|The Beastie Boys strike a pose at a downtown Toronto hotel. (PHOTO: Mark Daniell, JAM!)
TORONTO - Should you ever find yourself part of a decades-old band that has sold millions of records and you're just now considering making your first-ever concert film, Beastie Boys' rapper Adam Yauch (a.k.a. MCA) has some advice for you: There's safety in numbers.
Flanked by Beastie mates Adam Horovitz (a.k.a. Adrock) and Michael Diamond (a.k.a. Mike D) at their downtown Toronto hotel, the 41-year-old Yauch says that's how the New York-based trio looked at it when they decided to let audience members film the band's sold out show at Madison Square Garden on October 9, 2004, for the recently released DVD, "Awesome; I F***in' Shot That."
Fingers pointed towards the graying MC, Diamond shakes his head and starts laughing.
"It was all this guy right there," he says pointing at Yauch. "Don't look further. Right there. Blame him," he adds with a grin.
The band had been toying with the idea of making a conventional DVD when Yauch, who had spotted some grainy cell phone footage while cruising the band's message board, hatched the plan of creating an entire movie shot by fans.
"The idea had always been floating around," Yauch says, sliding back into an oversized chair, his blue blazer draper neatly behind. "But when it actually came time to do it, it wasn't so much like, 'Let's make a concert film.' It was more like, 'Here's an interesting way for us to document one of our shows.'"
A mere three days from curtain call, the Beastie Boys posted a message on their website inviting fans to sign up to film the concert. The only caveat? "Start it when the Beastie Boys hit the stage and don't stop 'til it's over."
"We were hoping not to spend too much money so that if it sucked we wouldn't have to do anything with it," Yauch jokes. "But, by having 50 cameras, we were gambling that something interesting would hopefully be going on with at least one of those 50 different people."
"There was no net," Diamond exclaims.
Couldn't they just have hired a big name director to make sure things went smoothly?
"Did we consider bringing in M. Night Shyamalan?" Diamond asks. "Hitchcock, somebody like that?
"That would have been expensive."
Having seen the film several times since its debut at the Sundance Film Festival last January, Yauch, who acts as the band's movie and video director under the pseudonym Nathaniel Hornblower, says he hoped that allowing people to shoot would spark a dialogue between what was happening onstage and what was going on in the audience.
Adds Diamond: "With most concert films, after you see one song, that's pretty much what the whole movie looks like. There's basically little or no variation at all. So, there was something nice about watching the show from the fans' point of view where each and every song had a different approach visually."
The end product is raucous, rowdy and raw. One fan shoots himself urinating, while other snippets show people buying beer, dancing in the aisles and lip-synching the band's songs word for word.
Footage of the Beasties captures the Boys from angles close enough to show their sweat, to shots that look like they were taken from Times Square.
Heck, even big name Hollywood stars are caught on tape. Not that the Beasties think much of them.
"Ben Stiller?" Horowitz asks. "He's a very bad dancer. He cannot dance a lick. He's a good lip-syncher.
"A friend of ours was sitting right in front of Stiller and she heard his wife warning him, 'Ben, there's so many cameras out here. Everybody's filming you. You got to stop dancing. You got to just tone it down.' He didn't listen though."
"To be fair to Ben," Diamond interjects, "he doesn't really dance in the movie. What he does is air rapping."
"No, no," Yauch corrects. "There's this little dance he does during 'Body Movin' right on the line, 'Do the robotic satisfaction.'"
"Oh," Diamond cringes, "you're right."
Asked whether the film has sparked a new wave of creativity amongst the band, Yauch confirms that they're in the midst of writing material for their follow up to 2004's "To The 5 Boroughs."
"Wait 'til you hear the new shit that we're working on," Horowitz seconds. "The shit is hot."
"We have no idea when it's going to come out, but we're having fun making it,' adds Diamond.
An hour away from the band's appearance at MuchMusic, Yauch, who has been behind much of the visual imagery for the band, directing videos for "So What'cha Want," "Intergalactic" and "Ch-Ch-Check It Out," ponders what constitutes music television today and shakes his head. "It's a little strange these days," he says. "I wish there was still some stations that were dedicated to showing videos. I miss having stations that just play music videos."
The band's ability to switch between the absurd and the serious is, more or less, the key to who they are as musicians and songwriters. Moments after chuckling about Ben Stiller, Diamond uses the music television bit to talk about how today's MTV-set fare in the consciousness-raising game (the Boys organized the Tibetan Freedom Concerts in the '90s and headlined the New Yorkers Against Violence benefit in the wake of September 11th).
"There's a couple of people who do that incredibly well. But, ultimately, most pop music is... pop music."
Staunch critics of President George W. Bush (they released the anti-war track "In A World Gone Mad..." as a free download on their website in 2003), a chill descends on the room when they're reminded he's still in the infancy of his second term.
"He's really coming along nicely isn't he?" Yauch says looking at band mates.
"I didn't realize, 'til I was at my mom's house last week, and noticed my step dad's 'Days Left In Office' countdown clock, that he has a couple years left," Diamond says. "Who knows what could happen? He's got a few good years to really screw things up further. It's frightening."
"It's sad and scary at the same time," says Horowitz, who, on the DVD, dedicates 'Sabotage' to the maligned president. "He's really getting comfortable with himself and, you know, it scares me."
With a driver waiting out front and their bodyguard busily making last minute preparations for a late-evening dinner, the mood lightens when the Boys start arguing over whether or not Mah Jong and Boggle are board games. Horowitz declaring Scrabble his favourite game next to hide-and-seek, the Beasties consider what putting together the film has taught them about their fans.
"They're complex people," Horowitz shrugs stepping out onto a sun-drenched balcony. "They need love. And we hope they get it."
"Awesome; I F***in' Shot That" is in stores now.