Jeff Beck Exploring Middle East on Next Album, Talks Stalled Rod Stewart Project

The legendary guitarist, currently on the road with Brian Wilson, talks next album and offers a sharp assessment of Stewart: "He prefers (soccer), and maybe that's the problem. I'm not holding my breath"

Noting that he "could easily do a rock album, but so could a million other people," Jeff Beck plans to explore some fresh musical terrain on his follow-up to 2010's Grammy Award-winning "Emotion & Commotion" -- which he notes, with a laugh, is "two years behind" schedule.

Beck, who's currently on tour with Brian Wilson, tells Billboard that much of the impetus for these new styles are coming from his latest band, which includes guitarist NIcolas Meier and violinist/vocalist Lizzie Ball. 

"I've never had a rhythm guitarist on stage with me, but (Meier) is more than that," Beck notes. "He has a Turkish style, a Middle Eastern flavor, and we're writing stuff with that and trying to probe the depths of some Turkish scales just to do something different. I'm trying to absorb some of the more interesting movements that are available in some Middle Eastern music. And Ireland is another place with powerful, emotional melodies." 

Beck says the group has so far cut one demo for one new song, "Yemin," which he says "enables me to play my style wedged into those (Middle Eastern) scales, so in one song you've got two fairly strong elements there. I can do gymnastics with a Stratocaster; that's part of the reason Nicolas wrote this. It's a chance of a lifetime, really, to have someone like him and Lizzie Ball on violin, 'cause the violin adds a very unique sound to rock 'n' roll." 

On top of that, Beck says he's been exploring samples of "famous choirs and doing all kinds of nasty tricks with them, just to get the backing pad to sound more like a keyboard. I want the real thing, real backing voices, and I want them arranged in a way that suits my style. As long as it sounds unique and fresh, so be it. It's very encouraging so far."

Beck plans to return to work in earnest after the tour with Wilson ends on Oct. 30. "It's going to take time," says Beck, who's also contributed parts to upcoming Wilson projects and played on the LeAnn Rimes single "Gasoline and Matches." "Not recording it; it's the gathering and the writing and the arranging, that's what takes the time. Once you've done that, open up the studio and let's go. It shouldn't take that long -- but I've got to get on with it!" 

As he's looking towards the future, this year also marks a key anniversary in Beck's music career -- 45 yeas since the release of the first Jeff Beck Group album, "Truth." He has fond memories of and high regard for that time, but Beck says he sees no point in commemorating it, despite frequent reports about pending projects with Rod Stewart. 

"He doesn't sound the same. The timbre of his voice has changed, and therefore there's no point in trying to do 'Truth 2' or anything like that," Beck explains. "He should've called me 25 years ago for that, or when I did 'People Get Ready' with him (in 1985) would've been a good time. But his manager didn't want that. I don't think he wants to lose his boy back into my evil clutches, so that never happened." 

Beck says he and Stewart have not been able to connect for something in more recent years and advises that his former bandmate "has got to focus. I've already done 11 demos for (Stewart), and he said they were in the wrong key. So there's the commitment; he didn't even tell me which key to do these tracks. But I don't want these sour grapes. He prefers (soccer), and maybe that's the problem. I'm not holding my breath."