By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
“Once you’ve played that same gig in Cleveland for the fourth time, or you’re in Scandinavia, and it’s snowing, and you’re in some hotel with three channels on the TV and a view of an industrial development, it feels like you’re in jail. You do the things people in jail do, too. I’m doing a series of drawings of my hotel rooms, so I’ll draw, write a letter, meditate or do push-ups.”
Gee, sounds like it’s lonely at the top. Is it? “That’s sort of a trick question, because I don’t see myself operating from the top. This country is so multitiered that there are always 20 levels above you no matter how far up you get, so I don’t feel like a permanent fixture.”
Later that afternoon on the Universal lot, the hours crawl by as the studio audience loiters outside a sound stage, waiting to be allowed in for the taping of Farm club.com. An online music site and weekly TV show that airs on the USA network, Farmclub.com presents unsigned bands and established acts in performances that are broadcast live over the Web.
Suddenly the energy of the crowd shifts so as to signify the presence of a celebrity, and a cluster of people approaches, surrounded by a moat of cameras and microphones. At the center is Beck, who appears to be longing for a moment of peace. For one split second he looks exhausted. When it’s showtime an hour later, however, he’s positively electric.
Breaking between songs for the obligatory chat with Farmclub.com host Matt Pinfield, Beck goes into full goof mode and begins talking about the series of cookbooks he’s writing. Pinfield looks momentarily confused, then gets down to business and angles for a plug for the Internet. He mentions the huge impact the Web is having on music, and Beck flatly replies, “You’re asking the wrong guy about that. I don’t have a cell phone, and don’t know much about the Net.” This subtle stroke of anarchy flies over the heads of the studio audience, who send up a vigorous cheer when the applause light flashes. But it’s not lost on those of us who hope Beck maintains the irreverence central to the early days of his career.
“I still see Beck around occasionally, and he seems like the same guy I used to know,” says Michael Whitmore. “I like the fact that he uses musicians who are basically local, and he hasn’t hired slick studio cats. He’s always been serious about music, and I always thought he was talented, but I was surprised when he became a star. Beck wasn’t one of the pushy, obnoxious guys obsessed with being a rock star — he was the quiet one.”
He still is, according to the people who know him best. “Beck was, and continues to be, a tender individual who has a lot to give,” Ross Harris concludes. “He’s also a good dresser, and he’s really good at cutting his own hair.”