I believe this was originally published in No-Fi magazine, but I got it from

Beck Hanson
The Tools of Creation 

When it comes to guitar playing, the author of such alt-rock
hits as "Sexx Laws," "Loser" and "Where It's At" probably
wouldn't know a Pentatonic scale from a Lydian. Yet, like
Neil Young, his simplistic playing scratches an itch
somewhere most technical guitar masters can never reach.
Beck's guitar, whether noisy, experimental or delicate,
colors the tone of his music, allowing his frenzied beats
and quirky vocals to go where his creative muse takes them.
Here, Back gabs in his soft-spoken way about equipment,
emulation, and insatiable effort to evolve.

Guitar.com: Are you very particular about gear?

Beck: No. I'll use the latest new-fangled gadget, and I'll
use the oldest, falling apart piece of crap. Whatever sounds
good is what ends up in the mix. I'm not a collector of
guitars or amps or anything. I tend to find different
guitars for different songs. If I want to sound or the
phrasing for the guitar part to sound really deliberate and
kind of old, I'll just find the biggest neck guitar with the
hardest to play action -- something that will impose itself
on my playing -- just one of those shitty old blues guitars.
I can't even remember the name of the one I used a lot on
this record. But at the same time, I'll play a new Les Paul
or a Fender, and I have no patina to the sound. Sometimes I
like to play new manufactured guitars that have no real
character or charm. Also, I really like to get guitar
frequencies out of a keyboard. A lot of times, the guitar
sounds more like a piano, and the keyboards are doing more
of what the guitar should do. I'm also always interested in
getting the bass to play the heavy guitar parts and using
the guitar to play more delicate things.

Guitar.com: A lot of times you seem to use the guitar for
texture as well, almost in place of samples.

Beck: With some of the effects that I have, you can really
get some screaming keyboard-like sounds out of your guitar.
I tend to like the warbly sounds or the very thin, precise
guitar sounds -- the kind of distortion that sounds like a
dental drill. I like sounds that are emasculated and
one-dimensional. Sometimes I get the sound I want by
plugging straight into the board, and sometimes it comes
from a variety of different amps and effects.

Guitar.com: Do you view yourself as a competent guitarist,
or is the instrument just a tool to reach your creative

Beck: I'm not a great guitarist. I think I got to a point of
ability that I was fine with. I can play the things I hear
in my head. I can't do one of those ripping solos. That's
one thing I would like to be able to do. I'd love to use
that as a sort of flourish live. So maybe, I'll go to the
woodshed and come up with some ideas.

Guitar.com: You can say a lot more in a sparse way sometimes
than you can by being very flashy and complicated.

Beck: Yeah, you want to illuminate a musical moment, you
don't want to illuminate it with 50,000 watts of florescent
lighting. It's not a pachinko parlor. It's better to use
nice candles to create some sort of an atmosphere. But as
far as rocking out, I'm always into the dumbest chords and
the dumbest guitar playing -- the sort of Stooges style of
guitar rock. I think that stuff is really fun to play and
listen to.

Guitar.com: It seems we're at a point in the evolution of
guitar music where everything has been done, and the only
way to appear innovative is by combining disparate styles.

Beck: Well, you could say that was true at any point in
history when the music was going someplace new. Any time
there has been a fruitful period, or there's been some
friction and new energy in music it's always been a period
where things were joining together and fusing into another
entity. I just think that because there's so much music out
there, it's so seemingly chaotic. The amount of music out
there is so dense and overwhelming that we like to
categorize it and put it in different compartments. It just
makes it easier to deal with, but music has never been about
fitting in certain boundaries, it's always been mutating.
I'm sure if you go back to some ancient music you might find
it was church music that fused with local folk music.
History and the movement of people have always been part of
the process and evolution of changing the music and mutating
since the beginning of sound.

Guitar.com: Have you ever listened to a Woody Guthrie song
or a Son House song and tried to imitate or capture the

Beck: Maybe when I was younger I might have had a na•vete --
that yearn to emulate something. But I realized very quickly
that my talent isn't really emulation. I think the more I
continue to learn about what's me musically, the less I have
a need to feed off of other musicians. But I think that
anybody who listens to a song they like or a musician or a
singer, in the listening, they put a certain amount of
themselves into that person. And I do that.

Guitar.com: You've been described as a chameleon-like artist
in the sense that you've frequently bounded between blues,
hip-hop, alternative and funk. Is there an intent to avoid
being placed in a particular niche.

Beck: I don't like to think of myself as a chameleon because
to me, a chameleon is someone really dilettante-ish. I'm
just more into the artist's journey than the workman
musician approach. Exploring is the real turn on for me. I'm
always interested in possibilities. I'm not as interested in

-- Jon Wiederhorn

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