Guess what? The Beastie Boys are fucking around again. They are, by turn, liars, children, comedians, raconteurs, dancers, adults, philosophers. They insist on being interviewed together, with no substitutions allowed. This means that what we get is what we've got; three men – three middle-aged men, if you fancy picking nits – who talk incessantly and and climb over each other's sentences like ants clambering over a tape recorder. It's as impossible to control as it is, later, to transcribe. You imagine they quite enjoy this.
They look good for their age. Horowitz is small and looks almost cherubic, the quietest of the three. Yauch, grey and stoical, is rough-voiced and responsive, if not always in the way you might think, or expect. But it's Michael Diamond who is the dynamo today, the fuel for their folly. Loud if not loutish, it would only take half a tab of acid before Mike D began to look like Mr Spock.
All the while, the three of them are talking, talking, talking.
"Have you heard of a place in England called Chesthairshire?" asks Diamond.
There's no such place.
"There is!" He's insistent, now, alive. "We're friends with the mayor of Chesthairshire."
Obviously you're talking bollocks.
"See, that's an English word!" This is Mike D again. "He uses that word all the time."
If you think about it, or even if you don't. the Beastie Boys are almost without peer. They began life as a reedy punk rock band, aping their heroes in the Bad Brains – rather badly, as it goes. They moved on to an almost avant-garde electronic beat music, and did this with an ear for uncommerciality but promise nothing of what was to come. When they did go commercial they did so in a way that excited people, of course, with which also terrified some of them, in a way that modern music is perhaps incapable of doing any more. They fused new forms, utilised a new-ish promotional tool called music video, reached over to the people who want to hear them. And there were millions upon millions of them.
Then they were supposed to go away – they had their time, they'd made their money. A band who even in 1987 had the nous to take Fishbone and Public Enemy on tour with them, the Beastie Boys were not yet spent. Derided for being plastic and (sometimes) white and (yes, even) Jewish, they're still here. Actually, they're more than still here. Interviewing them might be like trying to land three particularly feisty fish (and failing) but the Beastie Boys exist in the present tense. Because after 20 years of existence almost everyone I've spoken to wants to know what the new album sounds like.
It sounds like it was meant to be. Even though it was never meant to be.
"Other than a hair metal band who tend to start up specifically with the intention of being big and famous, how many people start bands with any kind of future in mind?" asks Michael Diamond. "I know we didn't. And I know we don't make albums that we think at the time are masterpieces. We just record songs that we like and fit it all together as best we can. It's all in the present. Being in a band is all about the present, being fun and about it being something you want to do right now. There was never any thought to the future."
"Yeah, still. We just do what we do, and here we are."