Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – will.i.am

In Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz a grizzled artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: will.i.am

1
How many weeks did Black Eyed Peas’ ‘I Gotta Feeling’ top the US charts for in 2009?

“Oh shucks! Oh, man – it was months. Our song  ‘Boom Boom Pow’ was first, which was the longest-running single to stay atop the Billboard Hot 100, before ‘I Gotta Feeling’ kicked it off the Number One spot. Was it three months?”

WRONG. It was 14 weeks.

“Which is three months! Yeah baby, I’ve got it right! Whoo-hoo-hoo-hoo!”

Not quite! Now the Black Eyed Peas are back with a new single ‘Girl Like Me’ featuring Shakira.  What was it like working with her?

“Crazy! There must have been something in the water in 2008, because that’s when ‘Girl Like Me’ was conceived, when she came to my studio and we worked on a couple of songs including that one. We didn’t put it out then, because she wasn’t happy with it. I tried to revisit it in 2010 and again later for my solo album ‘#willpower’, but this year I dug deep and found the right combination of sonics and rhythm. So I refreshed it, and called her, and we wrote new lyrics and she helped me with my Spanish.

“Originally, I’d mixed up my Spanish tenses so it sounded like I was talking about sexual attraction between an uncle and a niece! I was like: ‘Good catch!’ (Laughs) She’s one of the best people I’ve collaborated with. She’s in the same category as Michael Jackson and Prince as far as attention to detail goes.”

2
In 2014, you teamed up with printing specialist 3D Systems to combine technology with merchandise. What did you claim it would be possible to print on merch stands?

“With 3D Systems, I created the EkoCycle 3D printer and sat on the board. I think. Did I say it would be possible to print food? ‘Cause you won’t be able to print a shirt.”

WRONG. The answer is people. You claimed it would be possible to print out iconic moments from the gig you’ve just witnessed.

“Oh yeah! You’d have your phone, aim it at the stage and there would be other cameras scanning the stage. You’d go to the booth afterwards and be able to print a 3D version of the moment you just saw. (Does a funny voice) All plausible science! But I also said you’d be able to print food and organs, like kidneys and a liver.”

3
In 2018, which unexpected super-fan presented an hour-long documentary celebrating 20 years of Black Eyes Peas?

“That was on ITV and it was Joanna Lumley – my favourite!”

CORRECT. Did you keep in touch?

“Off and on, but not like randomly on Wednesdays. Not like that. It’s more like, ‘Hey, what’s up, girl? You doing good?’. I’ve always been an Ab Fab fan, so that was fun. Do I think it’s unusual she’s a fan? No, because Black Eyed Peas are an everyone group.

“When we first came out, our audience looked, dressed and thought like us, but when we toured with Macy Gray we were attracting people in places like Kent and Bournemouth and I was like ‘Yo, what the F is going on Macy?’. And she replied (He does a pitch-perfect impersonation of Macy Gray’s Marge Simpson/Linda Blair from The Exorcist‘s throaty rasp): ‘When you blow up, it’s no longer just people who look like you’. Ever since then, I wanted to ramp up the magnetism so we’d have the entire world at our shows.”

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4
In 2012, ‘Reach For The Stars’ became the first song to be broadcast from where?

“From the planet Mars!”

CORRECT. How did that feel?

“Out of this world! It felt surreal. I aligned with NASA for it for the Curiosity rover’s landing, and the rocket left in November 2011. Sitting there checking out the launch with [Former NASA administrator] Charles Bolden was surreal. It landed in 2012 on Mars and got broadcast back. The reason was to inspire kids to care about space exploration, science, math, engineering, robots and technology. It was in partnership with a school I have in the ghetto where I come from where we teach kids those subjects.”

 

5
When Alanis Morissette covered ‘My Humps’, what did Black Eyed Peas send her as a present?

“I love Alanis Morissette, but I don’t know!”

WRONG. According to former Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie, you gifted her a cake in the shape of a derriere. One to surely try as a Great British Bake Off show-stopper.

“We probably did send it as a group, but I don’t personally remember the details! What’s the best gift I’ve received? It’s usually when people send me cool rare tech that hasn’t come out yet. Eddy Cue [senior vice president of Internet Software and Services at Apple] sends me awesome Apple products before they’re released to the public, and that’s always the highlight of my year.”

 

6
On The Graham Norton Show in 2012, which eccentric actor objected to your use of the word ‘like’ and constantly corrected your grammar?

