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Topspin's Ian Rogers: How I met the Beastie Boys

September 14, 2010 |  6:22 pm

Zoe and Ian Rogers How does a nerdy fanboy get to go on tour with the hottest band of his time?

Our profile of Ian Rogers of Topspin in Tuesday's Los Angeles Times deliberately left out the story of how Rogers met the Beastie Boys in the early 1990s and was invited to go on the road with the band.

We omitted the details not because we were lazy, but because Rogers (pictured on the right with his daughter Zoe in 1996) himself told it best. His description of the events, sent as an e-mail response to our questions, is a picture of serendipity, powered by a couple of good ideas along the way. Want to go on tour with Radiohead or Eminem? Read on, and you might find some tips.

The following is an edited version of Rogers' story, in his own words. It starts out with how he met John Silva, the Beastie Boys' longtime manager, in 1993. 

There wasn't a computer in John Silva's office, which was called Gold Mountain Management at the time. There was a record label down the hall called World Domination, which had the only Internet connection in the building. Jason Fiber, who worked at World Domination, saw the Beastie Boys site I'd created and walked down the hall to Silva's office. "You have to see this," Fiber told Silva. They saw it, and John had his assistant Bethann reach out to me.

I started working for Gold Mountain as a consultant from that point, building websites for their artists for $8.50 an hour, which was a lot of money to me at the time. In addition to the Beastie Boys, I helped with the Breeders, Redd Kross, Bonnie Raitt and others.

When the Beastie Boys came through Los Angeles for Lollapalooza in 1994, Bethann called to see if I wanted to come. I was a punk rock kid and wasn't interested in the big festival shows on principal. I'd already seen the Beastie Boys a few times and didn't really want to see them with 20,000 other people. The conversation went something like this:

Bethann: "Do you already have tickets to Lollapalooza?"
Rogers: "No."
Bethann: "Would you like to come?"
Rogers: "No, that's OK. Thanks much. I appreciate it. But I don't need to come."
Bethann: "Really?"
Rogers: "Yeah. Thanks, though!"

A week later, I got another call.

Bethann: "The band has never seen the Internet and would really like to. Would you come show it to them?"
Rogers: "Yeah!  If they're genuinely interested, I'd love to come."

So I went to Indianapolis and we did everything except look at the Internet. We played basketball, rode skateboards, talked about music, ate and drank. At the end of the day, I said, "So, do you guys want to look at the Internet or what?" 

Adam Yauch [one of the Beastie Boys] said, "Let's look at it tomorrow. Come to Detroit with us!" 

I said, "Whoa! Wait, I have a kid." They said, "Bring her!" 

So I drove back to Bloomington, grabbed Zoe, drove her to my mom's and dropped her off, then drove on and spent more time with the band in Detroit.  It was there that I showed a room full of people the Internet. No one in the room, apart from Marc Geiger and Matt Sweeney, had ever seen it.

Later, I had a conversation with their tour manager while at Lollapalooza that year.

Manager: "How's it going, kid?"
Rogers: "Great.  But I can't figure out why these guys want me hanging around."
Manager: "Let me tell you, kid. They think this Internet thing is going to be useful to them, and they think maybe you can help. They're trying to figure out if you're going to be helpful, or if you're going to be annoying."
Rogers: "How am I doing?"
Manager: "You're doing OK."

I was still in Indiana when I got a call from Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys about going on tour with them very early in 1995.  Here's the rundown:

Diamond: "We have a not-for-profit, and we'd like to have some audio/visual thing to draw people over to their booth at the shows."
Rogers: "Let me think about ideas and call you back."

Rogers called Diamond back and said, "I have an idea: Take old video game machines, put Macs inside of them, and then build a Beastie Boys video game or sorts for people to play.  It'll be loud and can be based on the CD-ROM we've been building."
Diamond replied, "Cool, thanks, I'll call you back."

Mike didn't call me back. Someone from John Silva's office did:

Silva: "So the band loves the idea, we need a budget, and we're going to need you at Universal Studios for pre-production in April."
Rogers: "Wait, wait, I think there's been a mistake. I'm in college. I have a kid. I don't even know how to do the idea.  Mike asked for an idea, I gave him one. You guys should totally do that."
Silva: "You want to do this, kid. We'll figure it out."

So we figured it out. I dropped out of graduate school, bought old video game machines, and took them on a Beastie Boys tour.

-- Alex Pham

Photo: Zoe Rogers (left) and her father, Ian Rogers, in matching Sly and the Family Stone T-shirts in 1996. Credit: Buzz Magazine.

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