Nile Rodgers – Interview 2018

Glastonbury 2013. Chic are on the West Holts Stage, performing some of the greatest pop music ever made. ‘Everybody Dance’, ‘Dance Dance Dance’, ‘I’m Coming Out’, ‘Upside Down’, ‘He’s The Greatest Dancer’ and ‘We Are Family’. That was just for starters. It’s relentless, the crowd growing somewhat delirious as Nile Rodgers digs deeper into his untouchable repertoire. ‘Let’s Dance’, ‘Like A Virgin’, ‘Lost in Music’, ‘Le Freak’, ‘Notorious’, ‘Good Times’. Sounds like a dream playlist, doesn’t it? From artists as famous and diverse as Madonna, David Bowie, Sister Sledge, Duran Duran, Diana Ross, and of course Chic, what is the common factor? Nile Rodgers has had a big hand in all these songs, either with his band, Chic, or as a writer, and/or producer. His work in Chic and his writing and production work for artists like David Bowie, Diana Ross and Madonna has helped sell over an incredible 500 million albums and 75 million singles worldwide.

That particular show was a key moment in the Chic renaissance. They had never really gone away, but the Beeb were at hand to film and beam the show live into living rooms, computers and tablets around the world. Everybody dance? They sure did. As they did the following weekend at the inaugural Love Supreme festival, the organisers not believing their luck in having secured Chic at just the right time, and helping to put this now established festival on the map.

What really nailed it though was the release of Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’, just prior to that Glastonbury appearance, which featured both Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers, both of whom were co-authors of this worldwide smash, Rodgers laying down the guitar parts. A song that eclipsed the success of all the aforementioned, ‘Get Lucky’ was one of those very rare modern-day pop moments that utterly transcended age and geographical demographics.

As well as being an extraordinary guitarist, Rodgers has always reached out to new-kids-on-the-block, forging new relationships and collaborations in looking to update his signature sound. Recently, he’s worked with the likes of Lady Gaga, Avicii, and Disclosure, whilst at the same time harnessing that energy to embody the original intent and spirit of Chic, from the moment they released their debut album in 1977. “When I first came up with the concept for the first Chic album cover more than 40 years ago it was a deliberate statement that we could all be abundant, we could all be with the beautiful people, we could all be included, we could all have good times,” Rodgers explained. “Looking at the world today for the release of It’s About Time I felt that it was important to make those statements again for a new generation.”

Rodgers has indeed lived a life. Born to a 13-year-old mother, and surrounded by heroin users in his childhood, Rodgers’ family home was nevertheless artistic, bohemian, and intellectual. Despite his heroin use his father was a top percussionist, and his stepfather a gifted mathematician. “They were high-functioning addicts. Always. I inherited that gene.”

Finally, we’re getting some new Nile Rodgers & Chic music! The appropriately named It’s About Time will be released in September, and features collaborations with Mura Mura, Cosha, Nao, Steflon Don, Craig David and Anderson .Paak and Vic Mensa, updating Chic’s distinct funk and dance-infused sound. “I’ve had the great privilege of producing some of the most important artists in the world,” says Rodgers. “So when it came time to collaborating for my own record the barometer was, shall we say, pretty high.”

In particular, Rodgers has once again been reaching out to newer artists, such as Nao and Disclosure, “I had been hanging out in England and had been with so many English artists that were brand new, and one of my favourite artists is Nao. She kicks my ass. I was like, ‘I have to find her’, and I tracked her down. She had this incredible attitude of whatever you want, I’ll sing. We were in the studio all night long. Finally, I take a picture of Mura Masa, Nao, and myself out in front of Abbey Road at like five in the morning because we had been going all night. And then we wind up with a song called ‘Boogie All Night’.

”I wanted to create the same ambiguity that we had and see if we could strike the same place twice,” says Rodgers about the similarities between the very first Chic album in 1977, and It’s About Time. “Now, I can still pay homage to the people that have helped me along the way to get me to where I am. It’s in the music, it’s in the songs. I think that’s what all artists want to do, is speak to the soul of millions. You’re doing this so people can hear and experience your work.”

Jeff Hemmings