Nile Rodgers interview
THE WORD legend is bandied about far too easily these days – but Nile Rodgers is right up there and widely recognised as one of the most influential producers in the history of popular music, writes MATT TROLLOPE. As well as being the mastermind behind hi
THE WORD legend is bandied about far too easily these days - but Nile Rodgers is right up there and widely recognised as one of the most influential producers in the history of popular music, writes MATT TROLLOPE.
As well as being the mastermind behind his own band Chic and disco classics like Good Times, I Want Your Love, Le Freak and Everybody Dance, he has produced a host of Sister Sledge anthems, and went on to produce albums like Diana Ross' Upside Down, David Bowie's Let's Dance and Madonna's Like A Virgin, plus Duran Duran's singles The Reflex and Wild Boys and their album Notorious.
Originally a session guitarist playing live in the early 1970s with soul stars Aretha Franklin and Ben E King, Nile's trademark sound went on to shape a generation.
I caught up with him ahead of a special one-off London gig at The Forum in Kentish Town tonight (Friday), live and direct from his home in New York, and found that, as usual, he had his fingers in more than a few pies. But what exactly keeps getting him back on stage?
He explained: "In 1996 Bernard Edwards, my partner in Chic, died while we were on tour in Japan and I thought I'd never get back up on stage. But over time I remembered that growing up it had always been my dream to play music live to an audience, and it was the Japanese that got me back on stage.
"I found out that they had honoured him in a very special way with a memorial so three years ago I started gigging again, and kicked it off in Japan."
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Nile and Edwards formed Chic in 1977 following a trip to London two years earlier when the duo were touring in a band called New York City, which was rock rather than disco.
"We were staying in Queensway and I partied on with this girl after one of the shows. She played me this stuff by a band called Roxy Music, and I was hooked.
"Myself and Bernard already liked the anonymity of bands like Kiss, who would wear all this make up, and when we heard the Roxy Music sound and then saw their girls on the front of the album, it really influenced us with Chic.
"Chic was always an ensemble which allowed me and Bernard to make and produce music and not necessarily be the stars, and to also live out our musical ideas. We started off with one girl on the cover, but when we put two girls on there then people suddenly thought it was a group."
Nile and Edwards have always been the only people ever signed to a label as Chic, but the line-up of the live band has changed continuously throughout.
"In 1979, New York was gripped by disco and the pair's guitar-tinged spin on it was an instant success. Good Times was used by The Sugar Hill Gang for their seminal hip-hop anthem Rapper's Delight, and went on to become one of the most sampled tracks ever, including on Queen anthem, Another One Bites The Dust.
At the start Luther Vandross was contracted as a Chic backing singer, these days eight other singers and musicians join Nile on stage, for a show which features all the Chic classics, plus versions of many of other famous tracks Nile has produced. But there's simply not room or time for everything.
He adds: "The track Why, that I produced for Carly Simon, is one of my favourites, but I don't think we'll be able to play it at The Forum. All the Sister Sledge stuff will be included, though, and we'll be playing some interesting medleys, like our original track Soup For One, blending into Lady by French producer Modjo, who sampled Soup For One to make that anthem in the '90s."
Meanwhile, Nile, whose movie soundtrack credits include Alphabet City, Coming To America and Beverley Hills Cop III, is currently working on the soundtracks for two forthcoming Broadway shows, as well as a musical review showcase in Las Vegas.
Catch him while you can when Chic & Nile Rodgers play HMV Forum, Kentish Town tonight (Friday). Tickets are �29.50 from www.seetickets.com/tel 08700 603 777.