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Happy Songs

When Beck Hansen wanted to make upbeat music on his 12th studio album, he turned to pop megastar Pharrell Williams as a collaborator. Rob Haywood meets the Californian polymath and self-confessed “vinyl nerd” to talk Hyperspace, Miles Davis, Chris Martin and crappy old Toyotas

INTERVIEW

On a rainy evening in late September, a small London venue is playing host to a ‘private booking’. The website for that event is suitably vague, but from 6pm a small gathering of journalists and industry insiders shake the water from their coats, grab complimentary drinks and wonder at the enormous soundsystem that dominates the room.

“These speakers probably cost more than your house,” opines the compère. “This amplifier definitely does.” It’s clear that despite the size of the venue, tonight will be loud. Shortly afterwards, Beck strolls in with a small, umbrella-wielding entourage. Subtly stylish in a white shirt with black pin-stripes and a black jacket with white pin-stripes, he is here to partake in a short Q&A session before a playback of his forthcoming LP Hyperspace, still two months ahead of its release.

“I told my manager I wanted to make some happy songs,” recalls Beck of his first serious meeting with Hyperspace collaborator Pharrell Williams. “90 seconds later, I walked in to meet him and he says, ‘Just wait a minute while I finish writing this song’. It was Happy.”

Hyperspace, Beck Hansen’s 12th album (not counting a couple of compilations of early material), has been years in the making. Not because he suffered from any kind of writer’s block, but because he spiralled off through a host of other projects that continue to challenge and confound in equal measure. Beck initially caught international notice when Loser broke through a mind-blowing quarter of a century ago, and physically he seems to have changed little since. Musically, his journey has been an eclectic one, swirling through folk-post-punk-pop-rock-countryblues- rap-Mariachi and multiple combinations of all of the above.

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About Long Live Vinyl

Issue 34 of Long Live Vinyl is now on sale! Farewell to 2019! Our massive end-of-year special rounds up the very best of the year in vinyl. First up, we bring you the top 100 new albums of the last 12 months, selected by an expert panel of record shop owners, labels, bands, writers and festival organisers. Once you've filled your Christmas list with that lot, we've picked the top 20 reissues of 2019. You'll find interviews with some of the heroes of the year, too, including Fontaines DC, The Specials, Amyl & The Sniffers, Weyes Blood, Bill Callahan and The Murder Capital. If you're on the lookout for a new turntable, amp, speakers or headphones for Christmas, you'll want to check out our extensive Gear Of The Year awards, and after more than 10,000 of you voted, we name our second annual Record Shop Of The Year. Pick up your copy to find out who's won! In other news, former Led Zeppelin legend Robert Plant sits down for a chat about his new boxset and podcast, while Beck opens up about his latest album, Hyperspace. We also reminisce with The Pop Group over their classic 1979 album Y and tell the story of the label that brought us Love, The Doors and MC5: the one and only Elektra Records. If all that's not enough, you'll find the widest range of vinyl-related news, features and reviews anywhere on the newsstand. Long Live Vinyl is THE magazine for Vinyl lovers.