On July 20, fans received an e-mail from the Beastie Boys with the subject "Houston we have a problem," It was signed by Adam Yauch. "Hey all," it read. "there's been a change in plans. Click this link to see a statement from me." In the linked video on beastieboys.com, Adam "MCA" Yauch, joined by Adam "Ad Rock" Horovitz, made a serious announcement in his typically positive way. They started out the video laughing, then Horovitz stopped, saying, "It's not funny."
" I have some really heavy news," Yauch said. "Unfortunately, we're going to have to cancel a bunch of our shows coming up and actually push back our record release."
Yauch said that what he initially thought was swollen glands from a cold had persisted. When he saw his doctor after returning from Europe for promotion, he learned that it was more. He had a form of cancer in his Perotid (salivary) gland. It was localized in that area and one lymph node, and would not affect his voice. He would have surgery the next week, followed by radiation treatment.
"Recently, about two months ago," he explained in the video, "I started feeling like, a little lump in my throat, like you would feel if you had swollen glands, like you would feel if you had a cold, so I didn’t think it was anything. But then, just recently, when we were over in Europe doing some promotion, I started to think I should talk to my doctor. I saw him when I got back, that was about two weeks ago, Then he sent me to a specialist."
The specialist diagnosed the cancer in his salivary gland.
"The good news is that they did scans of my whole body and it's only localized in this one area and it's not in a place that affects my voice," Yauch said. "So, that's nice. That's convenient."
"It's a little bit of a setback. It's a pain in the a##," he said, "but in most cases, they're able to completely get rid of it and people don't have continuing problems with it, and they've caught it early,"
"I apologize to everybody," he said. "to anyone who has made plans or was psyched to come to these shows, I apologize to anyone who's put themselves out in terms of their schedule. We'll be back doing this soon."
The Beastie Boys cancelled upcoming shows that included a headlining slot on the opening night of the All Points West Festival on July 31, an Aug. 6 club date at Chicago's Congress Theatre, an August 8 Lollapalooza date in Chicago and the Aug. 30 Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco. They were more than a month into their Summer Festival Tour scheduled to end with announced dates on September 24 at The Hollywood Bowl and Oct. 2 at The Austin City Limits Festival. The band had also planned a UK Tour supporting their upcoming album.
Other artists paid tribute to Yauch and the band throughout opening night at All Points West, where the Beastie Boys were missed by disappointed fans who had expected to see them there. Coldplay did a cover of "Fight For Your Right To Party," Karen O of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs wore a "Get Well MCA" armband and Jay-Z, who replaced the Beastie Boys as headliner, played a cover of "No Sleep Till Brooklyn."
Yauch updated fans on his condition in an Aug. 6 e-mail with the subject line, "What I did over my summer vacation."
"I'm about a week out of surgery now, and rapidly recovering from it," he wrote. " I haven't taken any of the pain meds, which supposedly speeds the healing process, or I should say, taking them slows it down." He said that he was doing well except for a stiff neck and jaw and would be starting radiation treatments soon.
Yauch expressed appreciation to everyone for all their support and mentioned that he had watched the APW Festival tributes to him and to the Beastie Boys. "Q-Tip gave a shout out too ... very kind of them," he said. He thanked everyone who sent positive thoughts his way, adding, "I do think that all of the well wishes have contributed to the fact that my treatment and recovery are going well." He closed, "sending much love back at all of you."
The band's summer tour had begun as planned with their first ever appearance at Bonaroo on June 12. Nas, featured on "Too Many Rappers," the first single from their upcoming album, joined them onstage there for the song's debut. The band had announced a new June 9 date at Ramshead in Baltimore and a June 10 date at Orange Peel in Ashville, NC just days before as they headed out for the Bonaroo show.
Yauch's news came during one of the most productive times in their career for the Beastie Boys, the second biggest selling act in hip hop only after Tupac Shakur. They had been performing regularly since their tour to support the Obama Campaign in late '08. They were in the process of releasing a string of remasters culminating in the reissue of Hello Nasty on Sept. 16, recrafting virtually their entire catalogue. Their new album, The Hot Sauce Committee, Part 1, was completed, soon to be followed by Part II.
