Chad Hugo is an enigma.
The Virginia producer and multi- instrumentalist is a rare breed; lauded and celebrated (and rightfully so), yet unconcerned with basking in the limelight. The creative process is fulfilling enough. As one half of The Neptunes, and a third of N*E*R*D, Chad has been instrumental to the soundtrack of a generation.
Even now, seventeen years after the release of N*E*R*D’s debut album ‘In Search Of’, Chad’s influence is as rife as ever. He and childhood friends Pharrell and Shay have spent their summer playing massive main stage festival sets around the world in support of the album, ‘No_One Ever Really Dies’, that dropped at the tail end of last year.
Scanning through any of the line-ups throws up dozens of artists and groups in their lineage. Characteristically Chad tends to stay tucked away towards the back of the stage swapping between instruments and DJ equipment from track to track, leaving his peers to take the spotlight.
While on the road in Japan, Chad took the time to share his thoughts on creativity, collaboration, travel and the importance of the keytar...
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What have you learned from this Summer festival run with N*E*R*D?
It takes precise calculations to manoeuvre a tour bus through Europe… It’s symbolic; as I’m not the one driving, I’m not the one in charge - it's just us on the second level watching what the driver is doing. We aren’t really in control of our own destiny, is what I’m trying to say!
How would you describe your personal role in the creation of the ‘No_One Ever Really Dies’ album?
I am keytar maniac gate keeper to the jammified realm. Rolling Stone once put me in the magazine around our first, ‘In Search Of’, playing my keytar - that let me know that I was onto something and the keytar has stayed throughout the years.
What defines creativity for you?
Creativity happens every second, what are we gonna say, how are we gonna say it? That takes creativity - when you’re speechless, you’re not being creative. Right now I’m wearing this shirt - I’ve attached two pictures - this was from a fan from London and it’s made by clothsurgeon - big shout outs to clothsurgeon for being creative! I didn’t create that slogan ‘Virginia Is For Lovers’, is it true?
Having achieved so much already, what is it that motivates you to keep creating?
The administration, and change of weather. The administration is crazy right now, you only have to look at the news to see the decisions that world leaders are having to make, always somebody getting fired for doing something inappropriate - we should all work together, it shouldn’t be this way.
But ultimately sometimes things are really screwed up but it’s still sunny outside, and the weather influences me to keep positive and keep creating positive things.
You released a 150 sound sample pack with Splice recently, what inspired you to want to do that?
I felt the need to share with people my knowledge so to participate in a way where I was sharing with the use of production tools, the sounds in a modern way that gave the producer room to be explorative in creating music, Splice provided me the opportunity to do that.
What’s the most important piece of technology that you’ve ever had in your life, and why?
Air conditioning. Equipment overheats.
What excites and inspires you right now?
Traveling around the world. National Geographic Channel.
What do you love most about collaboration?
Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams was an unexpected collaboration when it came out. It made some noise on the airwaves and was visually pleasing. Santigold and David Byrne and Fatboy Slim singing about Imelda Marcos. Thundercat and Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins … Collaboration is not necessarily highly unlikely things but they do bridge gaps/help break down some walls.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
My parents said finish college. I still go when I have the time.
What are you most proud of about your career so far?
To do what I like to do, make an honest living sharing my skills with others to represent and provide.
What’s been the most difficult thing you’ve had to overcome?
Going to centre stage in front of thousands in a onesie suit and bouncing around ridiculously.
What does success look like to you?
Retiring comfortably with grown offspring having applied themselves as well.
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Words: Grant Brydon
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