Beck Working on “Song Reader” Record; Reveals “Morning Phase” Details

UPDATESong Reader will be released on CD July 29, 2014. Click here for details.
Beck isn’t exactly known to be an open book, but in the past ten days he’s given two revealing interviews speaking on the record for the first time about his spine damage and working with fellow musicians on an actual album of material from last year’s Song Reader sheet music project. The second interview was included in an excellent just published Rolling Stone article by David Fricke. The first came ahead of his return to Argentina last week with Página/12. The latter was published in Spanish, then translated back to English for this November 13th Future Heart article. Since then I’ve exchanged numerous messages with Roque Casciero, the interviewer for Página/12, and he’s sent me an audio recording of his exchange with Beck to correct the inevitable errors in the translation of a translation.

Below is a collection of the most revealing quotes from both interviews. The Rolling Stone quotes are linked and all others are from the Página/12 tapes transcribed exclusively by The Future Heart. To reiterate, unlike the November 13th post which relied on rough translations of translations, these are word-for-for transcriptions of the exact words Beck spoke directly from Roque’s recording (a short excerpt of the audio has been uploaded in the below video):

Beck On Releasing “Song Reader” Recordings with Peers (and maybe even fans)

“We have been working on that. We’re just trying to get different musicians to agree and I hope that happens soon.”

“If we got people to participate in a compilation of the songs I think that would be great and I’d also love to do another compilation of the versions that fans are doing. There’s some really good versions out there.”

Beck on Recording in Nashville in 2005

“I recorded a bunch of things real quick. Then I thought, ‘I need to come back and try this again.”

Beck on Returning to Nashville to Record at Jack White’s Third Man in 2007

“At the end of it, it wasn’t quite there but I ended up keeping a few songs.”
[“Waking Light,” “Blackbird Chain” and “Country Down” from this session all made it to Morning Phase].

Beck on the Unissued Albums He’s Recorded in the Past Five Years and Their Release on His 12″ Vinyl Series

“I’ve recorded albums but I just haven’t put them out, for different reasons. I spent a few years building my studio, I was producing other bands – you know I had a record that I recorded in 2008, at the end of that year (static on recording, briefly cuts out). After a few years I just felt like the music wasn’t as fresh to me. So I could’ve put it out in 2010, maybe, and it would’ve…(Beck trails off, leaves sentence unfinished)…But I started to put some of those songs on these twelve inches. I’m doing a series of twelve inches for my own label and those songs are coming out slowly but in the meantime I have a few other records that I’ve been working on.”

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to put out a record – or if I should put out a record. It felt like I was standing still, while everything else was in such flux. I didn’t really know where everything was landing.”

Beck on “Morning Phase” Being a “Sea Change” Companion

It was going back to the same place and seeing where we’re all at, like those Seven Up! movies, where they go back and see those people every seven years.

Beck on Producing Other Artists

“I love working with other musicians and being a part of making records. Helping other musicians is really fulfilling to me but it’s hard to make it work. A lot of bands are just looking for people to work for free. And you can’t pay the rent that way, but I’ve never been motivated by that. I’ve always tried to do things that felt right.”

“It’s something I always want to do. Earlier in my career I didn’t have time so the last five years I just decided to make more time to do those kind of things. And I think it was healthy to get onto the other side of the glass.”

“I think that’s healthy for any musician to get perspective but also to help somebody else.”

Beck on Releasing Another LP in 2014 After “Morning Phase” (Already Half Recorded)

“It’s still in flux. I’m thinking about the live show, a certain energy. That’s a whole other kind of writing – and difficult to do. You’re writing for a studio environment that is the antithesis of where the song is going to live.”

Beck on Playing Acoustic Shows

“There’s two sides of the kind of music I’ve been making since the beginning. I started out more as a singer-songwriter who played folk and blues music and then eventually that grew into experimenting and bringing in everything I could. But they’re really different – you know it’s the same train but it’s two different tracks.”