The band's outspoken support of an Obama victory early last year hinted at what was plainly to come -- a headlining slot on Rock The Vote's "Get Out And Vote" Tour. The Beastie Boys started by posting Obama speeches on their web site and urging fans to register to vote early in an e-mail that closed "let's get Obama into that Oval Office and get things back on track."
They announced the tour in October '08 saying, "We are going to do a few shows in the hopes that we can remind people to vote. Too much is at stake to stay at home. We hope that you can come out, have a nice night, dance, sing, get your freak on, and then wake up the next morning and get everyone you possibly can to get out and vote. If they have early voting in your state, then ask people to vote early. Let's get everyone we can out there on Election Day." They played a series of shows in the swing states, joined, in various combinations, by Sheryl Crow, Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, Norah Jones, Crosby and Nash, Santogold, Tenacious D and special guests, On the tour, they were joined onstage at one date by Ben Stiller, briefly impersonating Ad-Rock on "Root Down," and at another by Tenacious D for "Time For Livin'". The Beastie Boys played on the eve of the election, Nov. 3, with Tenacious D and played the Rock The Vote Benefit celebrating Obama's victory Jan. 19th at the 930 Club in Washington, DC with Sheryl Crow and Citizen Cope.
"Finally, for at least a moment," Mike "Mike D" Diamond wrote on BeastieBoys.com after the election, "The premise and the promise of what America is - equal opportunity for all, stops being hypothetical and becomes reality -- a wake up call to the world at large that it is once again a land of potential and possibility, not privilege and greed."
In February '09, the band announced the upcoming release of the first in their series of reissues, an re-release of Paul's Boutique digitally remastered in honor of the album's 20th Anniversary. The reissue, available in five different versions, includes a VIP Package with 180-gram vinyl, a CD, and an 8-foot wide original poster created just for the release. The CD artwork for the album was recreated as originally intended. "It finally looks proper," Mike D told MTV news. "After 20 years in the making, on its 20th Anniversary, it's going to finally be correct." A full-album length audio commentary by the Beastie Boys, telling the story of the Paul's Boutique track by track is available for free download in the news section of beastieboys.com.
The Beastie Boys talked about the original recording of the album in a recent interview with Clash. “Twenty years ago sounds like a really long time, but it doesn't seem all that long ago to me," said Yauch. "I remember listening to Nation of Millions (Public Enemy) over and over again when it came out, with headphones. That was the first time someone had approached a hip hop album like other artists - rock artists is what I mean - would approach an album. I don't think it was until Public Enemy that hip hop really embraced the album format."
"Our first album was just a collection of songs, really. It didn't work together as an album," Mike D said, "But I remember, at different points of making and finishing Paul's Boutique, listening to Nation Of Millions, and 3-Feet High and Rising (De La Soul), and feeling both excited and depressed. I was excited because they were both really great records, but depressed because whatever we made wouldn't really mean anything, because they were both so good."
Yauch told the story of recording the album with the Dust Brothers. "They had a bunch of music together before we arrived to work with them. As a result, a lot of the tracks on Paul's Boutique came from songs they had planned to release to clubs as instrumentals "Shake Your Rump," for example. They'd put together some beats, bass lines and guitar lines, all these loops together, and they were quite surprised when we said we wanted to rhyme on it, because they thought it was too dense. They offered to strip it down to just beats, but we wanted all that stuff on there. I think half of the tracks were written when we got there, and the other half we wrote together."
On March 30, The Beastie Boys announced the reissue of Check Your Head, calling it "kind of hot hot heat mixed with burning molten lava." Available in five collector packages including a limited, four-LP vinyl foam-wrapped hard cover book case edition, select vinyl sets of the album contained two unreleased tracks. The full-album length audio commentary by the Beastie Boys, telling the story of the album track by track is available for free download in the news section of beastieboys.com.
