*Pharrell Williams appears to be beyond haterism. He’s philanthropic, intelligent, breaks the mold creatively and is always looking out for the kids. That’s probably because, in his own words, he’s a big kid himself.
N.E.R.D. is straight artistry at work. Track upon track, layer upon layer of pure music. That’s refreshing considering what’s being offered as music these days. EURweb’s Lee Bailey and other reporters sat down with the producer to discuss his creative involvement with “Despicable Me,” the adorable animated family film that opens in theaters this weekend. Pharrell says he has been waiting a long time to get a shot at this type of work and this type of genre as well.
“Actually, the music director at the time was Kathy Nelson for Universal Studios,” explained Pharrell. “And she and I had done some work before on a project called ‘Tokyo Drift’ and an earlier ‘Fast and Furious’ installment. So one day we were talking and she told me about this project she had before, ‘Curious George,’ the animated piece on which she worked with Jack Johnson and he was able to not only (do the) score but do songs, original songs for the film.”
Pharrell is a very laid back and seemingly easy going kind of guy, but he told us that he was a little miffed that he didn’t get a chance at doing music for the animated remake of the classic children’s book.
“And I was so envious and I was just honest about it,” he continued. “I was like ‘I gotta be honest with you. I am so jealous.’ I am a kid at heart. I am up at 2 o’clock in the morning eating kids’ cereal watching “Boomerang” when I have nothing to do, and “Boomerang” shows a lot of cartoons that I grew up watching. You know, Looney Tunes, Bugs Bunny, Daffy, and also the Smurfs. I think that was right around ’82. Of course I am a huge Family Guy fan, and Sponge Bob is still one of my all time favorites. Aside from the Learning Channel and the news, (cartoons) are a big part of my personality. “
We suppose a man with such a space-aged musical feel would have to be a fan of some sort of fanciful genre, and nothing fits that bill like the American cartoon. Williams told us that, after telling Kathy Nelson how upset he was that he was not picked for “Curious George”, he then proceeded to make his case for the next animated offering Ms. Nelson was involved in and, apparently, he was quite convincing in his overtures.
“She said okay because she could see in my eyes that I was so hurt. I said to her ‘You would ask me for hip-hop records but why not for this?’ I think everybody has it in them to be diverse, but only some of us are adamant about it. We all have diverse tastes. Yes, we’re black and we read Ebony and Essence and Jet, but that does not stop us from picking up Rolling Stone and, obviously, Time magazine. So, for me, I didn’t feel typecast by not getting it, I was saying ‘Man, don’t you know enough about me? Man, we’re friends.’ I’m a big, huge kid. I’m the first person you should ask first! “
He told EURweb that he fully expected the phone call to come, but when it did he was still floored by the opportunity.
“It was with ‘Despicable Me’ and, lucky enough, it was with the right film studio, the right animation house. Illumination Studios, those guys are geniuses, everything they touch is good. From ‘Horton Hears a Hoo’ to the’ Ice Ages’ to the ‘Simpsons Movie’,” he said. “At that point I could not believe I was getting this opportunity to go and sit in a meeting and I pitched the idea of what I thought the music sounded like and they agreed and I got the job. “
But writing music for a film, as most of our readers may already know, is far different from writing for an album. The songs must support characters that he had no hand in creating, but Pharrell was not deterred by the task. Here he describes how he went about creating the theme music for Gru, the film’s antagonist turned protagonist (voiced by Steve Carrell).
“You look at Gru and you realize he’s a man with issues. As I’ve grown older I’ve realized that personalities are weathered entities if you will. They’ve been weathered by their environs, their parents when they were born and different experiences. So, basically, we’re all just walking molds. You can look at us and see where we come from, what we’ve been through, how it affected us and how we’re carrying it today. Gru was like that, he was so mean but he had a lot of fun. You look at him and you realize he has this Grinch-like feel but you realize that Grinch just did it to be dastardly. Gru did it because he thought that was the way because that’s the way he was treated as a child. He actually got more enjoyment from being mean to people because he thought that was the only way.”
He was obviously the right man for that job, and we’re certainly happy for the man on that note. On another note, Pharrell told reporters that, while he is a musician, the creative process in films is far different than the creative process in the record industry.
“Let me be clear. At Interscope I really don’t have to deal with that,” he explained. “With Jimmy Iovine I’m working with a genius. He has a lot of good, smart and charming soothsayers over there. They’re having a good time, but for the most part, in the music industry, you have to constantly fight that battle because they just want to do what they see works. Here I just had complete freedom because they don’t care. Movie money is far different, they just don’t care. Now, they have a whole different level of pressures and things that they have to answer for but, man, it’s a world where if you’re creative they’re like ‘You just go and be you.’ “
Though we appreciate the fact that Pharrell is doing his thing in the film industry, his true bread is buttered in the music industry. The next N.E.R.D. album is set to drop on September 7, 2010 on Interscope.
“Despicable Me,” starring Steve Carrell, is opening in theaters this weekend and it looks to be off the hilt clever. And trust us, the music that pharrell came up with for the film is off the chain, too.
Watch the trailer for “Despicable Me”: