Introducing New Star Trak Artist Maxine Ashley

This is the newest Star Trak signee. Bronx-born Maxine Ashley is a soulful ‘n sassy 17-year-old misfit from a puerto rican descent with one helluva voice. She eschews convention, wears her hair half fluorescent pink, half brunette, loves The Smiths, Neneh Cherry and Beyoncé, and has trouble keeping her big mouth shut. Her YouTube channel has already amassed 350,000+ views of her bedroom covers of R&B hits, but Maxine has traded her bedroom for the studios of New York and London, where she’s busy honing her international sound–a carefree mix of urban pop, R&B, dance, and soul that would be equally at home on the streets of the Bronx, London, or Tokyo. “You guys gotta get ready for this artist that I have, Maxine Ashley,” Pharrell says, “She is the next level. It is like grinding melodic pop.”
She was briefly part of a Xenomania group with Katie McKenna (now a member of Lite N Dark). A UK pop production house. Xenomania is a British songwriting and production team founded by Brian Higgins and based in Kent, England. Formed after Higgins met Miranda Cooper, Xenomania has written and produced for renowned artists such as Cher, Kylie Minogue, Dannii Minogue, Pet Shop Boys, and Sugababes. Her first outing is a guest vocal appearance on Italian DJ Alex Gaudino’s summer-smash, “I’m in Love“. Her tough yet vulnerable vocal atop Gaudino’s shimmering electronics has already wowed radio and club DJs Europe-wide, thus cementing Maxine’s first step on the road to international takeover. “I’m In Love” went to #1 in the UK Upfront Club Charts and released in the UK on Ministry Of Sound on September 19th. Check out some Covers and Pictures after the jump.

Alex Gaudino & Maxine Ashley – I’m In Love
Alex Gaudino’s
new single was originally just a dance track with a catchy piano line and the looped “I’m In love” chant, in the same vein as Eric Prydz’s “Call On Me“. But the song was given new life with a topline written by Tim Powell performed by Maxine Ashley

Meet Pharrell’s guitarist, GF native Brent Paschke

It might seem strange for a self-described “indecisive” guy like Grand Forks native Brent Paschke to make career plans before he was old enough to apply for a driver’s license, but he said he “just knew” all along that music was his calling.
“That was just never a question,” he said. “In the seventh grade, I quit all sports. There was never a backup plan.”
His risk paid off, and Paschke has gone from an ambitious guitarist who was convinced he’d make a suitable replacement for the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ John Frusciante in the early 1990s to a musician, producer and songwriter who seems to have his imprint on everything these days.
Over the years, Paschke has earned acclaim and the respect of fellow musicians — not to mention an ongoing gig with one of the biggest names in music and the chance to open for major acts like the Black Eyed Peas.
Getting a break
Paschke graduated from Red River High School in 1990 and then attended a music school in Minneapolis. He cut his teeth as the guitarist for Twin Cities pop rock group Spymob, a band formed in 1993 that seemed poised for stardom.
But a common occurrence for new bands — unexpectedly getting dropped from a record deal — changed those plans.
Paschke said the band’s lawyer also represented Pharrell Williams, half of the Grammy-winning production team The Neptunes. Pharrell had a meeting with the president of Epic Records, who had just dropped Spymob, and Paschke said the timing worked out perfectly even though the band was “really bummed.”
“Pharrell went in there telling her he loved Epic Records and his favorite band, Spymob, is on her label,” he said. “She then had to break the news to him that she just dropped us. Pharrell was like, ‘O.K., that’s fine, then I’ll sign them.’ That’s where it all started.”
Paschke and the rest of Spymob were quickly recruited to play on “In Search of…,” the 2002 debut album by Pharrell’s rock and hip-hop group N.E.R.D. The album went gold in the U.S., quickly making the Spymob guys a hot commodity in the music world.
Not familiar with their music? Paschke said explaining their sound is a bit tough to put into words, but it’s a “beautiful experience like you’ve never had.”
“If you’d say the sound of Steely Dan is like driving west on sunset, I’d say the sound of N.E.R.D. is like gassing up Apollo 13 and orbiting the Earth with a front-row view of the Orion,” he said.
Paschke still works with Pharrell today and is “the guitar player that Pharrell uses 95 percent of the time he has someone play guitars,” he said.
“I’ve worked with Pharrell now for close to 10 years, so I have a great understanding and connection to what he’s thinking artistically,” he said.
He’s played on several N.E.R.D. albums over the past decade, including the group’s fourth album, “Nothing,” which was recently released.
Life in L.A.
Paschke moved to Los Angeles in 2006, a move he said gave him more opportunity than he could find in the Midwest.
“There’s that part of small-town, easygoing, not-so-crazy life that’s just appealing,” he said. “But as far as music goes, to be on any kind of next-level thing, Los Angeles is really the hotspot right now.”
He’s kept busy in recent years, and got the chance to play on two Katy Perry songs featured on her chart-topping 2010 album “Teenage Dream.” He said Perry “wanted to be there to direct the parts.”
“I really dig Katy,” he said. “I thought it was cool that she was that involved in the process. She’s very talented.”
Paschke said he’s focusing more these days on his production team with Shy Carter and Ahmed Oliver, a team that’s already worked with Ray Jay and will soon be featured on his show.
“I feel like now I’m on a journey of writing and producing more,” he said. “I still play a lot of guitar, but now I’m trying to get some motion as a writer and a producer.”
And Paschke’s been involved with several other major artists over the years, producing some songs for Taylor Dayne and writing and producing Joey McIntyre’s last EP.
Paschke said L.A. is much more “glamorous” and flashy than his Midwestern hometown, and said it still feels unnatural to have to boast about himself as he plays the music industry’s “game.”
But he said his upbringing in Grand Forks — and the North Dakota work ethic he picked up along the way — has probably helped him make it in a competitive industry.
“When you can go in and you’ve honed your craft a lot, you’re a great player,” he said. “That’s what counts. A lot of guys will talk the game, and they get in because they talk the game. But at a point, they might not be the last guy recording on the song.”

