He has taken these sabbaticals before. In 1987, after their album Licensed to Ill became Capitol Records’ fastest-selling debut of all time, the Beasties moved to L.A. Yauch returned to New York in 1992, after “drifting for many years”—living on friends’ couches and snowboarding in Utah. In the late nineties, he essentially worked full time on organizing the Tibetan Freedom Concerts. (And no, he doesn’t agree with Sharon Stone that the China earthquake was karma for the country’s treatment of Tibet: “Chengdu is right on the border of Tibet. Even if that wasn’t the case, I feel that karma is a complicated thing. Especially when you think about the school that collapsed, it’s hard to think that those children—certainly not in this lifetime—had much to do with what’s going on in Tibet.”)
In the meantime, the music business has also changed. Gunnin’ includes new Beastie tracks, and a mix of seventies R&B and funk, but there won’t be a soundtrack for sale. “The music industry is having so much trouble right now that nobody really wanted to pay for the clearances,” he says.
The Beasties’ last two albums were an old-school hip-hop tribute to NYC (To the 5 Boroughs) and an instrumental album (The Mix-Up). Where else is there to go? Might it be inappropriate for him to be a 50-year-old Beastie Boy? “I’ve thought about that,” he says. “But so far I feel like our music has managed to adapt to who we are at that time. If I listen to the different records, even though there are a lot of lyrics I wouldn’t necessarily write now, I can still kind of laugh at them and say, ‘That’s what I felt like at the time, and it’s funny that it’s on that record. I’m a father now, and I might not say that.’ As long as our music can adapt—that’s probably the best scenario.”
And even if he’s banned sneakers at work, his job still ain’t a job.