Jeff Beck: Beck to the Future
GW Which of your Strats are you playing on the album?
BECK “Anoushka,” she’s called. Because Anoushka Shankar [sitar virtuoso and daughter of Indian music patriarch Ravi Shankar] signed it for me. She’s divine. I said to her, “Just please sign this.” And she did. She couldn’t believe I asked her. So now that guitar is Anoushka.
GW On the song “Pork-U-Pine” it’s amazing how you use the Strat’s vibrato arm to emulate the vibrato trills in Middle Eastern vocals.
BECK Well, yeah, one more element that helps me play is the way they sing, especially the Eastern Indian girls, when they do that amazing scale. It’s almost unwritable. You can’t even tell what’s going on unless you slow it down. And it’s great—a bit of oxygen for my playing style. I don’t like to rip off complete phrases, but some of the quick vibratos I do help me to form my own style, so I adapt it to the blues. Indian blues is really the way I describe it.
GW Regarding the very high pitched melody sections in the song “Bulgarian,” are you playing those with harmonics and using a wang bar to shape the melody?
BECK Yep. That’s how I do it. It’s not easy. Especially when the harmonic isn’t in the right notes. You know, when it’s a semitone sharp [i.e., from a natural, open string harmonic]. So rather than tune the guitar down, I’ll just bend the string down before I hit the harmonic and just guess at it. Or I’ll hit it and bend it up. Whatever it takes. There are no rules in that.
GW But the techno phase of your career is now over?
BECK Yeah, it is. When you got Vinnie [Colaiuta] on drums, you don’t need that.
GW But it was a great period. Really enjoyable.
BECK Yeah, but the thing that was missing was there should have been a great song, which there wasn’t. But those were fun tracks to do. They were just little sketches. I thought maybe they would be used in dance clubs or something. With no bass player, drummer or keyboard player, it was just a natural progression, a natural thing you’d want to do—to go to a programmer and mess around with that.
In April 2008, Beck went into a California recording studio with Colaiuta and Wilkenfeld to record yet-unreleased tracks for what may become the next Jeff Beck album. “We jammed for about 10 days,” he says, “It’ll be a brave person who sifts through all that material, but I think we’ve got some interesting stuff there.”
GW So what is it that’s leading you back to the power-trio format?
BECK It was really just those particular sessions. I wanted to get away, go to California, get a bit of sunshine and work as well. And my keyboard player, Jason, was working somewhere else. So I decided to go in and see what I could come up with without any chordal support, without any of that direction, because keyboards tend to determine a direction almost immediately. You hear a chord and you’ve got one foot in a certain direction. But Jimi Hendrix didn’t have a keyboard player, for the most part. And with Vinnie on drums, you don’t really need much else going on. And with Tal as well, it was just a joy to blast away. We’ve got 17 hours of material on a hard drive, all sounding really good. I’m going to go through it all as soon as I get my head back together. I’m pretty spaced after touring all across Australia and then to New Zealand and Japan. So I’m coming down quite slowly.
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