Skip to content

Farewell, Nathanial Hornblower

The world got very sad news that Nathanial Hornblower lost his battle with cancer. Better known as MCA of the Beastie Boys, his real name was Adam Yauch.

No doubt, he was a musical trailblazer, but he was a pioneer in more ways than you probably knew.

Nathanial was the first “customer” of Xero. If you look closely, you might notice the name Nathanial Hornblower in our screenshots and demo videos. When I designed the first screens for Xero we needed a fictitious customer name. To make sure long names didn’t break the design I used Nathanial Hornblower.

It was also a nod to my first real customer, the Beastie Boys.

Skills to Pay the Bills

In 1994, I quit my first job, bought a computer on credit cards and lived on unemployment checks while I worked on a business idea. I designed and coded a prototype of an online music store, based on my local record shop Groove Merchant. I flew to LA and pitched it to all the major labels, who promptly laughed me out the door. Still laughing?

Unphased, I found a way to get in touch with my heroes, the Beastie Boys. I pitched a concept for a multimedia project: an interactive video and audio CD-ROM packed with rarities, home movies and bootleg material. As soon as they saw my Groove Merchant prototype, they sent me a check along with a box of videos and outtakes from their archives.

I immediately hired my brother, another friend, and founded my first business, Turntable.


Looking back, I am eternally grateful to the Beastie Boys for having the vision and courage to experiment with a new medium – not just hip hop. They also took a gamble on an unknown geek with some wild ideas. They hired me when nobody else would. It didn’t just change my life when I was starting out, it helped influence and define a new design, technology and business medium.

Going through my closet, I found a copy of the original CD-ROM that still plays on my ancient Powerbook. Nearly 18 years later, here’s a video I shot on my iPhone of the work we did. Finding this has been a great way for me to remember and celebrate everything that was brilliant about the Beastie Boys.


Thank you for everything, Yauch. You had a huge impact on my life and career. My heart goes out to your family and friends.


Read more about Business, Design



Anja O’Connor
7 May 2012 #

What legends, how gutsy they were at the time, the white boys! Thanks for the clip, sad indeed MCA is gone

That is some cool trivia, Philip! Thanks.

Guy Pearson
8 May 2012 #

RIP to MCA, one of the original disruptors of our generation.

Touching to see all the tributes across the US and to recognise all the good work he did outside of music including his free tibet concert in San Francisco, which attracted the largest crowd since Live Aid.

“You gotta fight for your right”, which, he most certainly did.

17 July 2012 #

This is very cool.. There’s a discussion about it here:

I’m sure people there have tons of questions for you.

Do you ever plan on releasing this. Say as an ISO file so it can be burned to a CD??

Reverend Smith
18 July 2012 #

That thing is awesome. How come it never got distributed?

Nathanial Hornblower
23 February 2014 #

Nathanial Hornblower isn’t dead, you ninnies! Adam “MCA” Yauch (RIP), sadly, moved on, but NH is alive and well. Duh!

How dare you assume such balderdash! You’re at sixes and sevens! Perhaps you mean a different Hornblower, given I spell my first name without an “e”?


Add your comment

We welcome all feedback but prefer a real name and email address.