In fact, the last thing Intel's Johan Jervoe, the company's
VP-creative marketing, wanted was another spokesperson. "I don't
want him to be the promo man. This is not meant for him to say,
'Here's the latest and greatest product from Intel and go buy it,'"
Mr. Jervoe said. "There's an overlapping creativity, understanding,
desire and expertise that be brings with him. While he may go out
and talk about some of the products we'll be coming up with, it was
clear to both of us that he needed to be an employee and at the
center of these products' creation."
Will.I.Am and his bandmates have been in high demand among
brands ever since the Black Eyed Peas' "Hey Mama" became the first
song licensed for Apple and TBWA/Chiat/Day's now-infamous
silhouette ads for the iPod in 2003. An assortment of commercial,
endorsement and tour-sponsorship deals with brands like Pepsi,
Target , Honda, BlackBerry, Coors, Bacardi, Levi's and Verizon
prompted The Wall Street Journal to dub the Peas "the most
corporate band in America" in the headline of a February 2010
article. Ad Age spoke with Will.I.Am about his new gig at Intel,
his new music-video platform Will.I.Apps, and his AutoTune
philosophy from his home in Los Angeles.
Ad Age: What can we expect from your new role
as director of creative innovation at Intel. Do you want to compete
Will.I.Am.: This is about making product. If
Apple's a technology company in the music industry, why can't
somebody in the music industry make technology? This is about
creating hardware with software. We're not trying to compete with
Apple, we're trying to complement it. The whole premise of this
relationship and why Intel is excited about it is because it's a
great time to be doing that.
Ad Age: How does that sync up with your plans
for Will.I.Apps, which is intended to make music video-viewing a
Will.I.Am.: To me, music is a very social
experience and we need to find the next level of that experience.
Kids today aren't listening to music audio-only. They're picking up
a CD and looking at the lyric sheet and wondering why the pictures
aren't moving around. Who wants to do that? It's like Bam Bam
Flintstone hanging with the dinosaurs vs. Elroy Jetson who's flying
around space. If I'm a kid, I wanna be kicking it with Elroy.
Will.I Apps is going to be a platform that changes how we
release music, even how we write songs. Because now that you know
you're going to be filming the music video in a 360 environment, it
changes the song. So if I say 'Turn to the left,' the song has to
be connected to the algorithm so when the user looks at it, if he
or she doesn't turn to the left the song doesn't continue.
Ad Age: So it's an augmented-reality approach
to music videos?
Will.I.Am.: It is, but the song has to change.
You can't do augmented reality after the fact. It's like QWERTY on
a keyboard. The reason these letters are the way they are is
because when you had a typewriter back in the day they figured out
which letters were designed to slow you down as you typed. And we
still use it today. So we're bringing technology to the
songwriting. The technology is beyond pause, rewind and
fast-forward. So while we're still writing music as opposed to just
pausing, fast-forwarding and rewinding it, there are so many
dimensions and layers you can construct your content with.
Ad Age: You're on the road constantly, doing
work for the Black Eyed Peas, work for brands, producing songs for
Usher, Nicki Minaj and now Britney Spears. What's your daily device
Will.I.Am.: I use my phone, I have an iPad and
a BlackBerry and my laptop and my desktop. To make music, I use my
desktop with the super maxed-out [Intel] chips in it. And I use my
BlackBerry to do all my social and business stuff. And I use my
iPad more than I use my laptop. That's what I used on the Britney
joint, actually. There's a bass app, a drum app. You have to make
sure it's a layered sound, and the iPad helps me do that.
Ad Age: You're also working with Dean Kamen,
who helped invent the Segway, on the FIRST Robotics convention in
St. Louis this spring. How did that partnership come about?
Will.I.Am.: Dean Kamen's one of my heroes, and
I went to the kickoff with him in New Hampshire in January. I
wanted to meet him for awhile because I'm fascinated by the type of
creativity he has with inventing things. So I called him on the
phone and we he told me about first. He said, "I'm in 15,000
schools teaching engineering and robotics. And every year in April
they have a robotics competition." And I'm like how come I've never
heard about this? But a lot of these kids probably don't do good in
school. They're probably getting bad grades and stuff. A lot of
these kids from 9 to 18 they're dedicated to science, math and
engineering. Why is it that no one goes and entertains them? Why
don't we turn this into a show? ... How come we can't play your
halftime show? He liked the idea, so now I'm producing their
competition and turning it into a show. We're filming it in April,
but we're sure when we'll air it on television. It would be awesome
to air in September for back-to-school.