Paul McCartney Describes Recording “FourFive Seconds” With Kanye & Rihanna
As he announced his first tour Down Under in 24 years, Paul McCartney chatted with comic Tim Minchin for a Facebook Live session Wednesday, which lasted roughly 30 minutes but rolled-back 50 years of memories as the Beatles legend shared old stories and some more recent moments.
Asked his best memories of Australia, which he last toured in 1993, McCartney said, “I think it’s the wildlife because we don’t have that here. We don’t have kangaroos or koalas. So we went to a zoo and were able, me and the kids, were able to hold a little peaceful koala.” A fan asked if he’d consider adding the McCartney solo song “Ode To A Koala Bear” to his set list and he said whimsically, “That’s a thought, isn’t it?”
A question about his favorite album gave McCartney a chance to talk about the making of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band during its 50th anniversary year and the long chord at the end of “A Day In The Life.”
“I just came in and said, ‘Have you ever put the loud pedal down on the piano and hear a chord and see how long it lasts for?’ I was just fascinated. It goes for a good minute. I still hear it, I think. We did that idea, but then George Martin would say, ‘OK, it’s running out.’ So he fed in another piano. So George would do expert things like that, which was very cool, you know.”
He also talked about a more recent piece of music, his collaboration with Kanye West and Rihanna on “FourFive Seconds,” and how he didn’t know how it would work out. “I got a phone call and my manager said, ‘Kanye West would like to work with you.’ And I go, ‘Yeah, we’ll do it.’ I was a little bit nervous at first, because I thought it could go horribly wrong. But I was intrigued to see what he was up to and how he did it. And it was a very intriguing process. You basically don’t write songs. You basically just talk and noodle a bit and you record it all on your phone. And then he goes away. And that’s basically his record. But it was great doing it because I don’t work like that.”
He also equated what West did in putting together “FourFive Seconds” with how the Beatles worked. “So I was waiting three months after we’d finished. I didn’t really hear anything but ‘Hey, bro, what’s going on?’ But I’m thinking, should I say, ‘Did we write a song? Will a record come out of this?’ Anyway, this arrives and it’s a Rihanna song… I said, ‘This is great! I have to ring up and say, ‘Am I on this?’ And he goes, ‘Oh, yeah. You’re the guitar player.’ I go, ‘I don’t remember.’ And he said, ‘We sped it up.’ So they manipulated this kind of … although, we’re talking about Sgt. Pepper, we loved manipulating. So I think we would have been into a lot of these tricks nowadays because we did speed things up a little bit.”
McCartney talked about his philosophy in what music fans hear during his three-hour concerts. “I start with the fact I used to go to concerts when I was a kid when I didn’t have any money. And so I know what I want. And so I think the average audience member wants what I wanted. Which is the performer to do songs you know and hits you with love. So I kind of start with that.”
He says he eats little before a show. “I don’t eat or drink before I go on because I sort of like to feel light. Then afterwards I can get heavy and have a drink. But before I go on I don’t do that. I do have little sort of snacky things in the dressing room that I might just grab like chocolate covered raisins.”
And not surprisingly, he spoke of the Beatles with pride. “I always say we were a great little band. And that for me is what’s precious about the Beatles. We were a great little band that expanded beyond all expansion. But the fact that we could sit down and go ‘One for the money…’ and we all knew it. Just a tight little band. With me, instead of thinking about the quality of the sound, what I’m thinking about is when we recorded it or the young kids that recorded this, because you know what I was like in my mid-20s when I did something like ‘Eleanor Rigby.’ So I’m singing it going, ‘It’s pretty good. This kid’s not bad. I like those words. The face by the jar by the door…’”
McCartney will perform five shows: four in Australia and one in New Zealand. The Australia dates will be 12/2 at nib Stadium in Perth; 12/5 at AAMI Park in Melbourne; 12/9 at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane; and 12/11 at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. The New Zealand show takes place 12/16 at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland. Pre-sale tickets are available from 6/27 (via paulmccartney.com) and the general onsale begins 7/4. “I’m going to come to Australia and New Zealand in December to play some concerts. And you know, I’m very excited. Haven’t been there in a long time,” he told the online audience.