Pharrell x The Herald Sun Article

It’s rare the world goes more than a few months without hearing a piece of new music involving Pharrell Williams. Wether fronting N*E*R*D, collaborating with chart-topping artists (or producing them), working with The Neptunes or on solo material. Williams is a man constantly in motion. But he’s no glutton for punishment. “Nah. I’m a glutton for making people move,” he laughs. After a busy year that involved releasing N*E*R*D’s fourth album Nothing and Williams scoring the animated movie Despicable Me, he’s in a good place.
“The new stuff has been going well,” Williams says. “We’ve been playing with Gorillaz on the road so it has been fun. They are awesome – there were so many people on stage it was like Parliament psychedelic up there.” Speaking from a Miami studio, Williams reels off an equally jam-pcked calendar for 2011. “I’ve just been all over the place from project to project. Right now I’m working on lil’ Neptunes music,” he says. “And there’s another Despicable Me. We’ve also got some stuff going on with Madonna.”
He drops that last name casually, but won’t divulge further details, Williams says he learns a lot from the plethora of artists he works with. “I learn in every process,” he says. “every session I have I try to take something from and learn different things – how to make great music, how to make that music greater. “Working with Daft Punk – they’ve been our buddies for like 10 years, and watching those guys work is pretty amazing. They make great beats and it was cool to collaborate with them. I love Uffie – she’s got a great energy about her and Nelly is really sweet and super-talented.”

With his attention being called to the mixing desk in front of him, Williams announces that Australia should brace for a new sensation. “You guys gotta get ready for this artist that I have, Maxine Ashley,” he says, completely changing the conversation. “She is the next level. It is like grinding melodic pop.” With noises starting to appear down the phone line, Hit asks how The Neptunes record is going – clearly he’s double-tasking as he talks. “This new Neptunes record we’re working on right now is vicious,” he says excitedly. “It’s definitely harder – it totally demands sweat.”
So how different is making a Neptunes album compared to N*E*R*D’s recent effort? “Music is music,” he says. “But with N*E*R*D we put more of our personality into it, that’s just us being us, and with Neptunes we produce for a lot of people so we allow space for their personalities, for them to be themselves and our music sort of commandeers the direction a bit.” He won’t give a release date – “But just know, I’m in here right now,” he says, before loud beats begin bouncing down the line. “Yeahhhh,” shouts Williams, “sweat time!” Big thanks to our forum member matty.

Merry XMAS everybody!!


Pharrell Williams introduces Cris Cab

Miami Beach, FL – December 17, 2010 – Grammy Award winning artist Pharrell Williams introduced local Miami musician Cris Cab poolside outside the Fontainebleau’s nightclub, Arkadia. The 17 year-old Miami native, Cab has been writing music for the past three years and is currently recording his first album. His recent performances include multiple venues in and around the Miami area, as well as shows in the Bahamas. Cab cites his Cuban descent and his frequent visits to the Bahamas as part of the inspiration for his unique musical sound, which draws on reggae, as well as hip hop and rap influences. Although new to the scene, Cab graced the stage with confidence and an eagerness to perform. Arkadia guests were quite impressed with this new emerging artist!