In April, Adam Yauch announced their summer tour in an e-mail, saying "Shine up your cowboy boots ...Come hang out with us. We'll play music and you can sing and dance. We will rap into microphones and the music will be amplified through a big complicated speaker system called a 'PA.' This will be a great chance for you to get your freak on, butt naked, house shoes and sweat sox."
Ad Rock and Mike D had preceded the tour by appearing on the Kidney Now episode of 30 Rock on May 14th. In the episode, they join Cindy Lauper, Sheryl Crow and others in a hilarious "Live Aid" style collaboration.
On May 25, The Beastie Boys publicly announced on The Jimmie Fallon Show that their 8th studio album would be called The Hot Sauce Committee . They revealed this in an e-mail to their fans that afternoon. The album was originally scheduled for release this September. Some websites have reported a rescheduled release date of 12/29/09 but that has never been confirmed by the band or its label.
Yauch told the NME that the album was created by a combination of "playing live and recording it, sampling while we were playing and sampling pretty obscure records." "There are a lot of short songs on the record and they all run into each other," he told BBC Five Live as they were putting finishing touches on the album.
The Hot Sauce Committee is now scheduled to be a two-part release, a commentary track included with the Check Your Head reissue mentioned that Bob Dylan would appear as a guest. He will appear on what is now Part 2.
The Beastie Boys released two advance clips to promote the album. "Lee Majors Come Again," a hardcore track, and the acapella "B-Boys In The Cut."
Santogold, who joined the Beastie Boys on the campaign show trail, appears on the Hot Sauce track, "Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win." Nas, as mentioned, appears on the album's first single, "Too Many Rappers," The song was specially released as a 12-inch limited to 5,000 copies distributed to indie record stores.
The band talked about the album and the hip hop recording process in the interview with Clash. "We had a deadline to meet," Yauch explained, "and we were looking to originally release the album in May. We were pretty geared to do that, but pushing it back to September allowed us to write more songs. Later, we'll release a bunch of other stuff."
""I think when we were sequencing the record, it presented itself. These are the songs that will be on Part 1. That seemed pretty clear," Mike Diamond said. "We're still stuck in the album world, because of how we grew up," he continued. "I have spent so many hours of my life not only listening to albums, but also looking at the cover and memorizing who played on what, and who produced what. We still spend a lot of our time on sequencing, but we know there's a percentage of our audience who will never listen to this album in its 'right' order."
"Sequencing was so important back in the day," Yauch added. "That's
the order you had to listen to an album in, for a very important reason. Now
shuffle has brought the album into a whole new realm."
The Beastie Boys have had a hands-on role in the production of all of their albums since Paul's Boutique They gave Clash their take on the producer's role in hip hop, and their own way of working, "I think in rap, a lot of the time when you see the word 'producer' you assume that's who made the track," said Horovitz, "but we write everything. We've made our records with other people, like Mario (Caldato, Jr) and that's why they're credited. But we're always there, at every step."
"When you see 'producer' on there," Yauch said, " a lot of times it means whoever that is, they made the whole beat, or groove, then the MC just showed up, threw down some vocals and walked out the door. But we never really worked like that. Even with The Dust Brothers, we didn't throw down the lyrics and walk out the door, we put a lot of work in together."
The band considered releasing Hot Sauce as a double album. Now, plans are to put the album out in two parts and to release Part 2 "...I wouldn't say unconventionally," Diamond said, "but in a different way. Like, people might get a seven-inch every few weeks. Or, if people prefer, maybe we'll e-mail an MP3 or whatever."
"If we made two albums," Yauch said, "the other songs might not stand up to being their own standalone collection, but Part 2, The Weird S###, that could work."
"Part 2 is pretty much done," Diamond said. "Basically we were making Part 1, had too many songs, so we recorded some more songs, which sounds bizarre, but it actually worked out because it made it clear to us which songs were going to be on Part 1."
"Then we had this whole other album of songs. Part 2 is going to be released in a different way, more of a 2009 style. You could get in the shower one day, and boom -- all of a sudden you're showered with MP3s, or, we might send people a seven-inch every few weeks, so you have a whole box set."
