Status Magazine October/November 2010 Issue – N.E.R.D. x Friends With You Cover

Status Magazine October/November 2010 Issue - N.E.R.D. x Friends With You Cover

For October/November 2010, Status Magazine presents their Night Life issue. On the cover you will find N.E.R.D. with graphics by Friends With You, the same artists that also worked on the new N.E.R.D. website. Also you will find inside the mag article on Pedro Winter, La Roux, The Drums and more.

N.E.R.D. live in Denver (video HQ)

N.E.R.D. “Nothing” (review)

Somewhere over the course of the past decade Pharrell Williams‘ name became synonymous with style—not simply style, but innovation as well. Musically, if your project had the man’s name associated with it, its chances of failure were nil; even his 2006 solo debut, In My Mind, somehow avoided universal critical backlash despite being marginally bearable. Like Pharrell, his production team the Neptunes has also consistently been praised for their forward thinking approach when working alongside some of the era’s most colossal characters. From Ol’ Dirty Bastard to Britney Spears, from the Clipse to Kanye West, the Neptunes have backed them all. But for every “Drop It Like It’s Hot” there have been a dozen flat beats along the way, an inconsistency that has been no more apparent than with N.E.R.D. In the wake of two commercially successful outings—2002′s In Search Of… and 2004′s Fly or Die—the trio of Pharrell, his Neptunes partner Chad Hugo, and Shay Haley returned with Seeing Sounds in 2008—a largely inconsistent LP that missed its mark with fans and critics alike. Now comes Nothing, which raises the question of whether or not Pharrell and his crew can actually release a consistent album that lives up to their abilities. In short: it does. But the reason why it succeeds might surprise some.

Unlike the group’s previous album, the rock element is largely subdued here—the songs are sewed together with elements of funk and pop so seamlessly that they neither bear a resemblance to the aggressive sounds of “Rock Star” or the pulsating energy of “Everyone Nose” that have so greatly defined their sound to this point. In discussing the album to Much Music recently, Pharrell addressed the influences that are so clearly heard throughout Nothing, pointing out the Doors, America and Crosby, Stills & Nash as a few of the names which helped steer the direction of N.E.R.D.’s new songs back to the ’70s. Think sexy, think horn-driven TV soundtracks, think filthy, nasty funk; whatever you do, don’t think rap/rock when thinking of Nothing.
The energetic “Party People” opens Nothing with a crusty organ and rumbling bass line. Later T.I. steps in for a rapid-fire verse which works within the barriers of the album; the result is an all-too-brief cameo that adds to the track and helps set the tone for what’s yet to come. “Hypnotize U” follows by relying heavily on a hypnotic beat that works well beneath Pharrell’s whispered falsetto. As is true throughout much of the album though, his lyrics seem off-the-mark, and his attempts to sound sexy come off with all the romantic allure of the introduction to Deep Throat, “I can make your storms feel sky blue… If I’m not beside you, I’m inside you.”

“Help Me” peaks with a horn explosion; something which is echoed throughout Nothing with the rattling drum beat of the ’70s cop drama theme song-sounding “Perfect Defect,” the use of a sax in “I’ve Seen the Light/Inside of Clouds,” and “Sacred Temple.” Weaving between the bouncing “Victory,” the Steve Miller-reaching “I’ve Seen the Light/Inside of Clouds” and the nasty funk of “God Bless Us All,” the album begins to hit its stride following the slow crooner “Life as a Fish.” “Nothing On You” and the Nelly Furtado collaboration “Hot-n-Fun” then catapult the energy into a higher level, one which holds up through to “The Man.”

