Paul McCartney wasn't sure about working with Kanye West. When the unlikely duo got together in 2014 to work on a series of songs, the former Beatle quickly found himself in the most unusual studio scenario he'd ever seen, struggling to figure out how, or if, he could make it work with the unconventional hip-hop icon.
Sir Paul describes their coming together in a new Rolling Stoneinterview, where he compares his "Only One" collaborator's creative process to that of Andy Warhol. "I didn't know his system. I'd heard things like, 'He's got a room full of guys working on riffs, and he walks around going, 'i like that one,'" McCartney said of 'Ye's allegedly distinctive musical M.O.
The only agreement Macca, 74, made with West going in was that if the pairing didn't feel right they wouldn't tell anyone it happened. "It reminded me of Andy Warhol, these artists who use students to paint their backgrounds and things. It's a well-used technique," McCartney said of the sessions that also produced "All Day" and the Rihanna collabo "FourFiveSeconds." "I thought, 'I don't know how I'm going to fit into that, but let's see. Here goes nothing.'"
Their work on "All Day" included a guitar lick McCartney originally wrote in 1969 but never used, which Paul said came about when he and late wife Linda were at the hospital after she gave birth to their first born, Mary. "She was recuperating – I'm sitting around eating chips with my guitar in the clinic, goofing around with it," he said. "And there was a picture on the wall that I'd been looking at for days – Picasso, 'The Old Guitarist.' The guy held the guitar like this [strikes the pose from the painting], and a lightbulb went off in my head: 'What chord is that?' It looked like it was two strings. 'You know what would be cool? To write a song with only two fingers.' So I wrote this thing [plays the melody]."
When they were working on songs, McCartney said he told Kanye the story and whistled that little guitar bit for him. "His engineer was recording it, and it went into the pool of ingredients. Kanye was just collecting things," he said, recreating the moment when he heard the mix to "Only One" and finally understood where he fit into the Kanye constellation. "We weren't going to sit down and write a song so much as talk and spark ideas off each other. It was only when I got this song, the Rihanna record ["FourFiveSeconds"] and 'Only One,' the three tracks we did, that I went, 'I get it. He's taken my little whistle-y thing.' It returned to me as an urban hip-hop riff. I love that record."
Is 'Ye a genius in McCartney's eyes? Having worked with a few (and arguably being one himself), Paul said he doesn't throw that word around carelessly. "I think he's a great artist," he said.
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 19: Sir Paul McCartney, MBE attends 'This Beautiful Fantastic' screening at SVA Theatre on December 19, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)
TOKYO, JAPAN - APRIL 23: Sir Paul McCartney and Nancy Shevell are seen upon arrival at Haneda Airport on April 23, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Jun Sato/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 19: Sir Paul McCartney and Nancy Shevell attend DuJour Media, JetSmarter's Ronn Torossian, Gilt's Jonathan Greller, Jason Binn & elit Vodka's celebration of 'This Beautiful Fantastic' at the Park Hyatt on December 19, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for DuJour)
INDIO, CA - OCTOBER 15: Musician Paul McCartney performs during Desert Trip at The Empire Polo Club on October 15, 2016 in Indio, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Desert Trip)
INDIO, CA - OCTOBER 08: Paul McCartney performs during Desert Trip at The Empire Polo Club on October 8, 2016 in Indio, California. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
INDIO, CA - OCTOBER 08: Sir Paul McCartney (L) and Neil Young perform onstage during Desert Trip at the Empire Polo Field on October 8, 2016 in Indio, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
INDIO, CA - OCTOBER 08: Sir Paul McCartney performs onstage during Desert Trip at The Empire Polo Club on October 8, 2016 in Indio, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Desert Trip)
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 09: (L-R) Paul McCartney and Kanye West attend the Stella McCartney show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2015/2016 on March 9, 2015 in Paris, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 08: Recording Artists Paul McCartney and Kanye West perform onstage during The 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards at the STAPLES Center on February 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NARAS)
TOKYO, JAPAN - MAY 15: Paul McCartney is seen upon arrival at Haneda Airport on May 15, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Jun Sato/GC Images)
English musician Paul McCartney performs during the opening concert of his 'Out There' tour on April 19, 2014 in Montevideo. AFP PHOTO/ Miguel ROJO (Photo credit should read MIGUEL ROJO/AFP/Getty Images)
British music legend Paul McCartney (C) introduces a robot to fans upon his arrival at the Haneda airport in Tokyo on May 15, 2014. McCartney is to play Tokyo's Nippon Budokan Hall on May 21, marking his first return to the venue since appearing there with The Beatles in 1966. AFP PHOTO/Toshifumi KITAMURA (Photo credit should read TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 6: Musician, Paul McCartney attends the Los Angeles Lakers game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on April 6, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 06: Paul McCartney (R) and Nancy Shevell attend a basketball game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on April 6, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Noel Vasquez/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 08: (L-R) Recording artistis Paul McCartney, Rihanna and Kanye West perform 'FourFiveSeconds' onstage during The 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards at the at the STAPLES Center on February 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)