Jeff Beck is regarded as one of the greatest guitarists of all time, working with some of music's finest including Mick Jagger, Kate Bush, Roger Waters and Eric Clapton.
At this year's Grammy Awards, Beck received a total of five nominations for his last album 'Emotion & Commotion'. Now as a tribute to the late Les Paul, Beck teamed up with Imelda May for a number of live shows 'Rock n Roll Party'. Gigwise caught up with the guitarist to talk music and discuss those Rod Stewart rumours.
Where did the idea for the new album come from?
It's a tribute to Les Paul. We tried to focus on recreating exactly how it was when Mary Ford was alive. A lot of people know Les as the whizz kid on guitar but because Imelda May is so adaptable to it, she looks like she walked straight out of the 50s. She almost has that same country feel that Mary Ford had in her voice.
How were the Grammy Awards for you? You were nominated for five awards.
It was amazing; I was very comfortable being there. I had a little birdy in my ear telling me that I had won but still every time you hear the categories being announced your heart skips a beat. Your legs go to jelly when you have to walk on that stage. I get more satisfaction winning awards now than I ever did because at this stage in my life it's a nice alignment. When you put in all that effort into a record, especially the last two years have been full on, you feel very satisfied with all the work you have done. As before I didn't feel that I did anything, my record would get noticed by the Grammy people and that would be it.
Where did your passion for music start?
I can't describe what really happened. I suppose it's like a vocation that you naturally recognise like a violinist would. Why would you ever place a violin in the hands of a three year old? But you have to start at that age and the kid either takes to it or they don't. I just remember being plonked by the radio when I was very young and told to listen to all the music. I was just exposed to music all day every day. Mum played the piano and I thought that was the way of life. It is still kind of like that these days but the quality of the music isn’t the same. It used to be proper bloody music.
What musical influences did you have whilst growing up?
My mum played a lot of Bach. She should have been a pianist but once you stop playing you lose it all together.
On your albums you have experimented with a variety of sounds and styles.
I'm just a very inquisitive person. Some people my say it was down to boredom but it's not. I suppose I’m looking for the Holy Grail of grooves. It's like you’re looking for a pair of trousers and coat that suit you, you have to try a few before you find the right one. It constantly keeps me on my toes. I always say how perfect was the marriage of Elvis Presley singing 'Houndog'. There isn't a better song for him; shouting and looking amazing. I'm just trying to fit into the music the way feel and sound best. I don't know yet I’m still looking.
Do you still have the same process when recording an album?
I'm so pleased that the last album did so well I because I think people are suckers for emotion and melody. Part of the reason I did that was because I never expected football crowds to love it so much. They were all welling up to that song, that's the power that a good melody has.
Has modern technology changed the way you record an album?
Everything that is going on today has surgically removed all I loved about the early music. The sound, the tape and the stripped down sound. Rock 'n' Roll came out as a big blast in one noise; you don't get that any more. Maybe they were striving to get this clarity we hear now but they created the greatest music back then; Little Richie - god he was amazing. You didn't have some guy fiddling with a knob or tuning the vocals, it was all raw talent. You look at X Factor and it's a load of crap. You think someone is really great but no she wasn't she was helped along by pitch control.
You had a break from music for a period of time – what made you return?
I was just dispirited, I thought what is the bloody point. The effort that you have to go through, when you look at the tour book I’ve done it's like the yellow pages. Every single one of those was a journey for me, it was a lot of misery attached to it as well so you have to think hard before you get back into it. I didn't have to worry when I got back into it. I thought I’m not carrying on another minute with the world thinking that Slash is the greatest guitarist around.
What inspires you now to make music?
The fact that you've got someone as young, attractive and talented as Imelda wanting to work with me.
You've worked with so many artists – how do you find collaborating with other people?
I love it. To distribute and incorporate different talents is amazing. I love that when I work with different people it may bring them to the public's attention because my fans are getting younger. The fathers are bringing their sons and daughters to my gigs. The thrill of having people like Imelda May and Joss Stone singing is a dream. Joss Stone got bitten by the same bug that we all got bitten by, which was soulful music. The fact that someone like Joss comes from rural Devon she seems like the kick ass gospel star like Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner all rolled into one.
Is there anybody else you want to collaborate with?
I'm not too sure I want to go down the collaboration route any more. My most recent collaboration was with Leanne Rhymes and Barbra Streisand.
Is there any truth that you and Rod Stewart will be recording together again?
I'm seeing him tomorrow (February 24). I hope things go well, tomorrow is the crunch day. Last week I was in San Francisco to just some recording with my drummer. Then there was one point when it went from Jeff Beck over to Rod Stewart, in terms of the direction.
Immediately I started doing bluesy riffs and a record that was suitable for Rod. Rather than bugger about for a week, we decided to get straight to it and we cut eleven songs and backing tracks ready for Rod. We just need to tailor the songs to his voice and then the record is done. It's crucial that the songs aren't out of his range.
Do you still get the same thrill from touring?
I love it. The last few months of touring have just been mercurial and the oddest reaction both at the beginning and at the end of the shows.