“My guitar player [Smokey Hormel] played with Tom Waits and Johnny Cash, so there’s all kinds of things that he can do that he doesn’t get to do when we’re playing the rock song, when we’re playing ‘Where It’s At.'”

“When we’re just playing songs from Odelay there’s a lot of things, there’s a lot of their talent that you don’t get to see. So the acoustic shows really more than anything for me it gives the opportunity to really show these incredible musicians.”

Beck On The South America Tour

The musicians that I’m coming down with I’ve played with for seventeen, twenty years.”

“It’s very rare to get them to go on tour with me but they all want to come to South America so I convinced them.”

“Playing with them has been one of the best things in making music over the last few decades. It’s an amazing band, and I don’t take it for granted.”

“I always enjoy coming down there. The audience is incredible and every band I talk to that goes down there has the best time. When we played in Santiago that was one of the best audiences I’ve ever had. And we haven’t been to Brazil in over ten years. It’s very special to get to come down there. And it will be special to have these musicians with me.”

“We’ve been doing this tour and done a few one-offs this summer. But everybody’s getting busy. Joey’s playing with Thom Yorke now [in Atoms for Peace] and Justin is producing a ton of albums. This might be it for some time.”

Beck on Vinyl and the Future of Digital Audio

“It [vinyl] is inconvenient but it is a beautiful object and it will be here longer than CDs, so that’s nice. But I think there are a lot of opportunities with digital files to make them better and I know that Neil Young is working on a system for that and I have my own archives that I’ve been working on for years of high res music. It will happen eventually and then people will fall in love with music again.”

Beck on His Spine Damage

I have had some injuries. I had severe damage to my spine but it’s getting better now so I’m back making music but that was a long, longlong recovery.”

I’ve been focusing more on guitar playing. I don’t think I’ll be able to do all those moves unfortunately but I think I can still put everything I have into it.

“I was in bad shape. There were a number of years where I couldn’t pick up my guitar.”

Beck on the Physical Pain of Recording Modern Guilt

“Making that record was like doing it with both hands tied behind your back. It hurt to sing. I’m whispering through half of those vocals.

Beck on Changes in the Music Industry

“I think every once in a while you have to stand back and take stock of where things are and the music business is changing so much, and the way people listen to music is changing. So I really thought a lot about what does it mean to make music, do people care?”

“I feel comfortable making music and playing music [but] the music business side of it is I think alien for most musicians, it’s not natural. I think if you left all the musicians to their own devices and told them come up with a quote ‘music business’ it wouldn’t be anything like the business that we’re in. We’re in a business that was created by, by, you know, business people. And that’s the way the world works because everything – you know it’s like any other product they have to sell it, they have to figure out how to get it to people. But if you left it to musicians it would be something totally different, I’m sure. I try to keep that in mind.”

It feels like important artists put out a record and after one day nobody’s talking about it. They’ll talk about it for the day it comes out and then…(laughs)…and then tomorrow fifteen more records come out, and then the next week another thirty records. And there’s new bands every week so I feel like for a lot of musicians it’s taking a little while for everyone to acclimate to the new environment, to figure out what it all means. And I think we’re still figuring it out as a society. What does all this mean? What is this doing to our brains? What is this doing our nervous systems and our souls?

Beck on Spotify

“It’s inevitable because it’s coming whether you like it or not. But it does beg the question of how it can sustain because the amount of money that you get from Spotify doesn’t allow you to actually pay the musicians or the people who work on the record. The model doesn’t work yet. So either we have to figure out ways to get people to help us make records for free or take a lot less money, but the way that it is now it doesn’t work. So I’m not sure, something’s going to have to give. But if I were to have to try to make my records and make them from the money that you get from Spotify I wouldn’t actually be able to make the records I’m making. I would not be able to hire other musicians and I wouldn’t be able to get someone to master my record. I’d have to do it all myself on a laptop which a lot of people are doing, which is fine, but it would just make a different kind of music.”


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