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The Boys Are Back In Town

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The "Skull Snaps" loop is a commonly sampled drumbeat. There are nights when Horovitz can't sleep because it's running through his mind. ("Although that's just one of the reasons I can't sleep.") Horovitz is the musically obsessed Beastie Boy. Thirteen years ago he was sitting in Rick Rubin's dorm room going through a pile of demo tapes when he heard one from a rapper whose style reminded him of Kool Moe Dee's. He told Rick to sign the guy, who rapped under the name L.L. Cool J. Between Beasties records, Horovitz can be heard on albums from side projects like DFL, a hardcore band, and BS 2000, an experimental beat-collage album that Horovitz put together using his beloved SP-1200 sampler. ("I've got three of them now. The first one I bought is an ex-Ice-T sampler. He was selling it used.") Mike D and Adam Yauch want to release a remix EP of the hip-hop songs from Hello Nasty, which Horovitz put together using his new drum machine, the Rave-O-Lution 309, although Horovitz doesn't think it sounds that good. ("Actually, a couple of the songs sound pretty good.") He mentions that he's been buying Broadway and off-Broadway show scores from the early Seventies in his quest for new sounds and says that "Electrify," on Hello Nasty, contains samples of Isaac Hayes alongside Stephen Sondheim.

At the start of "Instant Death," there's a sample of children playing that comes from a sound-effects record. Horovitz originally recorded the sounds at the park that his apartment overlooks, but the field recording didn't quite work. He used to play in the same park when he was a kid. "I'm trapped in the past," he says, joking. It's a joke he makes often. "I love the early days," he says, faintly smiling, which is the expression he wears almost all of the time. "I guess everybody would like to be able to go back to the early days with all the knowledge you have now. And, of course, if I was in the early days, I'd be saying, 'I can't wait for the later days.' But you get nostalgic for that shit. There was nothing to do but hang out. It was good times. I was a lucky kid. I still definitely get to hang out, but it's not the same kind of hanging out. And, you know, I just get nostalgic. The changing times and shit. I get nostalgic for Atari. You know what I'm saying? For a cheeseburger. You know? But they're all still within reach. It's not that big of a deal. I'll manage. Be all right."

Adam Yauch is getting married soon. Any advice for him?
Adam Horovitz: [Pause] Nah. Have a good time.

Mike D: In terms of the day-to-day living, they might endeavor, if possible, to find a bathroom with two sinks. Not separate bathrooms, because I think it's good, it's important, to share that space. But it can get kinda hectic in there. Tamra and I will sometimes have a conflict over that – when we need the sink at the same time.

On May 31st, Adam Yauch was married to Dechen Wangdu. In a traditional Tibetan wedding ceremony, representatives of the groom travel to the bride's family's house with a symbol of the groom's protection, an arrow called a da dar. After a ceremony at the bride's family's house, they escort her back to the groom's parents' house for a service welcoming her to the new family. In Tibet, such trips from village to village can take up to three weeks on horseback – there are mountains to cross – and are followed by parties that can last three days.

In Yauch and Wangdu's case, two childhood friends of Yauch's, Matthew and Arabella, went by car with the da dar from his parents' house in Brooklyn Heights to her parents' house on the Upper East Side. After making offerings to her parents, they drove back to Brooklyn, where Yauch's father made a speech welcoming her to the family. They crossed no mountains, but they did cross the Brooklyn Bridge. Rancid – whose tattooed frontmen, Tim Armstrong and Lars Frederiksen, both got married this year – played the reception. ("What the Clash were to me," Yauch says, "Rancid are to Dechen. When I called and asked them to play, Lars said, 'Well, will you play my wedding?' But we were recording.") Yauch's uncle and an old friend of the family both gave toasts that mentioned the Licensed to Ill hit "Fight for Your Right." The family friend's toast came from his letter of recommendation to the co-op board where Yauch and Wangdu are buying an apartment. It began, "Adam Yauch is not your typical rapper."

Indeed, he is not. Yauch's odyssey has been a storied one. As a kid in the third, fourth and fifth grades, he hoarded fireworks until he had enough gunpowder to build a small bomb or two, which he would then blow up in the back of whatever summer place his parents had rented. "I developed a technique for an electronically detonated fuse. I was always tearing stuff apart to see how it worked," Yauch says. "My mom still tells the story, 'When Adam was five, he fixed the phone.'"

When Adam was fourteen, he switched himself from the Quaker Friends school in Brooklyn to Edward R. Murrow, a public high school: "I felt I was leading too much of a sheltered life." It was around then that he started getting into punk rock, after a friend's father who worked for CBS Records brought home the first Clash album. His friend Arabella, who was a year behind him and moved to Murrow with him, introduced him to fellow punker John Berry, who introduced Yauch to his friend Mike Diamond. Adam remembers cutting school with Berry to "drink beer and go up on the roof and do whatever one does when they cut out of school." Leaving Murrow one day to get lunch, he heard the Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" on the radio at a pizza place. "I was like, 'What is this?'"

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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