“Yeahhhh! Miriam [Margolyes]!”

CORRECT.

“She was the best! That was freakin’ awesome – I’ll never forget that. ‘Cause she told a story about a man in a tree wanting to have sex with her and she was masturbating him or some crazy shit like that!”

7
Complete the following lyrics: ‘Hard like Geometry, and Trigonometry…

“That’s from ‘ T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever)’, so it’s (sings)Hard like Geometry and Trigonometry… This is crazy psychology’.”

CORRECT. From Mick Jagger’s rap.

“Mick was awesome at that. The guy who signed the Black Eyed Peas to Interscope is my mentor Jimmy Iovine, who’s worked with everybody from Bruce Springsteen, U2, John Lennon, to Fleetwood Mac and Tom Petty. But he’s a super-fan of the Rolling Stones, they’re the reason he got into music, but he’d never worked with them. I’d met Muck because I remixed Rolling Stones ‘Rain Fall Down’ in 2004, and we became text pals, and would hang out in London and LA whenever we were over. So I had this crazy idea to get Mick on a song, and when it came to do it, I got Jimmy out of retirement to produce Mick’s vocals – just because he’d helped make my dreams come true so I wanted to do the same for him.”

‘T.H.E’ is a cut from your solo album, ‘#willpower, which was originally going to be called ‘Black Einstein’…

“No, it was always called ‘#willpower”. It’s named after  the first song I ever wrote when I was 13 was ‘Willpower’. I never wanted to make songs about girls, but I made it about my past relationship as closure. When Black Eyed Peas went on hiatus, I wanted to keep that muscle of understanding pop culture and zeitgeist, so ‘#willpower’ also reflects my struggle at keeping up the momentum on my own. But ‘Black Einstein’ is a folder in my hard-drive of thousands of songs for my underground hip-hop project, that reflects my origins of being inspired by De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. So glad I can clear that up.”

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8
You carried the Olympic torch in 2012 through which town?

“Yeah, I had a Blackberry Torch in one hand, and it was – oh! oh! oh! – Torch-town, Torchton, Taunton?”

CORRECT. It’s Taunton.

“The only reason I remember is because I had a torch in one hand, and a Blackberry Torch in the other tweeting, and I’m like, ‘Torch, tweet, Taunton!”

9
What is the name of the Coronation Street bar you filmed your ‘FIYAH’ video in 2017?

“I forgot the lady’s name, but there’s an actress that I wanted to be in the video [But she wouldn’t do it]. Is it just called The Pub? I’m going to go with The Pub?”

WRONG. It’s the Rovers Return. Please say the actress was Barbara Knox – aka Rita Tanner, very much the Shakira of Weatherfield.

“I took a tour of the set and was like: ‘Hey – this bar’s freakin’ cool!’. It’s already a set, but no-one’s ever done a music video on it. I wanted it to be my snapshot of British culture, and it was always on my to-do list and when the time came, I hit up ITV said: ‘Would it be possible to do a video on the set of Coronation Street at the pub’? And they were cool with it. It was my birthday that day.”

10
On ‘I Gotta Feeling’, you say you party ‘Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Saturday to Sunday.’ Taking into account that partying schedule, what’s the total number of days you’d party this year?

“Wow, I didn’t realise I said Saturday twice. Anyway (Laughs), how many days did I party this year? OK, let me work this out. My birthday is March 15 and then I partied (Sings) ‘No days, no days, no days and no days, no days, no days, no days to no days’.

WRONG. The answer we’re looking for 366, because it’s a leap year.

“(Protests) But there’s COVID?! Who the hell parties in 2020?

You could party at home, Will…

“No, this year was the worst. I never thought it would possible, but it’s the first time you could really say a year was the worst in this era. Obviously in the 1940s, you could say that World War II was the worst, but that was the last time a group of different nationalities and cultures could claim they experienced the worst. But if you lived in New Zealand during World War II, you didn’t experience the worst. It’s not as fearful as war, but the uncertainties and the worry and the unfortunate death of loved ones, and being out of work means there’s a lot of alcoholism and drug abuse for escape. 2020 was pretty fucked up!”

The verdict: 5/10

“Awesome! (A beat) Wait, I got some wrong?!”

– Black Eyed Peas have teamed up with Shakira for the new music video for the single ‘Girl Like Me’ (above). Their latest album, ‘Translation’, is out now

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