Mission Impossible Dirt: No. 1 Interview by Bob Mack
Years after his first ill-fated interview with the Beastie Boys, writer Bob Mack returns to the scene of the crime with interrogation in mind. Who's the Mack? A prestigious editor at Rolling Stone hasn't returned his phone calls since 1990 - a rock critic feud over the merits of former Eagle Don Henley. He's been kicked out of the nearly idiot-proof Northwestern University School of Journalism. Canned by Entertainment Weekly after only two months. Fired as an MTV producer for running a photo of Bono in drag on the Top 20 countdown. Interned with publications as varied as Eastern Airlines Review, the Ayn Rand-esque Intellectual Activist, Investment Dealer digest, Cosmoparody and the Village Voice-where the music editor nearly lost his job after he convinced him to publish a revisionist history of the orthodoxy of rock criticism based on startling theories about Rush and Jethro Tull (quote from article: "guys like Ian Anderson are smeared while Henry Rollins runs amok.") And he's still unsure of whether he quit or was fired from William F. Buckley's National Review. That man is Bob Mack, the same guy Vibe recently assigned a piece out of sheer desperation and openly told, "You're our absolute last resort". Bob came into precedence as a journalist during his stint at SPY magazine, starting in 1987 as a lowly fact-checker, then as a $120-a-week staff writer. "I was like the superfan. At that time SPY was so hot, and they were such pricks, and paid so little. It was lunacy-which made it all the more attractive." The charm didn't wear off until 1990, and by then, Bob had made a name for himself in the slick and sleazy New York, publishing world and didn't need to bus tables to supplement his income. One day shortly after quitting SPY, Bob picked up the phone and received a verbal stomping from Beastie Boy protege Ricky Powell. The call concerned an item in SPIN, where Bob had fingered the Beastie Boys as "retired rappers in LA." Ricky informed Bob Wack that the Beasties had not packed it in, but were in fact recording their follow-up to Paul's Boutique in their newly constructed LA studio. Smooth as grease, Bob blamed his editor and asked Ricky if he would introduce him to the band. Powell said he'd think about it. While Ricky was thinking about it, Mack the music critic produced a series of volatile SPIN cover stories, resulting in the occasional death threat from readers and much uproar from the bands he ran across (to this day, the mere mention of Bob Mack around Metallica or the Red Hot Chili Peppers induces a hurricane of foul language). The notorious Hamburger Hamlet interview was the beginning of the end. Twelve months had passed since the first Ricky Powell phone call by the time Bob found himself bracketed by all three Beasties in a plush naugahyde booth at the Hamlet, his tape recorder rolling. His last SPIN cover story, Mack would spend a year writing, researching, and hangin' before turning it in. In hindsight, the Beasties say this initial meeting should've been the tip off; despite Bob's goofy shoes and matching hair, the band allowed him to chill near (although not quite with) them as he toiled on his article over the next several months. When the SPIN story hit the newsstand just before Check Your Head hit the stores, the Beastie Boys were confounded by Bob's slant on them, and definitely none too keen on his critique of their basketball court capabilities. Perhaps the ultimate diss/compliment, Mike D devoted a line in "The Skills To Pay the Bills" single as revenge: Working on my game 'cause it's time to tax, I'm on a crazy mission to wax Bob Mack. There will always be mild tension over that article between Bob and his new employers, but for the most part it's water under a bridge that's been burned. Bob's lovable, corrosive personality is a fusion of his vast knowledge of music, sport, history, conservative politics and evil in general, and his legendary reputation for pissing people off-but it won him friendship and respect from the Beastie Boys, and with the publication of Grand Royal magazine it looks like Bob has officially accepted the offer to join the Grand Royal entertainment empire. "Basically, there's no turning back from here, going back to do regular NY journalism. I paid all these dues only to learn that it was wack. Now I realize the way to go is Do It Yourself," says Bob, up to his hips in clutter amidst his superdope, cell-sized Grand Royal office. These days, when tempers flare during after-hours basketball games at G-son, he's some times referred to as Bob Wack, but as editor of Grand Royal, Bob is definitely The Mack.
