DJ Duo MSSL CMMND aka Chad Hugo and Daniel Biltmore, are embarking on a European tour and it’s happening this weekend!
So why not celebrate your pay day in style by partying the night away to a soundtrack spun by Dan & Chad.
Find the dates below:
Secret Date – Paris – [Pending Confirmation] Follow MSSL CMMND on Twitter for details
March 28th – London – Libertine @ China White (Details here)
March 29th – Düsseldorf – The Attic (Find out more here)
Here’s some MSSL CMMND to get you in the mood.
By Andreas Tzortzis. Photos : Finlay MacKay.
The man in that hat is as cool as you’d like; voice above a whisper but not much more, holding forth on the trouble with success, the absurdity of hit-making, on why people don’t feel anymore. Forty years on this earth, 23 of them creating the type of music that has soundtracked house parties, breathless and fumbling late nights, slow cruises through the neighborhood, and Pharrell Williams is still, remarkably, nailing it: Two global hits (“Get Lucky,” “Blurred Lines”) in 2013, which netted him four Grammys, including his second Producer of the Year award; another party-starter, “Happy,” showed up on the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack and won an Oscar nomination, as well as an award for the innovative 24-hour music video created for it.
But then there’s also the hat, and what it reveals about the taste-making gene Williams possesses. Last seen in Malcolm McLaren and the World’s Famous Supreme Team’s “Buffalo Gals” video in 1982, it’s a Vivienne Westwood piece that first appeared on the shelves of the shop she and McLaren owned in London. Now tweeted, mocked, and memed the world over, it’s almost as if Williams planned it. Which he’ll assure you he didn’t, because nothing Williams does follows a plan so much as appears to him at the right moment, ready and willing to be birthed into success. That includes his new album, Girl, his first solo project in eight years, which comes out March 3rd but will likely be firing our collective synapses far beyond that.
The Red Bulletin: What are you looking for when an artist walks into your studio?
Pharrell Williams: It is three things. It is, one, what they walk in saying they would like to do. It is also their energy that they just are naturally giving off. You know, whether it is a cab ride or it is an argument or something that they have on their mind. And then, third, it is the way that they actually sound and vocal tone. I always try to make sure that there is some interesting juxtaposition. So if your voice is like velvet and people are used to hearing you in things that would be conducive to a velvet voice, I would say let’s try gravel music, if that makes any sense. So there is some interesting alchemy there.
And the magic is when you are able to marry those elements together. Like, “Man, I didn’t know peanut butter and chocolate could go together.” Yeah, it is called a Reese’s cup. But you would never know unless you try.
So that is where I find the magic, in trying to just blend different worlds together and mix it up.
In pairing and trying, there seems to be no fear of failure whatsoever.
Do you fear failure at all? Because looking at your track record, you seem to be very consistent from success to success.
What do you mean?
The fear that maybe this shit isn’t working out. Maybe this track isn’t going to hit. Maybe that clothing line isn’t going to work. Do you think about it in those terms?
Yeah, I don’t even understand that. My mind just can’t even process that.
And it has always been like that?
Yeah. When you love something, what are you scared of?
I suppose you are scared of negative reaction.
Well, if you are thinking about fame and success, yeah. But who …
Well, if you’re on top, I guess the fear would be losing that, right? Losing that touch.
Right. But if that is your main concern, being on top, then you probably should find another business. Because our business works off of emotion, and it is not really easy to quantify it outside of what it is.
It is like saying, “Well, are you afraid of how the ball is going to react to the ice hockey rink?” No, because that is not what it is meant for. The ball is for that world and the puck is for that world. Emotions are just emotions. So when a song works, you should just be thankful, because that is not why you do it.
So any kind of success that I have ever had on a song is not my doing. So you don’t do it for that, because I can’t control that. I do it because I feel like it feels good and it may resonate with other people. So it is not really good to mix the idea of what success is and the purity of why you do something.
Unless, define success. Big or huge? That means that after I have done what I did or anybody else that has made their contribution to something, success means the people voted, they requested, they shared it with a friend, they purchased it, they downloaded it. And they did it in large numbers.
That is what success means. I have nothing to do with that. I can’t control it. I can only control what I do.
When I was young, yeah, I looked at it differently, because I looked at a lot of people who quantified their happiness by how successful they were. And nobody wants to work really hard and not get recognized for it.
You want to be appreciated for your work. But that is a fine line in appreciating your work and it doing super well and you getting hooked on that. If you get hooked on success, you are screwed.
How did you manage to avoid that?
Well, I have been doing it for a long time, and I realized the thing that always gives back to me is my curiosity for how I can find new chord progressions, new sounds. That is how I am rewarded, because I can’t control anything else.
So when something is “successful,” that is what you guys always see me saying thank you for all of the time, or I put my hands together, because I want you to know that I know where it comes from, and point up.
You know, we are vessels. We are straws. We are not the juice. And anyone that believes that, those are the people that end up, you know, losing their minds later on in life or not happy.
I don’t have to be the juice. I don’t have to be the glass. I don’t have to be the coldest part of the whole entire thing, which is the ice. You could be that. I am just happy to be a part of it.
