Mike D Wonders ‘Do I Sound Like a West Coast Douche?’

When the Beastie Boys made the move from New York to LA to begin work on the follow up to License to Ill, they found a place where they fully became almost more themselves.

Their LA studio, complete with skateboard ramps, G-Son was more hangout than mere workspace, and out of it spewed forth a free-flowing collaborative spirit that buoyed the Beasties’ best work. So there was an influence on the albums made in LA that respect, what Mike D calls the “space-and-time-luxury” but he tells Vulture, “Paul’s Boutique is still a very New York record.” It also failed spectacularly. Which was step one in the redemption of the Beastie Boys.

One of the other things the West Coast opened Diamond up to was surfing, “Although I could have grown up my whole life surfing in Rockaway. There are really good waves in New York. I feel sort of like an idiot that I didn’t take advantage.”

Although I could have grown up my whole life surfing in Rockaway. There are really good waves in New York.

These days he and his family are rooted at his home base in Malibu, though he calls his existence nomadic and hopes to raise his kids as citizens of the world, spending time in Indonesia and other far-flung locales. But does he fit the classic mode of the New Yorker moving to California and becoming a laid-back cosmic cowboy (a cliche the interviewer rightly points out the young Beasties likely would have had a field day with)? Maybe a little. “Do I sound like a West Coast douche?” he asks rhetorically. Then offers up in air quotes: “Wow, I helmed this wave and I was just going and I was connected to it and there were three dolphins swimming face to the wave. And then I turned into a moon maiden …”

But, all the same, he finds a connection between making music and surfing, and it fulfills for him a role that music once did:

It truly is intoxicating — it’s probably the endorphins that does it. One of the most profound things about it for me is that in this era when we are all connected all the time, [surfing] is time out of the day where not only are you not connected to any device, you are connected to the ocean, a power far, far greater than you. You become this little speck, and if you are not present and don’t respect the ocean, you will be demolished by a wave.

I think musicians can become addicted to surfing very quickly because there’s overlap. Musicians are always chasing this fleeting transcendental feeling in the writing or playing of music where the rest of the world ceases to exist. Surfing is a simile for that experience. You’re getting the same sort of energy in a totally different form.

In the end, though, Mike D says LA hasn’t changed him completely. “I’m still neurotic.”

Check out the rest of Mike D’s really excellent and far-ranging conversation with Vulture in which he covers dealing with the loss of Adam Yauch, striving to be as eccentric as Bob Dylan, his long-lost Country Mike album, trying to find current music he doesn’t get and “The Hot Sauce Committee Part One.”