Hamburger Hamlet Round 2
With a tape recorder, three 90-minute cassettes, 69 prepared questions and an ax to grind, Bob and the Beastie Boys revisited Hamburger Hamlet for Round II. The transcripts from this epic saga totaled nearly 100 pages, but we have condensed a few questions' worth of verbal jewels to accompany the photos Spike Jonze shot. Pull up a chair, order a Pepsi and listen in as we join the fracas-in-progress...
QUESTlON #6: Mack: When was the last time any of you went camping? Yauch: Hah! Mack: Good question. You could answer that. Yauch: I went recently. Over the winter I camped on a glacier in Alaska. Mack: Cool, how was that? Yauch: Snow-camping. It's cool. Mack: Did you go snow fishing, like cut a thing in- Yauch: No, we were on a glacier. Mack: Oh, so it's not like cutting through- Yauch: We were in the mountains. Mack: No cutting through. Mike D: I think you'd need like a hydraulic pneumatic diamond-tipped drill. Yauch: You could cut till you hit China, and you probably wouldn't hit the water. Mack: Do you camp a lot now? Do you spend a lot of time in the great outdoors? Yauch: That was the first time I went camping in a while. I used to go when I was little. Mack: My man... Ad-Rock: I enjoy the outdoors a lot. Mack: I do recall a rumor around the time of the first interview you guys went out to 29 Palms or something? Ad-Rock: That's not camping out though. Mack: That's...hanging out? Mike, you're not known as an outdoorsman. Mike D: I don't fuck with that shit but I do enjoy peeing in the outdoors. Mack: Okay. Mike D: No, I like when you're peeing on trees. Mack: That's called public micturition, that's very bad, you can get in trouble for that. [Bob and Mike crack up]
QUESTION #18: Mack: What kind of dog is on the cover of Some Old Bullshit? Yauch: He's a giant golden retriever. Ad-Rock: He was the team mas cot for a long, long time. Still is. Yauch: I had him from when I was like 12 or something until I was like, uhh, college. Ad-Rock: What's the coolest thing about Samson? Yauch: That I could get in my sleeping bag or on a mattress and slide down the stairs, and he would attack me.
QUESTION #20: Mack: Now, Mike D rumors, and this is a very interesting question- Yauch: Mike's not dead. Mack: Mike is not dead, that we know of. Mike D: We were talking about that at the last Hamburger Hamlet interview? Mack: No. Just for our readers, would you like to address the rumor that you were Mikey on the Life cereal commercial? Mike D: Bunch of fuckin' malarkey! [laughter all around] Mack: Okay, thank you. Now is it true that you scored in the 1500 range on your SAT? Mike D: No. Mack: Okay, there we go. What did you score on your SATs? Mike D: If I remember correctly I think it was more in the 1200 range. Mack: Okay, there you go, nothing to be ashamed of. I think maybe your spelling kind of brought you down. Mike D: Hey, I don't think- Ad-Rock: Bob's talking about spelling, okay. Mike D: Look, not all of us musicians can be Thurston Moore when it comes to spelling. Mack: Right. Good point. Thurston's a great speller. I respect him very much for that. Mike D: Thurston spells very well, do you know that Spike? Yauch: I've been dreaming all this stuff for so long... Spike: I know that. Mack: And if you ask him he'll say that. And were you accepted to Harvard that was another myth. Mike D: No, that was a lie as well, and that's not even a lie that we made up. A media-invented lie. I didn't even apply. Mack: But you did apply and were accepted at Vassar? Mike D: Yeah. Mack: And you did attend there for almost a semester? Mike D: Yeah, but I would say it's not really a semester because I only went like a few days. I'd only actually be up in Poughkeepsie for a few days each week, so it's probably really much more like a month total time.
