Will.I.Am: Will He Won’t He?
Will.i.am discusses Michael Jackson and his strategy for Michael’s new album
in new interview with Chantelle Fiddy @ rwdmag.com
The main talking point right now has gotta be you working with Michael
Yeah, I’m going back to him in December. He called me up and I thought someone
was joking around. I hear (he puts on high MJ voice) ‘Hello it’s Michael’ and I
was like ‘Yeah right, stop playing!’ Then he said ‘I want to congratulate you
on all your success, you’re doing a powerful thing for the world with your
music and staying true to what you believe in. I’ve been following you for a
long time… do you mind if I call you in a couple of days at 4pm?’ Then he
started ringing me everyday at 4pm. We were on tour with The Pussycat Dolls at
the time, so I started working on music for him on the bus.
Did you approach working with Michael differently compared to other artists?
Well, it was more like, how would I like Michael to sound now, what would I
want him to do? When I finally sat down with him, I was nervous. I couldn’t be
the way I would be like when I’m with Justin or Nas. I’ve idolised Michael my
whole life. I had to be honest with him. I told him it was hard and he asked
why, so I explained I didn’t grow up listening to Justin’s music, so it’s easy
to work with him. We’re equals and when you’re in the studio with someone you
have to be equal, never above or below. When I worked with Nas I wasn’t like
‘Ok, here’s the greatest lyricist.’ You have to put yourself on the same place
and make sure you compliment or better the stuff you love. I had to really get
over it with Michael.
How was it on a personal level? Did you like him?
On a personal level, it was cool. I spent the whole first day asking him
questions like ‘What was it like when you first did the moonwalk, how did it
feel?’ It turned into a freakin’ interview; everything we’re doing today is
like branches from his tree. The seed came from Michael Jackson and James
Brown. Michael told me for him, his influence was James Brown all the way. I
was like ‘Damn, I worked with James Brown!’ ‘He said ‘You worked with James
Brown, I always wanted to work with James Brown…’ I said, ‘Ok let’s do it…’
So those were the kind of things that gave me confidence to move forward.
You do a great impression of him by the way…
I can do James Brown too (Laughs).
Is there a lot of pressure on you now to deliver a big album?
We talked about what we wanted to accomplish, because how are you gonna compete
with Thriller? I said, ‘Michael, when you wake up in the morning how do you
compete with yourself? I know how to compete with the market place but when you
influence the marketplace in every way possible, from fan clubs to sponsorships
to videos…’ He was like ‘Oh God bless you’, but I said ‘No seriously, I’m not
trying to compliment you Michael, I need to know this for when we get in the
studio cos the music has to represent that…’ Me and him had this deep
conversation and started talking about the experience today; ringtones, the
computer, iTunes, movies, YouTube, MySpace…
Yes, but this arena still needs to be defined. People are using it, but they
haven’t defined what to do with this platform yet. We need to think about how
music’s going to be experienced. Think about all the great songs that come out
every week – their life span is like a week. You probably aren’t playing stuff
from eight weeks ago but people are still playing Billie Jean and Beat It.