Adam Horovitz has always been a man of many talents.
After all, the Beastie Boys rapper has spent his life creating art – musical or otherwise – and his current endeavours simply follow suit. Making music, remixing friends and scoring documentaries, the MC has also found time to star in While We're Young, a new venture from Noah Baumbach.
“It definitely wasn't something I was planning on,” he explains. “The director, Noah Baumbach, is an old friend of my sister and I invited him to come see this band I have with a friend of mine. He came, and we were just having drinks afterwards and he was like: hey, you want to be in my movie? So that's how it happened.”
Famed for his often curious choice of cast, Noah must have seen something indelible within the rapper. “I don't know why he thought it would be a good idea to have me be in his movie,” Adam admits. “Clearly, it wasn't my body of work as an actor.”
A rare full length feature film appearance, Adam Horovitz admits that he, rather mistakenly, expected the process to be rather a lot simpler than it actually was. “I thought it was going to be a lot easier,” he says, before correcting himself: “Not easier, but I thought I was going to be a lot cooler.”
“I showed up, I was like: yeah, it's not big deal. I've been all over the world! What's the big deal? And then I was sitting down opposite Ben Stiller with cameras and everything and I was like: oh shit. This is a real thing. This isn't like me and my two stupid friends making a video.”
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In the film Adam Horovitz plays a sort of informal counsel to Ben Stiller, as the central character attempts to adjust to the knowledge that his youth has, for the most part, gone. “Accepting your place in the world, your current state of being,” the rapper explains. “I guess we're all trying to do that. I accept that I'm not 22. It was interesting, it was definitely interesting.”
Once again, though, the rapper found his experiences of the acting process didn't quite meet reliaty. “When he said, do you want to be in my movie and then I read the script the next day it definitely wasn't what I thought it would be,” Horovitz admits. “Not that I had a thought about what it would be, but I was like: oh, OK. This is like an actual thing that you have to be an actor to do.”
Thrust in front of the glare of the cameras with a script to memorise, Adam Horovitz was forced to focus in a manner the free-form world of the Beastie Boys didn't quite preclude. “It was more, I guess, a learning process preparing for it because I've never really prepared for anything in my life before. If that makes sense.”
Equally, familial ties placed extra pressure on the actor. “Basically, my sister stressed me out. She said: you'd better prepare for this. But being on a set... I've done all of that stuff before. I guess actors, when they're in a serious movie, there's not a lot of hanging out, chit chatting. Everybody's in their zone, focussed.”
Out now, While We're Young is a warm, charming and frequently funny film, aided in no small part by a sweet turn from Horovitz himself. Asked to evaluate the final product, the Beastie Boy admits he was slightly surprised by the finished project. “I thought I did good,” he says. “It's weird watching yourself doing that sort of thing but I didn't hate it. I wasn't embarrassed, which is nice. I can't say that about everything. I've certainly done embarrassing things caught on film before.”
Close friend James Murphy arranges the sound, but it appears that Ad-Rock's services weren't required. “I guess James Murphy is better at it than me,” he laughs. “That's the message I'm getting sent. I've known Noah for about 20 years and, y'know, he asks James to do what... two, three different movies? But that's cool. James is cool.”
Recently completing a handful of soundtrack projects himself, Adam Horovitz has found that, even with the Beastie Boys now over, he can't break out of the habit of creating something new each day. “Force of habit I make music almost every day,” he states. “Some sort of music. Just on my computer. Some people play video games or whatever and I make music. I don't know that anything will ever come of it but it's just... it's what I do.”
“It makes me happy, working on music,” he admits. “I guess also because the program I use, Reason, is kind of like a video game, so it's kind of like I'm playing video games. It's like playing Tetris. It's like sonic Space Invaders.”
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We always did it together in the same room. Writing, recording, everything.
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Alongside this, Ad-Rock is currently sifting through the Beastie Boys tapes for a potential archival release. “There are specific tapes that I want to go through and edit and mix around and do something with,” he says. “I feel like, somebody'll like 'em!”
“Specifically, the one thing that I have on my mind is that in a few different practise spaces we would practise at every day and just jam and make music and no one's ever heard any of that stuff,” he says. “It's pretty bad, so that's probably the reason. Some of that music is what turned into other songs of ours. And so I thought that would be cool: if you like our band then you would be interested in hearing where this sort of thing came from.”
The musician's current career seems to be formed by two strands: one nostalgic, the other grasping towards the future. Together, Ad-Rock and Mike D are penning a joint memoir, one that will encompass the Beastie Boys' career in its entirety.
“I don't know what it's going to end up to be,” he admits, “but what we're writing so far is just picking different things to write about. And then I'll write some of them and he'll write some of them. And then we send them to each other and comment on them – that's what we've been doing. I don't know what it's going to end up to be like but that's what we got so far.”
The two are working with an editor who will then help assemble something more structured, but Ad-Rock points out that this joint writing style directly echoes the manner in which Beastie Boys actually worked. “For the most part we always wrote lyrics together,” he states. “The three of us would be together almost every word that we said. And so that was maybe a backwards way to do things, but that's how we always did it. We always did it together in the same room. Writing, recording, everything.”
Two years from the death of close friend and collaborator Adam Yauch, there's still a sense of loss hanging over the conversation. Jovial, self-deprecating when discussing his acting role, the rapper's voice turns austere when reflecting on life without Beastie Boys.
“Well, that's what I'm doing now,” he states. “Just trying different things to see what I enjoy doing. We're writing this book, I was in a movie, I'm working on some music with friends, doing some soundtrack work. Trying to see what happens next.”
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While We're Young is out now.