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Paul Williams backstage at the 2014 Grammy Awards

Paul Williams at the 2014 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles
Paul Williams at the 2014 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles
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The 56th Annual Grammy Awards took place on Jan. 26, 2014, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Here is what this Grammy winner said backstage in the press room. PAUL WILLIAMS

Winner of:

Album of the Year: Daft Punk, “Random Access Memories” (featured artist)

What was it like working with Daft Punk?

I think they brought us in, not to put wallpaper on a house that was already built but to start at the ground up. First of all, I love the fact that they’re anonymous. I love the fact that they hold up their work, like, “This is what we want you to look at, not who we are. Look at the work.”

The first thing that Toine did was give me a book about life after death, people who had near-death experiences, people who had died and come back to life. He said, “I’d like you to read this.”

I said, “I’ve already read this book. It’s probably a 20-year-old book, and we didn’t know how it would figure into what became “Random Access Memories.” We didn’t know if we were writing about a character that was coming out of a coma, if it was time travelers that were induced into a coma.

We just began to work. They offered you amazing flexibility, a great creative energy of “Let’s find this thing.” I love the fact that these guys are essentially the creators of EDM, electronic dance music, which I called techno-pop when we did the collaborators’ videos. EDM, if you go to the headwaters of EDM, you find Daft Punk. And I love the fact that they’ve sailed into deeper emotional waters.

They could’ve made another straight-ahead dance record and sold millions of records, but they chose to do something [different]. I’m 73 years old. The last thing you expect when you’re 73 years old is you get a call from a couple of robots to come make a record. I think their message is, “You’re never too old to fall in love. You’re never too old to make music.”

They kind of looked over their shoulder and said, “These are some of the guys who influenced me and us. Come and make a record with us.”

You’ve been through a lot of ups and downs in your life. How does it feel to have survived it all and to win a Grammy for Album of the Year at this point in your career?

On March 15, it’ll be 24 years. Twenty-four years ago, I did something I never did before: I turned to a lot of people I didn’t know, and I said, “I am absolutely lost, and I’m dying.” And I was honest. They say you can’t save your ass and your face at the same time. I made a choice and I said to people, “I desperately need help.” And they were there for me.

If somebody is having trouble with drugs or alcohol right now, that’s my message to them: “Get honest, reach out your hand, and say, ‘You’re in trouble. You need help.’” I was given my life back. It’s a spectacular thing.

At this point in my life, it’s all a gift. I couldn’t have imagined this. Tomorrow will be the day after the Grammys. And this is fantastic. This is wonderful.

And I can now say that I’ve been a contributor. I wrote a couple of lyrics on an album that became Album of the Year. It’s an amazing collection of talent: Pharrell, my God, what a generous man! But the fact is too that tomorrow what I’ll have my life again the day after the Grammys. It’s a life I couldn’t have imagined. For me, I find great comfort at the center of the herd these days, so this is very special.

Did you ever talk to Daft Punk about your 1974 movie “Phantom of the Paradise”?

You know what’s interesting. In 1974, I made a movie with Brian DePalma called “Phantom of the Paradise” that nobody went to see in this country. I made movies and albums that even my family didn’t go to and buy. But through the years, there have been some people who discovered “Phantom of the Paradise.”

Two of the collaborations I’m working on right now are direct results of “Phantom of the Paradise.” One is the guys in Daft Punk. They saw “Phantom of the Paradise” 20 times. They love the movie.

I’m writing a musical based on “Pan’s Labyrinth” with Guillermo del Toro. And my relationship with Guillermo del Toro is based on his love for “Phantom of the Paradise.” I’m writing it with Gustavo Santaolalla, who is a brilliant, brilliant composer from Argentina. Yeah, my life is pretty good right now.

For more info: Grammy Awards website


Grammy Award interviews

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