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From Today (Singapore):
January 23, 2007
By Zul Othman
SINGAPORE: In a scene dominated by egos, women and an unhealthy obsession with bling, New York rap titans the Beastie Boys remain an enigma.
One of the longest surviving rap outfits in the game, the trio are also one of the most eclectic combos, equally adept at dishing out punk rock and bossa nova alongside their sizzling hip-hop jams.
After 26 years in the business, they show no signs of slowing down. The secret of their success - reckons member Mike D (also known as Michael Diamond) - is that they remain committed to their craft, thanks to their dedicated fanbase.
"It's hard for me to say why we've endured all these years but I'm grateful we've had all these amazing opportunities," the 41-year-old told Today over the telephone from his recording studio in New York.
"Most of all, I'd like to think that we do it just for the fans."
The Beastie Boys - made up of Diamond, Adam "MCA" Yauch and Adam "Ad-Rock" Horowitz - will be in town to headline the inaugural Good Vibrations Festival 2007 (GVF) at the Fort Canning Park on Feb 19.
Formed in 1981 during the burgeoning New York punk rock scene, where interaction with fans was and still is an integral part of the music-making process, the Beastie Boys have made many attempts over the years to connect with their devotees.
This includes launching Grand Central magazine in 1993, although it folded a few years later. In 1998, the band were also among the first mainstream acts to offer free music downloads through their website.
Their recording label, Capitol Records, soon stepped in for a cease-and-desist manoeuvre. But, for Diamond, it became clear then that music companies were in trouble: Despite all the lawyers in the world, nothing will ever stop punters from capitalising on the digital revolution, he says.
"I think it's pretty clear right now that people want their music digitally, and not in the CD package," he added. "To me, the shame is that the music business isn't doing enough to make things interesting for the consumer.
"If the record companies had been quick to service the digital boom instead of trying to clamp down like how they did years ago, the music business would be in a different place right now."
Needless to say, being unconventional is the Beastie Boys' modus operandi.
At a concert at New York's Madison Square Garden in 2004, they gave out 50 video cameras to fans to film the show from the audience's perspective. The result was Awesome, I F*****' Shot That!, which premiered last year at the Sundance Film Festival.
While it received rave reviews, Diamond insisted that it was no marketing stunt.
"We never did a concert film before and a lot of times these concert films work on the same formulas, you know?" he said. "Playing at the Madison Square Garden in New York City was a big deal for us because that's our hometown. So, we decided to get video cameras and connect with our fans through the Internet to see who was interested in taking part."
The response was overwhelming, said Diamond.
"You can never predict the outcome of these things - but it turned out beautifully."
In a career peppered with many milestones, Diamond seems rather embarrassed that the band is forever remembered as the beer-swilling frat boys that stormed the pop charts with their 1986 debut album Licensed To Ill.
"I won't lie, we had some fun. But, looking back, it wasn't the best time for us: It was the first time we were popular and we had some trouble coming to grips with fame," he said.
Their antics during the early years soon proved infamous: A typical Beastie Boys show featured girls dancing in cages as well as a giant motorised inflatable penis similar to one used by The Rolling Stones in the 1970s.
These shows were troubled by lawsuits and arrests, with the band accused of provoking the crowd. Diamond puts down those excesses not only to the folly of youth but also a desire to express an irony that was totally lost on the audience.
"A lot of people still believe we're like that. But they're oblivious to the fact that a lot of it was us spoofing the frat boy culture."
Diamond may be hesitant to discuss their early years but he was all up for talking about their future projects, such as recording a new album, a still-untitled work-in-progress. He was also quick to shell out advice for those looking to attain the longevity that his band has enjoyed.
"The secret to surviving long in this business is to take long breaks after recording an album," he said with a laugh. "You won't make as many albums as other people will, but at least you'll actually like being around each other every day."
"Trust me, it works - we've been doing this for the last 26 years!"
What: Good Vibrations Festival 2007
When: Feb 19 Where: Fort Canning Park. Tickets available from SISTIC