When Rick Rubin first met the Beastie Boys, he was still a student and DJ at New York University. But after meeting Ad-Rock, Mike D, and the late Adam Yauch aka MCA, who were then all in high school, little did they know that the Beastie Boys’ debut, Licensed to Ill, would be the historic record that it became.
As the LP reaches the 35th anniversary, the surviving member, Ad-Rock and Mike D, Rubin and Spike Jonze, who directed the Beastie Boys Story, had one of the more candid conversations for Rubin’s podcast, Broken Record.
While Rubin has worked with many of the best in the industry, the conversation felt more like a reunion with old friends than the straightforward interview. They reminisced about the early days of making mixtapes in Rubin’s dorm room, hanging out at the local NYC record stores and then figuring out what club they would hit up every night.
They also talked about how Mike got his infamous Volkswagen emblem, which Ad-Rock said he got from a friend, which was hanging on her wall.
“I think she just had it on the wall,” Ad-Rock said. “She just took it off a car, and for some reason, I had it and put it on a string, and you [Mike D] took it. That’s what I love about being a teenager, just how much stuff goes from one kid to the next to the next.”
But Mike D remembered it in a different way.
“In my revisionist history, it’s almost like I feel like I was knighted,” he said. “It was bestowed upon me, and then I could become Mike D.”
When Jonze asked Rubin about his impressions upon meeting the guys and how it all clicked, Rubin talked about how his life experience as a kid from Long Island, N.Y., was so different from the Beasties’ city upbringing — something that he thought was good and bad.
“I would say they had better access than I had because this was pre-internet,” Rubin said. “Like now, everyone could find out anything they want about anything. Where I was, it was hard to find out anything about anything. I spent a lot of time in the library doing research, and even that research wasn’t [the] sort of ‘culture of the moment’ research, it was about learning about things I was interested in and spending a lot of time in records was my closest way of having any kind of connection to culture.”
He added, “On the downside, maybe by living in the city, it might narrow the view of what was cool. I didn’t know what was cool, coming where I came from. And the beauty of that was, I could see and hear everything. There was very little peer pressure about that where I lived. If you were in the city, there was stuff that was cool to like and not cool to like, and that could have a limiting effect.”
With Jonze sitting in as more of an observer, Rubin, Mike D and Ad-Rock reminisced about dorm room memories, the story behind Brass Monkey and why Rubin, who was DJing for the Beastie Boys during their first tour as openers for Madonna’s Like a Virgin tour, abruptly left.
“I went to a clinic, an ear, nose and throat clinic on 14th Street,” Rubin explained. “I had never been there before. And I went there, and they said, ‘You have a terrible infection in your ear. You gotta take these drugs, and you cannot fly. If you fly, you’ll probably lose hearing in that ear… And it’s funny because I don’t remember us talking about it. Also, maybe part of the reason we didn’t talk about it because the tour was already ongoing.”
You can hear more stories like these in the complete episode of Broken Record below.