What makes it semi-bearable is that they included Spechen Sie Deutsche, Baby? at the end. By now I guess everybody knows that my love for Beck’s effort to utter German words is deep, strong, and ever-lasting. Even if Beck gets it wrong.
Pitchfork: How did Beck become involved with the album?
Jamie Lidell: The whole thing got kick-started by Beck, which was an incredible surprise. He called asking if he could be of some assistance with production work, like, “Why don’t you come over and we can just have a play and see how it feels?” He’s always supported me since we toured together [in 2006]. A few years ago, we did some strange sessions in L.A. which were just spontaneous, straight-to-vinyl recordings. He gets these ideas, like, “I need five musicians in this studio outside L.A. Who’s up for it? Jamie, you want to come down? It’ll be fun!” And you don’t really know if he ever uses a thing. Those sessions never led to anything, as far as I know. But we recorded a lot. I was doing Klaus Nomi shit and all kinds of operatics. That’s why Beck loved working with me, I think, because I’m up for anything.
During those sessions, I saw Beck doing this thing which I couldn’t quite understand at the time. He would come in with a scribbled sketch of a song, and he’d be strumming some chords, and he’d be like, “OK, I don’t know where this is going, but whatever.” And then he goes into a bit of a trance, scribbles for a minute, and is like, “Let’s do this.” I thought he had already written the lyrics and was just modifying them, but he was writing pretty much the entire song right on the spot. I can’t just freestyle a crazy song like that, but he can. That’s his real super power, it’s insane. He literally just goes, “I’ll just do a song about constellations.” And, just like that, it’s a Beck tune.
We had little physical face time during the making of Compass, but he inspired me to write. And then we did the Record Club together and then he introduced me to James Gadson, who ended up on my record. Beck is just this incredibly potent force in L.A. He knows everyone. And he wants to make good shit happen. He’s really like, “This could be a really cool combination. Let’s just put this with this.” It’s an old-school production method. I think he gets really excited to see chemical reactions between musicians.
On May 25, Elektra releases True Blood: Music From the HBO Original Series Volume II, which means its time for rootsy artists to step up with their most backwoods-y/vampire-friendly tracks. The CD boasts new songs from Beck (“Bad Blood”), M. Ward (a cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Howlin’ for My Baby”), Lucinda Williams and Elvis Costello (“Kiss Like Your Kiss”), and the Band’s Robbie Robertson (“How to Become Clairvoyant”). If you count the digital bonus tracks, it features songs from both Bob and Jakob Dylan, automatically making it an answer to an annoying future trivia question.
Here’s what I was talking about in the previous post about Beck’s “Loser”:
The “slacker generation” thing was never something Beck related to even though this chorus was a natural for that image, and certainly was part of why the song was such a hit. Beck remembered that when he first heard about it was when the video premiered on MTV. “The guy on the air was talking about all this slacker stuff, saying that ‘Loser’ was like some slacker anthem or something. I was like ‘What?’ I said, ‘Turn off the TV.’ I was like ‘Slacker, my ass.’ I mean, I never had any slack. I was working a $4-an-hour job trying to stay alive. I mean, that slacker kind of stuff is for people who have the time to be depressed about everything.” In a different interview, he eloquently stated what he thought when he first learned about “Loser” being the Slacker Anthem: “Oh shit. That sucks.”
So then what does Beck think of the song? “It was a fun song to make, and when they take it out of context like that, it’s kind of a drag. It’s not some anguished, transcendental ‘cry of a generation.’ It’s just like sitting in someone’s living room eating pizza and Doritos.”