Extended interview: Beastie Boys' Mike D.
Image by Jen Boyles
Just how do you go from ambushing nerds with pie in your videos and performing on Madonna's Like A Virgin tour in front of a massive penis statue to making a life mission out of saving Tibet from China and, for that matter, this very nation from oppressive Republican scheming? It's called growing up, people, and thank goodness for it. While we've had some great memories of Old School Beasties, a thankfully matured Mike D. talks to City Pages about Obama, neglecting Minneapolis and what exactly the Beasties are fighting for these days, at a time when there's so much to lose.
JB: I've been following you guys since I was 8 years old, and I was 18 the last time you were in Minneapolis in 1998. Minnesota is never a swing state – we tend to be pretty liberal, so all of a sudden we have Beastie Boys coming to our rescue because we're a swing state? It's crazy.
Mike D: You have Republican voters to thank for this, is what you're saying (laughs).
JB: Exactly. I just never thought i'd see you guys back here under these circumstances. Other than the reasons that bring you here, will you be happy to come back?
MD. We're actually big Mineapolis boosters. I have to say, to be completely honest – let's give credit where credit is due – Ad Rock has a bit of a fascination with Minneapolis, In fact, when he was on tour with BS200, which is a side band he had, he made sure to spend a lot of time there. On the last couple of tours, routing has come up and we have wanted to go there, but it's never worked out for whatever reason. But we always want to go there because there's that record store that's incredible – with the downstairs?
JB: Oh – Let It Be Records.
MD: Yeah it was, you know, right there. It's just right...down there. Where everything's covered with pedestrian bridges and whatnot.
JB: Clearly you've not been back in a while. So, where did the idea for this tour targeting “swing states” originate?
MD.: It started with us. We found ourselves in a similar predicament as a lot of people: we are in two hours and an economic crisis, our welfare money is about to come to an end, and healthcare is a mess. The future of our children is at stake. This is such a crucial election so we found ourselves in the position where we're asking, as many are, 'OK,, so how can we do everything in our power that we don't see this election like our prior two elections end up being decided by a relatively small margin of votes and states.
JB: So are healthcare, the economy and welfare the issues you follow most?
MD: Well, what's at our core and what's at the core in this election is our quality of life. It's all going to affect not only our quality of life but generations to come.
JB: The artists on the bill who are supporting this tour don't seem to have much in common at first thought. How did you decide to work together?
MD: You could say they're not correlated, yeah. You could say... eclectic! To me, it's a testimony of the gravity of this cause and the importance of getting people out to vote. I think you've got a really broad group of artists that feel this cause is equality.
JB: Do you support a certain candidate? I'm guessing Obama.
MD: The tour is all about getting people out to vote for whoever they're interested in. For me and my partners, I think it's pretty clear – you can look it up on the Internet. Haha. I feel impassioned and motivated and optimistic with what's been going on with the Obama campaign and the promises he's made and what he represents.
Do you think when you're on stage you're going to be saying, “Go out and vote --- p.s. , for Obama!” or are you keeping your preference to yourselves?
MD: The tour is about getting out and voting but as individuals it's clear on how we stand -- we have freedom of speech so we can say what we want. But it's a fine line because of all the campaign regulations and stuff and what you can and can't do.
JB: What's been the most frustrating part about the last 8 years?
MD: Where to begin. There is so much. I would say for me, one of the biggest issues that needs to be handled immediately is a complete overhaul and repair of our relationship to the rest of the world and a complete foreign policy overhaul. We're lucky, we are a band and get to go and travel the world, and basically traveling the world the last 8 years, people have been thinking of you as an American is not a great thing. This is really a shame because we want to be really proud to be Americans and we love this country. So that's the first thing. This is kind of like our image in action. Domestically, where to begin, I don't even know. It's like, you've got an economy crisis and an energy crisis which is tied into an environmental crisis, and that needs to be rectified immediately. And you've got the future of education and healthcare that dictates the tone and welfare of all our people.
JB: I think you're right in saying 'where to begin' -- we could go on forever.
MD: Yeah, i think that's probably about an hour discussion. Or more.
JB: Well, hopefully that will change in coming years, right? On a more positive note – who are your political heroes?
MD: The Obama campaign in a lot of ways -- emotionally and in my heart when I first started hearing about him -- was almost like the continuation of the lineage of Robert Kennedy. Engineering this promise of what government could be and the equal opportunity it could provide, and beyond civil liberties, the equality and respect that could pervade -- governement first as an example -- but then all the way through to the workplace and schools. It's something that's so sorely missing from the last 8 years of the Bush administration where everything is secret -- you don't need to know anything even if you want to. If you're gay, we're not a government for you and [Obama's message] is so opposite of that.
JB: God, I love you.*
MD: Me too, let's elope immediately.*
*Okay, so, the last two lines of this conversation didn't happen in actuality ... but I used to whisper it at my Beastie posters many a morning in my younger days. Eh, who am I kidding -- yesterday. Told you I was hopeless!
-- Jen Boyles ;)
Beastie Boys with Tenacious D & Ben Harper
Saturday, Nov 1, 2008
Roy Wilkins Auditorium