QUESTlON #25: Yauch: Did you ever hear of the whorehouse story? Spike: No. Yauch: Alright, this is a good story, let's see if we can sum it up pretty quick. Spike: Is this true or false? Yauch and Mike D: It's true! Yauch: We move into our spot in Chinatown and we get our electricity hooked up and we get our first electric bill and it's like eight hundred dollars for the first month and so we go to the landlord and ask him what's up with it, Kwong and Eddie these two- Mack: [laughs] Kwong and Eddie? Mike D: Kwong. Yauch: Kwong. These two Chinese dudes, maybe you shouldn't print their names-I don't want to get in any trouble here-and so they just said "Hold on a second" and left us then and there and they go call Peter the Pimp, for real. So Peter comes upstairs, he's like Vietnamese I think, this dude comes up with shorts on and like those sunglasses, looks like something right out of one of those movies, and his hair like all kind of back, and he just comes in and says "Come with me" and we go and we didn't know what the fuck was going on so we go and get on the elevator. He takes us next door, into the whorehouse, and uh- Mike D: into. Yauch:-and he explained to us that he had tapped into our power because he wasn't a legal resident of the United States so he needed to get electricity, and then he just sat us down in the room with all of the uh...women, and he walked out of the room and just left us there, and they were like offering us fruit and drinks and stuff like that, and we were like, "Ah, no thanks." And we just hung out there and we were just waiting for a while and when he finally realized that we weren't going for it he came back and called us into the other room and just whipped a stack of money out of his pocket and peeled off like eight hundred bucks and paid our whole bill. And continued to pay it from there on in. Spike: So you were supplying this whorehouse with electricity? Mike D: No, it was more like he was, he just happened to be tapped into our power. Mack: He siphoned off, yeah. Yauch: He was paying our electric bills. Spike: You were dealing electricity. Yauch: You could say.
QUESTION #28: Mack: How do you hope Lollapalooza is going to be different this year than it has been in its previous incarnations? Yauch: The big guy has got to realize his size and chill out. It's an important issue for Lollapalooza. Mike D: There's nothing wrong with being big. You know, it's just a matter of you've got to conduct yourself appropriately, and be responsible for yourself. Respect for yourself and all the other people. Ad-Rock: In the mosh pit you've got to be aware of the other guy. Mike D: You've got to help people out who might not be as big as you. There's no reason why everybody should not be able to stand wherever they want and enjoy the show! You've got to think about that and not infringe- Ad-Rock: Not infringe. No fringe. We don't want people wearing fringe into it. Mike D: [laughs] I think that's one of the important things on our rider: No fringe.
QUESTION #29: Mack: Now what kind of perks are you going to have provided for you on Lollapalooza? Mike D: Rider-wise, on Lollapalooza, we're going to be rocking a lot of fresh juice. Our man Hillary's coming out, we're buying the big commercial sized juicer, the thousand dollar joint. Yauch: So we don't have to stand around cutting up the little carrots and shit. You just stuff everything in there. Live coconuts, bam! Mack: With the shell? Yauch: Yeah. Mike D: You'd be able to put like a whole big-ass ginger root right in there...scoom! Mack: Scoom? Yauch: Flip! Mike D: Zing! Ad-Rock: Whizzo! Mike D: We're going to be taking the Juiceman out. The Juiceman's gonna be on our love, you know what I'm saying?
QUESTION #33: Mack: Okay, so we're talking about the new album, and the question is "Is Ill Communication an extension of Check Your Head? It's more reminiscent of Check Your Head than Paul's Boutique..." but whatever. I've been saying to people it seems like the music from the last album with more of the lyrics from Paul's Boutique, more words, a little bit more colorful. Ad-Rock: This guy said it was dry. Mack: He said it was dry? Mike D: What?? Ad-Rock: German guy. [adopting German accent] "I liked it but it's very, uhm, dry". Mike D: what the fuck does that mean? Spike: What others comments have you gotten? Ad-Rock: I got wet, dry, moist, all crazy types of shit. Mike D: What does that mean, "dry", though? Yauch: I've been contemplating this issue, and I think that y'know, people were surprised with Licensed to Ill, people were surprised with Paul's Boutique, and they were surprised with Check Your Head, so they were expecting to be surprised with Ill Communication, but the true surprise was that there was no surprise at all, in reality. Mack: You just rotated the tires. Yauch: Exactly. So, once again, the surprise is there, it's just not what they expected. Mack: Good point. Yauch: Hence the irony, once again.