As mentioned, Bob Dylan appears on Part 2. "He talks about us. More of a spoken word thing." Ad Rock told Drowned In Sound. "We sampled his a#@," he said. "he played one of our songs and was talking about us. He's a big fan."
"So we collaborated with that," Mike D said. "He's one of the first Bboys, if not the first. What more to say."
The band announced the following "5 Point Plan" In a June 23 e-mail with the track listing for Hot Sauce: 1) The Reissue of Ill Communication is imminent. 2) a reissue of Hello Nasty is released on the 25th of August 3) a club show occurs in Chicago on the 6th of August. 4) the new Beastie Boys feature length LP titled Hot Sauce Committee, Part 1 is unleashed on the 15th of September with track listing. 5) The music industry is saved."
"Phase 1 of the five point plan goes into effect in five minutes. The time is at hand," they wrote on July 7."The Ill Communication reissue is going on sale, and in doing so, an irreversible chain reaction begins. We wish you all the best in this new future, our hearts and minds are with you."
In September, the Beastie Boys' Spike Jonze directed video for "Sabotage" won an MTV VMA for "Best Video That Should Have Won A Moonman.
The Hello Nasty remaster was released on Sept 16, containing, according to the band, "practically an entire record of unheard cuts.
Along with his busy year with The Beastie Boys, Adam Yauch continued his focus on Oscilloscope Laboratories, his film production and distribution entity launched in 2008. The company acquired and released a string of critically acclaimed independent and small budget films of the highest artistic focus.
Yauch modeled the company after the independent music labels he grew up around. His goal for Oscilloscope Labs is to choose films and market them with the same integrity and quality with which they were made. It is an outgrowth of his recording studio, Oscilloscope Productions.
Yauch's interest in photography and film began in elementary school, when he set up a black and white home darkroom with equipment his cousin was throwing away. He experimented with shooting and editing Super 8 film in High School and made his first film at 16. It was projected behind the band at early Beastie Boys shows. He has directed most of the Beastie Boys videos including "Shadrach," voted one of Rolling Stone's Top 100 Videos of all time. "Intergalactic," winner of the Billboard Music Awards Best Clip in 1998 and MTV's Best Hip Hop Video in 1999, "So What'cha Want,” and "Ch-Ch-Check It Out," The band won MTV's Video Vanguard Award in 1998. Yauch also compiled The Beastie Boys Video Anthology DVD.
Oscilloscope released The Messenger in theaters in Nov. 09, in conjunction with awards campaigns for its actors, Director Oren Moverman and co-writer Alexander Amon. The film stars Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson and Samantha Morton. It is the first leading role for Ben Foster. In the film, he and Harrelson play a pair of U.S. officers assigned to the Army's Casualty Notification Service after returning home from Iraq. It is the directorial debut for award-winning screenwriter Oren Moverman and winner of the Silver Bear Award at Sundance for Best Screen Play and The Peace Award at the 2007 Berlindale Film Festival.
The Garden, a film that documents the famous political and social battle over the largest community garden in the U.S., located in South Central Los Angeles. released by Oscilloscope in April this year, earned an academy award nomination. The film was released n DVD in August 2009.
Oscilloscope also released two fresh music documentaries this year: Scott Walker: 30th Century Man, and Youssou Ndour: I Bring What I Love.
Scott Walker: 30th Century Man a BAFTA Nominated documentary, was named one of Time Out London's 50 Greatest Music Films Ever. Directed by Stephen Kigard, it features appearances by Jarvis Cocker (Pulp), Brian Eno, David Bowie, Radiohead and Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz) . The film follows the famously shy Scott Walker, a 60s British Pop Heartthrob and one of the most influential figures in rock history. Walker granted the filmmakers unprecedented access to his time and artistic process for the film, which follows his career and music from his days as a bass-for-hire on the L.A. Sunset Strip, through his days of Brit Pop Megastardom, to his current place as a respected composer and avant-garde musician who reclusively avoids the spotlight. The film was released as a DVD/VOD this summer.
