Chic founder Nile Rodgers is a hugely in­flu­en­tial hit­maker. You just don’t know it. Nui Te Koha re­ports

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

Meet the fa­ther of funk.

KEITH Richards fa­mously likes the rock, but prefers the roll. In Chic, ar­guably the great­est disco band of all time, they expressed it an­other way: Chic- ism.

Chic co- founder and gui­tarist Nile Rodgers ( pic­tured) ex­plains: ‘‘ It’s a cer­tain way of in­ter­pret­ing our style of funk.

‘‘ And, re­ally, it’s one of those in­stances where you have to de­scribe the in­de­scrib­able. There’s that fa­mous line: ‘ I can’t de­fine pornog­ra­phy, but I know it when I see it!’ That’s how it is with Chic- ism.

‘‘ I know a mil­lion mu­si­cians who can play and sound great, but they just don’t have Chic- ism.’’

Chic- ism is best de­fined by the mu­sic, in hits like Good Times, Le Freak, I Want Your Love, and songs writ­ten by Rodgers and bas­sist Bernard Ed­wards, as the Chic Or­gan­i­sa­tion. Chic Or­gan­i­sa­tion hits in­clude

We Are Fam­ily and Think­ing Of You for Sis­ter Sledge, and Up­side Down and I’m Com­ing Out for Diana Ross.

Rodgers also brought the Chic sound to – and pro­duced hit al­bums for – Madonna, David Bowie and Du­ran Du­ran. He also pro­duced and played on the INXS hit Orig­i­nal Sin.

Rodgers and Ed­wards formed Chic in 1976.

‘‘ Our vi­sion was a com­bi­na­tion of Roxy Mu­sic and Kiss,’’ Rodgers says. ‘‘ We wanted the stylism of Roxy and the anonymity of Kiss.

‘‘ We wanted to be in the shad­ows. I never felt like a star, but at some point I felt like I could com­pose star mu­sic.’’

Chic hits turned to col­lab­o­ra­tions with oth­ers, in­clud­ing Bowie’s Let’s

Dance and Madonna’s Like A Vir­gin. They were quick flings, too. Bowie’s al­bum took 17 days to record and mix; 23 days for Madonna’s.

Rodgers says: ‘‘ It was the Chic way, the old R ’ n’ B way. We did ev­ery record quickly. Peo­ple don’t think of rock artists work­ing that fast.

‘‘ But, typ­i­cally, black artists made ev­ery record on those kinds of sched­ules. We worked eight- hour days. We took the small stu­dios. We didn’t have bud­gets.

‘‘ There are no sec­ond or third takes with our songs. Once we got it right, we moved on.’’

He says Madonna was naive and am­bi­tious.

‘‘ She was re­ally rough around the edges, but I love Madonna,’’ Rodgers says. ‘‘ I caught her at the ex­act right time of her de­vel­op­ment. She was like a child look­ing at the world with wide eyes, but in­cred­i­bly con­fi­dent.’’

Rodgers used to get his kicks in­tro­duc­ing her to su­per­stars.

‘‘ She would walk straight up to Diana Ross and Bruce Spring­steen, shake their hands firmly, and say: ‘ I’m Madonna. I’m go­ing to be a real su­per­star’. They’d look at her, flab­ber­gasted, like: ‘ What just hap­pened?’.’’

Af­ter Like A Vir­gin, Madonna hap­pened world­wide.

‘‘ With that al­bum, I wanted peo­ple to lis­ten to Madonna. I wanted peo­ple to care about her.’’

Last year, Rodgers worked with the so- called re­duc­tive Madonna: Lady Gaga.

‘‘ I buy the Gaga thing. She is very tal­ented,’’ he says. ‘‘ But it’s still early in her ca­reer. The prob­lem with Gaga is the spec­ta­cle is so big, how do you main­tain that level of in­ter­est?

‘‘ When­ever Madonna did some­thing, it felt like she was tak­ing us to the next place.

‘‘ She put on cow­boy boots, which seemed ridicu­lous at the time, and ev­ery­body fol­lowed.’’

He cites a clas­sic Gaga fash­ion stunt, and con­cludes: ‘‘ You know, I don’t see any­body wear­ing meat right now.’’

He re­calls the stu­dio ses­sion with INXS as anx­ious.

‘‘ For some rea­son, they were ner­vous. They shouldn’t have been be­cause I was in awe of them.’’

He says the band started re­lax­ing when he joined them and played his dis­tinc­tive licks on Orig­i­nal Sin. They re­hearsed once be­fore Jon Far­riss’ drum head broke and needed re­pair.

How­ever, INXS didn’t know Rodgers recorded the re­hearsal.

He laughs: ‘‘ It was a re­hearsal to them, but it was a record­ing to me.’’

INXS re­leased the re­hearsal ver­sion of Orig­i­nal Sin as a sin­gle.

Yet, Rodgers, the man be­hind many a mas­ter­plan, says songs are still key, not pro­duc­ers. In­deed, he be­moans the el­e­va­tion of mod­ern- day pro­duc­ers to star sta­tus.

‘‘ Pro­duc­ers are stars be­cause records are now made in an assem­bly line,’’ he says. ‘‘ But the pro­ducer should never be the star. Half the peo­ple who like my records don’t even know I did them.’’ He laughs: ‘‘ That’s my bless­ing and my curse.’’

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