Jeff Beck Discusses Gear, Technique and Hendrix in 1985 Guitar World Interview, Part 2
More from our 1985 interview with Jeff Beck, plus some input from Beck's friends and admirers, including Seymour Duncan, Stanley Clarke and his fellow Yardbirds.
Do you have any favorite solos from all the records you've made?
No, not really. They usually trigger off a memory that has nothing to do with the playing, some personal thing I went through. It's not until somebody else comes up and reminds me of something I've done that I'll even think about it. I'm just thinking about tomorrow, which is a good sign because they say when you're thinking about yesterday you're too old.
You must feel the pressure of being Jeff Beck, in quotes, with people waiting for you to play can-you-top-this all the time.
Well, yeah, obviously. You've got to brace yourself and be brave and go out there and give the people something you can't just hide away. But like you say, when people are just starting to get into stuff that I did five years ago, like the puns in "Space Boogie" and "Star Cycle" off the last album [There and Back] -- well, there are kids of twenty who've just dialed in to that. It's good, but I wish they would listen a bit closer the first time around, because I can't re-release that. I've got to go on to say something new.
Speaking about a long time, do you get any flack from the record company about how long things take for you to do?
No, I think they've been the most wonderful, enduring company. They have respect for me, so they haven't pushed me about it. Any other record company would've just potted me away, I think [laughs]. They're getting a little bit worried now because the record is so powerful that they want to make sure it's channeled in a very between-the-balls way: they want a sure-fire hit album, I think, and they want to feel part of it, which is good. In the old days I'd just turn up at Epic in New York with the master tapes and they'd say thank you very much and take me out for a meal, and that would be the end of it. But nowadays record companies really want hits on a record more than they ever did; they want to hear five or six hits on an album.
That's the Michael Jackson syndrome.
Yeah, he set the standard for everybody else, I think.
Thirty-five million records is kind of an impossible standard.
But I'm glad he did that, because Epic got off my back a bit when that money started rolling in [laughs]. But they've really been good.
If you had a dream project that you could suddenly do, what would it be?
I've often toyed with the idea of doing a rock thing with a full orchestra. I listen to classical music all the time, and I often wish that I was playing somewhere in the beautiful, wide sound that a full orchestra gets. I don't think anybody's really done that yet. You'd put the guitar where, say, an opera singer would be, so that there'd be vast spaces where the guitar would solo, and then would come these huge attacks -- very exciting and dramatic stuff, that's what I have in mind. I've laid some groundwork for that kind of thing, actually, made some inquiries with composers, but they're really not talking the same language half the time. I'd have to write the music for it to work, and somehow I just don't seem to get round to doing that [laughs].
Are there any composers in particular that you listen to?
Not really. I don't try to lift ideas or inspiration from it that way. It might just be one piece that hits me on the radio: melodically, you can pick up a hell of a lot from that, probably more so than if you were listening to a rock station. Of course, that's just me, but it might be worth somebody out there listening to those things; too many people snap them off immediately because they're not rock and roll. But it's beautiful stuff being played by amazing musicians, and even though you may not copy something directly, you may be more inspired to think of your own original style. A lot of players don't do that these days; they just copy one another.
JIM McCARTY on Beck the Unpredictable:
Jim McCarty played drums in the Yardbirds, as well as adding background vocals and co-writing the tunes. He's known Beck for twenty years, and after a sixteen-year hiatus, worked with him again on the Box of Frogs LP.
Working with Jeff in the Yardbirds was up and down a lot of the time, because we really expected quite a bit from him-after all, he had to follow in the footsteps of Eric Clapton. He wasn't really used to that pressure; suddenly he was in the big time, because when he joined the group we became #1 with "For Your Love." So I think he used to panic quite a bit, but he soon got into the swing of things.
The great thing about Jeff was, because we leaned on him so much -- we relied on him to fill up the sound -- he developed a lot of his futuristic ideas, things that people called gimmicks at the time. We'd been used to playing with Clapton, who was playing much straighter r&b solos, and then Jeff was something much wider -- he was interested in people like Les Paul, and all these footpedals and fuzztones and feedback, something we haven't had before which was very exciting.
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