The Neptunes #1 fan site, all about Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo

The Neptunes #1 fan site, all about Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo

Pharrell Talks Possible N*E*R*D/Gorillaz Collaboration

“You don’t know America?” Pharrell Williams asks, puzzled. The hip-hop superproducer and N*E*R*D frontman is singing the folk rock group America’s “A Horse With No Name” backstage at the Fox Theatre, following his band’s opening performance for Gorillaz on Wednesday, and he’s shocked at this reporter’s lack of knowledge about the band.

“When you go home, look up America, ‘A Horse With No Name.’ You will be” — he’s now clapping along with each word for emphasis — ” So. Happy.” It turns out that along with churning out some of the biggest pop and hip-hop hits of the last 10 years, including smashes by Jay-Z, Gwen Stefani, Britney Spears and too many others to count, Williams is also a big fan of America. In fact, it’s one of the groups that inspired N*E*R*D’s fourth album, “Nothing,” due out Nov. 2.

“We like making music that we feel like is missing, and right now I would do anything for a new America record, or Crosby, Stills & Nash, or The Doors, or The Moody Blues,” says Williams, 37. “We try to make records like (those artists), but with 808s under them.” N*E*R*D’s opening set for Gorillaz leaned heavily on the group’s new material, and marked a step back from the manic live shows for which the band has come to be known. “We’re known for intense, high energy shows, but this album feels great, so it’s a must we perform it,” says N*E*R*D member Shay, who’s perched on a counter and snacking from a canister of Planters mixed nuts. “It’s meant to be where you can sit down and listen. The music doesn’t command you to get up and jump around.

With the exception of a few songs, it’s super mellow. It’s great to drive around to, great to read to, great to chill to, that type of thing.” One song in particular that stood out in the band’s set was “Hypnotize U,” produced by reclusive French electronic duo Daft Punk. The track came together when the two groups ran into each other recently in London. N*E*R*D was finishing its album, while Daft Punk was working on the soundtrack for “Tron.” They played each other their albums, and when Daft Punk played them one of their instrumentals, Williams started singing “Hypnotize U” right then and there. “It was crazy, it was magical that night,” Williams says. “The very next night we recorded the song.”

Now that the Daft Punk duet is in the can — a coup, considering how little the group works with outside artists — Williams says he’s hoping to work with Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn while the bands are on the road. The two have talked about doing a song together, he says. There are several parallels between Gorillaz and N*E*R*D Both put out their debut albums in 2001, and both are side projects from their creators’ day jobs that have lasted longer than many thought they would. “We look up to those guys,” says Shay. “I see the similarities, but they’ve definitely surpassed us. They’re geniuses. Their live performances are refreshing, eye opening. It’s like going and watching DreamWorks animation. There’s so much going on. It’s like a circus.”


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