Pharrell Williams sat down with Interview Magazine for their most recent issue and got really really deep with writer Dmitri Ehrlich and acclaimed professor of psychology and neuroscience to talk music and science, including Ramachandran’s explanation of why the N.E.R.D. album title Seeing Sounds can be more literal than most folks want to take it.
We thought you might get a kick of hearing Pharrell explain his reasoning behind the name of his group N.E.R.D. :
EHRLICH: Pharrell, your group, N.E.R.D, is an acronym for “No one ever really dies.” The Buddha, who was, in a way, also a neuroscientist, said that matter can never come from non-matter, and consciousness can never come from non-consciousness—meaning he felt there was a scientific basis for the principle of rebirth, because in the material world, everything we can observe transforms. Trees die and they turn into soil, the soil might run into the sea, the sea could evaporate into clouds, et cetera. So nothing really disappears. Is that what you meant when you said “No one ever really dies?”
WILLIAMS: That is what I meant, for sure, one hundred percent. I’m not sure what happens before you get here or when you leave, but I know that while we are here, we are these animate, mobile beings, and there’s certainly electricity flowing through our bodies. Interestingly, I’ll add, our bodies are about 75 percent water—much like the planet. There’s electricity that comes from us, hence dragging your feet across carpet and touching the doorknob, you know what happens?
EHRLICH: You get shocked.
WILLIAMS: Yeah, that’s right. And that’s energy! So there is proof. If you had to run a simple test, that’s the easiest one to do. There is electricity going through us. That is an example of one facet of the energy that we harness as beings.
When I was coming up with that name, I wanted to celebritize being smart, because I noticed that being a nerd when I was in high school was the corniest thing you could ever do. But for me, I was like, “Those are the guys that grow up and drive BMWs! I don’t get it!”
So I was like, “You know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna take my music and I’m going to slowly but surely punch away at that notion that being a nerd is not cool.” Being smart? I want to work that up, and that’s what our aim was, and I couldn’t find a better acronym.
Einstein said energy can’t be destroyed, it can only be conjured and spread—I’m not even sure if you can create it—and so therefore, if we know that our bodies are filled with energy, when the flesh dies, what happens to the soul? It’s gotta go somewhere. I don’t know where it goes, I don’t have the proof to speak blindly on the phone in this interview, but that’s it. That part I’m sure of: No one ever really dies.
We think it’s dope that Pharrell is promoting being a nerd, but do you agree with him that “No One Ever Really Dies”?