Meet Nile Rodgers: Disco king and Daft Punk hitmaker is ready for Masterjam
What’s On previews Masterjam NYE this New Years Eve in Dubai. Here, we republish an interview with Nile Rodgers done in 2013 at Sandance.
*THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN NOVEMBER 2013*
If you’ve been on a dancefloor in the last 20 years, chances are you’ve been dancing to a track written by Nile Rodgers, the one-man hit factory. Madonna’s Like A Virgin, We Are Family and Lost In Music by Sister Sledge, Let’s Dance by David Bowie, The Reflex by Duran Duran and, of course, Daft Punk’s summer anthem Get Lucky – are all from the hand of Rodgers. With his disco act Chic, Rodgers ruled the charts in the 1970s and 80s with classics like Freak Out, Good Times and He’s The Greatest Dancer.
Mr Rodgers, how’s it going? I’m wonderful, thank you.
What are you working on at the moment? I’m in the studio composing a new Chic record with a bunch of cool guest stars like Daft Punk, Pharrell [Williams], David Guetta, Avicii, Will.i.am and Disclosure. It’s ridiculous. I’m so happy, it’s insane. The process is completely natural because I’ve already had hit records with these people. Things are coming together in such a great way. I feel like I’m a child; I’m giddy.
What’s your method of working with other artists? I’m a perfectionist but I’m pretty concise. I don’t want to sound egotistical, this is statistical, but the fact is that I write a hit record a day. That’s how I’ve been all my career. Take Let’s Dance by Bowie for example, I did that entire album in 17 days, start to finish.
Are you that efficient in all areas of your life? You must be a speed demon in the supermarket. I’m smart enough to hire people to do my grocery shopping for me. [laughs]
When you hear of bands taking nine months to do an album, what do you think? Oh, listen, I’ve been there too. I made an album with Duran Duran way back in the day called Notorious under extreme circumstances. We spent a million dollars making the record, but you have to put it in context. The band was breaking up, two of the guys left the band; I had to stitch it all together, make the record, and keep their morale up. That wasn’t normal for me. All the other hit records I had with Duran Duran I did in a matter of days.
What kind of set can we expect [at Sandance November 2013]? We start with the very first song I wrote for Chic which is Everybody Dance. You know it? [Sings] “Everybody dance, do do do, clap your hands, clap your hands.” You’re also going to hear Diana Ross, Sister Sledge, Bowie, Madonna, Duran Duran – it’s basically my life in hit records.
Are you frustrated that the majority of people don’t know these hits are your work? Oh no, to the contrary. I work in the background and have a very anonymous, comfortable life. I’m like the Wizard Of Oz, the guy behind the curtain. Most people don’t draw a straight line between my work and nobody knows I wrote these big songs, they just know the music. So I think people are going to be surprised. They might say, “Oh my god, he wrote that song?”
Do you like touring? I hate touring. I always say we’d play for free but we get paid to tour, run to airports, sleep in hotels, eat bad food. I love getting on a stage and playing music. When we get on stage for two hours, it’s the most wonderful place in the world.
You’re 61 and you got the all clear from prostate cancer in July. What are your energy levels like these days? I believe music kept me going on some level through all that. I’m always working. I’m writing two Broadway shows and I never miss a show. I haven’t slept for more than four hours since I was five years old.
Do you ever think about retiring? I will never retire. I’m playing better than I’ve ever played. I’m so proud and honored to be writing hit records at my age.
We have some questions from our readers. Ben from Dubai asks, ‘What do Daft Punk look like without their helmets?’ [laughs] They’re cool guys. I’ve known them for 17 years. Get Lucky took the world by storm and everybody made a big deal out it, and I thought it was wonderful. But, honestly, I was more pleased for Daft Punk.
Lana asks, ‘How many guitars do you own?’ Oh, wow, 150 or so.
Gregory asks, ‘Who inspired you the most in your life?’ My jazz guitar teacher, Ted Dunbar. You won’t have heard of him, but he was a genius.
Red 5 Audio from Scotland asks, ‘What was it like working with David Bowie?’ It was maybe one of the greatest experiences of my whole life.
Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, Dubai Media City, Dubai, 6pm to 2am, Dhs295. Tel: (04) 5516708. Metro: Nakheel. masterjam.ae