Pharrell Williams gets 'Despicable'

Pharrell Williams is well known for producing and performing hit songs, but these days he is also composing for films.

The art of music production comes easy for Pharrell Williams, but the Grammy-winning singer/songwriter and producer met his match when Hollywood came knocking on his door.
Williams along with famed Brazilian artist and composer Heitor Pereira ("Curious George," "It's Complicated") scored and wrote the original music for the Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment animated feature, "Despicable Me." Under the guidance of the legendary and Oscar-winning Hans Zimmer, Williams wrote the theme song and several other original pieces in the flick.
The man behind the Neptunes, alt-rock collective N.E.R.D., and a slew of chart-topping hits from the likes of Justin Timberlake to Jay-Z admits that he did feel a bit out of his league in the presence of Zimmer ("The Lion King," "Gladiator") and Pereira.
"We often, as artists, put a lot of other things around it, such as video or products or ancillary merchandising, whereas with the world that [Hans and Heitor] work with -- they are sort of like the fulcrum point of a film," said the 37-year-old Williams.
Voiced by Steve Carell, Julie Andrews and Russell Brand, "Despicable Me" has grossed over $250 million in U.S. box office receipts to date and Williams music has garnered much praise.
From the moody title track to the Steely Dan-esque, "Rocket's Theme," Williams makes the transition from producer to composer seem easy.
"Pharrell is not only a great writer and producer of songs," said Chris Meledandri, the film's producer. "He also is a very talented recording artist and performer himself, and the music that he's writing is just an extraordinary fit with the film."
Though he calls Zimmer his "mentor," Williams also considers himself a fan and student of composers, John Williams, Willie Hutchison and of course, Quincy Jones. Williams said that finding that musical balance in the art of visual storytelling was his biggest challenge.
"In a film, the music assists the illustration of the story," he said. "What I've discovered is that there's a serious art in the mastery of telling the story."
"Despicable Me" tells the story of Gru (Carell), a professional thief with aspirations of becoming the top villain in the world by stealing the moon. Gru's world is turned upside down when he adopts three orphaned girls as a part of his grand scheme.
The movie's message about fatherhood and protecting our youth inspired Williams, he said.
Director Chris Renaud, had nothing but praise for Williams.
"I think kind of the vibe that he's delivered has a classic feel too, particularly the 'Despicable Me' theme," Renaud said. "It is evocative of a lot of things like the Pink Panther, the stuff from James Bond, but it's got a very contemporary feel -- I think that's what we were trying for."
The rest of Hollywood seems to have taken notice.
Williams has been approached to score three films, but said he can't reveal any information other than that he has agreed to work on two of the projects. His dream, he said, would be to score a biopic on the lives of Quincy Jones and Donny Hathaway.
"Despicable Me" -- the DVD hits shelves today -- was the single biggest thing to happen in his life, Williams said.
"I just never imagined having this opportunity."


Pharrell Williams in BBC Ever Crewneck Sweater

N.E.R.D recently performed at the Paper Magazine x Friends With You party in Miami Beach, FL . Pharrell was seen wearing a BBC x New Era Home Team fitted cap ($60) and a BBC Ever Astronaut Skull crewneck ($200). This Billionaire Boys Club crewneck is detailed with the new “Extravehicular Artificial Astronaut Skull” logo on the front of the chest, with a small “Authentic Astronaut” embroidered patch on the left hand side of the arm. Do you like? See pics below

