Duo recall Adam Yauch's creative spirit: "Yauch was great at lacking fear"
Beastie Boys Michael "Mike D" Diamond and Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz expressed their immense grief over the loss of bandmate Adam "MCA" Yauch in online statements days after the musician and filmmaker's death on May 4, but the surviving members of the group have shared more specific memories of living and working with their friend of three decades in the new issue of Rolling Stone. Asked to explain where Yauch, who died at age 47 after a three-year fight with salivary gland cancer, fit into their creative process, both men say MCA was the force that challenged them to experiment and see things from different perspectives.
"Like the cover of Paul's Boutique: 'A 360-degree photo? You can't have a camera spin around.' He researched it and found one. It was an innate thing for him," Diamond said, explaining how Yauch's dabbling with LSD helped formulate that key record's aesthetic. "We were layering a lot of samples on top of each other, and Yauch was definitely pushing that. The acid experience gave him the ability to see, 'Wow, this is great — press 'play' on everything at the same time.' " Yauch's willingness to record fearlessly dated back to the group's first record, too, and Diamond explained how "Paul Revere" was born when MCA played an 808 beat backwards. "Yauch saw this thing we couldn't see — and he killed it."
Horovitz similarly recalled Yauch as an expert musician who was able to bro down with Money Mark over the more musical elements of their songwriting while also seeing the cinematic potential of their visuals. He says Yauch was a huge fan of Bad Brains' Daryl Jennifer, "And he could sound like that," adding, "I'd be like, 'We should take these pictures where we're dressed as undercover cops. That would be funny.' But Adam was really into movies. So we made a whole video of that" — and "Sabotage" was born. Horovitz also explained how Yauch recorded his epic, echoey Paul's Boutique solo "A Year and a Day": "Adam bought a jet pilot's helmet, rigged it with a microphone and recorded the song wearing that helmet."
Both surviving members of the group said they were hopeful about Yauch's recovery to the very end — mostly because their Buddhist bandmate radiated positivity and creativity his entire life. "He said, 'I'm gonna be okay.' He's been right about most shit so far. So I believe him," Horovitz, who admitted he's been breaking out in crying fits on the streets of New York, said. "He wasn't sure he was able to do vocals," Diamond recalled of the band's final recording sessions, which went down several months ago and featured the band's signature "making fart jokes and ordering food" (per Horovitz). "But after a bit, we ended up doing them. And he was fine."
As far as the future of the group, neither Beastie made any firm statements. But Diamond concluded his interview on an MCA-style note of hopefulness: "Yauch would genuinely want us to try whatever crazy thing we wanted but never got around to."