop numbers so distorted and freaky they challenge even the Beasties' boundaries of weird.
New York City natives Diamond, 28, Yauch, 29, and Horovitz, 27, moved to Los Angeles six years ago. Mike bought a house in Silver Lake and opened X-Large, a clothing-store chain that carries baggy work wear and vintage tennis shoes (he'll soon open X-Girl). Ad-Rock also bought a house, began dating actress Ione Skye and pursued an acting career of his own. MCA traveled.
In the past year, Mike and Ad-Rock have married, and MCA, after he and his girlfriend broke up, moved to Utah for six months on a snowboarding sabbatical. In a safer choice of sport, Mike D has taken up golf. He proudly displays a second-place trophy on his desk. "There's a dispute about that trophy, 'cause Mike claims he actually won," says MCA.
"No," says Mike, "I just know there were people at that tournament who were taking mulligans – you know, redoing shots without taking penalty. It's cheating."
Says Ad-Rock: "Why don't you say something in your rhymes about takin' no mulligans?"
"Well," Mike considers, "there's a B side right there."
And a Beastie song is born.
This story is from the March 24th, 1994 issue of Rolling Stone.