This article was originally printed in Thora-zine magazine in May 1994. I got it from
http://www.geocities.com/murxielago/articlethorazine.html


Thora-zine May 1994 


Beck 
Julie Grob 


thora-zine 
box 49390 
austin, tx 78765 
email: tzine@eden.com 


"Let's do it out there, it's really fuckin' hot in here," Beck says,
climbing through the window that leads from the stifling second-story
band room of the club to the flat roof which stretches around two sides
of the building. Brent and I follow him around the corner to hang out
in the cool evening air and conduct an interview before Beck's sold-out
show at Goat's Head Soup, only the second stop on his first national
tour since the "Loser" video first hit MTV about a month earlier.

Despite the teenage pandemonium below as kids wait in line for tickets,
all is quiet up on the roof as the three of us sit cross-legged, lazily
batting around interview questions and answers with frequent
thought-gathering pauses.

"People always say I came from the coffeehouses, and I played there, but
mostly I played in the punk-rock clubs and the all-ages. . . in
punk-rock clubs, there's a lot more energy."

"So you're from LA?" I ask. Beck suddenly reaches for the tape recorder
and holds it up to and exposed pipe which rises up out of the roof,
crooning, "Oh yes, my God!" The interview question is interrupted by the
loud FLUSH of a toilet from somewhere in the bowels of the club. Played
back on tape later, the toilet's flush interrupts the interview loudly
and hilariously, adding its own bit of commentary. "I thought my head
was going to explode," Beck says wide-eyed, setting the tape recorder
back down between us. He turns to me to resume the interview. "What was
that?" He asks. "Are you from LA?" I say, feeling a little silly. "I was
born there," he says, "but I lived in Kansas, I lived in New York City
for a few years. I was in the Lower East Side freak-out folk noise
Delta blues Pussy Galore scene."

When Brent asks what he did for work, he says, "I didn't work. I just
spent a couple of years sleeping on couches and being penniless. Just
playing music. There's just all these people there making music and
there's always a place to crash, and there's always something going on
every night. I played on the streets for money. I had a few jobs. I
had a job at the YMCA, taking pictures of people for their I.D.'s. That
lasted for about two weeks. It's really hard to find work there."

He came back to LA, stayed with his brother, and continued to play
music. He hooked up with the small independent label Bong Load, for whom
he originally recorded the album, "Mellow Gold."

The hip hop flavored single, "Loser," the sudden success of which Beck
makes seem like an overnight sensation, was written two-and-a-half years
ago. "When we recorded 'Loser,'" Beck says, "that was the first time I
ever rapped. . . The chorus should have been, 'I can't rap worth shit.'"
Somewhere along the way to releasing "Loser" on the indie label, Beck
found himself being courted by major label Geffen, the home of
idiosyncratic rockers NIRVANA (the late) and SONIC YOUTH. "[Geffen]
started talking to Bong Load about a year ago about signing me and I
just thought, 'Yeah, right.'" Beck laughs. "So I waited. . . I wanted to
finish up all the artwork and. . . mastered it, and we were about to
put it out last August and then all these. . ."

FLUSH. . . the toilet flushes again, and Beck passes the tape recorder
over the pipe to catch the sound before continuing. He explains that he
released 500 copies of the "Loser" single in LA aimed towards the
"college radio crowd." And then, all of a sudden, these commercial
stations started playing it and, "I got totally freaked out. . . It's
weird," he says, referring to KROQ, the station which originally broke
"Loser."

"They just took the song and ran with it, and I'm like, 'Yoo-hoo, I'm
back here.' I didn't get that much money," he says about the deal he
eventually signed with Geffen. "I got enough to pay my rent for a year
and buy some equipment and stuff. But it wasn't a money deal. If I'd
wanted to get a lot of money, I could've gotten three times as much."

