William Adams, better known as uber-producer will.i.am lives and breathes music. As a founding member of Black Eyed Peas, he’s never without his laptop and never far from a recording studio. He’s won seven Grammy Awards, eight American Music Awards, a Billboard Music Award, a Teen Choice Award and a pair of MTV Video Music Awards.
More impressive is the list of artists he’s produced: Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, David Guetta, U2, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber & Nicki Minaj. He’s a coach on The Voice UK. Since 1998, he’s sold 9.4 million singles in the UK alone. Dave Lackie sat down with the artist on a quick visit to Toronto.
Dave: How did you develop your fashion sense?
will.i.am: Before I was a musician, I studied fashion. (will.i.am attended the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles in 2001). We (members of the Black Eyed Peas) established our style since day one when we had no money. All we had was one hundred bucks. No, not even 100 bucks. We had $30 for a wardrobe so we went to thrift stores and bought dollar pants and dollar jackets and then we altered them. Then we had one-of-a-kind unique things that no one had. We’ve gone from dollar pants to Yves Saint Laurent pants that cost thousands of dollars and still look the same. So when we started working with stylists we told them this is who we are. This is our style. I’m always thinking ‘we’ because I’ve been traveling with the Peas for my whole life.
D: Who are your style icons?
W: It isn’t necessarily a person. It is more about today’s youth and how they express themselves and those coming out of a hip hop dance culture. I find the youth in Japan especially inspirational.
D: What’s your favourite item of clothing?
W: The asymmetrical military jacket.
D: What one item of clothing do you always travel with?
D: What’s your favourite store?
W: I love certain boutiques in every city I visit. I like Maxfield’s. I love Barney’s in New York and inner-city boutiques; my favourite boutique in Japan is Loveless.
D: What fragrance notes do you love?
W: I don’t like anything too heavy. I’m definitely not into “guy’s” smell. I prefer something light like a powdery-citrus smell.
D: Most Charismatic person you’ve ever met?
W: I’ve been blessed to work with very unique people. As a person and creative, definitely Prince, Michael Jackson, James Brown, Lionel Ritchie, Whitney Houston, and Oprah. Gayle King seems like she’s one of my family. She’s so cool.
D: What book are you reading now?
W: My attention span is too short. I’m too busy making music.
D: What are you listening to on your iPod right now?
W: I really only listen to bossa nova and samba right now. I like the classics like Gilberto Gil, Joao Gilberto, Gal Costa, and Antonio Carlos Jobim. That’s like all the music that I listen to because I don’t understand it and it’s beautiful. I like the haunting, rich melodies. Mostly, I listen to music that I make. A chef cooks for himself. You ask a chef what he eats and he says, “I eat my own food!” It’s the same for me with music.
D: Tell us your Best piece of style advice?
W: It’s about personal taste and just establishing yourself. Whether it’s a hundred dollars or thirty dollars for an outfit, maybe a bit of money spent on altering, it’s taking a piece of clothing and asking yourself, can you make this yours.
D: What do you like to do on your down time?
W: Music, relax with my band. And I make music. It relaxes my brain.
D: Do you keep odd work hours?
W: I’m in the studio all day everyday. Take yesterday for example. We arrived in Toronto at 3 pm and I went straight to the studio. Didn’t leave the studio until 8 the next morning. Then arrived at the hotel. I had completed the idea that was in my head so I could go to sleep. Woke up at 1 and went to a photo shoot before coming here to do some interviews.
D: What are your impressions of Canada?
W: America executed correctly. I like Canada, people are nice, the air is clean.
D: What kind of advice would you give to youth today?
W: There’s no such thing as ‘no’, there’s no such thing as ‘you won’t,’ and there’s no such thing as impossible. Dream as big as you can and focus all your energy on turning that dream into a reality.
D: What’s your motto?
W: Single parents are the strongest people on the planet.