The Beastie and the Brain
Build a Nation
In the early ’80s, the Beastie Boys hung out at the legendary New York punk club CBGBs, hoping to share air space with their idols, the seminal hardcore/reggae outfit Bad Brains. Now, two-and-a-half decades later, they’re finally sharing a studio: Beastie Adam Yauch (a.k.a. MCA) produced the Brains’ new album, Build a Nation. (Preview ”Give Thanks And Praises” and ”Natty Dreadlocks ‘Pon The Mountain Top” now.) Yauch and Brains bassist Darryl Jenifer recently got together for an email exchange covering racial bias in the record industry, what it’s like for the Brains to be playing together again after a lengthy hiatus, and, of course, Jenifer’s golf game.
ADAM YAUCH: After not playing together for a while, did it take a minute to shake off the cobwebs and get into the flow, or did it just click right away?
DARRYL JENIFER: Bad Brains are vets at this rock stuff. It’s like riding a bike. We own our sound and can do nothing about it. When [drummer] Earl [Hudson] clicks his sticks, it’s on and poppin’.
What artists have influenced you over the years?
Sun Ra, Black Ivory, Black Slate, In Crowd, Sly Stone, Buzzcocks, the Damned, Jah Shaka, Lonnie Liston Smith, and Brooklyn.
What are some memorable shows that you went to — performances you’ll never forget?
James Brown at the Howard Theater circa 1964, B.T. Express, New Birth and the Jimmy Castor Bunch at the Langley Theater N.E. D.C. circa ’74, Mother’s Finest and the Bar-Kays Capitol Center in 1975, and the Ramones in Maryland.
How does D.C. differ from New York?
D.C is the head of the beast; N.Y. and L.A. are the ass and heart. They can fight over that.
Can you talk about making Build a Nation?
Making a new record is always exciting. It’s magical to hear your ideas come to light, from the sketch pad to tape. It’s like seeing a baby being born. It can be a test executing the riffs and musical movement as planned, but it is this positive tension and friction that creates [our] cosmic chemistry.
Did the process of making this record differ from making records in the past?
Only in the respect that Yauch had us on some ol’ high-end home studio stuff, which definitely added to the free-wheelin’ feel to the riffs. Plus, we got to see Mike D. and Adrock!
What do you feel is the biggest misconception about the Brains?
That we are problematic and primitive. Of course we as a collective have our views, but we are Jah respecting, Jah youth. I think being black and playing in a white rock world and industry puts us at a slight disadvantage when it comes to our actions and words.
Why do German interviewers ask such weird questions? (Sorry, I just had to do three German phoners.)
Because they get up too early in the morning eating schnitzel, drinking big brews. Heck if I know.
Is Darryl’s golf game all that he claims it is? I heard that he hooked one into the trees the other day. Truth or rumor?
True. I did hook one into the trees yesterday only, to save par at shoot a 9-hole round of 38. Don’t mess wit me on this golf, son! I’m waiting for the Beastie Boys to take me to Pebble Beach!!
When it’s raining, umbrella or raincoat?
I usually just get wet, but I do have some rubber boots with the latches.
But for real, you guys have been one of the most innovative groups in modern music. Do you feel that you have gotten the credit and the recognition that you deserve?
He he. Do you feel that you have gotten more credit than you deserve? Jus’ messin with you. I know you’re a sensitive dude, Adam. I remember when y’all was trying/starting to rap back in the day. Who would have known…Bad Brains, man we got everything that Jah had for us, from food to shelter and healthy, happy children…so, I guess plaques and dough ain’t always the reward. On the real, it’s great that we were chosen to spread this positive love and music through the will of the Great Spirit. One love.
What about our history together? I remember seeing you guys in NYC at the beginning and what a profound experience you guys are. There is something incredibly moving as you guys perform together. It’s like one big instrument.
I think you had a crush on us. We definitely respect one another. Beasties were more punk back then, and I think we had some influence by our capacity to mix things up. Perhaps it gave the Beasties [an idea] of how it could be done. Those were the days.
What are your plans for the future?
Only Jah knows the future. Bad Brains has a life of its own. All any of us can do is be ready for battle in the musical cosmic war of good or evil, and I’m still waiting on my beat from Adam Yauch for my highly anticipated solo release, Soldier Styles.