Nothing isn’t a drastic shift in sound, but it’s an interesting direction nonetheless. You can still call it rock, but it’s really the group’s first honest attempt at a complete pop album. The trio doesn’t fall into any grinding tangents which break up the momentum of Nothing, and there aren’t any tracks which disrupt the flow of the sound. Even Pharrell doesn’t come off as out-of-place despite lyrics ranging from the innocently goofy “While the federal buildings blow, below fish glow” (“Life as a Fish”) to the passive aggressive “No, I won’t kill you, but I’ll watch you die” (“Help Me”). In doing so they’re showing a little more evidence of why they’ve been revered so highly all these years. Maybe it’s the unexpectedly smooth direction, maybe it’s the lack of depth from the group’s chart-topping contemporaries this year, but with relatively little fanfare leading up to its release, N.E.R.D. has put together one of 2010′s most surprisingly complete pop albums.

N*E*R*D Discuss Touring, New Album, Commercialism and Daft Punk

It's hard to believe that given as in demand as music producers Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo are as the Neptunes that they can still find time to put out a new album for their N*E*R*D project. But somehow Pharell, Chad, and fellow band member Shae Haley have managed to put together their fourth studio album entitled Nothing which is out November 2nd.

The inspiration for the album title comes from the fact that the group all together scrapped their last record and started from scratch. For this bands forthcoming release the group took inspiration from classic rock acts like Moody Blues, Crosby, Stills, & Nash, America and the Doors to put together that is a little bit more rock heavy. Unlike previous efforts, for Nothing the band enlisted the help of some outside producers like Daft Punk. The resulting collaborations and influences create another eclectic record from the trio.
Currently the group is opening up for the Gorillaz on their Escape to Plastic Beach World Tour in support of their latest effort. We caught up with Pharrell and Shae just after their set last night at Comerica Theatre to discuss touring with the Gorillaz, their new record, commercialism, and the new Tron movie soundtrack.

Up on the Sun: How did you guys get hooked up with the Gorillaz for this tour?

Pharrell Williams: Damon reached out and we were like yes. There was not even a question. To me the Gorillaz are the quintessential band, because they kind of don't really...doesn't really matter like where things are pop music wise.

UOTS: Any chance of a collaboration down the road?

PW: We were doing a couple of things.

UOTS: For the new album you had mentioned on stage that you for the first time you enlisted the help of some outside producers. What made you guys want to work with outside producers?

PW: Well, we had talked about it and then we bumped in to Daft Punk, which we did the remix to "Harder, Faster, Stronger" like ten years ago, so bumping in to them was kinda like, "damn man, it's been so long." They were playing us the Tron album and we were playing them the N*E*R*D album and they were talking about all the songs they loved on this album. We're just really excited about it, it's really cool.

UOTS: Was it difficult for you, as a producer, to let go of that creative control?

PW: Well, no, it was all good. It was fun. Super fun.

UOTS: What did you think of the Tron soundtrack?

PW: The Tron album is incredible.

UOTS: You dedicated one of the songs in your set to people who have been bullied. Is that an issue you feel strongly about?

PW: With this album we tried to make songs that were really human friendly and not neccessarily just to party. And that's a hard road to go to because a lot of those songs are not like...you know for the demo we used the Moody Blues, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and America and the Doors as inspiration, so this generation doesn't understand that. So for us, it's kind of like an uphill battle with radio, because they want 808s and rapping and stuff like that and instead we wanted to make a record that was a social commentary for all the things that's going on in the world. So that's why the album sounds the way it does.

UOTS: You can definitely hear the rock influences in this album. What made you guys want to do a more rock heavy album?

PW: If you listen to all the N*E*R*D albums they all have their own respective sound. The first one was this
big, eclectic thing that was all over the place. The second one was more indieish but with jazzy accords, the third one was kind of like very programmed and all this angst, electro sounding stuff with guitars and harder drums and with this album we just went straight classic rock.

UOTS: You had also mentioned one of the new songs on the album is about commericialism. It's an interesting topic with you having a clothing line and record company.

PW: I love it. Don't think I don't love commercialism. If there wasn't such thing as commercialism I couldn't sell my record, couldn't sell my clothes.

UOTS: So is the song more pro-commercialism or anti-commercialism?

