BECK HANSEN SHEDS LIGHT on his sometimes stand-offish persona in a thoughtful and frank interview in the latest issue of MOJO magazine. The LA-raised singer-songwriter-producer releases his 12th studio album, entitled Morning Phase, on February 24, but as he reveals to MOJO’s Martin Aston, self-posed questions about his role and worth have reverberated through a six-year gap since his previous album proper, Modern Guilt.
“There’s a point where you feel, am I done now?” reflects Beck. “Is it still good? I was sure I had more [to offer], but was it necessary? There were other reasons too, like my physical issues were definitely limiting me, but these last two years, it’s got better.”
A spinal injury temporarily left Beck unable to sing and play. But it’s not the first time he’s questioned his place in the music landscape. Criticism of his first hit single, Loser, during 1993-1994, genuinely wounded him, and not just metaphorically…
“I had a lot of negativity from peers. At a Pavement show, a guy knocked me to the ground.”
“I had a lot of negativity from peers,” he tells MOJO, “which is funny because people now say they loved that song. I remember at a Pavement show, a guy knocked me to the ground, and people would yell at me. They thought Loser was a sell-out.”
Peer-to-peer sniping would return. In autumn 2002, he toured his exquisite Sea Change album with Flaming Lips as his backing band, but Lips’ singer Wayne Coyne wasn’t shy in telling tales to journalists of Beck’s aloofness – interpreted as a rock star trip. What did Beck think of that?
“I was very surprised,” he says, “because I have a videotape of the last night where they were saying, ‘I love you, this tour has changed our lives, you’re a brother,’ so it really messed my head up, I went around for a year thinking people hated me. What [Wayne] didn’t know was that I was really sick during that tour. I had some condition and I barely had the strength to pick up a guitar.”
Elsewhere in a fascinating interview, Beck tells of the perils of his gang-ridden childhood neighbourhood; the reasoning behind last year’s Song Reader project (an “album” of sheet music) and ongoing projects including an “upbeat” album and songs recorded with some of the session musicians who made Michael Jackson’s Thriller. His latest release, Morning Phase, is awarded five out of five stars in the same issue of MOJO.
PHOTO: Piper Ferguson for MOJO