Guitar icon honoured

MONTREAL — Jeff Beck is a guitar god to some of his fans. He sees his hard-driving style somewhat differently.

Guitarist Jeff Beck performs at the 30th edition of the Montreal International Jazz Festival Monday. Beck was honoured at the jazz festival for a standout career.

MONTREAL — Jeff Beck is a guitar god to some of his fans. He sees his hard-driving style somewhat differently.

“It’s a form of musical Tourette’s,” he told a news conference at the Montreal International Jazz Festival on Monday. “It’s involuntary spasm. I think it’s probably a form of insanity, to be quite honest with you.

“ I think most people who play are quite nuts. You become obsessed about sounds and positioning and notation and chords and we just get drawn into it. I try not to be boring and that’s all it is.”

A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Beck has always been known as an innovator. He even made his own guitar out of cigar boxes and pieces of wood when he was a child.

He acknowledges that sometimes he makes a mistake despite his fans’ insistence on greatness.

“If it’s a great mistake, I put it in there and then expand it,” he said, tapping his skull.

Beck was honoured at the jazz festival for a standout career which includes pioneering work using distortion, feedback and the fuzzbox and destroying rock’s boundaries to explore jazz fusion.

One of his most notable career moves was joining the Yardbirds in 1965, teaming up with Jimmy Page. He also later had his own group, with Rod Stewart on vocals.

“It’s hard to put the finger exactly where my present style comes from,” the 65-year-old said of his current output, which has been described as a mix of guitar rock and electronica.

“It’s just years of listening to people that I was drawn to, from rockabilly to the ’60s — you know, Hendrix, and even Ravi Shankar, who twisted everything around for me.”

He’s also been influenced by music from Arab countries, he added.

“I don’t care about politics or anything like that. If the song sounds good, I’ll play it and try to embroider what’s there and embellish it and try to make it my own.”

Beck, whose concert at the festival sold out as quickly as his fingers race along his guitar, said he and his band will start in earnest on a new album at the beginning of August but he wasn’t giving many clues about what will be on it.

“We’re dreaming up ideas of how to modify existing songs,” he said.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to put some original stuff in as far as the ‘up’ stuff, the danceable stuff, the stuff with groove.

“There is a dilemma about whether to make it a double album with the tear-jerky stuff one side and the rock ’n’ roll on the other but all will be revealed by the end of August or maybe September.”

He did say the album will go for an “eclectic sound” and getting that means he’ll use a variety of musicians in the disc’s production.

But Beck says he is definitely sticking with his current band.

“They’re great,” he said. “You build up a camaraderie and I think anybody’ll tell you that a band is better than pickup players any day of the week.

“You become a soap opera, you become a family, really, and you share travel griefs and misery and all the rest of it. We’ve been together for almost 18 months now. It would be a shame to spoil that.”

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