N*E*R*D's Pharrell Williams
Published May 26, 2008The creation of N*E*R*Ds latest album has been a long and meticulous process. Unlike with their first two albums, In Search Of and Fly or Die , Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo and Shae Haley studied everything from the demands of the market to the technical intricacies of the music, calculating every aspect to a scientific degree. The result is Seeing Sounds, a neon-coloured firebomb, radiating energy and pulsating with power. On June 10, it will be released not only at a time when the trio feel it has no competition, but in the midst of likely the biggest hip-hop tour of the year, the Glow in the Dark tour, which they are on with Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco and Rihanna.
What was the inspiration behind the new album, Seeing Sounds?
There was a lack of energy out there, so it gave Chad and I, musically, a whole blank canvas to really play with, and then I kinda started getting a little scientific with it and putting extra things in there. There was a thing it's pretty controversial but I was reading how when Hitler spoke, one of the things that made him compelling and poised to those people, and super charming, is that when he wasn't speaking, he kept a high-frequency noise going on so that they were totally at ease [once he'd turn it off and speak]. It really felt like he brought them peace. So it's like manipulation. I did the opposite; I did things that, frequency-wise, would get you tuned up, and make you feel like it's more energetic than what it is, but if you kind of study it, like scoring that's what John Williams does all day long. That's the reason why people think [they] love Superman or Indiana Jones or whatever; it's great writing and it's great filming the cinematography is great but if you just don't look at the film, you can damn near tell what's happening in the film by just listening to it because it's kind of manipulating your attention. We wanted to make sure that every time you hear a record singular from the rest of the body of the work that it had wings on its own.
Tell me about "Everyone Nose, the first single.
Were not glorifying the usage of any kind of illegal substances. What were doing is something no different from what People does, or Us magazine does: Theyre raising the awareness. So basically we just made a song thats about our social observation of whats going on. Were basically saying, "America, look: This is whats going on in nightlife. What are you going to do about it? Now, the song definitely sounds fun, because kids dont want to be preached to So we had to make this song energetic and fun. This song couldnt be different from the rest of the songs, which are all about energy, with the exception of a few records. It may feel like it, but were not advocating or condoning anything. Were just saying, "Look, its just a social observation, but the song is a can of Red Bull.
What makes this album different from the first two?
[This] N*E*R*D album, I think, is honestly our best. I can say that because when we first did it, it was very experimental, which was a lot of fun, [but] we didnt know what the hell we were doing. We were just doing it because it was fun. It really didnt have any real, true purpose. The second album, we put a little more thought into it and controlled it a bit, but this one, we actually treated the project like scientists. Its very calculated; we did a lot of studying. We studied the market; we waited for the right moment. Like when Fred [Durst] was doing it, with "Nookie and "Faith and all those records, he killed it. He was selling out arenas no problem, stadiums. We just feel like when that was out, there were a couple of bands that rivalled that same kind of sound and though Limp Bizkit were the kings of it, there was competition. We dont really feel like we have any competition right now.
Tell me about your fan base.
We share some of the same fans as Kanye and some of the same fans Lupe but not necessarily Rihanna. If you go on YouTube we did a months worth of touring in a secondary market youll see the kids crowd surfing. One of our best shows [was] in Knoxville, Tennessee. We counted 12 crowd-surfers and like ten kids, separately, who would just run up on stage. They wouldnt even say "Hi; theyd just be like, "Sup, and stage-dive back in. What was so cool about it, what we noticed, was two things, which we considered phenomenal and such a privilege for us: One, we noticed that the kids were watching the YouTubes of the previous night and going, "They were diving? Im gonna do that. That was one of the most interesting things. The second most interesting thing was that none of these songs have been leaked online except "Everyone Nose, but because theyre watching the shows from YouTube, by the fourth and fifth nights, these kids are knowing some of the songs that were only playing live.