Although they only met when the album was almost finished, Beck says David Torn of the New York trip-hop group Splatter cell became an important collaborator. Much to Beck’s delight, Torn gutted an early version of the song, “Plan B.” “Dave ripped the vocals out straight away and made my guitar line the song’s main hook. That’s what I should have done in the first place, but it takes a remix guy to come along and put a different spin on what you’re doing,” he says. “The instant I heard Dave’s album with Splattercell, I wanted him to dismember one of my songs, and he came through beautifully.”
While working on the album at Metropolis Studio, Beck met Liverpudlian electronic trio Apollo 440—programmers Howard Gray, his brother Trevor and guitarist Noko Fisher-Jones. Before long, Beck had recorded three songs using the group’s rhythms.
“When we first met, they wrote me one of those amazing ‘nail your head to the wall’ kinds of grooves that they’re famous for and I ate it up,” says Beck. “I played off that track for two hours and wound up writing ‘Grease Monkey’ around their groove.”
Finding inspiration in a unique rhythm track is how songs like “Dirty Mind” from “You had it coming” and “Psycho Sam” from ” Who Else” were written, says Beck. “I play guitar, but that’s rarely my starting point,” he explains. “The drums have to kick me in the ass and make me want to play or I’ll just sit there all day. Sure, I can write a song on guitar and then try to add drums in later, but it never sounds quite right. For me, a good song has to begin with an inspiring rhythm.”
Another Apollo 440 rhythm track provided the spark for “Hot Rod Honeymoon,” which juxtaposes a raging club beat against 60s surf-pop harmonies and blues slide guitar. The unexpected contrast gives the song a fresh edge. “If I used a shuffle on this song, which is the kind of beat you would expect to hear, it would have killed the song instantly,” explains Beck. “Instead, the Apollo guys and I came up with a tongue-in-cheek Beach Boys song complete with techno-drums and screaming guitar, which I think sounds more interesting.”