Interview w/ N.E.R.D.

Published on October 21st, 2010

Photo by Colin Kerrigan

Earlier this month, my friend Colin and I had the chance to sit down with Pharrell and Shay of N.E.R.D. after their show with the Gorillaz at the Susquehanna Bank Center. With a new album scheduled to be released November 2nd, the boys have been touring practically nonstop. The album, Nothing, boasts tracks featuring T.I. and Nelly Furtado, as well as ‘Hypnotize U’, produced by none other than Daft Punk. We talked to the guys about what their production process is like, artist/label discrepancies, what to expect from the new album, and more.

Check out the interview and some tracks after the jump by clicking ‘More’!

Photo by Colin Kerrigan

Colin: Alright, so you guys have a new record coming, Nothing. I know the album release date, like Shay when I spoke to you a while ago you were saying June 15th. It keeps getting pushed back, what’s going on there?

Pharrell: It’s really coming this time. It’s that a) we’re perfectionists, and b) we happen to just be really good at pushing album dates back. Not on purpose, but just trying to get it right.

Colin: So when you said June 15, did you think the album was done, or did you guys just keep toying and adding stuff?

Shay: Well, we felt like the album was done, and we were super content with it. But we have like a roundtable every Tuesday with all the politics that be, or the powers that be I should say. And they didn’t feel like it was done, so we had to go make some tweaks, add some additions, subtract some shit, and you know, perfect it.

Colin: I know you guys were on a major label, and now you have your own record label…

Pharrell: We’re still on a major.

Colin: Really?

Pharrell: Yeah, Interscope.

Claire: Yeah, isn’t it under Interscope?

Pharrell: It’s a subsidiary.

Colin: Oh ok. So do you guys have more freedom with your creativity? I know sometimes record labels get in the way of artists.

Shay: I think every artist faces that dilemma. Especially if there’s a certain style of music that’s winning at that particular time. Whether you’re signed directly to the major or you’re signed to a subsidiary, at the end of the day you have to answer to one guy. Actually, it’s a team of people, it’s the spearhead who is the nucleus, and then all his other colleagues that work under him…and he values their opinions. This situation was no different from any other situation. I mean when we presented the album they loved it, and they still do. But they wanted us to add a few things to just enhance the project, which we did, and we’re ready to move forward.

Colin: I wanted to ask you, I know you’ve been on a few of Kanye’s Good Friday tracks. If you could describe, what’s it like working with Kanye West?

Pharrell: Oh he’s a good guy. Super talented, loves music, loves life.

Claire: How was working with Daft Punk?

Pharrell: Super fun. Yeah, those are our boys, for like 10 years now.

Colin: You’ve worked with a ton of artists, remixing and producing them. I’m sure you get the question of who’s your favorite a lot, but who’s been the most challenging to work with?

Claire: …and I’m sure rewarding as well.

Pharrell: Challenging? I don’t know. Because, I’m gonna have to give you a bland answer, but the truth is that I check my ego at the door. So I’m there to service them, the music, and the personality that’s there. I make sure that they are getting the best light musically and the best backdrop possible. That’s really what it’s all about. So, I couldn’t tell you, cause everyone has a different way of working. Some people, they want me to go, ‘oh my god that person’s so difficult, like how do you deal with that?’ But for me, I just interpret it as they’re not difficult, that’s just the way that they work. And whatever way works for them, for the magic to come out, then that’s the way we work.

Claire: Nice. So, you guys do a lot of production obviously. How do you feel when people remix your stuff?

Pharrell: Sure. I love it. It’s creativity, the world needs it

Colin: Do you have any favorite remixes of your songs that come to mind?

Pharrell: Boys Noize killed Hot-N-Fun.

Claire: That’s exactly what I was thinking. It’s amazing.

Pharrell: I might like that better than the original.

Colin: If you had to sum up your new record, is there a theme or a concept behind it?

Pharrell: The album just utilizes a lot of vintage sounds.

Colin: I was watching the interview with Mark Hoppus the other day, and he was saying there’s The Doors, and I forget who else…

Shay: America, Queen, Crosby Stills and Nash.

Pharrell: Did you guys hear the show tonight?

Both: Yeah.

Pharrell: And?

Claire: I thought it was sick.

Colin: I dug it. I was in the photo pit for a little while so it was kind of loud, but I dug it.

Claire: I was a huge fan of the dancers.

Pharrell: Oh ok wow, thank you.

Claire: Well, and I mean you guys as well of course.

(All laugh)

Colin: So what’re three records that you guys are listening to right now?

Shay: Right now I’m listening to…actually, I was just on YouTube listening to a lot of shit. I was just listening to The Fratellis, Queens Of The Stone Age, The Hives, some MGMT…Electric Feel.

Pharrell: I love listening to them too.

Shay: I was listening my band called Mansions on the Moon, ‘She Makes Me Feel’, you should check it out. I was listening to Christian Rich. Another band that I’m dealing with, they’ve got a record called Famous Girl, they have a few records. They have a mixtape that they did with Clinton Sparks that you should check out. And that’s about it.

Colin: So when the album finally drops, what’s your guys’ plan? I know you’ve been on tour for a long time, the majority of this year, but what’s the plan? Are you gonna keep touring the album or start a new record?

Shay: After this tour, we’re gonna do spot dates here and there, do some promotional stuff, and then we’re gonna work on a few outside projects. We have a few creative, innovative ideas for the next up and coming album.

Claire: And how’s this tour going? How are the Gorillaz, they cool?

Pharrell: Yeah, super fun, those guys are geniuses.

Claire: That’s awesome. So is there a difference when you guys are producing for yourselves, for your own album, as opposed to when you’re working with other people? Would you say the process is different?

Pharrell: No, I think we’re all in there just chasing the magic moment, that just feels incredible.

Claire: Yeah?

Pharrell: We love it, it’s really fun. I like doing it, do it all the time.

Claire: That’s good.

Colin: So to finish up, would you guys mind if I snap a photo or two?

Pharrell: Sure.

Glimpse of the Future (Xaphoon Jones of Chiddy Bang Remix) – Mansions On The Moon

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Rock Star – N.E.R.D.

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Hot-N-Fun (Boys Noize Remix) – N.E.R.D.

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  1. Posted by Chris on October 21st, 2010, 11:44 [Reply]

    Great interview!


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