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Inside the Beastie Boys’ Oscilloscope Laboratories

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Yesterday evening, IFC’s Lunchbox crew paid a visit to the Beastie Boys’ Oscilloscope Studios–or as Adam Yauch later corrected me–the Oscilloscope Laboratories. I’d tell you where it was, but besides signing a confidentiality agreement, myself, along with my fellow IFC crewmembers were blindfolded and driven around in the back trunk of a car. I think we went over a couple bridges, but I couldn’t tell you for sure–if I had to guess, I’d say their secret den is somewhere between Jersey City and upstate New York.

(left: Adam Yauch testing the Oscilloscope’s surveillance system.)

We met up with Adam Yauch (aka MCA, aka Preying Mantis, aka nephew of world renown filmmaker Nathanial Hornblower) to tape an episode of Lunchbox, which will air this Tuesday, April 29 (Noon EST) on–the same week that Yauch will be premiering his brand new basketball documentary, Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot, at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.* I should also point out that the film features college hoops phenoms, Michael Beasley and Kevin Love, sure to be top picks in the upcoming NBA draft.

*NYC Fun Fact: For all of those not familiar with New York City, Tribeca is the section of town in lower Manhattan known as the TRIangle BElow CAnal Street.

This was my first trip to the Oscilloscope since 2004, when I attended a listening session for the Beastie’s soon-to-be-released album, To The Five Boroughs. Upon entering the Laboratories, MCA told me to follow him into one of the building’s many offices. He showed me a picture I had drawn of the Beastie Boys years earlier, which was resting on the same wall as Nathanial Hornblower’s Grammy Nomination certificate–what an honor!

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Before I go any further, I guess I should point out that drawing pictures of people I admire is a habit I formed as a youngster, which (for some reason or another) I haven’t been able to break. In the early 80’s I sent one of my first drawings to Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Kent Tekulve (left), and I’ve been doing it ever since. Is this an odd ritual? Perhaps, but what are you gonna do?

You’d expect the O-scope offices to be frantic like a newsroom, considering that Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot is set to premiere in just a few days. It was actually quite the opposite though. The 3-man Oscilloscope team seemed pretty laid back, and the halls of the Laboratory had the silence of an after-hours school building.

For those familiar with Beastie Boys-lore, you should know that their lair (which resembles an old-school newspaper office) has been featured in music videos like “Ch-Check It Out” and “Shazam! The Melee” (featured on Awesome; I Shot That’s Gratis Textiles disc). Presently, the Lab resembles the bedroom of a boy who just got back from a long camping trip, or in this case, the room of a band who just got off a busy touring year. The main lobby of the Oscilloscope is stacked high with road cases, organs, empty adidas boxes, and see-through bongos. Hanging from the ceiling is a monstrous-looking salad bowl contraption–which I’m sure the Beastie Boys peer into from time-to-time practicing their fish-eye lens moves.


(right: The Beastie Boys making good use of the Oscilloscope digs in their “Ch-Check it Out” video.)

To the naked eye, the Oscilloscope looks more like a really cool thrift shop than a film distribution office/music studio. Every few feet you’re greeted with a neat little knick-knack–a 70’s style miniature basketball hoop, a fake-mustache kit, a dollar-store S.W.A.T. team fun-pak, a Roland SP 303 (resting on the same counter as an espresso machine), and the Beastie Boys’ Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, which casually sits atop their refrigerator with a handful of other statues and figurines.

Moments before our interview started, Mike D–with bicycle in tow–popped out of one of the offices. After exchanging a few pleasantries I asked, “So, what have you been up to lately?”

“Ah, not much, just coming up here, makin’ some music, that’s about it.”

“Oh yeah, what kind of music are you making?” I foolishly inquired.

Mike proceeded to list ten or so different genres of music, leading me to believe that the new Beastie Boys’ album–which he said should be out by next year–will be a Latin-infused, Asian hip-hop, hardcore, world-music album. At the end of his lengthy description, a smile appeared on his face, basically telling me, “C’mon Jim, you know better than to ask what a new Beastie Boys album is going to sound like,”

Minutes later MCA and I sat down for our Lunchbox interview. Continuing with the thrift-store-vibe, MCA informed me that the chairs we were sitting on were “finds” from nearby trash heaps. Considering I survived many years of post-college life on garbage-picked treasures, I felt right at home.

Knowing that MCA is a meticulous worker (and also discovering that he was up until 3AM the night before making last-minute adjustments to the film), I felt compelled to ask, “Is it tough being a perfectionist?”

MCA replied, “I don’t know if I’m a perfectionist. Here’s how I look at it. When you’re given a deadline–you work as hard as you can, trying to make something really good, up until that deadline hits.”

Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot will premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival this Monday night, April 28 (6PM, BMCC), and will hit theaters on June 28. My little sit-down Oscilloscope-chat with MCA can be seen this Tuesday, April 29 on’s Lunchbox. Also, make sure to follow all of the Tribeca Film Festival happenings at

Following our interview at the Oscilloscope Laboratories, MCA asked, “So does this take care of one of your blogs for today?”

I thought about it for a second, and responded, “I guess it does–good idea.”

The IFC Lunchbox crew was then bound-and-gagged, stuck into a trunk of a car, and found ourselves on the bank of the Hudson River a few hours later.

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