Big ups to Lazybeth for typing this and posting it to bbs.beck.com.
Here's what she says:
This interview by Paul Lester is in the current (Dec.) issue of UNCUT
magazine. There's nothing earth-shattering, but Beck expands on subjects
he's been addressing in other recent interviews and says some
interesting things about his music and life, so I thought it was worth
UNCUT: The forlorn orchestral folk of Sea Change is a radical departure from the postmodern funkadelia of 1999's Midnite Vultures. BECK: Midnite Vultures was an aversion to becoming too respectable. That was the 17-year-old in me. It just didn't give a shit. It wasn't trying to fit into the hierarchical ideal of what important music should be like. It was wilfully unimportant, which I think is healthy. I like to fake people out every once in a while. U: You seemed to setout your stall for this record during a recent NYC concert where you performed versions of the Stones' "No Expectations," the Velvets' "Sunday Morning," and Big Start's "Kangaroo." B: Yeah. I had a room-mate who played "Kangaroo" all the time. It's haunted, it's got a beautiful melody and the lyrics describe something incredible. It's got a sense of the sublime, a feeling of grace. When I hear it now I always think of that movie Jesus' Son, when he sees the girl who's going to be his tortured undoing at the party. It's such an intense, romantic moment. U: You're not known for exorcising your demons on record. Was Sea Changes as much of a genre exercise as Midnite Vultures, or was it truly ripped from your soul? B: I don't talk too much about my personal life, but I would say it was ripped from the soul. I don't think I would bother to try to do something like this otherwise. When I hear the songs, there's definitely something going on in there. U: Did the problems you faced in our personal life mean you couldn't record the songs straight away? [In 2000, just before he began writing Sea Change, he read an email from a member of LA band Wiskey Biscuit to his fiancée, Leigh Limon, prompting a split.] B: I don't think I could have looked at them at that point….Does it make for uncomfortable listening? That's why I waited a couple of years before recording them. U: After the cut'n'paste approach of Mellow Gold (1994) and Odelay (1996), Sea Change is a coherent album with a singular, consistent mood. Is this the real you? B: Everybody has different sides to them. A well-rounded person has a sense of humour from the beating they've taken in life, but they also have a reflective side, an extravagant side, a more aggressive side, a shy and inhibited side….These are all aspects of people. U: But surely this is your most "authentic" record? B: I think it's a good part of me. It is a bit more melancholy, but it also has a redeeming, haunted beauty. Is it my least ironic record? It has the least sense of humour. I'm on a continual debate about the irony question. Irony can denote a distaste for the thing you're making fun of. Usually, I'm making fun of myself. But sometimes the more extrovert aspects of my music represent how I am as well. In my life, my happy-sad ratio would probably be about even. Well, hopefully a bit more joyous. With melancholy being the lowest point. I mean, everybody's been ruined by something, whether it's the loss of a loved one or a relationship not working out… U: Are listeners being given an opportunity to experience the pain you went through recording this album? B: It's not really pain, it's more a longing. The art allows the listeners to transmute the pain into longing. I think it will be a break-up record for some people, yeah. I have a few friends who have divorced recently and they came down to the [NYC] show and heard "Lost Cause" and it was helpful for them. Music should be cathartic. It articulates experiences. Certain songs capture a situation—it can be satisfying but almost painful, you know. U: Are you afraid of exposing yourself? B: Of course not. I'll go up onstage with a white feather and fan myself for half an hour. I need something in the performance where I can break the plastic covering off the situation. U: That surprises me. I can't think of anyone in rock who has revealed less of themselves, on record or in print. But then, maybe that heightens the mystique… B: I guess. I don't read a lot of interviews. I don't know what people say about themselves. I don't care. U: Your mother used to hang out with Warhol at the Factory in the late ‘60s, your father, who arranged the strings on Sea Change, was a busker, and your grandfather was an avant garde artist. Presumably, the rock'n'roll lifestyle is no longer an attraction. B: Well, I'm not from the suburbs. I grew up in the street. Families ripped apart. Depravity and poverty. When I was young we had a nicer house, but by the time I was 12 we were a little more down on our luck and living in rougher areas. So I don't have that much romance built around that. The Velvets were a real inspiration to me, but I think the depravity was just auxiliary. U: You grew up in LA's barrios surrounded by Mexicans, but you were brought up Jewish, weren't you? B: Yeah, but I wasn't bar mitzvah'd because we didn't have the money. My mom would talk about it all the time, and she'd send me to synagogue or I'd go stay with my best friend's family and go with him to Hebrew school, and we'd play dreidels… U: And your father, who divorced your mother when you were young, is a Scientologist. B: He's been a Scientologist for 35 years. I grew up around it, so there's things I know about it. It's hard to speak about it broadly. If we had an hour to talk about just that, I could do it justice. In terms of its practical applications, it has affinities with Buddhism. U: And your grandfather was a Presbyterian minister. B: Sure. I liked staying with my grandparents because they gave you cookies and you could watch kids' shows and get away with certain things. MY parents were very young, so they were more like contemporaries; we hung out as friends and equals. It wasn't the usual parent/child dynamic. My mother was very direct and communicative. She wasn't into punishment. It was more, "You did so and so, how did that make you feel?" U: Outrageous punk rockers like Darby Crash were regular house guests, which must have been weird. B: There were some interesting people around. It was like, whatever, there's strangers in the house. I was fairly used to it. We'd just play badminton with them or they'd chase us round the park. U: What were you like as a teenager? B: I wasn't the most popular kid. I was more of a loner, doing my own thing. I was kind of the way I am now—just there. My brother and I didn't have many friends. We hung out with people 10, 15 years older. We didn't do typical teenage things, going to the mall or keg parties. We'd stay out late, but nothing too illegal. Although we did get into trouble once for spitting on people at an amusement park from one of the rides. U: The Flaming Lips are going to be your support and backing band on your forthcoming US tour. Why them? B: I've been a fan of theirs for going on 13, 14, years now. They have a sensibility I can relate to, a sincerity in their songwriting, as well as an appreciation for spectacle and the absurd. What I also like is that they're pushing it harder than a lot of the younger bands. I love the idea that getting older doesn't have to mean getting more conservative and safe.