N*E*R*D*: Rocking the solar system
Thu 26th Aug, 2010 Featuresin
Pharrell Williams – musician, producer, designer, and perpetual nominee for the coveted ‘Awesomest Dude Alive’ – is on the other end of the phone, and I’m a little bit starstruck.
He’s taking some time out from putting the final touches on N*E*R*D*’s fourth album, Nothing and from his countless other projects, including the score to a new animated movie Despicable Me written with Hans Zimmer and Heitor Pereira and performed by a 67-piece orchestra.
“Thank God we finished that,” says Pharrell. “And…then I’ve also got a couple of other things going on, in art, that I can’t really talk about at the moment. But I definitely have some more art endeavours coming. And when you see it you’ll notice it, because it’s from a grant – I got a grant to back me for it.
“And then, also the regular stuff. The BBC, Ice Cream [his clothing labels] – we’re doing some amazing things with Timbaland. And then, um, I dunno. I just went in with T.I., just went in with Gucci Mane, Nicky Minaj, uh, Shay’s stuff, Avril Lavigne – all people who wanted to try different things. Ciara, Rihanna…”
All this, of course, has been going on at the same time as the sessions for the N*E*R*D* album. So with everything that’s going on, with all the different sounds and styles that are clearly flying around inside his head, what can he tell us about Nothing?
“Uh…it is definitely…it’s timeless, in the sense that it borrows from different eras. And so, because it’s not from this time that makes it timeless. People could be listening to it at any time. You could have put it on at Woodstock, or put it on in the club tomorrow. It’s super-sexy sounding, but what we’re talking about is everyday issues.”
It’s interesting that he brings up “sexy”; when Seeing Sounds came out Pharrell’s lyrics were blasted in the US Rolling Stone with contributing editor Christian Hoard declaring that “you don’t learn much from Pharrell’s lyrics except that he’s horny”.
Over to you, Pharrell…
“You know what’s so funny? Everyone reads that same stupid review, from that same guy. We’ve made that fucker famous. I mean, I’m sure in their own respect they are probably a great writer and do great things, but it was one writer. And yet we get asked that question every time because it’s come up on Google. That’s the one thing I would change.”
“But I think that for the most part, when that review made it back to us, it was during a time when we were playing the songs for people [to preview Seeing Sounds ], and that particular batch of songs was very sexually oriented. So that person took it as the whole Seeing Sounds album was super-sexual. But it wasn’t – they just happened to hear a particular line-up of songs that happened to have sexual themes. But the person only heard five records, and I think there was a total of twelve or thirteen songs on the album.”
“So all that is to say, yes, there is a sexual slant to the things I write about. But, y’know, what part of the things that I write that are sexual don’t usually happen when making another human being? Y’know? OK, I’m saying sexual things, but how do we make people?”
It seems to me that in the last 12 months, a lot of hip hop and rap artists have stopped using jazz hooks as the basis for their music, and instead have shifted to European house, techno or dance music; but will NERD be going down the same path?
“Well, I don’t want to give away our secret,” Pharrell coyly comments, “But when everybody else is on the highway, we’ve been known to take planes. So, if that’s what everybody else is doing, good for them. But we wanna continue to rock this planet, rock this solar system.”
What more can you ask for?
Catch Pharrell and co. at Summdayze, Summafieldayze and Pyramid Rock Festival this New Years period.