PW: No, it's just taking a look at the way we as consumers, the way we feel the need to buy. That's all. But, by the way, I'm apart of it. That's how I sell my records, that's how I sell my clothes. I'm just saying we need to take an objective look at those things. It's not a judgement, it's just when people look back on America
twenty years from now we just wanted to give an accurate report of everything that was going on.

UOTS: With the video for "Help Me," you guys tackle a lot of social issues. Was it your intention to be more socially conscious with this record?

PW: Yeah, but without preaching. It's like I said, if you listen to an America album it's just peaceful and just feels good.

Shae Haley: A lot of those songs weren't calculated, we just did what we felt. The music demanded a certain vibe, a certain type of energy. So once the sound started to develop we would brainstorm, go out to the studio and that's where it led us. We didn't go into this album thinking that we wanted to send a certain message it just magically happened.

PW: In the same sense that when you get dressed in the morning, you get dressed on where you're going and what you're doing but it's not like you're trying to make a statement. There are people who do that but those aren't the people we hang out with. We just kind of get dressed and do what we do.

Behind The Scenes of NOTHING

Interviews with Pharrell and Shae

N.E.R.D. Viejas Arena, San Diego

For N.E.R.D., much ado about 'Nothing'

For N.E.R.D., much ado about 'Nothing'
Pharrell Williams (right) and Shay Haley of N.E.R.D pose for a photo in a Toronto hotel room on Thursday October 14, 2010 as they promote their new album "Nothing." THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO - For the hip-hop mad scientists in N.E.R.D., the past two years have been much ado about "Nothing."
They started work on their follow-up to 2008's "Seeing Sounds" early, and had roughly 20 songs sketched out by the beginning of this year.
But when they gathered to listen to those songs again, the Virginia trio thought they sounded stale. So they scrapped the entire record and started again, resulting in the hip-hop psychedelia of "Nothing," out Tuesday.
Yet even the band's second crack at their fourth record wasn't quite right initially, and they were forced to continue working on it into the fall.
"I would have been done a long time ago but the label was like: 'We need more uptempos,'" said singer Pharrell Williams, affecting a nasally tone when quoting the label, during an interview at a Toronto hotel.
"You know, they're like: 'The club, the club.' We're more like: 'The vibe, the vibe.'"
Indeed, N.E.R.D. — composed of producers/musicians/songwriters Williams, Chad Hugo and Shae Haley — has often felt like an outlet for the stray strands of experimental pop too out there for Williams and Hugo's other outfit, the hitmaking production duo the Neptunes.
Williams says the primary motivation for the latest record is the same as it's always been: they want to push the envelope.
And such perfectionist tendencies aren't new. The group made headlines when they gave their debut "In Search Of..." a Europe-only release, decided they weren't happy with it, withdrew the album, re-recorded it with a live band and released it again in 2002.
The central concept at work on "Nothing" is blending '60s pop with an 808 backbeat, neo-soul, elastic funk and strands of Ennio Morricone's spare scores.
After deceptively opening with back-to-back club-friendly tracks, "Nothing" indulges its stranger side with the Doors-esque slowburn "Help Me" and the vamping "Victory" setting the stage for much of the rest of the record.
A highlight is the lush "God Bless Us All," which transitions easily from off-kilter funereal funk into tender soul.
"There's Moody Blues moments, there's America moments, there's Crosby, Stills and Nash moments ... but a lot of them have 808s in there too," said Williams, slouching on a couch in a plaid button-down, scarf and jeans.
"It's all very seemingly live sounding, with 808s under it. So it's pretty interesting."
To the label's probable relief, there are more radio-friendly moments, too, as on the bubbly "Hot-n-Fun," which features Victoria chanteuse Nelly Furtado on the chorus.
"A) we're labelmates, B) she's talented, C) she's beautiful," Williams said of why he wanted to feature Furtado. "Those are all three good reasons to cast that vote."
Williams also says that, in a way, it feels as though the group is starting over with the new record.
"Ithink we're just growing," he said. "We figured out who we are, so the search is over.
"That's why, with this album, 'Nothing,' it kind of hits the reset button for where (we want) to go — which is onward and upward."


