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Pharrell Williams: An EW Q&A

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Image Credit: Ben Hider/WireImage.comN.E.R.D. lit up Times Square today like it was New Year’s Eve, performing a free Honda-sponsored concert of three party-starting tracks—two from their new album, Nothing, currently slated for release October 19th, and one from their 2001 debut, “Lapdance.” Before the show, EW caught up with Pharrell Williams to talk about his upcoming album, plans for the future, and why he calls America’s youth the “microwave generation.”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY You and collaborator Shay Haley have been best friends since high school. How has your relationship evolved over the years?

PHARRELL WILLIAMS: We’re best friends. Love is like shoelaces. It’s only gotten tighter. Times change, so does the dichotomy between two people, and we’ve had some obstacles. But for us, our friendship has always been number one, and our music number two. Our music wouldn’t be as good if we weren’t such close friends.

What can we expect from your new album, Nothing?

At first, the album was called Instant Gratification, and it was good, but not good enough. It was our answer to this generation, which we have nicknamed the “microwave generation”: The Microwavers. Even though the microwave is old technology, it actually happens to be the mentality of all the people on the planet right now. Especially the kids—they want it now and they want it hot. They don’t want it ten minutes from now. With Nothing, we feel like we’re reflecting society.

You guys have incorporated a lot of musical influences into your previous albums—not just hip-hop, but some ’70s funk and glam rock—how would you describe the sound of Nothing?

N.E.R.D. represents music that transcends time. If you go back and listen to the first N.E.R.D. album, you’re like “What is that? Okay, interesting.” And after the third listen you’re hooked. This album sounds like it came out of the late 60s/early 70s. It calls to mind the Doors, Crosby, Stills & Nash, America, a little bit of Neil Young, there’s a Queen moment, there’s a Moody Blues moment. It’s “baba cool,” like the French term. It’s posh, it’s Bohemian, and it’s fashion and art.

What’s it like for you guys to perform with other artists, like Nelly Furtado on your single “Hot ‘N’ Fun,” rather than just producing their tracks?

It’s the same experience, really. You’ve just got to get out there and do the work. But working with somebody like Nelly makes it easier. She’s gorgeous and talented. You get what you would get out of gorgeous and talented.

So the album is definitely coming out October 19th? Because it’s been pushed back once already…

We’ve tried to make the lead-up to this new album be like an Easter egg hunt, telling you one thing, and then like two months later it’s another date. We’re really good at that. In two seconds, there could be another release date.

What else does the future hold for N.E.R.D.?

I don’t know if we’ll ever stop making records, but we’re going to keep finding new ways to present it to the audience. I think we’ve been in a cocoon for a while, and the next step is to butterfly.

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

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