He says that he spent nine months turning down the major labels when
they first approached him. "'Cause I didn't want to be in that world.
 It's like you lose control. And as soon as you're on that level,
you're immediately, it's perceived that you're asserting yourself as
some kind of like, 'I'm the greatest, I'm a rock-star.'" "They let me do
anything I want," he says of DGC. "I got a really weird contract where
basically, give 'em a tape of this," he gestures, "this toilet flushes
here, and they'd have to put it out."

His deal is unusual in that he can continue to put out records on
independent labels. He has one album which should be out on Flipside,
and an album and 10" due to come out on K Records. He also has plans to
put out a single. "So do you get any feedback from what people think of
the album?" I ask him, "Do people come up and talk to you at all?" "No. 
Nobody tells me," Beck says, "Every once-in-a-while, somebody says, 'Oh,
I like your album.' Mostly, people come up to me and say, 'Hey, you
faggot, you think you're really cool, huh?' I get most of that."

"The words are most important part to me," Beck says, fielding my
questions about his lyrics and whether he reads a lot of books. "Because
if the words suck, then I can't listen to something. . . That's all I've
had. I never had money to buy equipment and have a band with a big
sound. All I had was an acoustic guitar, you can only go so far, so I
had to make up everything else with having words that would interest
people. . . I'm not that well-read. I didn't go to high school. I'm
not really educated."

Beck tells us he dropped out of school in ninth-grade, because he had a
"totally free-form mom" who didn't really care what he and his brother
did. "Was she like a hippie mom?" I ask. "No, she was total
anti-hippie," he says. "She's just a chain-smoking,
make-your-own-dinner kind of mom."

Brent decides to take a picture of Beck. We warn him not to back up too
far, or he'll go off the roof. "I died for this interview," he jokes.
Brent mentions that he got a shot of Butthole Surfer Gibby Haynes the
night before at an MTV function. At the mention of Gibby, Beck pulls
something out of his pocket. "Gibby gave me this other night (in
Austin). He walked up to me and was like, 'Here man. . . have this. .
.' and I thought, 'Wow, who's this hippie guy?' That was awful sweet of
him, though." He passes me the small medallion, which is imprinted with
the popular needlepoint slogan, "God grant me the courage to change what
I can, the serenity to accept what I cannot change, and the wisdom to
know the difference."

"So Gibby knew who you were?" Brent asks. "He watches MTV, man," I joke.
"I don't have a TV, I've never watched MTV, I don't know anything about
it," Beck states. "Oh, you're all over it," I say gleefully. "It's
totally sick," he says. "I have a song called, 'MTV Makes Me Want To
Smoke Crack.' That was my first single. Now, I guess I'll have to
change it to 'MTV Makes Me Want To Kick Back.' I've never really seen
it, but now that we're on tour, I get to see it in motel rooms. I saw
it yesterday. They have something called 'Music Revolution' or
something, and it says (imitating a rock announcer's voice), 'Alice in
Chains, Janet Jackson, Crash Test Dummies, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl
Jam, and Beck!' And I totally lost it. I think all my hair flew out of
my head."

Brent asks him about something he had been mentioning earlier, an analog
synthesizer band he's starting called RADIO SHACK. "It's gonna be sort
of a Gary Numan cover band," Beck says. Brent doesn't remember Gary
Numan, the mid-80s British new-waver with the pasty face, slick hair,
and robotic gaze. "Gary Numan's HOT!" Beck exclaims. "Gary Numan's
H-O-T-T."

"Down in the Park," I chime in. "We do a cover of 'Down in the Park,'"
Beck says enthusiastically. We both hum a little of the song, a song
whose chilly words and completely electronic music ("Down in the Park
where the machmen meet the machines and play kill-by-numbers") couldn't
be further from Beck's own "beefcake panty-hose."

From the patio, we hear a male voice drift up. Beck leans toward the
voice. "Halfway through Beck's set, ...something," He echoes. "Did you
hear that?"

He looks at us and drops his voice to a conspiratorial whisper,
pretending to be the guy below plotting with his friend about what
they'll do halfway during Beck's set, ". . . hose him down!" 


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