N*E*R*D - Austin

N*E*R*D in Gibson Amphitheatre

Music Entertainment Committee - The Texas Union Theater - N*E*R*D


Timberland Earthkeepers x Pharrell Williams “Bionic Yarn” Footwear Announced

As part of its Earthkeepers initiative, Timberland has announced a collaboration with Pharrell Williams for Spring 2011. After having used his waterbottle recycled Bionic Yarn fabrics on his recent Moncler collaboration, he will also make use of it as part of this new Timberland collaboration. Overall they will be presenting over 90 styles, all featuring Bionic Yarn canvas uppers. More news to follow on this project soon


N*E*R*D In-Stores

N*E*R*D will be doing 2 in-store performances & autograph signings this week in Seattle and NYC.  Make sure to stop by, pick up your copy of Nothing, and say hi to the band.

Tuesday Nov. 2nd
Easy Street Records (Queen Ann Location)
20 Mercer St.

Thursday Nov. 4th
Best Buy (Union Square)
1 Union Square


SVEDKA Vodka and Giant Step Present: N*E*R*D Listening Parties

N.E.R.D. live in Dodge Theater, Phoenix

N*E*R*D in Dallas

N*E*R*D - Austin, Texas

N.E.R.D. In Concert - Los Angeles, CA

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Gorillaz and N.E.R.D. In Concert- Phoenix, AZ

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N*E*R*D Seek the Perfect Beat

By Del F. CowieGiven the influential hand he's played in countless hip-hop, R&B and pop records over the last 15 years or so, many would think that Pharrell Williams, one half of the Neptunes production team ― and on this day in a downtown Toronto hotel, one third of the group N*E*R*D ― possesses a magic hit formula. According to him though, this reasoning couldn't be further than the truth and the making of N*E*R*D's fourth album Nothing seems to bear this out.

The album came into being after another record that Williams completed with fellow N*E*R*D members Chad Hugo and Shay Haley was abandoned. "It was cool but it was good," says Williams, reflecting on the doomed Instant Gratification sessions. "It just wasn't pushing the envelope as much as we do. For whatever reason we like being a bit ahead of ourselves, which is why I think our fans have been dedicated in the ways that they have. That album was good; it just wasn't good enough so we scrapped it and we started all over with nothing. And that's why we named the new album that."

The scrapped record was made with Rhea, a vocalist from Pickering, Ontario who is no longer in the group. Williams is quick to address rumours she was kicked out and asserts he is working on a record with her group Jealous Lover. "She's had a lot of hurdles," Williams says. "[She's] basically been through Vietnam, man, in trying to put a record out." Starting over isn't that radical or unusual for any musician, but it is intriguing that Williams' revisions have taken place so publicly. The fact that Williams' own solo record In My Mind was overhauled in collaboration with ?uestlove of the Roots after receiving a mixed critical reception, and N*E*R*D's critically acclaimed 2001 debut In Search Of... was also completely re-recorded after its initial release with a live band, gives credence to a perfectionist streak.

Half-jokingly, Haley confirms this when asked about when a record is finished. "When the label tells you [that] you have a week," Haley says. "That's when you know. We work up until hours before we have to turn the record in." What N*E*R*D handed in at the deadline builds on the synthesis of rock, hip-hop and R&B that the trio are known for and, despite a collaboration with Daft Punk, it notably sports a nostalgic twist. "It has a lot of textures of the '60s and the early '70s; Crosby, Stills and Nash, the Doors, all the while with 808s under it, so it's like some Inglorious Basterds music," says Williams describing Nothing.

If Williams sounds confident about the latest N*E*R*D project, it's because he's "salivating" about music again. "There are so many different sounds that I'm wishing to hear and I'm not, and that's how it happened for me when I first started and this is kinda like my third wind," says Williams. "And [in] both the first and second [wind] it was all about well, damn, 'I wish somebody would make this' and so that's what I would do. I would make what I wish I could hear and it's gotten back there now."