You are the facilitator?
I am a part of it. I am a participant. The minute that you claim you are a facilitator, well then you are the all-powering. And are you? If everybody that made a song gained that kind of power, then I mean, what would this world look like?
That is why everything is fair, right? We all play a part in it. It is like an ant farm or a beehive. Everyone has their job. My job is to just listen and sort of try to channel it through, but it is coming from somewhere else, hence the term channel. So I am thankful when songs become what they do, because it is not my doing.
There are some producers out there who think it’s possible to manufacture hits; that a chord progression, that a certain hook sung by someone, will guarantee success.
You don’t subscribe to that at all?
Well, not unless you want to get in the rat race and compete with everybody else and hope that your song makes it to the top when it sounds just like everything else. Then yeah, but I like the different stuff anyways.
And you know what? I am not the only one. There are so many people that love different things. That is why I like the concept of a phone, you know—connectivity is a huge part of it, too. But where the device companies are really smart, they realize people wanted to customize things, because individuality is everything.
Your house smells like what you want it to smell like. It has been customized by you. Can you imagine where you wake up where there are only three furniture layouts for everyone’s home in the world? Yeah, it is funny; music is kind of like the only place where there are people that believe that delusion, that there is a formula.
By Kathy Iandoli. Exclusive: Pharrell traces his current direction back to a 2011 Pop/Rock album and a search to restore music’s human element.
It’s an unfortunately stringent rule within Hip Hop that evolution isn’t open-ended. We’ve witnessed artists like Kanye West test that theory, volleying back and forth from 808s & Heartbreaks to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to Yeezus. Still, the greater Rap audience viewed it as bidding adieu to his already vaguely Rap beginnings. No one is feeling this more right now than Pharrell Williams. In 2013, Skateboard P hit the 40-year mark and celebrated it with taking a break from rapping. How was that perceived? Pharrell Williams will no longer be rapping. The statement was pushed through a filter and re-translated as Pharrell Williams has left Hip Hop. Has he though? With the ever-changing definition of the genre (not the culture), to exile one of Hip Hop music’s greatest producers, hook singers, and song creators would be like spitting at God in a pair of scuffed up Adidas shelltoes. No. Pharrell hasn’t ditched us, and he clears that up in his interview with HipHopDX.
Rather, he took a bit of a hiatus from the traditional art of rhyme to supply the music pipeline with what he considers to be more of a human element to his music. He titled his follow-up solo album G I R L as an ode to the women in his life who have inspired him and made him the man that he is today. Hip Hop hasn’t had a dedication to the fairer sex since LL Cool J’s “Around The Way Girl” and more “recently” Andre 3000’s “Behold a Lady.” Sure, G I R L sonically leans on the samples that Hip Hop is built upon more so than the finished product itself. That’s what P does though: he takes something music hasn’t fathomed and intensifies it. He holds a magnifying glass up to it and makes you really understand it. Your favorite Hip Hop artist is thanking women for his genius in a genre categorically riddled in misogyny, thereby rebelling against the music of rebellion. Leave it to Pharrell to pull that trick out of his gigantic hat. It’s pure genius, despite P rejecting that title. That’s how you know he legitimately is one.
HipHopDX: Have you been tuned in to the opinions surrounding the album since it started streaming?
Pharrell Williams: You know what? I haven’t. The team has been telling me stuff from time to time, but I haven’t. I’ve just been doing interviews, spreading the message that the record is out and how pleased I am to have the opportunity to do it. I’ve spent more time doing that.
DX: You mentioned upon turning 40 that you did away with the idea of rapping. Was that a product of age or being at a point in your life where it was time to do something completely different?
Pharrell Williams: Well, I think either I misspoke or I was misunderstood. I wasn’t saying I wasn’t gonna rap anymore. What I was saying was that what I was working on didn’t concern rapping, ‘cause I wanted a clear focus on expressing myself. Now what I can be clear about was that I was working on this project, and I didn’t want to confuse my messaging. I wanted to stick to my subject matter, which was my full spectrum version of appreciation for women—which is why I named the album G I R L. That’s capital letters with two spaces between each letter. I just wanted to focus in on that.
DX: In the past, you’ve mentioned having synesthesia. When you were making this album, and even as you hear it now, what do you see?
Pharrell Williams: For me, the music gives you the colors…the chords. I wanted to make sure, beyond people just hearing the music, that it was kinesthetically rewarding. So that was like the main purpose. All of the sentiment and inspiration just came from the ode to women, and the various colors in the music would come from my attempts to accompany those ideas with music
DX: It felt like your 2013 work with Robin Thicke and Daft Punk was building towards this sound. How much of this album was done side by side with these artists?
Pharrell Williams: No, that’s not true. I’ve actually been flirting with this sound since 2011. I made this song for Adam Lambert called “Trespassing” in 2011 and put it out in 2012. I also did “Inevitable” with the Scissor Sisters. There’s a bunch of records I did that predate that music, and I guess it just wasn’t the right time.
DX: So in 2011 when you got in that frame of mind, what inspired you to continue in that direction?
