Over 26 years and seven albums, the Beastie Boys have explored every genre from punk to metal to hip-hop, but as The Mix-Up, their mellow, new, all-instrumental album proves, they’ve also learned how to kick back and relax. Over sushi and green tea at Oscilloscope, their expansive downtown Manhattan studio, the pioneering trio discussed their history as a band, their musical influences, their new record (out June 26), and beer helmets.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why put out an all-instrumental record?
MCA: It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Ad-Rock: It’s something that we’d been talking about for a long time, when we started working on Check Your Head. Then we kinda went some other ways, put vocals on stuff. We kinda did it with The In Sound From Way Out!, but that was more of a compilation.
Mike D: On our last record [To the 5 Boroughs], we were all bringing stuff in — either stuff that we had done in software programs, making beats, or on samplers or computer-based things that we would bring in and play for each other and then collaborate on. For this record, we decided to do a 180 — sit down in a room with instruments and see what happens.
Does this mark a return to your roots, then? At least in terms of production.
MCA: This is [sort of] how we made Check Your Head and Ill Communication. There are a few different ways that we’ve gone about making music, but one is just going in a room and not really having anything written or anything planned. We all just start playing and then do that for a couple days, then go back and listen to it all and see what sounds good and then make some songs out of them. Start out improvising, then put together pieces that work.
Aren’t you ever afraid that you’ll accidentally copy someone else’s song? Maybe fall into a groove and say, wow — this sounds a lot like —
Mike D: There were a couple of times when we had something, [called it] a day, then came back and said, oh, you know why we liked it? Cuz it’s…
MCA: Sly and the Family Stone. [Laughter]
What are some musical influences on The Mix-Up? What were you listening to while you were recording it?
Mike D: We listened to a lot of different kinds of music.
Ad-Rock: A lot of quartets.
MCA: Three Dog Night.
Ad-Rock: I don?t really like them.
Mike D: But Three Dog Night have songs and stuff.
Ad-Rock: Jeremiah was a bullfrog?
Mike D: That?s a song.
Ad-Rock: I know — I just don’t like it.
What about dub? Was that an influence?
Mike D: Dub was a big influence. Prince Jazzbo. Of course Lee Perry stuff. Augustus Pablo.
MCA: But also a lot of stuff that was influenced by dub records, like PiL, the Clash, the Slits, the Specials. So I think there are some of those influences on this record, kind of a second-generation influence from dub.
Mike D: And now, we’d be the next couple of generations down after that.
NEXT PAGE: The Beasties on what inspired License to Ill — ”drink tickets.”