Surviving Beastie Boys members Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz and Michael “Mike D” Diamond reflect on the creative and personal maturation that informed 1994’s Ill Communication in an Amazon Music mini-documentary about their classic fourth LP.
The clip — which also features interviews with keyboardist “Money” Mark Nishita and producer Mario Caldato, along with archival footage of the band’s late member, Adam “MCA” Yauch — opens with an anecdote about writing and recording “Sabotage,” the album’s thunderous lead single. The song originated with Yauch’s distorted bassline, followed by Diamond’s drums and, finally, Horovitz’s scrappy guitar lick.
“It was the only song, really, that we recorded in a day,” Horovitz says. “Like, just the instrumental track. And ‘boom,’ we’re like, ‘That shit sounds cool.”
The film then cuts to SXSW 2019 in Austin, Texas, where the Diamond and Horovitz sit for an interview with Amazon Music’s Nathan Brackett. The duo chronicle the build-up to Ill Communication — including the lukewarm commercial response to their expensive, sample-heavy 1989 record, Paul’s Boutique, and the laid-back grooves and live instrumentation that informed 1992’s Check Your Head.
“We sucked, like really bad, at first,” Horovitz says of this early period of experimenting on live instruments, influenced by acts like James Brown, Sly Stone and the Meters. “It didn’t get that much better, but that was the thing that was really fun — that we sort of figured out a way to do it for ourselves.”
After a year of touring, they jumped straight back into the studio and crafted Ill Communication with, as Horovitz says, “a better idea of how to put things together.”
“By the time we got to Ill Communcation, we’d figured things out a little bit,” says Diamond. “But Yauch, of course, kind of goes next level, and before we know it, he’s playing the upright bass, trying to get on some Ron Carter-type shit. But really kind of pulling it off.”
The duo also look back on Yauch’s sense of introspection, spirituality and feminism — the latter reflected in the lyrics to “Sure Shot,” which includes the lines, “I want to say a little something that’s long overdue/The disrespect to women has got to be through/To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends/I want to offer my love and respect to the end.”
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“In the middle of all of these dumb jokes about whatever,” Horovitz says, “your boy says some super heavy feminist shit in the early Nineties, and we’re just like, ‘Oh.'”
In related Beasties news, Diamond’s Beats 1 radio show, The Echo Chamber, will return to Apple Music on Sunday, June 2nd at 6:00 p.m. ET. The episode will feature an interview with Ice Cube and a FaceTime chat with Q-Tip — a guest on Ill Communication track “Get It Together” — about the album’s 25th anniversary.