Question #39: Mack: Okay, here's another great question: describe your favorite encounter with fireworks. Beasties: Oh My God!!!Mmmmm... Ad-Rock: I have some good ones. Yauch: Alright Mack: Who wants to start? Mike D: Didn't you blow- Yauch: Alright, just a little one. A small one. Ad-Rock: He's got a better one. Yauch: I was in my backyard throwing firecrackers, my friend was lighting them. I had one in my hand, with Peter Haight, my Mom called me, I turned around, Peter Haight lit the firecracker... Mack: Ouch. Yauch: Talking to my Mom, he goes "Throw it!". Mack: Bam. Yauch: It was just wrong. Mack: And did it tear off like your thumbnail or something, or did you get a bleed there? Ad-Rock: No... Yauch: It just feels like you got hit with a hammer."Argghhh!!" Mack: Have you seen that public service announcement "Happy Fourth Of July?" Ad-Rock: Yeah, that's ill. That's a good poster. Mack: That shit's ill. The kid's arm is blown off, this thumb is blown off. Ad-Rock: Yo, we were lighting firecrackers on 10th Street when I was like eight years old. All kinds of interesting characters around there. On 10th Street and 4th Street, right on the corner there? Mack: Right Ad-Rock: Right near Sheridan Square. And we were all lighting little firecrackers and shit, and this one guy walked by, and he was like "I can light a firecracker off in my hand!" or something like that, and we were like "Okay!" The guy goes "POP". [pause, laughter all around] Later he's walking down the street, and we're sneaking up, Omar and Miresan, these friends of mine when I was little, and we look at the guy and he's crying, walking down the street with these weird mittens. [laughter] That was the funniest shit I've ever seen. Mack: That's terrible. Ad-Rock: Weird people in that neighborhood. Mike D: I would have to say that my only favorite fireworks experience is one time when we were living in Chinatown, and we had like a big 4th of July party, and the neighborhood right there - down by Canal Street and Mott Street, that's where they sell all the fireworks - all the guys on the street, "Fireworks!" So 4th of July, like y'know they have all these fireworks left over that they haven't sold, so they just light everything up. The whole street is blocked off and it's just like a mad war zone. there's like two feet deep of firecracker wrappers on the ground. We had this big huge party right in the middle of it, fireworks going off all around us, people lighting shit off the roof, the whole street is blocked off- Ad-Rock: Have you ever been there? 4th of July in New York? Mack: Oh yeah, totally. Ludlow Street. Ad-Rock: Chinatown. Mack: Evil, because they throw and they explode in between the buildings. Ad-Rock: It's so ill. They throw dynamite, and mats and mats of fireworks. Oh, I'm sorry- Mike D: No, that was my story. Yauch: I've got one more of those stories. Mack: Okay, great. Ad-Rock: I've got a lot of fire works stories. Mack: What a great question. Go ahead, come on, come on. Yauch: Alright. My friend and I used to uh...always be trying to find anything to get wasted on, be eating the cough medicine with the codeine, or doing whippets, or like mixing all the alcohol or whatever. So we discovered this stash of drugs. We used to experiment and take 'em, you know, just to see what would happen. And this one time, I don't know, we mixed a couple of 'em, and we got really fucked up, they were like psychological drugs that would do weird things to your brain. And we were like tripping really hard, and we went out...and some kids were having bottle rocket wars, and we managed to get some bottle rockets off them, and we had like this whole bottle rocket war with these kids we didn't even know. We were like running through the woods and the trees and shit, shooting bottle rockets, and then we like passed out for a day or two, and then...it was just like a dream. Ad-Rock: That's dope. We used to light that shit off at school, and ziiing! Right down the hall. Yauch: But for you kids at home- Mack: Don't try it. Yauch:-I don't do that anymore. Just about the up and coming trends, I just wanted to go back to the topic of the Lollapalooza tour. We asked them to take out the piercing booth and replace it with the squirt-the-water-in-the-clown's mouth thing, which I think they've agreed to. Ad-Rock: That would be genius. Mack: Thank you very much for doing that, as someone who is offended by the concept of piercing.