N*E*R*D-y star finds peace in cosmos

"I'm looking at palm trees" N*E*R*D frontman Pharrell Williams tells me, rather dreamily. I'll have to take his word for it. He could be looking at the entire Florida State cheerleading team doing combination stunts in his hotel room, for all I know. He's calling from Miami.
"It's beautiful here. You gotta come."
As it happens, he is coming to New Zealand. Later this month, N*E*R*D - Williams, Shay Haley and Chad Hugo - will touch down in Gisborne as the headline act at the three-day Rhythm and Vines festival. It'll be his first visit to New Zealand and Williams says he's expecting "a lotta green".
Odds are he'll be disappointed. By then it'll be mostly dry and brown.
"What I know of it, it's a beautiful place. There are beautiful people. Good people, man and a lotta culture. That's where they filmed Lord of the Rings, correct?"
Even if you've never heard of Pharrell Williams, you will have heard him.
A multi-award winning producer, for the past two decades Williams has worked with everyone from Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake to Beyonce. According to a 2003 survey, he is said to have been responsible for 43 per cent of the songs played on United States radio.
He sings falsetto, a little like Prince. "That's very nice - but I'm nowhere near as good as that guy. That's the truth. He's great."
He would like to collaborate with Prince, though, and also Eminem. "That would be cool.
"I still have a lot to do. I would like to work with everybody. Each opportunity is super cool. You learn a lot in the process."
When he's not producing with Hugo under the moniker the Neptunes, he's designing for his clothing labels The Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream, collaborating on jewellery designs with Louis Vuitton and furniture designs with some smooth-sounding French outfit, Domeau and Peres. A rolling stone gathers no dross.
But while he glams it up, he says he is happiest "eating breakfast cereal at two in the morning and watching Ancient Aliens - it's on History [channel] and it's a good show. Someone sent me dope classic Shaw brothers' kung fu flicks. And dope animation. I've just been looking at them.
"That's my favourite thing. That and being in the studio, concentrating on this new N*E*R*D thing that we're working on." Can we talk about it? "No. But when it comes out you'll be like, whoa!"
He can talk about the new album, though, insouciantly titled Nothing.
N*E*R*D - no one ever really dies - have channelled the artists of the 1970s - Earth, Wind and Fire, The Doors and America, which also happen to be the soundtrack to Williams' youth.
Pharrell Williams was born in 1973 in Virginia Beach, to Carolyn and Pharaoh Williams II.
He learned to play the drums, the keyboard and he skateboarded.
He still does - he has a half-pipe in his home.
He drives a McLaren Mercedes SLR and a Ferrari Enzo, but he'd probably be just as happy in the Starship Enterprise. He's a Star Trek freak.
He's got tattoos, which he's now trying to erase. That must be a bummer. And really expensive?
"I'm working on it. It's just time for something different."
The self-described "hot-headed Aries" is a Christian who loves science - astronomy - and he has a particular thing for the late Carl Sagan, the astro-physicist.
"Yeah, I'm a Christian. To each his own. I have a conversation with atheists just as I would have a conversation with someone who believes in theology."
If he wasn't an artist, Williams thinks he might have been an astronomer.
"But that requires a level of math and doing calculations. That would get really boring for me.
"I do love the stars. I love what they represent. I love the way they affect us - inspirationally I mean.
"I'd definitely be wondering 'what if' and looking up to the stars.
"The stars are amazing to look at. Nothing compares. Besides the people you love. That's the only thing that shines a bit brighter than the stars."
He should put that in a song. He probably has already - a love song, such as That Girl, which he wrote about his childhood sweetheart and performed with Snoop Dogg.
"I forgot about that song. I love that song. It's probably one of my favourite productions of ours. The string arrangement was great."
Is she around?
That girl?
"I dunno. I forgot who I wrote that about, to be honest. There's always somebody special in my life."
Williams has dated Jade Jagger, but he's been quoted as saying he's looking for his Yoko Ono.
He loves the ladies and the ladies love him. They say so in the countless florid, unprintable dedications on fan websites - declarations and invitations that would make Larry Flynt blanch.
The most enduring relationship he's had, though, is the bromance with Hugo, who he met when he was 12, and Haley, when he was 14.
They've evolved and survived the battles that are inevitable in any creative partnership.
"We've fallen out. But that's what anyone does," says Williams.
"When people care about each other you go through things. And you don't always respond right in those scenarios. Maybe you could take a step back and think about a different way of approaching it. But you know, I'm an Aries - I'm a hot head. Sometimes when I'm angry, I'm angry.
"For the most part I try to account for my mistakes. Try to make peace with it and those people and just try to move on and move towards greatness.
"That's the only thing you can do."
Journalists have been on the receiving end of his "hot head", apparently. He won't be drawn on specifics, but it sounds like good sport all the same.
"I hate sitting around answering questions about me. It's like pulling out my own fingernails.
"It happens to be a part of the process. You have this idle moment. You're just kinda sitting there talking about yourself.
"Have you ever seen that Charlie Brown cartoon? You know, when the teacher starts talking - that's what I sound like to myself: 'Wah wah wah wah wah!' That's the most genius cartoonist - that Shultz guy is a genius.
"When journalists become pricks, that's when it ends. I immediately fire back and say things that I know will get me in trouble. But usually I will have someone from the office that will email me saying, 'Stop it. Stop it. Or, Don't do that! Or, you'll regret it later'."
Something tells me Williams will have few regrets. Apart from those tattoos.
"It is a rollercoaster ride. But you have to remember even when the going gets tough how lucky you are, you know?"
He has a catalogue of options to choose from, but he's never stopped to think about what he's most proud of.
"You know what, as thankful as I am, I'm always trying to conquer the next thing.
"But I guess I need to take that question as an inspiration and take a second to think about it."