Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Neptune's Pharrell Produces Film Score For "Despicable Me"

Got voice recorder and fresh batteries? Check! Read production notes? Check! Directions to the location of the interview? Check! Seemingly, I was prepared to do my first interview with Neptune's hit-making producer and artist, Pharrell Williams. But sometimes things are not as they appear.

The focus of the interview? Pharrell scoring upcoming animated flick, "Despicable Me"--it's his first time ever having this distinction.

Over the past several years, we've come to know the Grammy-winning musician as part of the producing team, the Neptunes, and as band member of N.E.R.D.. Outside of generating chart-topping hits for Usher, Gwen Stefani, Kanye, and Shakira to literally just name a few, he's also ventured successfully into fashion with Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream Clothing.

In 2003 he released his first single, "Frontin'", then followed it up three years later with his solo album, "In My Mind." To describe his musical sound is taking a auditory journey through rock, pop, funk, hip-hop, and many genres of music and influences including Micheal Jackson, Prince, Marvin Gaye, and even Tribe Called Quest.

Sitting comfortably near the head of the table in a West Side Staging conference room, I waited along with other writers for Pharrell's arrival. Once his entourage assembled outside our room I grabbed my trusty recorder and turned it on. He sat at the head of the table, close enough for me to see his eyes behind the dark shades on his boyish face.

For such a heavy weight in music producing, Pharrell himself is quite the light weight in stature. Dressed in a fitted black jacket, tshirt, and jeans, and of course the celebrity shades which never came off----very boy-next-door except for the tats, he said his "Hello's" as we introduced ourselves. Everything was going well until....

As customary in these types of interviews, recording devices were quickly thrust before him. I followed suit, pressed record, and then received the worst breaking news of the day: MEMORY FULL. What the _________! Even more frustrating was the warning beep which caught Pharrell's attention, but he graciously kept talking.

Thinking quickly, I replaced my useless recorder with my Blackberry and the interview was going smoothly until the phone vibrated. I snatched the noisy device off the table wondering why of all days was technology working AGAINST me not for me as usual. So much for good impressions!

"Do you want me to stop?" Pharrell asked. Embarrassed I said, "Nope!" Being center of attention now was bad enough, I certainly didn't want him to hold things up for me! So as he continued talking, the Blackberry was put in silent mode and with a silent prayer hesitantly placed back on the table near him. For the remainder of the interview there was no beep, no vibration, no more interruptions. Whew!

Despite my technological snafus, the interview went very well. Pharrell pulled off his jacket and just talked comfortably about music, matching music with body language and moods, and working with "Despicable Me's" music producer Hans Zimmer and composer Heitor Pereira pictured above. In the clips below listen to how he was chosen by music supervisor, Kathy Nelson, to score the film. He also shares his love of cartoons, passion for live instrumentation, the idea behin the film's theme song, "Gru's Theme" and upcoming projects.

Click here to listen to How he was chosen.mp3

Click here to listen to Gru's theme.mp3

Click here to listen to live instruments.mp3

Click here to listen to Future Solo Projects.mp3

Universal Studio's "Despicable Me" opens this Friday, July 9, and it's a great film for young and old. Gru (Steve Carell) is a villain you grow to love as he and his minions plan to steal the moon. Standing in his way is a young, hip, bad guy named Vector (Jason Segel). The antics the two pull to outdo the other are hilarious! But once Gru adds three adorable orphaned girls to his scheme, something more valuable to him than the moon gets stolen.

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