A Day in the Life With Beck

Natasha Aftandilians | Staff Photographer

Natasha Aftandilians | Staff Photographer
Beck performs at the opening of the new Club Nokia in Los Angeles.

It is Sunday, Nov. 9 in downtown Los Angeles at the entertainment playground known as L.A. Live. The Lakers are playing across the street at the Staples Center, The Who is performing at the Nokia Theatre next door and in just a few hours, Beck will be performing at the grand opening for the brand new Club Nokia.
The theater is still empty, but the VIP lounge is packed with industry hotshots, record executives and a few lucky music fans like myself, scoping out waiters’ trays filled with Wolfgang Puck catering and free drinks, eagerly waiting for tonight’s headliner Beck, the eclectic chameleon and musical maverick of Silver Lake.
They would have been hard-pressed to find a more appropriate musician to perform at this new club, which is sure to become a staple of the Los Angeles nightlife scene.
Beck and family arrive, and backstage becomes a thriving hub of its own. Beck’s band casually leans against the walls, waiting to go onstage as roadies unpack boxes of instruments and equipment.
Beck is inside his dressing room with his wife Marissa and tiny son Cosimo, who is running around with a giant pair of headphones. Beck looks different tonight than he has for the past few months of his “Modern Guilt” tour; he’s cut his hair and he’s not dressed in 10 pounds of black and gray clothing. He seems much more at home now, maybe because he’s back in Los Angeles where it’s never cold enough to wear as much clothing as he normally does.
Despite having only 15 minutes left before he needs to go onstage, Beck enthusiastically dove into our interview.
When asked about how his family’s artistic background has affected him as a musician, he takes his time and responds carefully.
“It’s hard to parcel out what aspects affected me, you know … people take their background for granted. If anything, it’s just whatever interests I had, whatever predilections I had in art or music or whatever … I guess I was exposed to a lot of things,” Beck said.
The arts were certainly an important part of Beck’s family; his grandfather was famous Fluxus artist Al Hansen, his mother acted in Andy Warhol films and his father David Campbell is an acclaimed conductor.
As his son runs around playfully, I ask Beck if his children especially like one of his songs.
“I don’t know actually,” Beck responded. “I don’t really play my own music around the house, you know, they know some of the songs … my daughter doesn’t really talk quite yet, but my son, he’s got his own thing going on. He likes everything from Gnarls Barkley to the Beatles.”
When asked about what he has learned about himself through making music for so many years, he pauses again, as if trying to remember every detail of the past 15 years of his life.
“Well, you know, it takes a certain amount of persistence and just working through things, so I guess … I’ll just get in there, in the trench and just work through it. Any music of mine that’s worked out has been purely through persistence. I’ve learned that about myself. I don’t give up too easily … I think that any songwriter can say that. You’re just mostly sweating and toiling, and occasionally you get lucky.”
With regards to which of his records is his favorite, Beck responded, “There are probably aspects of each record. I think when you finish a record you see the shortcomings and you continue on to the next thing, because you’re still pursuing that thing that you’ll be proud of. I think it’s whatever I’ve most recently worked on.”
As the time for Beck to take the stage approaches, I ask what he would change about his career if he could revisit the past.
“Well, that’s dangerous territory … the past is always a tricky area. There are certain mistakes that wouldn’t have proved to be, in the end, exactly what I would have wanted to put out, but at the same time you kind of have to go through the process. I think some artists are lucky that they come out fully formed. They don’t really have to find what they’re doing, but I think I’ve always been looking and trying to find what I do or what I like to do … most of my music is trial and error, but a lot of my favorite bands just come out sounding like themselves.”
With the theater packed to the brim, Beck went onstage and delivered an upbeat show that matched the energy of his audience, giving a memorable performance to mark the grand opening of Club Nokia.