Two days before the Grammy Awards, Beck is standing in front of a CBS camera, bright, blue light in his face. Behind him is Madison Square Garden’s Grammy stage, which looks like a large, flashing flying saucer. This might seem like an unlikely setting for an eccentric performer who rose to commercial success and critical acclaim with a song called “Loser,” but Beck is actually up for three Grammys: Album of the Year, Best Male Rock Vocal Performance, and Best Alternative Music Performance. He’s also set to perform “Where It’s At.” But such success certainly doesn’t seem to have gone to his head, as Rolling Stone Online found out during Grammy show rehearsals.
As a CBS reporter tries to ask Beck a first question, a “Check 1 – 2 – 2 Check 1 – 2” breaks out across the arena, forcing the crew to take two.
CBS: So, you’ve been nominated for best album of the year. How does that feel?
Beck: All I have to say about it, is that the acknowledgment is good. I don’t think that kind of acknowledgment has really sunk in.
After the CBS reporters have finished with him, Geffen publicist Dennis Dennehy steers Beck toward an Access Hollywood camera.
Access Hollywood: How do you feel about performing at Madison Square Garden?
Beck: Gee, it’s a good way to start the year. It’s got a lot of balconies.
AH: How would you describe your music? Is it similar to your dreams?
Beck: I don’t really remember my dreams. I know I have them. I wake up and they’re gone.
Both pause for another sound check: “1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10.”
Beck: Wow, that was a crazy set there.
Next is the Grammy Webcast. Beck sits on a stool, a mike cord draped down his sweater.
Beck: I feel very pertinent. I’m secreting. Yeah, I’m secreting Grammy science. I’m dropping mad Grammy science.
A photographer’s flash goes off.
Next up is Rolling Stone Online. We’ve got Beck seated in the press room.
RSO: I have no questions left for you … You answered them all.
Beck: See, that would be cool. I wish I could just let you know somehow … People usually ask the same ones.
How do you feel about being nominated for best album of the year?
I feel like a multi-colored plume serpent rising from ahh … from a sea cave.
Actually, I was noticing your color combination.
I’m having a little trouble ’cause I packed very quickly and this is all I brought.
I like the muted green with the peachy contrast.
Stripes and stripes is a faux pas, I know.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s OK.
I think it’s all right — you’ve got solids breaking it up.
But when I take off the sweater, it’s all over.
What are you going to wear to the Grammys?
I have a nice black suit. It’s hard to find a suit that fits my girlish figure. So I found one that works real good, and I feel like it accentuates the positives and downplays the negatives.
What do you feel that is? Your slender waist?
No. Actually, I’m sort of narrow in the shoulders, shoulder-wise. But I’m big on the feet so …
It accentuates your feet?
No. I have to play that down. Maybe it does, actually.
Was the suit a thrift store find?
They’re usually thrift store finds. But a friend of mine hooked me up with a suit maker, so I got a real deal.
You had it made?
Uh … Yeah, it was made, yeah.
Tell me what you think of journalists.
Journalists? Well, they’re each their own person. They each have their own agenda and the less the agenda the better, I’d say, so…
It seems like you’ve spent a lot of time being shuffled around behind camera to camera and from question to question.
Yeah. Yeah. It’s always different because sometimes journalists, in a way, they’re the lens. They’re the something that the world sees you through so you are at their mercy. But also it’s like…I don’t know. That’s a long subject. It’s like anything. There’s good ones and there’s not-so-good ones. It depends on what the agenda is. But people seem to have less of an agenda these days.
You use a lot of hip-hop slang on stage. What are some of your favorite contemporary hip-hop slang words?
Well, regulate is probably a couple of years old. I still like to use that one a lot.
What does that mean exactly?
Regulate? Well it means a lot of things. Basically, you got to regulate. Like when you’re constipated and that’s bodily and soul as well. You got to regulate. You have to make sure things are going smoothly. As in me and Nate Dog had to regulate.
What’s the Ebonics definition?
That’s not Ebonics, though, man, that’s science. I’m going to think of some [others]…I’m trying to think of something. [To Dennis] Lay one on me; you’re good for …
Dennehy: I know. I’m usually good for it. Now of course I’m spacing.
But here’s some of my favorite older ones. I tend to focus on the older ones. Like ‘Can you funk legit?’