Mack: Mike, what is the master plan for the Grand Royal empire at this moment? What's the next phase? Mike D: Stabilize, fortify, multiply. Mack: Now where does Hurricane's album fit into this? Mike D: First we stabilize Mack: [laughs] Mike... Mike D: We're gonna stabilize the roster, stabilize the releases. make sure everything's rock solid. Go through the staff with a fine tooth comb, Bob and don't think you're exempt. Mack: No, I ah, nah, ah... Mike D: That's all part of what we look at as the stabilization process. Yauch: Bob "Fine-tooth Comb" Mack. Mike D: The next step- Mack: The next step? Mike D: Fortify. Mike D: That means that we take DJ Hurricane, make sure that album is rock solid, as good as it can be, you get that thing ready for release, make sure you're gonna give it every shot possible of it doing what it should be doing. and then the last step- Mack and Ad-Rock: Do it! Mike D: Multiply. Once you stabilize, once you're fortified, your base is strong, what you're doing is strong, you branch out from there. Then, the tree, Bob, is able to grow some limbs. But if your roots-[laughs] Mack: Are not- Yauch: "Fortify"? Come again? Mike D: Your roots- Mack: Somewhere between multiply and... Mike D: If your roots cannot support the additional limbs, well, then what's the point? Yauch: Can you elaborate on ' fortify"? Ad-Rock: How are the crops this season Mike? By the by? Mack: Is it time to start planting again? Spike: Do you guys sleep easier knowing that this man is taking care of business? Ad-Rock: Damn fucking straight.
QUESTlON #47: Mack: Does anyone hassle you still for smoking pot? Or for not smoking pot? Mike D: No, but I will say regularly in Manhattan when I walk through the Village on a Friday or Saturday night, inevitably someone'll pull over or walk up next to me and say, "Hey Mike D! Wanna smoke a bowl?"
QUESTION #52: Mack: Do you own any exercise equipment, and what do you do with it? Now Mike, I know you have your bicycle. Mike D: I have a Lifecycle, and I use that to watch TV with and to- Yauch: Power the house. Mike D: When I play Sega golf. It's good to sit on that. You can pedal a little bit, play some Sega golf. Yauch: I own some weights but I almost never fuck with 'em these days. Ad-Rock: I have a uh, John Holmes penis pull. [laughter] I have a basketball, a brand new Voit black streetball basketball. It's the best basketball I've ever owned. Yauch: It's a little bit big. Mack: Too much air? Yauch: It's weird, 'cause I can usually palm a ball. I was having trouble palming it. Ad-Rock: I can palm it. You can. Yauch: Really? Ad-Rock: You just gotta get used to it. Yauch I thought it seemed like it was greased up or something. Ad-Rock: Maybe that's what I did when I picked it up, I spilled some oil. What were you gonna say Mike? Mike D: I was laughing about the penis pull.
QUESTlON #57: Mack: Mike, do you know what a marsupial is? Mike D: A who? Mack: A marsupial. Mike D: No. Mack: It's a pouched animal. I was supposed to test your SAT knowledge . Mike D: Say that again? Mack: A marsupial. Mike D: They don't have that on the SATs! Yauch: I fuckin' knew that. Mack: Okay, now - Ad-Rock: I didn't do so well on my SATs. Mike D: Let me tell you, Bob - Yauch: Bob. tell me about the kangaroo rat. Mike D: Let me tell you something, Bob. I didn't know the answer to that, but that's why I got you on my pay roll, so I can ask you that question.
