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Blender Q & A: Pharrell Williams
Neptunes über-producer and man-about-town on his new solo album, Dolly Parton and how he’s the “black Carl Sagan.”

By RJ Smith

Blender, August 2006

Tell us about your new CD. Why did you call it In My Mind?
I felt I could make a hip-hop record and an R&B record on the same album. And nobody can tell me I can’t — because it’s in my mind.

Was it fun to make your first solo record?
It was a nightmare. There were too many cooks in the kitchen.

We would think you’d be the only cook that mattered.
I am, but I had a lot of motherfuckers looking over my shoulder, saying “When’s it coming out? When’s it coming out?” Blah, blah, blah.

Okay, but given that some songs and videos came out last year, why did it take so long?
The problem, really, was that I was being all anxious and I pulled back the curtain too fast. I gave one song out to DJs and I didn’t even have my album mixed yet. It was very immature on my part.

Is it true that one song on the record was inspired by Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers?
Yeah, “Baby.” When Vince says, “That brunette over there is definitely eye-fucking me,” I saw that and went, “Aww, shit!” So I wrote that song — it’s all about eye-fuckin’, when you can’t get to a girl and she can’t get to you, but you definitely have something going on.

What makes you the self-proclaimed “black Carl Sagan”?
I think Carl Sagan was the shit. He was more than just a scientist, he was a scientist of life, and I thought he was a genius. He was definitely the king and I completely look up to him. I read Cosmos, and Contact is one of my favorite movies.

So when they make commercial space travel available to ordinary citizens, will you be standing in line? Absolutely not. You don’t know what’s going to happen once you get out there. What if they start locking all the black people out? You can’t figure what the situation is going to be out there. The laws of physics are different — in a lot of ways, not in all ways. Prime numbers are still prime numbers, no matter where you go. But out there gravity is different, and I’m pretty sure if the gravity is different a ton of other things are different, too. Shit, there are places on earth where things are accepted that are frowned on in other places — so imagine what it’s like out there! And who’s governing it, between different jurisdictions, you know what I’m saying? I’m definitely staying my ass on the ground.

Prudent thinking. You have amazingly broad taste in music, but we can’t recall you ever saying anything about country. Do you like it?
Yeah, I grew up on that in Virginia. 9 to 5 was a great movie. Dolly Parton was a huge influence. And Dukes of Hazzard: Who didn’t watch Dukes of Hazzard? Shit man, Smokey and the Bandit, BJ and the Bear: That shit was huge. Heavy. I love Bonnie Raitt. Anne Murray — she’s not really, really country, but she’s gotta be in there, too. Love her. It’s what I grew up with.

You’ve produced ODB and some music on the next CD by Scott Weiland’s Velvet Revolver. Who needed more TLC in the studio?
Scott is just an interesting and incredible individual. He’s got that deep back story, and he knows so much about music. ODB, he definitely was saying out-there things, but at the same he was part of this religious sect called the Five Percent Nation. It’s all based on facts and mathematics, and ODB could tell you anything — he could tell you how many miles were between the sun and each planet. Both were interesting people.

I heard that Q-tip sends you whole iPods full of music he wants you to hear.
Yep. He’s done it, like, three times.

What’s the last thing he sent you that knocked you out?
Ooh, I know what the shit is. From Donald Blackman, a song called “Holding You, Loving You.” Oh my god, from an album called Blackman. It’s I amazing. It’s a colorful soul song with jazz inflections. You definitely want to check it out, but it’s hard to find, even on the Internet. You gotta go into some file shares, can’t go into no iTunes.

You’re a renowned 24-hour party person. Who has the more blingin’ jet, Diddy or Jay-Z?
I dunno … don’t really make sense to have a jet. [Thinks quietly] But you know, sometimes you don’t want just any jet, sometimes you want a G-Force, or a Challenger 600 or 800 or a Hawk or a Falcon. It just depends on the scenario or where you are going. Jay-Z does Boeing, he goes all the way. I never chartered up a Boeing.

What’s good about a Boeing?
A Boeing is a huge, huge fucking airplane, like a 747. I flew with him one time, from a show. It was like three bedrooms.

Ever regret starting the trucker hat craze? Because though Ashton Kutcher gets the glory, we all know that you were way ahead of the curve.
No regrets. Credit is to be given and not to be taken. I’m cool.

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