When Adam was twenty-four, he was cutting Paul's Boutique in Los Angeles. He lived with Adam Horovitz and Mike D at a house they called the G Spot. He has said that these were the truly wild Beastie days, which, considering how wild things had been up to that point, is really saying something. It is somewhere around this point that Yauch was exploring the frontiers of perception with the aid of LSD. And it is somewhere around this point that Yauch began his spiritual investigations, first reading the Bible, then branching out into books on Native American spirituality. "Just as we were finishing Paul's Boutique," Yauch says, "we got our own places, and I was going out to clubs a lot less. I got a bit more introverted and spent a lot more time on my own reading. I would just go down to the esoteric bookstore and wander around."
His reading, and a snowboard trek through Nepal, led him to Tibetan Buddhism. And it is here that Yauch's life truly changed, that he found a set of principles – love, compassion, altruism, nonviolence – that made sense of his past and his future. He became politically involved, as well, co-founding the Milarepa Fund in 1994 to raise awareness of China's brutal oppression of the Tibetan people.
Three years ago, the Dalai Lama made a speech at Harvard, and Yauch went along to present Milarepa's first donation, which was for the Harvard chapter of Students for a Free Tibet. Wangdu, whose parents are both from Tibet, was the representative for Students for a Free Tibet. "We were going to get a giant check, but at the last minute they didn't," Yauch says. "You know, if they did, there would have been a picture of our first meeting, with a giant check." Shortly after, the two met again, in Chicago at a Students for a Free Tibet conference at which they were both speaking. "We were both giving each other advice, because we were both nervous." Yauch remembers liking her and hoping he'd run into her back in New York.
Yauch, though, was not quite looking for a relationship at that moment. "I was debating between the idea of being celibate and becoming a monk or actually having a family," he says. "And I spent some time just being chaste – for about a year, maybe less, ten months. And I learned a lot from that period. Just trying to be celibate was interesting, because you think you're in control when you feel attracted to someone, that it's a conscious thing. But then deciding to be on my own, I saw that those responses are not really conscious ones. It's something that's always taught in Buddhism: that a lot of our responses or ways of thinking are habits and that it takes time to turn those habits around.
"So, during that time, I was deciding whether I wanted to try being in a serious relationship or just stay on my own. And at the point Dechen and I started spending some time together and hanging out, it just felt like it would really be great to have a family. That would be the right thing to do." The couple will honeymoon on tour this summer.
On the day we meet to talk over celibacy and marriage and other things, Adam Yauch arrives wearing a brown glen-plaid raincoat. And when he leaves, I am reminded of a photo of him from when he was sixteen or seventeen that you can see in the CD booklet for the collection of early Beasties tracks, Some Old Bullshit. Yauch is leaning against a wall wearing combat boots, jeans and a raincoat decorated with punk-rock buttons. His hair is buzzed. He is dressed almost exactly as he is this afternoon, the main difference being how much gray is in his hair today.
This has always been one of the Beastie Boys' most powerful attractions: that for more than fifteen years they have stuck close to their original interests and passions and no matter how far into adulthood they venture, they bring with them the glee and anarchic energy of their youth.
"You listen to the lyrics," says Adam Horovitz, "and it's funny – it's all about this nostalgic shit. It's like all of our shit, it's always been about this time. And that's the weird thing – it's like you never broke out of that. All the records go back to this thing – playing video games and smoking joints and, like ... I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. I guess it's just a certain age, a certain feeling that we all shared of that particular time. And you want to say, like, 'Oh, your teenage years, those are the best times you're ever going to have.' That's not true for a lot of people. For a lot of people, teenage years is the worst time. I don't think it wasn't the best time for me, but we had some real fun and real experiences in those days. Writing graffiti and all that shit was just fun."
"That's the strange thing about making a record," says Adam Yauch. "You can be in one mood for an hour, put it on a record, and you're remembered that way. Like people getting up at my wedding reception and mentioning 'Fight for Your Right.' That's a perfect example of a joke that just went too far. People are bringing it up twelve years later. I still have kids come up to me in the street and say, 'Oh, I used to listen to your albums and smoke so much dust. You dudes are so cool.' I never smoked dust in my life. It was just a joke. Sorry, buddy – just kidding."
"I think one of the most powerful things a person can do is show that he's changed," says Mike D. "We'll get people coming up to us and saying, 'I just have to thank you, because I had Licensed to Ill when I was fourteen, and I got into Paul's Boutique in college' – or maybe it might be Check Your Head. We're fortunate that the audience has – well, it would be presumptuous of me to say 'grown with us.' But it being the nature of beings to progress, a lot of people have gone through, and continue to go through, what we have."
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