QUESTION #60: Mack: What's a formative experience that you all had that none of the other Beastie Boys know about? Or a formative experience outside the band. Ad-Rock: I tell these guys everything. Yauch: Can I refer back to the bottle rocket story? [laughter] Mack: Good answer. Michael? Mike D: Wait, I have to think of something that these guys don't know? Mack: That was very influential. Mike D: I don't know. I don't know what these guys wouldn't know. Mack: There's like seventeen years of your life. Fifteen years. When'd you first meet them? Mike D: Alright. Listen, I've never told anyone about this. When I was like 6 years old, we were one of the first families to have cable TV Manhattan teleprompter. Yauch: Really? Mike D: Sometimes my mom would put me to sleep at 8 or 9 o'clock, whatever the fuck it was, and I'd sneak back awake and I'd watch the Knicks. Spike: Mike, why did you keep that a secret from them for so long? Mike D: I don't know. I never thought of talking about it. Yauch: My parents still don't have cable. Mike D: That's because they're old and cheap.
QUESTION #62: Mack: What's a Halloween costume you guys wore as a kid? Yauch: Oh, it was dope! It's like a sheet, and then there were like holes cut out for the eyes. [laughter] Ad-Rock: I was Harpo Marx like five years in a row. Mike D: Yo, when I was like 5, I dressed up like MC Hammer, and that was before anyone knew who he was.
QUESTIONS #65, #66 & #67: Mack: Who was the last person who called you "bitch"? Yauch: Dante? [laughter] No, I don't know. Mack: What's your favorite John Hughes movie? Ad-Rock: Is that one of the questions that's written down? Mack: Yeah, literally. But that's a good question. I thought of you- Ad-Rock: Name some. Mack: Sixteen Candles ..Weird Science. Ad-Rock: What was that question about "bitch"? Mack: When was the last time you rode a public bus? Spike: You're not even letting them answer! Mike D: Yeah, Bob Mack: [laughter] We're running out of time, for Chrissake. You ask 69 questions sometime. Yauch: Coming down from a mountain in Utah the other day. Mack: Someone called you a bitch? Yauch: No, I rode a public bus. Mike D: Bob. what the hell are you doing?! [laughter] Mack: I'm sorry. I'm getting a little confused. Yauch: Bob, you bitch! Mack: Mike, what's your favorite John Hughes movie? Mike D: Bitch, I don't remember the last time I went and saw - Ad-Rock: Yo, I went and saw a Madonna play a few years ago...and oh, never mind. Yauch: You rode the bus with her and she called you a bitch? Mike D: My favorite John Hughes movie is The Breakfast Club, because you know, you're sporting the Judd Nelson look. Mack: Yeah, exactly. Thanks a lot. I knew it was coming. Son of a bitch. [laughter]
QUESTION #68: Mack: Have you ever invented anything? Mike D: Fuck yeah. Ad-Rock: All kinds of shit. Yauch actually - Yauch: Have I ever told you about my helmet? Mike D: Tell 'em about the helmet. Yauch: The helmet, completely constructed from used nutshells so it's completely environmentally safe, is a system. an invisible system, an electronic device with which I can convert thought matter into material music instantaneously, and uh, fax it out to Mike D. Mack: Okay. Ad-Rock: The nutshell, in a nutshell . Mike D: I'd just like to say, Yauch and keyboard Money Mark have invented mad stuff and they could pretty much invent anything. Yauch invented the Terminator switch for his bass. Ad-Rock: Which a lot of people are jealous of. Mike D: Mark could build a record player out of wood. Yauch: Mark can build anything out of wood. In fact, I learned that from Mark, that's how I began using nutshells to build the helmet. Mike D: Mark invented the drum shaft at the studio. Mack: Mark pretty much built the studio, right? Mike D: Right. You've gotta get the check, dude. Mack: Oh, yeah