Album of the Week: Beck, 'Hyperspace'

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Beck, 'Hyperspace'
Beck, 'Hyperspace' (Capitol Records)
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Last week Beck dropped his fourteenth studio album, Hyperspace. He headed back to the studio to record it as soon as he returned home from touring Colors and featured Pharrell as a co-producer. Jill Riley caught up with Beck on what it was like to record with Pharrell, what the official Beck air freshener smells like, and how he decided to feature a Toyota Celica on the cover.

Good morning, Beck. How are you doing?

Good morning. How are you?

Not bad. Happy to be talking to you and happy to be talking about the new record, Hyperspace, which, for me, I think I was, just, God, staring online one day and saw the news pop up that you were releasing a new record, and it was maybe not a huge surprise, but kind of, as you had put out maybe one or two singles, which is something that you've kinda been doing these past few years. So how did the record come about? Did you just have like a bunch of material that you wanted to get out?

I finished the Colors tour last year, and I was gonna take a year off, and I just went in the studio immediately, and I have a few things I was supposed to work on, and I had these songs because I'd been working with Pharrell on and off for a while, and just went right into them, and I turned around in a few weeks, and we kind of had a record.

How did you get together with Pharrell Williams? When did you guys make a connection?

So, I reached out to him about 2012, and he was holed up in a little studio in North Hollywood. We went and sat down together. I had been wanting to work with him for over a decade at that point — something I wanted to do, actually, around the time of Midnight Vultures, and we ended up getting together, and he was excited, and we'd run into each other for many years and sorta had a mutual admiration. And so you got together soon after that, and I'll never the first day I went in. He had just recorded a song that day, and he played me the rough of it, and it was the song "Happy."

Oh, really?

Yeah. So it was kind of a special time. He was really — one of the days we were working, he had to go off and make a video, which he wasn't allowed to talk about, which turned out to be the "Get Lucky" video.

Okay.

So I was just kinda around him during that time, and then, obviously, he got busy and then I had Morning Phase come out right after that as well, and was off touring for several years, and we'd run into each other. And then finally, the beginning of last year, he reached out for me to come work on his N*E*R*D album, and long story short, he — when I went in the studio he had a few ideas, and we reconnected and started making this record.

What did you find that made for like a really good working relationship together? I mean, why were you a really good creative match? What were you learning from him?

For him, I find a kind of openness to ideas and sound that is probably similar to mine in a lot of ways, but also he has an incredibly positivity, and there's a kind of decisiveness that I think is really powerful. A lot of musicians get in there, and they're really wrestling with their creativity. They're wrestling with their songwriting. There's a lot of uncertainty — is this right? It's almost like he's creatively looking from a thousand feet above. He's looking at the big picture all the time, and he can really see the forest for the trees, and it's a rare quality.

So on the cover there is some, what looks like, like some kind of Japanese script.

It was just completely off the top of my head. Maybe it had to do with the car, it was a Celica. I don't know. It just felt — it was one of those things where it just felt right, a lot like the process of making the record. It's just — the first idea is the right idea. I was going with instincts, so —

And what kind of car is this? Is this your car? Is this something you tool around the neighborhood in?

No. No, it's a Celica, but it would be similar to like the kind of cars that people had when I was growing up, like a friend's — like a friend's mom would have that car. And it usually wouldn't have air conditioning, and it'd be like a 95-degree day, sitting in the parking lot of the bank, waiting in the back seat of the car.

Yeah, you're like stuffed into the hatchback or something with the dog, right.

Yeah. It's a very humble kind of aspirational kind of car. It's not a super luxury Lamborghini, and that was sort of the point. Pharrell actually asked me, 'what do you see when you see the cover', and I say, I just see a @#$% Celica, just like a rundown old car, like that's not anything fancy or glamorous or anything. But in a way it is sort of like this dream machine, with that thing in that sort of everyday kind of car that — where we can still — it's still our spaceship, you know, it's the thing that sort of lets us transcend the everyday.

Well, that new record is called Hyperspace, from Beck, and it's out tomorrow. We were just talking about the album cover of the new album Hyperspace. So, Beck, I'm in Minneapolis/St. Paul and I understand that you were just doing a little thinking about Minneapolis before we started chatting.

Yeah, we were just there. I went in to record down at Paisley Park, so I did a couple songs of my own, and then they asked us to do a Prince song. I couldn't decide. We ended up doing, I think, four or five of them — sort of a medley. It was a spontaneous — little bit unrehearsed — little bit of a tightrope walk, but such hallowed ground, musically, for myself and so many of my friends, so it was surreal in a way. There's definitely a spirit to that place. Music doesn't have a lot of homes. Maybe there's Graceland or the Capitol Records building — a couple — Radio City Music Hall or something, but, you know, that's one of the few places where you can go to pay tribute to a great musician who meant so much. You know, you sort of half expect him to come around the hall.

Well, I'm glad you got to visit Paisley Park while you were in town.

Oh yeah. I'm lucky to have an unbelievable band — can just rally and go with whatever is happening in the moment.

Hyperspace — the new record is out tomorrow. I'm gonna let you go, but I have one more question because I'm kinda dying to know the answer to this. So, I was looking at your website, and people can order the album in cassette form and CD and digital download and vinyl. There was a piece of merch, and there's an air freshener, and I'm dying to know what a Beck air freshener smells like.

I'm curious too — something fresh, something redolent of Celicas, I would assume.

Excellent — with just like masking like cigarette smoke or something. Beck, thank you so much for checking in, and congratulations on another record, and it is out tomorrow, and we appreciate you talking with The Current.

Thank you. Thank you so much.

Beck 'Hyperspace' download code giveaway


Use this form to enter The Current's Beck 'Hyperspace' download giveaway between 8 a.m. Central on Thursday, November 21, 2019 and 11:59 p.m. Central on Sunday, December 1, 2019.

Ten (10) winners will receive one (1) download code for Beck's album 'Hyperspace' in MP3 format. Four (4) back up names will be drawn. Winners will be notified via email.

Prize retail value: $9.99

We will contact the winners via email on Tuesday, December 3, 2019.

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  • Beck
    Beck's album 'Hyperspace' is out on November 22, 2019. (Mikai Karl / Courtesy the artist)