The Beastie Boys' Adam "MCA" Yauch: How the Bad Brains Changed My Life
Band: Bad Brains
Album Date/Title: 1982, Bad Brains
Standouts: "Pay to Cum," "Fearless Vampire Killers," "Big Take Over," "Jah Calling"
Fun Fact: Originally a cassette-only release a.k.a. The ROIR Tape; reissued on CD 1996.
I first heard the Bad Brains when I was 14 or 15. I might have seen them at A7. It was when they first started comin' up to New York from D.C. maybe even at 171-A. I remember bein' pretty overwhelmed. They were way tighter than any other punk or hardcore band—they were on a different level. There was some fire in their musicianship and the way they played.
Once they moved to New York, they kinda moved into Jerry Williams' recording studio at 171-A. He used to have shows there and he had a bunch of couches that he had dragged in off the street, and they were crashing there. They were recording there too, like all the time, so it was kinda like their headquarters. This guy Dave Parsons had a makeshift record store; he was selling records out of the cellar. From the street, you’d open up those metal doors and walk down the little stone steps, and duck your head, then in the cellar he’d have a couple of record crates. We'd hang out all the time and hear bits of what Bad Brains were recording.
That was the ROIR cassette. I remember I had a Walkman, one of the first, the big plastic thing with the crappy headphones. I was in high school then, and I would just sit and listen to that tape over and over again. [It made me feel] amped. Jerry really managed to capture the way that they sounded live at CBGB's with the amps cranking. It was amazing.
[With the new album, Build a Nation] we're trying to get back to that and get some overdrive into the bass and some rawness back into the sound, definitely goin' more towards the sound of the ROIR tape. Mainly using more amp sounds, pushing the preamp on the bass so the different instruments kinda melt together. To me, that's part of the Bad Brains sound. The guys are so tight that they kinda merge into this one entity when they play together. They take playing music pretty seriously and once they start playing they kinda put that fire behind it.
The fact that they could go back and forth from playing dub to playing hardcore—I think it influenced us later to be able to feel confident going back and forth from playing rap to playing hardcore to playing the instrumental stuff. Bouncing between those styles during our show certainly came out of seeing Bad Brains [do it].
Interview by Randy Harward.
Monday, May 21, 2007
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