Pharrell Williams: Musically, I just felt like live music was taking a bashing at that time. Everything just felt so quantized and synthetic. It was just missing the element of a human touch. When you listen to music of the old, you hear the musicianship and the musicality. You would hear the humanity in it, and that made it interesting. I was like, “Man, I just want to sort of fuse some of those things together.” It was really ironic.
When I got to the studio in Paris, the robots [Daft Punk] asked me to play them what I was working on. That’s when I played them that Jennifer Hudson…and Mary J. Blige was on that record at the time by the way. I played them “Blurred Lines,” and I played them the Adam Lambert record, which had already been out. I just wanted them to hear it or whatever. So that was just a crazy time, because right after that session, I told them it was inspired by Nile Rodgers. They told me, “Yeah? Well, he’s on the track that we want you to write on.” And I was like, “What?” It was this really weird thing because they’re robots and I’m human. I’m American, and they’re French. They’re on that side of the Atlantic, and I’m on this side of the Atlantic. Yet, here we are thinking the same thing. We missed the humanity in popular music, and there we were trying to inject it.
There were plenty of people making live music and making great, live contributions. You just couldn’t hear it through the wall of the EDM stuff and the other genres of music that were poppin’ at the time. So we all just wanted to make something that felt good…something that didn’t just sound good. There was a lot of music at the time that was sounding good, but what feeling did you walk away with? A good film is defined by how you feel when you walk away. Music is the same thing.
DX: There’s a quote out there on the Internet—the good old, reliable Internet. It says, “Has Pharrell ever said that he’s a genius? No, because he doesn’t have to.” How comfortable are you with accepting that title?
Pharrell Williams: Ummm…I’m not comfortable. A genius denotes someone who knows a lot on their own—self contained. And I’m not. All of my work is a direct reaction to meeting all these very interesting people with whom I’ve collaborated. I’ve learned so much about their processes and who they were, and their vibes have inspired me. In that case, I just could not take authorship for my path. I know that I’ve elected to take some of the choices, turns and the direction that I’ve taken. But I know at the same time, there are these integral people in our lives from time to time who come in, give us direction and guide us. They tell us which way to go, and those are the people I feel like are just as much… They share the authorship for all of my successes.
So I’m not comfortable in that. I would say I’ve had a lot of really, really, really good help. And I’m just thankful that people have seen something in me, and I was smart enough to allow them to guide me in the right direction. That’s the closest to that term I could ever come to. I’m smart enough to listen to other people, but nowhere near genius.
By Simon Hattenstone. Photos : Gustavo Papaleo. Mention Pharrell Williams to anyone who knows anything about music and they will start throwing figures at you: do you realise that Pharrell is responsible for 50% of the music played on radio, or is it 60%? Pharrell enthusiasts would have you believe that the producer-writer-musician is responsible for every hit record in America and the UK over the past 20 years, and it’s true that he has been behind many of them (Blurred Lines and Get Lucky last year; before that, Britney Spears’s I’m A Slave 4 U, Justin Timberlake’s Rock Your Body, Snoop Dogg’s Drop It Like It’s Hot and numerous others). In fact, the stat people are thinking of goes back to 2003, when the Neptunes – the production duo Pharrell formed with his old school friend Chad Hugo – produced almost 20% of songs played on British radio and 43% on US radio. It’s a remarkable figure.
But what is even more remarkable is that at the age of 40, after more than six years without a major hit single as solo artist or producer, and when many of his contemporaries are considering hanging up their mics, Pharrell has gone stratospheric. He was behind the two biggest hits of 2013, co-writing and singing on Robin Thicke’s controversial Blurred Lines (sample lyric: “I know you want it… I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two”), as well as dancing on the accompanying video (equally controversial: the men are all clothed and swaggering, the women passive and naked). He did the same for the second bestselling single of the year, Daft Punk’s Get Lucky – and then scored his first solo number one with the ecstatic Happy, a Motown-influenced feelgood track as nonsensical as it is uplifting (“Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof”). Last Sunday, he performed it at the Oscars, shimmying along the front row with Meryl Streep and Lupita Nyong’o. All three of these tracks are the work of a pop genius in his prime: right now, nobody can conjure up infectious dance music quite like Pharrell.
After more than 20 years in the business, he has just released his second solo album, G I R L (he insists on two spaces between each letter). What took him so long? We meet at Sony HQ in London, where he is playing the album to an audience for the first time. By Pharrell’s standards, he is casually dressed: polka-dot shirt, grey cardigan, trademark outsized Vivienne Westwood Buffalo hat and a bizarre mix of jade, diamond, gold and water pearls hanging down his chest. He introduces the album in a hypnotically mellow voice. Forget Blurred Lines’ “questionable lyrics and the aesthetic of the video”, he says – this is what he really thinks about women. Then he goes off on one: how women could shut down our economy if they didn’t go to work, how they could end the human species by saying no, how different the world would look and feel if 75% of its political leaders were women (“That’s going to happen and I want to be on the right side of history when it does”). He’s now really into his flow. It’s women who buy his records, he says, women who love him, women who keep him in business, women are his everything. It’s hardly Andrea Dworkin, but this does seem to be a partially reconstructed Pharrell.
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