N*E*R*D's Pharrell Williams

N*E*R*D's Pharrell Williams
The creation of N*E*R*D’s 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.
We’re not glorifying the usage of any kind of illegal substances. What we’re doing is something no different from what People does, or Us magazine does: They’re raising the awareness. So basically we just made a song that’s about our social observation of what’s going on. We’re basically saying, "America, look: This is what’s going on in nightlife. What are you going to do about it?” Now, the song definitely sounds fun, because kids don’t want to be preached to… So we had to make this song energetic and fun. This song couldn’t 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 we’re not advocating or condoning anything. We’re just saying, "Look, it’s 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 didn’t know what the hell we were doing. We were just doing it because it was fun. It really didn’t 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. It’s 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 don’t 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 month’s worth of touring in a secondary market – you’ll 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 wouldn’t even say "Hi”; they’d 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? I’m 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 they’re watching the shows from YouTube, by the fourth and fifth nights, these kids are knowing some of the songs that we’re only playing live.