LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Beck Hansen's 14th studio album has a whole new sound - perhaps in part because he has a whole new life. His 15-year marriage ended earlier this year. And maybe not coincidentally, this new music has an element of escapism, which is what I began asking him about in our interview.
So, Beck Hansen, I have something I want to play for you.
BECK HANSEN: OK.
(SOUNDBITE OF LASERS FIRING)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Does that bring you back (laughter)?
HANSEN: Mmm hmm. I was lost on a wave of videogames and...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And nostalgia. I understand there was a button on a couple of those old video games that allowed you to jump directly into hyperspace to avoid asteroids and aliens, and that in part was the inspiration for your new album called "Hyperspace."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HYPERSPACE")
HANSEN: (Singing) In hyperspace, electric life is in my brain.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What does that hyperspace theme say about your music on this album?
HANSEN: Well, you know, it's this idea that there are things in life that sort of help us transcend the moment. This sort of idea of that hyperspace button in this video game was something that just popped into my head. Can we use that in our lives at certain points? It started to get me thinking about music and one of the powers that music has - sort of superpowers - is it is a sort of way to access another place. It's almost like you put a song in your car, and you're somewhere else. You've levitated.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STRATOSPHERE")
HANSEN: (Singing) Far above the ground, halfway to oblivion in the stratosphere.
The album was called "Hyperspace," but I was being very conscious to sort of avoid too much of the space or future theme, really going more into like the sort of inner space - the emotional inner space of our lives, you know?
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STRATOSPHERE")
HANSEN: (Singing) Strike a match and let it be in the stratosphere.
For myself, this really is probably the first time in my life - this last few years - where it kind of feels suddenly like we are in the future.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: In what way?
HANSEN: I feel like most of my life, things were pretty much the same from the 1940s, '50s, '60s, 70s. It's still the same old restaurants and the trains and the planes. And now it's really changing the last five years. It's like certain aspects of technology; cityscapes are changing. Financially, medicine - industry is being disrupted, you know, going from film to streaming and selling actual CDs to instant access to music everywhere, anywhere. It has a lot of sort of massive changes and - but, you know, ultimately, it's still human beings living lives - flawed human beings doing the best we can. That's the one thing that doesn't change, you know? With music, that is something that - none of this will change, as well as the desire for people to connect. And that's where we connect - with music.
(SOUNDBITE OF BECK SONG, "WHERE IT'S AT")
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'd like to ask you about a side project just released on Amazon Music, the "Paisley Park Sessions," recorded at the late artist Prince's studios in Minnesota. Along with a medley of some of his songs, you also cover yourself. Let's hear a bit of your song, "Where It's At."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHERE IT'S AT")
HANSEN: (Singing) There's a destination a little up the road from the habitations and the towns we know. A place we saw the lights turn low, jigsaw jazz and the get-fresh flow. Pulling out jives and jamboree handouts. Two turntables and a microphone. (Unintelligible) and just clap your hands and just clap your hands. Where it's at I got two turntables and a microphone...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So you're the first artist to record in Prince's Studio A since he passed away in 2016. What was it like?
HANSEN: Oh, it was interesting. It was - there was a sort of mythology about that place. And he is a huge figure for me musically. One of the reasons I started playing music - seeing him perform. It was strange and even a little bit heartbreaking for me because it felt like the whole day I was there, he was going to come around the corner, which - you sort of still felt he was alive, you know? It was bittersweet.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RASPBERRY BERET")
HANSEN: (Singing) That's when I saw her, oh, I saw her. She walked in through the out door, out door. She wore a raspberry beret...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: There's a story about Prince handing you the album of the year Grammy for "Morning Phase." Can you tell me about that encounter on stage?
HANSEN: Well, it was overwhelming because those awards shows, you know, it's sort of this spotlight of the world shining down on you, sort of blinding and...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You gave him a hug.
HANSEN: I did. That was my instinct. And I did. I felt bad about it afterwards. And, you know, after he passed, I looked for that photo of me hugging him. And he's smiling. He has a huge smile on his face. So the guilt I had of being presumptuous enough to embrace him in the moment - it meant a lot to me that he was smiling.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEE THROUGH")
HANSEN: (Singing) Summertime nights, I'm going to run to meet you. Coming out of my life, you know I'm trying to reach you.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You have had a very sort of storied career - 14 albums you've put out, but they've all been very different. What makes you decide where you're going to go next?
HANSEN: Oh, it's - you know, it's interesting. It's sort of like your body of work is like you're growing a garden and there's certain things that want to come to maturity at certain times. You can't really - you just plant the seeds and hope they grow and see what's healthy and what feels vital. And that's how I decide, you know, what songs are maturing. I really look at the records. I think I was influenced at a young age by the auteurs, the filmmakers, everyone from Truffaut and Godard to Scorsese and Hitchcock. And each film had its own life, you know, its own cast of characters. That's how I see the albums. I see them as different films.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And once they're out in the world, what's that like?
HANSEN: Well, I want to go remix them. I'll hear - like, you were playing one of the songs earlier, and they can't hear the harmony in the chorus. The harmony is the best part of the song.
HANSEN: You can't hear it, you know? And...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I find that comforting that even Beck looks back on his music and thinks, man, I could've done that different (laughter).
HANSEN: Well, so in my head, I hear the record exactly how it's supposed to sound. And then there's this huge gap of trying to make that exist in the actual world. But, you know, that's what keeps you pushing to make new records and continue, you know? In a lot of ways, I feel like I'm just starting to get the hang of it.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Beck Hansen - better known simply as Beck. His new album is called "Hyperspace." Thank you very much.
HANSEN: Hey, thanks for talking to me.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HYPERSPACE")
HANSEN: (Singing) In hyperspace, spend all my nights... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.