The repartee captured by those original shows was fully displayed during the session in Austin, as Amazon music’s Nathan Brackett, who grew up with Diamond, Horovitz and the late Adam Yauch (who considered him a non-blood younger cousin), gamely tried to steer the 50-minute discussion. “This is a comedy festival, right?” Horovitz asked at one point, while he and Diamond went off on tangents ranging from Diamond’s Cam’ron socks to dressing up like Batgirl. “There’s a lot that goes into a Batgirl costume,” Horovitz noted. “It’s not as easy as you think.” The two were, of course, very self-aware and practiced in their shtick – and self-aware of their long-held reputations as difficult and sometimes not always factual interviews.
“It was very frustrating, I know, for the journalists but (also) for us,” Diamond said. “They did not realize the quality stuff they had on those tapes. We would go off on tangents and…felt, like, not appreciated.” “We were dropping jewels on these people,” Horovitz added. “These interviewers didn’t understand what was going on at the time.”
Diamond and Horovitz indeed dropped a few gems during the wide-ranging discussion, their first time back at SXSW under the Beastie Boys moniker since 2006, when they screened their film Awesome! I Fuckin' Shot That and played a secret show at Stubb’s BBQ. Among the highlights….
Writing the Beastie Boys Book was cathartic and therapeutic for both men. “We didn’t know what we were doing,” Horovitz noted. “It’s a lot harder than you think to just sit down and write stuff, or write stuff that’s interesting or written well. But it was fun. We’re not playing shows. We’re not a band. It was nice to have this daily thing to just write and write and think about the fun times we had. It kept me in the band that I loved to be in, in this different way.” Diamond added that, “We truly did feel grateful. There’s all this stuff we did as a band together, so many moments with just the three of us in a room…To have a time to bring that to life a little bit, both of us enjoyed that part."
Diamond revealed Horovitz's writing process for the book, which he called “a caffeine-filled rampage” that would result in a series of early morning emails in his inbox with material for the book. “It was very productive,” Diamond acknowledged. Diamond noticed that he also “would try to go for the caffeine-fueled rampage, but I think I have a high tolerance right now."
Diamond found writing the book different than writing music, and not necessarily in a good way. “At least when you’re working on music…you can always press play and listen back to where you’re at, so there’s a gratification aspect,” he said. “When you’re writing, there’s no press play. Nobody’s like, “Oh, that was cool!’”
There may be more where Beastie Boys Book came from. Horovitz said he and Diamond “have a whole other book called Funny To Us" comprised of stories that do not appear in their lengthy tome. “We literally have 150 pages of stories – that were funny to us,” Diamond added, while Horovitz noted that, “The three of us together for so many days and weeks and months and years and traveling all over the place, you encounter so many super-weird people. And it’s not funny to everybody else, but to us it’s funny.”
Both Beasties demurred on picking a favorite Beastie Boys album but did acknowledge songs they particularly enjoyed. Horovitz noted “Make Some Noise" from Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, which the group never performed live. “That’s one of my favorite songs ‘cause it’s like everything we’ve done – as a live band playing, as rappers, everything we like to do as a band,” he said.
He and Diamond also went into a back-and-forth about the Beasties’ best material:
Horovitz: “What’s the jam, Mike?”
Diamond: “Sure Shot.”
Horovitz: “Almost bam,” with laughter, before noting that “we could do this routine all night, all day, all year.”
The duo said they only received two direct turn-downs for participation in the acclaimed, star-studded audiobook version of Beastie Boys Book. One was Chris Rock, who Diamond said, “You’ve got to give him credit. He was like, ‘I did my own audiobook and it sucked. You don’t want me.’ He was very honest.” Queen Latifah was also a “straight-up no…I appreciate her for her no,” according to Diamond.
The Will Ferrell-read negative review of Ill Communication in Syncopation magazine was, as expected, a faux slam – though when Brackett asked about it, Horovitz replied “What do you want to hear? Do you want it to be real or fake?” “The band has a different relationship with reality,” Diamond explained.
“It’s showbiz reality,” Horovitz noted before going off on a tangent about a real Modern Drummer article praising Diamond for his “sophisticated high-hat patterns.” “I’ve been making fun of him ever since,” said Horovitz, before Diamond noted that, “in the drumming game, that’s all I got.” But Horovitz praised Diamond’s “very good timing” and said he had “other notes” to share, if Diamond was interested.
They also spoke warmly about Yauch, praising him as a visionary who introduced Diamond and Horovitz to many things, from production techniques to aspects of spirituality. “He just knew so much about random things, so many things in life,” Horovitz recalled. “I don’t know how he knew those things. There was no Google or anything. We just wanted to let people know that’s the kind of person he was."