By Zach David
"Roots-rock via Jim O'Rourke's smeared-up, detail-obsessed production for Wilco", the New York Times really enjoyed N.E.R.D.'s first CD "In Search Of." But what the hell is the New York Times? Yeah, I've never heard of it either. So I figured I'd go to the source of the music, Pharrell Williams, and ask him some questions.
I met up with Pharrell at an in-store appearance he was doing at Newbury Comics in Boston. After speaking to various Virgin execs I learned I'd be conducting the interview in Pharrell's limo. Sweet deal. Unfortunately, as the day went on, it didn't pan out that way, and we ended up chatting in a nearby bike store because "Hey, I like bikes man". From what I observed, he seemed like a pretty down to earth guy. Now lets me and you try and figure them there mesh hats.
We know that you and Timbaland have been friends for a while, but how did you and Chad Hugo hook up?
I met Chad in beginning band, we've been in band all these years, and we just continued to make songs after school, and just do different things, that's all.
How do yours and Chad's styles differ?
I don't know. I couldn't tell you man. I know Chad's style when I hear it, and he knows my style when he hears it.
How does Shay fit into the picture, and what does he do for N.E.R.D.?
He's just part of the creative vision, and he just does whatever the hell he wants to do on the song, cause you know N.E.R.D. itself is a rebellious type situation, it's like there's no real set way of doing things, we just do whatever the hell we think we want to do, and that's it. We do what we want to do, and we do it how we want to do it, and that's pretty much it.
Can you break down the mechanics of making a beat in lay-man's terms?
It's like clay and sculpting, you know, you use your hands and you do what feels right, you know what I mean? And you basically carve what it is that you see in your mind, and once you have it, you match what you feel in your mind, what you see in your mind, with what you feel with what you've heard and then it's basically that, you know what I mean? That's what I do when I play at the keyboards.
Now that you guys are pretty well established in the business, do you call the artists, or do the artists call you?
The artists call us, but we are just totally thankful that, you know, we're even in the game, you know what I mean? Cause you don't have to be, at any point in time, no matter what it is you do, f*** music, no matter what it is that you do, God can pull the plug on you at any time. But he's seeing it his way to let us do what we want to do man, and I'm so thankful that we can get paid for doing what we love to do. You know what I mean? You can put your whole heart into it. And I seriously stress to everybody man, like, you know, some people don't want to do music, some people want to flip burgers at McDonald's, you know what I mean, and that's what they want to do man, that's what you do.
That's why I'm hoping to go into journalism, so this is a start.
No, yeah, and if it makes you smile dude, then that's what it is. Man, let me tell you something: life is not about money, houses, cars or anything material. Life is about happiness. You know what happiness is: happiness is being able to smile with or about the people you love and yourself.
What was it like working with No Doubt and Gwen Stefani?
It was dope, I mean, you know, it had some rough edges or whatever, but it worked, you know what I mean? They still used the song.
Is that one of the few rock groups you've worked with?
No, we're working with Korn, we're working with Cake, we're doing Korn and we're doing Cake, me and Fred are talking about going in on his album.
Yeah, I think I read that on the MTV site.
The MTV interview you did?
What are you into musically right now?
Everything from Stereolab, to Steely Dan, to vintage Stevie Wonder, to Steppenwolf.
What would we find in your walkman?
Right now, Neil Young. I love that song "Old Man." (singing) Old man look at my life, I'm a lot like you were.
Any artists who you think people should give more attention to?
Mystikal's "Bouncing Back," it was about the world with him and itself, but I don't think they got that out of it.
If you had the opportunity to work with any artist dead or alive who would it be?
Dead or alive, Donnie Hathaway. Dead or alive, Janis Joplin. Dead or alive, all the greats man, all the greats that are gone, and alive, all the greats that are here, all the legends, all the older people. I want to work with some old people, you know what I mean, cause I know they still got it.
You a fan of Jimi Hendrix?
Hendrix, for real. Yeah, for sure.
People don't give pop-music a lot of credit musically. Given that, do you find it difficult to write music for such stars as Britney Spears?
No, cause I mean, it felt good. Man, it's all about what the feel is like. That determines how far it goes.
Where do you and Chad buy your clothes?
I used to be like a real serious you know Gucci or Versace type dude. And now I'm just you know Dickies, and you know collector's item Nike Dunks, or Adidas shell toes, you know regular vans t-shirts, independent struct t-shirts, sweat jackets, hats, whatever, little bit luxurious, that's about it though. I don't care. I spend $12, I dunno, f*** it.
Randy Quaid appears in your video for "Rock Star." You a fan of Cousin Eddy? Completely, that's exactly the reason why: Cousin Eddy. I want to be Clark Griswold. Really, because I think that Clark lived and died for his kids, I think that's so dope. I can't wait to have a family. Music's dope, but life is precious.
I gotta say: I was reading the bio on your website, and honestly, like I saw bits of me, and all my friends in that. Like one of my friends is really philosophical, and I saw that with what you were writing, and I dunno if I was a nerd in high school, but...
Me either, I wasn't. But it's like, you know, let's glorify some dudes that weren't glorified. Cause they're glorified now. All the nerds are smart, and they own you, you know what I mean? They own the f***ing town. Give 'em their props. You know?
And finally, I think all your male fans (and some female fans) are wondering: Has "Tape You" (a song about Pharrell and two girls) come true?
1 million times brother.
Thank you. Thanks for interviewing us, and just know that we're going to continue man. The revolution is not to fight the world. The revolution is to change the sound.
Right now, Neil Young. I love that song "Old Man
thats l my dad's music
hes really humble, love that