Pharrell Williams Page 2

Here's how he describes his work with Britney. 'I Warhol'd it. 'Cause she's still Britney. I just put my colours on it. I want to chase after something that just feels good. And from there, lyrically, the music sets the template for the words. The feeling directs all creativity. The beat comes first. My job is just to listen to it, and let it tell me what should be fed lyrically, where the drums should go, where the melodies should go. It's all done by feel.'

Genres mean nothing to him, making hip-hop more rocky, reworking rock and pop to sound more hip-hop. Though it wasn't a conscious decision to mix influences: 'That was the music I was accustomed to as a child. The radio station I listened to would play Queen, then Michael [Jackson], then Stevie [Wonder], then Genesis, then Madonna'. All The Neptunes did was realise you could have all that in one song.


'I don't know when a song is going to be huge. The people make that decision. The only thing you can do is be loyal to your creativity and try to do something new and fresh, and leave it at that. What makes a song huge is people buying records, streaming it online, voting for it, and those are things that are out of my control. Those are the factors that make a song a hit; it's never been me. The people decide. What I do is such a small part'.

Dressed To Impress
Does he have favourite artists whom he likes to work with?

'No, everybody's a pleasure to work with... Collaborating with a musician is like a conversation: each experience is unique to that person. Taking somebody from A to B is cool, but when we produce, we want to take people from A to D, to challenge their artistic natures, their image, everything.'

One critic has claimed that Pharrell and Chad implemented, 'the most revolutionary change in the sound of pop since Motown,' an opinion borne out by the dozen Grammy awards Pharrell has under his belt – two for producer of the year (2014 and 2019). He was also, incidentally, voted The Best Dressed Man In The World By Esquire magazine in 2005 and has designed bags for Hermes, jewellery and sunglasses for Louis Vuitton and clothing for his own Ice Cream and Billionaire Boys Club labels.

Magnificent Seven
How does he do all this? Well, Pharrell isn't exactly like you or me, that's for sure. You see, he has a unique gift. He suffers – or, more accurately, is blessed with – synesthesia, a medical condition that for him translates auditory information into visual phenomena. In other words, Pharrell actually 'sees' sounds.


'It's when one of your senses receives more information than what's intended. When you hear, your ears send auditory images to your brain. But some people conjure images to the sound, as well. That's synesthesia,' he explains.

'There are seven basic colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. And those also correspond with musical notes… White, believe it or not, which gives you an octave is the blending of all the colours… Colours are light in the electromagnetic spectrum. For every colour, there is a sound, a vibration, a part of the human body, a number, and a musical note…'

To prepare himself, he simply takes a shower: 'The water blocks out the sound, so it makes me imagine things. That happens to me on planes, in the shower, and underwater. And that's why when I'm around water it's a little bit more of a creative environment.

'Sometimes when I'm in the studio, if I'm by myself, I'll tell the engineer to just leave me for a little while, I'll turn on a loop of rain, and I'll turn all the lights out in the studio, and I'll close my eyes and sit back on the couch, and I have like the craziest visions. That's a technique called sensory deprivation and that's what you are doing when you meditate. When you meditate, you let go of the senses and allow your inner essence to just flourish and bring to you images of whatever it's going to do.


'It's an old tale among African-Americans in the South that calm waters run deep and if you just sit still the answers would come to you. It's because we are so distracted by all of our senses that our minds have to keep up with all that's going on with our motor skills. But when a part of your senses shuts down, the mind just does something else. The mind is an antenna.

'I'd be lost without it. It's my only reference for understanding. I don't think I would have what some people would call talent and what I would call a gift. The ability to see and feel [this way] was a gift given to me that I did not have to have. And if it was taken from me suddenly I'm not sure that I could make music. I wouldn't be able to keep up with it. I wouldn't have a measure to understand. To me, it is the absolute, direct conduit to God and the collective consciousness, the mind and the spirit...'

Touch Points
He describes himself as, 'a Christian on paper, but really a universalist… God has always been my friend'. And politics? Although eloquent, his actions speak louder than words: 'I know what my touch points are in life: education and equality… tutoring, helping children not only through their studies, but to contribute to their outlook, and to understand the gravitas in education. Without education, you have no tools; and with no tools, you can't function...

'The days of being an anonymous activist or participant are over. How can we inspire if we are only behind the scenes?' Today may belong to Trump, but what of tomorrow? Pharrell Williams for President!