HITS Daily Double
"Sonically, [Lady Gaga] was so open. Let’s make sounds that people have never heard before. Make it global, make it big. And when we played it for people, we realized we had something fresh."


An exclusive HITS Grammy dialogue with RedOne by Roy Trakin
The Morocco-born producer/writer RedOne, whose real name is Nadir Khayat, is an overnight success story 15 years in the making. This week, he’s riding high, with four Grammy nominations for his work on Lady Gaga’s hit The Fame CD, including Record and Song of the Year nods for “Poker Face,” one of a number of songs he wrote and produced, including “Just Dance,” “Boys Boys Boys,” “Paper Gangsta,” “Money Honey” and the latest single, “Bad Romance.” He’s also in possession of Michael Jackson sessions he did with the superstar in Las Vegas, and his name is being bandied about for a track on the next U2 album.

Now 37 years old, RedOne moved to Sweden when he was 18, earning a Grammy award in that country before getting his big break when “Bamboo,” his mash-up of Shakira and Wyclef’s “Hips Don’t Lie” was chosen as the “official melody” for FIFA’s 2006 World Cup final, where the two performed the song for more than 1.2 billion people worldwide. His stateside career took off after producing Kat Deluna’s “Whine Up” featuring Elephant Man, a #1 dance hit. It was his Grammy nomination last year for Gaga’s “Just Dance” that prevented Lady from getting a Best New Artist nod last year, but he doesn’t seem to mind too much.

Have you started celebrating your Grammy nominations yet?
I’m very happy. I’m in the studio—that’s what I do. I just work. My celebration is just doing more hits, ya know?

Why is it that Sweden is thehome for such great pop producers?
Being from Morocco, I’ve got that African, multicultural thing, too. I just noticed there was so much great pop and rock coming out of Sweden, so many good melodies from groups like ABBA, Europe, Ace of Base, Yngwie Malmsteen and Roxette. That’s when I decided I wanted to be in the music business. So, I went to Stockholm and was the singer in a band for a while. I just left my family, left everything behind to work there.

How did you meet Lady Gaga?
I only wanted to work with artists signed to major labels. But I got a call from my manager, who told me to meet with this girl, who had just been dropped from her label. He told me she was going to be a star. I met her and saw this amazing girl. The way she said hi to me, I was just overwhelmed. I said, “Let’s go to the studio now.” We took a cab and on our way there, we started singing songs together and throwing around ideas. We talked about Motley Crue, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones… We were thinking about “Girls Girls Girls,” and she suggested, “Why don’t we do a song called ‘Boys Boys Boys’?” And I said, absolutely. We felt we had something that no one else had. By the time we got to the studio, the song was written. Sonically, she was so open. Let’s make sounds that people have never heard before. Make it global, make it big. And when we played it for people, we realized we had something fresh.

Did you have any idea this project would be so successful?
The dream was so far, far away. There has never been a Moroccan who’s made it like this in the music business. In Africa, you’re so distant. We hear everything, but we can’t touch it. And now, here I am in L.A. I don’t want to say I’m dominating, but I’m leading the world musically. And it’s like, me and Gaga are doing something that everyone wants to do. Yesterday, I met Jimmy Jam, and he told me there’s been nothing as game-changing as this since the [Janet Jackson] Control album. To me, that was the biggest compliment. Jimmy Iovine told me we moved the dial on American radio. They wouldn’t play Lady Gaga for six or seven months, but when they finally tested it, the songs went #1.

How did you come up with the name RedOne?
When I first moved to Sweden, my best friend who came with me was Redouan. We had no idea what was going to happen. We knew nothing about the country before we arrived except for the music. Now, one of my writers is Bilal, who is Redouan’s little brother. We wrote “Money Honey” together.

Do you have a desire to work in the rock world as well?
That’s how I started. I was in a heavy, heavy rock band, but we were always melodic. Rock is in me. A lot of people think RedOne is about synths, but it started with guitars. If you listen to my songs, the way they’re produced, it’s like rock with synths. There’s this big chorus with an open hi-hat. To me, rock gives you this big energy, and that’s what I’m gravitating toward.

I hear you might be producing a track for the new U2 album.
I’d describe that as a fantasy that might become reality. Working with Michael Jackson was like an impossible dream, and then the next thing you know, he wanted to meet me. And suddenly I’m in the studio with him for months. The same with U2. I’ve met Bono, and I really dream and hope he likes my music. And I hope to make that dream come true.

What came out of the M.J. sessions?
I have tracks we’ve worked on, but I have to meet with the lawyers first. I don’t want to make money out of them. I know how Michael was… all about the music and being honest. If I do something with them, the proceeds have to go to a charity that Michael would be proud and happy about.

What’s next?
I’m working with some incredible artists that are going to blow the world’s mind. Watch out for these names: Kee, a Swedish-Congolese singer named Mohombi and Zander. They’re all different from each other and from Gaga. I’ve got offers from everybody, but right now I’m focusing on just doing the music, and when it’s ready, we’ll figure out what we’re going to do. I’m loving and appreciating all of it.