When Ye was physically there, what was the work atmosphere and chemistry like?
We’re making music for a living, that’s got to be fun. We’re all fortunate to be able to do that. It’s certainly serious in that we’re not lollygagging and that we’re there to create, but the art is the main thing on everybody’s mind. We’re motivated by the art, and when you’re that way, everything you’re trying to do is about making great art. Your artistic output is the measure of how you judge your life, you know? When you get an opportunity to get us all together, we’re going to certainly be working on stuff and really putting our heads together to figure it out.
It’s cool to work with people like Kanye and John who are really great at what they do. John is exceptionally great at what he does, so is Kanye, and I try to be on that level myself. We don’t all do exactly the same thing or work the same way. If the three of us are working on something, that’s probably going to create something better than if it had just been John and Kanye or just me and John. The complementary nature of the fact that we don’t do everything exactly the same means that someone’s always bringing something to the table that wouldn’t otherwise be there. That’s what great collaboration is.
During the two-years Love in the Future was being crafted, were you also dabbling in other projects or did you stay fully committed to John?
Early on, I had just worked on an album that I’d produced for a band with Justin Timberlake. Justin has a band called FreeSol signed to his label. It’s a rock band from Memphis with a rapper. It’s kind of a rock-rap thing but not like Limp Bizkit or anything like that. We worked on some of that together. That hasn’t actually come out yet, but I was coming off of that at some point early on in the album. Then I was working on little things here and there. I did a song for Mayer Hawthorne and his album. When it seemed that I would be taking such a large part in John’s album, that took precedent and it meant that I had to focus all my attention on that. It was quite a lot to do.
At certain points, we probably had 100 songs that we were choosing from to pick 12 or 13. We did a lot of things with string orchestras and had to bring in harps, and all sorts of odd instrumentations. It was real production. We weren’t just sitting in front of a computer with a keyboard controller. We were recording in different studios. When you’re doing this kind of production, it’s a more orchestrated effort and takes more time and resources. It’s really taking up your attention. It means that you have to focus on making everything great. I’m working on a song with Kimbra for her next record, but for right now, I’m actually taking a break [laughs].
You had lots of material to choose from. Was it hard to sort through all of the beats and arrangements from collaborators to find the best fits?
A lot of times you have these albums with a variety of producers on them, and that can be great. You can have a lot of different vibes of collaborators that bring different flavors to the table, but sometimes it doesn’t make for a cohesive body of work. You listen to an album and you’re like, oh that sounds like a Timbaland track. That sounds like a Pharrell track because the producers have their stamp on it firmly. But it doesn’t necessarily lead to a collaborative, cohesive, full body of work.
Kanye’s albums never suffer from it because he’s a producer as well and as an artist on his own records. He’s going to function as the guy who makes it cohesive. Or he’s going to keep collaborators around him the whole process. It was important that we had that on this album. That was a big part of my role. It’s not like John’s just cutting songs all willy nilly. We’re bringing him in and we’re making sure they really flow with each other and segue into each other well depending on the arrangements. An artist needs that. They need a soundboard. They need help with that. It’s too much to expect an artist to shoulder all that on their own.
There were only a handful of guests on the album. How did you all go about selecting features?
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