In September 2008, Oscilloscope acquired Youssou Ndour: I Bring What I Love, releasing it in theaters in Summer 2009. The film follows Youssou Ndour, the highest selling African pop musician of all time, named one of the 100 Most Influential People In The World by Time magazine, through two years and three continents and the release of his new album, said to be his most ambitious to date and the first on which he sings about Islam. The album was called blasphemous upon its release in Senegal, forcing Ndour to confront the contradictions of his own faith. The film is Director Chai Varachely's second, and offers and in-depth look at Ndour's music, performance, and personal religious life.
Oscilloscope also acquired a large number of pictures reflecting Yauch's dedication to political and social justice.
Wendy and Lucy follows a young woman traveling to work at a lucrative job in a Northwestern Fish Cannery, hoping for the start of a new life with her dog. The film tells the story of the increasingly dire economic decisions she must make when her car breaks down along the way, as her financial situation comes apart. The film addresses serious, real issues of sympathy, generosity, and the limits of obligation to others in tough times.
Unmistaken Child is the story of a Tibetan Buddhist Monk's search for the reincarnation of his teacher. In Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Father, filmmaker Kurt Kuene tells the story of the murder of his oldest friend and the custody battle that followed. Burma VJ is a rare inside look at the Myanmar Uprising. Flow, Irena [Salema's SP] award-winning documentary, investigates the world water crisis. Treeless Mountain tells the story of two young sisters in Seoul, Korea whose mother leaves them to search for their estranged father. Frontrunners parallels every political race in the story of Stuyvesant High School's election of a new Student Council President. It is one of the most prestigious public high schools in the country.
When Oscilloscope entered into an exclusive, three-year DVD distribution deal with Milestone Films this year, they gained sole distribution rights to all of their past, current and future DVD releases, a library ranging from silent films to new, independent features, documentaries and foreign films. Kent Mackenzie's 1961 classic The Exiles was the first film released in the new agreement. It chronicles a day in the life of 20-something native Americans who leave reservation life in the 1950s to live in the Bunker Hill district of New York. The partnership will also release Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives, the icon documentary of the gay rights movement on DVD. The film, originally released in 1998, was the first feature-length documentary about gay and lesbian identity made by gay filmmakers.
Comedies like The Paranoids and Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie round out the O-scope collection.
Oscilloscope releases about one new DVD a month. The company's series of DVDs are made to form a numbered library spelling "Oscilloscope" along their spines when lined up in order on a shelf, like encyclopedias. Yauch has continued the same guiding indie label ethic in its packaging that inspired the company. The company uses all eco-friendly materials produced at a special green factory. DVD production is also given a new take. Trite extras like deleted scenes are eliminated. Directors decide what will be included on the disc with their film. Dear Zachary includes added sequences reflecting its message of the need for political change. Wendy and Lucy includes bonus clips by colleagues of Director Kelly Reichert, reflecting her wish for the film to stand on its own.
On Weds., Oct. 8, Adam Yauch sent an update to his fans. "I just got back from Dharmarala, India...went over there to see some Tibetan Doctors, but as it worked out, the Dalai Lama was giving a three day teaching, so I was able to attend that as well," he wrote.
"I'm feeling healthy, strong and hopeful that I've beaten this thing. But, of course, time will tell. I'm taking Tibetan Medicine and, at the recommendation of the Tibetan doctors, I've been eating a vegan/organic diet."
"When I was in India, I visited an Ani Gopa (nunnery) called Jamyang Choking. They did a Puja (religious ceremony) for me to help me get well. One nun said to me 'we do prayer and then you are better.' So, I've got that going for me, which is nice."
Yauch sponsors several of the nuns at Jamyan Choking. The group has grown from 13 to 125 members since he has been in touch with them, and moved from an abandoned cow shed to purchasing land and building housing and classrooms with donations.
"We have not set a new release date for the album yet," he added,. "But, I'm hoping it will be in the first half of next year. Looking forward to that, but in the meantime, I'm just enjoying a little downtime in Manhattan, taking walks in the woods and hanging out with the family...still doing a little work related to Oscilloscope...but for the most part, laying low..." He directed fans to Twitter.com/oscopelabs for updates.
By Frances Brennan
ISSUE III 2009