James McMahon’s article-slash-interview with Parrell Williams in the debut issue of Rollacoaster magazine promises a welcome revival of the fluid and florid style of writing that once made English music magazines so sought after. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the transcription style interview pioneered by the likes of Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine. In fact, the endless number of imitators that have now made it the default means of putting across an interview in writing only testifies to how innovative it once was and how influential it became. But it’s great to see a new title cutting a bold path; championing a road less travelled in recent years.
McMahon’s text that documents –perhaps even novelises- his encounter with the enigmatic musician and designer is a fine example of what those of us who are old enough to remember Tom Wolfe once understood as ‘the New Journalism’. Of course, that could also mean being old enough to remember all the arguments over exactly what this ‘new journalism’ was. At the risk of opening old wounds, perhaps it’s simply enough to say that McMahon’s text is full of the self-awareness that the writer is fully a participant in the encounter between one who interviews and one who is interviewed. The small asides, little observations and personal impressions of that encounter play a key role in creating a real sense of a real happening. It’s a style that doesn’t even pretend to be unbiased.
Of course, when everyone wanted to write for the NME or Melody Maker the approach became something of an orthodoxy in itself and nothing was more boring than reading the efforts of the wannabes who failed to understand the fine balance between being present with the subject of the interview and competing with the presence of the interviewee. Fortunately for us –and Rollacoaster- Mr McMahon gets the balance right.
It really would be rather disrespectful to James McMahon and Pharrell Williams to try and précis the whole article here: the whole point of this editorial is to encourage you to get your hands on it and experience it personally. Suffice it to say that you could do worse things than read a well-written article on one of contemporary music’s most interesting players. In addition to his more traditional hip-hop and R&B offerings, Pharrell is also a member of the much admired experimental rock band N.E.R.D. He does a little fashion design on the side and his designs for other products, such as furniture, have been shown in some of the world’s leading art galleries.
But that’s not really something that he’s too bothered about in James McMahon’s interview.
As befits the multitalented man, Kenneth Cappello’s uncluttered photos and fashion direction by Way Perry stitch together the three-dimensional portrait.