As a teenager in high school—one who obsessed over music and the Beastie Boys (not necessarily in that order)—I began to seriously think about what I’d do for a career when I got older. As stupid and/or as awesome as it sounds now, I chose my future profession based solely on getting to meet the Beastie Boys.
I figured being an on-air VJ was my best shot.
In late 2001, my high school aspirations didn’t seem so lofty when I began hosting music video segments for MTV2. In 2003, the dream was in reach as I was scheduled to interview the Beastie Boys at the Field Day Music Festival.
Long story short, certain residents of Long Island protested, the promoters could not secure a permit, and the festival was moved up a day and a state away, inside of Giants Stadium in New Jersey. Sadly, my brother’s wedding was on the same day and I missed making my teenage dream a reality.
Fortunately, a year later the Beastie Boys were on the verge of releasing their new album, To The Five Boroughs, and had signed on to do an MTV2 $2 Bill concert in Las Vegas, which was going to be hosted by guess who?
I was scheduled to do an interview with the Beastie Boys on June 9, 2004, but on that morning I got some slightly bad news: MCA’s voice was hoarse and I was told he might not be able to do the interview so he could rest his vocal cords for the concert that night.
Months leading up to the show—and unbeknownst to me at the time—producers at MTV2 made it apparent to the Beastie Boys that I was a huge fan. Maybe it’s for that reason that MCA decided to do the interview, arriving to the location sipping a big cup of tea.
Prior to my interview, the Beastie Boys had to do some promos and liners for MTV2’s hip-hop show, and during that shoot MCA was practically silent.
When it was my turn to interview the Beastie Boys, I could tell MCA sensed my jitters and filled in the nervous pockets of pause with his trademark humor (remember just a decade earlier he stormed the stage at the VMAs in lederhosen, taking credit for creating Star Wars). Watching the footage you wouldn’t be able to tell, but MCA essentially carried me on his back during the interview.
As if meeting the Beastie Boys wasn’t surreal enough, later that night MCA dedicated “The Weave” (a basketball-scrimmage-maneuver, turned stage parlor trick) to me during their performance of “Root Down.”
The following week I got bumped up to MTV and hosted the Beastie Boys’ record release special: Live To The 5 Boroughs. Once again I was nervous, and once again MCA calmed me down. While my future wife and I paced around studio, a smiling MCA passed us; nodded hello; took off his mesh ball cap and lovingly slapped me on the shoulder with it. My nerves dissipated and my wife and I agreed that MCA was our favorite Beastie Boy.
Before the Beastie Boys officially released To The 5 Boroughs members of the media were invited to listen to the album at the band’s Oscilloscope Laboratories.
A somewhat bizarre childhood hobby that I haven’t been able to break, is drawing a picture of my favorite bands and athletes, and then later giving them the artwork. At the listening session, I presented a Beastie Boys drawing to their secretary, knowing well it could suffer the same fate as Tootie’s paper-machete head of Jermaine Jackson in that one episode of Facts Of Life.
In 2008, my contract ended at MTV2 and I started up a music blog/web-show at IFC. That year’s Tribeca Film Festival featured Adam Yauch’s directorial debut: Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot. I went to a press screening and was delighted to see MCA enter the theater’s lobby.
We caught up on things, and just to give you some perspective on his work ethic, though the film was only a few days away from premiering he was still attending screenings and hard at work tweaking the final product.
IFC was having a hard time booking an interview with MCA, but shortly after I saw him, things fell into place—like he had years early, MCA carried me on his back once more.
Though you could tell he was running on little sleep from the all of the last-minute adjustments he was making on the film (and simultaneously running the new film distribution branch of Oscilloscope Laboratories), he met me at the door and said, “Come here, I wanna show you something.”
The high school kid inside of me was freaking out. I was at the point where MCA actually know who I was.
He led me to a room adjacent to the Beastie Boys’ recording studio, pointed up at a doorway, and above it rested the artwork I had drawn four years earlier. “There’s your picture,” MCA said. The only thing I could think of saying was, “Cool.” (Yeah, the current day version of me was freaking out, too.)
Though I could tell he was burned out on doing press, he soldiered through the interview and even opened up about the Beastie Boys’ new album (songs that would end up appearing on Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2). Because the Beastie Boys rarely answered questions seriously, and because I really wanted to know the answer, I had to skillfully construct my query:
“If I were to go into the studio, would I find notebooks full of rhymes? Maybe a stand-up bass leaning against the amp? I expect not to get a straight answer out of you.”
“No, this is a good way to put it.”
“I’m thinking outside the box.”
“Alright, there’s instruments and rhyme books over there. There’s a diverse array of weapons in the quiver.”
For Beastie Boys fans, the answer was there; you just had to decode it.
The last time I saw MCA was over a year ago when he was promoting the Beastie Boys’ short film Fight For Your Right Revisited. A year and a half prior, I had started a Beastie Boys podcast, and wouldn’t you know it, when I encountered MCA, he brought up the fact that he had been listening.
I didn’t think that would be the last time we’d see each other.
As a kid who got picked on a lot in high school, there was something about the Beastie Boys’ music that always gave me great confidence. Before I even met MCA, he was carrying me on his back. And for that I am eternally grateful.
Today, we lost one of the greats: MCA was a talented musician, a master wordsmith, a visionary director, a freedom fighter for the politically oppressed, a master of disguise, a praying mantis on the basketball court, a snowboarder, a skater, one of the best gum-chewers in music history, my favorite member of my all-time favorite band, and a loving father and husband.
VH1 Classic will air two Beastie Boys video blocks on Saturday, May 5 from 7 – 8PM*, and on Sunday, May 6 from 11 AM – 12PM*. Additionally, VH1.com will post special interviews, features and memories over the weekend and is currently calling on fans to tweet their memories of Yauch with the hashtag #MCAmemories.
[Photos: Getty Images]