The Story Behind Blank on Blank’s Lost Beastie Boys Interview

On May 4th of last year, Adam Yauch (a.k.a. M.C.A. from the Beastie Boys) passed away from his battle with cancer. Later that summer, David Gerlach from Blank on Blank was approached by a former radio reporter for ABC News Radio named Rocci Fisch who said he had a previously unheard interview of the Beasties that pre-dated the release of the trio’s debut Licensed to Ill and conducted while they were on Madonna’s Like a Virgin tour. Fisch said he was willing to donate it to a project Gerlach had put on Kickstarter that aimed to revamp old audio interviews into YouTube and app-friendly incarnations. (“Remixing the archives,” is how Gerlach’s website puts it.)

When he heard the footage, Gerlach became smitten with the Beasties’ banter. “It was like a fly-on-the-wall kinda moment in time for some kids who’d go on to become cultural icons,” he says. “None of them were 21 yet, they’re sitting on a bed in a hotel room and they’re just kinda ripping and cracking jokes and also kinda telling their story. They go from being serious to talking shit about Chaka Khan and being called rappers in the suburbs. It was magic.”

After picking out four or five sections of the interview that he felt “created a moment in time, in this case circa 1985,” Gerlach set to work with the animator Patrick Smith. “I love Patrick’s style because it’s creative and smart but simple,” he says of the visuals. “It adds a nice layer of story-telling to the audio.”

Hearing Yauch’s voice from the vault after he’d passed away was a strange and moving experience for Gerlach. “Me, personally, I’m 37 so I had Licensed to Ill on cassette tape when I was ten-years-old,” he recalls. “Listening to the interview takes you back personally to a moment in time and you realize some people are taken before they should be.”

The remaining Beasties, Ad Rock and Mike D, haven’t yet offered any comment on the interview remix, but Gerlach ends the short video with an image from Sunny Bak. “She did a lot of photographs during that era and I know she was excited to see us remake it,” he explains. “I’d love to hear what the other Beastie Boys feel about it though. I think it’s just a great tribute to those guys.”

 

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