MANCHESTER, Tennessee — Though he may have been reclining on a couch backstage at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival earlier this month, Beck was hardly relaxing.
Rather, after his prop-heavy set (see "Radiohead Marathon, Beck Puppet Show, Partial Phish Jam Mix It Up At Bonnaroo"), Beck was fielding a barrage of calls on his cell phone from his keyboard player, wife and grandmother. He was also dodging hippies — "I smell patchouli. I smell tie-dye," he laughed — and bringing MTV News up to speed on his new album, a collaboration with longtime producer Nigel Godrich that's been almost three years in the making.
"It's all mastered and the artwork's pretty much done," he said. "Nigel and I did about 40 tracks, and we've worked on it for about two and a half years, getting it down to about 20. Now we're trying to squeeze them down even further. I worked on them in tandem [with sessions for last year's Guero], and then at the beginning of this year we got together and finally mixed them and put them together."
Though there's still no title for the album, Beck promised it'll be in stores this fall and said he's been working several new songs — including "Soldier Jane," "Nausea" and "1,000 BPM" — into his recent set lists that will more than likely make it onto the record.
But again, that could all change.
"We're days away from finishing the record, but it's proving very difficult to come up with a track list because each song has its own identity. Nothing's really obvious," he said. "Before we started, Nigel said he wanted to do a hip-hop record. And in a way it is, and in a way it isn't. It has hip-hop songs, and my previous work with him was Mutations and Seachange, these sort of introspective records, and so this new one is sort of bringing those two worlds together."
One thing he is certain about is the new album artwork, which he's been working on for almost a year with an unspecified production company.
"It's a pretty cool concept. It's supposed to be a secret, but I'll let the cat out the bag — it's all stickers," he explained. "It's really pretty amazing. The artwork is laid out in stickers, it's modular, the cover is blank and you get a sheet of stickers and you make your own cover."
But completing his new album isn't the only thing on Beck's schedule. He's also burning the midnight oil to finish the 10th anniversary edition of his landmark Odelay album, which is shaping up to be a double-disc affair loaded with B-sides and remixes.
"There's quite a lot of remixes floating around from that era," he observed. "Aphex Twin did one, Mario C. did some, the Dust Brothers did a bunch of them. So I they're going to be on there. 'Deadweight' [from the soundtrack to 1997's 'A Life Less Ordinary'] will be on there.
"I mean, I know I'm sort of behind the 8-ball," he admitted, "because [the Odelay reissue] was supposed to come out now — it's been 10 years — but I think I blew it. It'll be out sometime this year, though."