‘I have some form of synaes­the­sia. I al­ways have mu­sic in my head’

The beat goes on for Nile Rodgers, who has col­lab­o­rated with the best of the best — from Madonna to David Bowie — and lived to tell the tales. Which is a sur­prise to the le­gendary hit-maker. ‘I was the most reck­less of ev­ery­body,’ he tells HI­LARY A. WHITE

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - CULTURE -

Nile Rodgers jabs the idea ap­prov­ingly with his fin­ger, a toothy grin un­veil­ing un­der those shades. He likes the the­ory that disco was the first main­stream mu­si­cal genre to truly em­brace di­ver­sity of race, sex­u­al­ity and back­ground.

“That’s ex­actly it,” he purrs. “Man… you’re right on the money. I was a jazz snob. I sort of looked down upon pop mu­sic. I played it all the time be­cause I had to make a living but I felt it was be­neath me be­cause it was too sim­plis­tic. My girl­friend at the time worked in one of the most pop­u­lar jazz clubs in New York but we just hap­pened to go into a disco for a drink. I never saw any­thing as ro­man­tic and uni­fy­ing. All these dif­fer­ent types of peo­ple danc­ing to Donna Sum­mers’ ‘Love To Love You Baby’. So sexy. So in­cred­i­ble.”

As some­one re­spon­si­ble for help­ing kick­start mil­lions of par­ties since 1977, Rodgers has earned the right, at 65, to be wist­ful. From the floor-fill­ing canon of Chic to mid­wif­ing Madonna’s early steps on Like A Vir­gin, all the way through to the globe-con­quer­ing neo-boo­gie of Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’, Rodgers has been there, done that, and made it a smash hit by virtue of his pres­ence in the stu­dio. To il­lus­trate, in early Jan­uary 1985, he had presided over each of the top three sin­gles in the US charts (‘Like A Vir­gin’, Du­ran Du­ran’s ‘The Wild Boys’, and ‘Sea of Love’ by The Honey­drip­pers).

For him, the past is a place of stu­dio break­throughs, cel­e­bra­tory cork pops, and oceans of de­lighted smiles and dol­lar bills. He is able to re­flect on the his­tory of him­self, his Mi­das touch and the hun­dreds of mil­lions of sales that carry his moniker, with ease, sim­ply be­cause that his­tory is still tak­ing place.

“An­other thing hap­pened that I’ve only talked about once or twice in my life,” he breezily con- tin­ues of that fate­ful night. “I have some form of synaes­the­sia be­cause I al­ways have mu­sic in my head. It drives my girl­friend crazy be­cause I go home and have to turn the tele­vi­sion on be­cause I can’t sleep in a quiet en­vi­ron­ment. Right now, talk­ing to you is the dis­trac­tion from the com­po­si­tion go­ing on in my head. When I went to that disco, it was the first time I heard con­tin­u­ous mu­sic just like the one in my head. I didn’t know how to ex­plain it to my girl­friend. It was a mir­a­cle to me.”

You’d never mis­take Rodgers for any­thing other than a show­biz de­ity and pop guru. Dread­locks spill out over his shoul­ders from un­der his beret, and the thread from which his clothes are made seems spun from mir­ror balls them­selves. He is that mix of self-con­grat­u­la­tory and beau­ti­fully man­nered you tend to get with the mega-fa­mous, while a steady rhythm of en­thu­si­asm pulses off him, a pos­si­ble side ef­fect of the con­di­tion he speaks of.

Some­where out of sight rests ‘The Hit­maker’, the trusty Stra­to­caster with which his trade­mark wick­ety-wack­ety “chuck­ing” style gets the planet mov­ing. “I just love do­ing it,” he says. “I re­ally do love it. It’s weird too — when I’m on the road and some­times my road­ies take my gui­tar, I feel naked some­times. I just want to play it in the mid­dle of the night!”

Later this month, Chic, the band he formed with late mu­si­cal foil Bernard Ed­wards that re­mains the first and last word in the disco dic­tio­nary, re­lease their tenth LP and their first in 25 years. It’s About Time fea­tures the gamut of Rodger’s rolodex, ev­ery­one from El­ton John to Janelle Monáe to Lady Gaga. The al­bum will have a few func­tions to per­form be­yond in­tro­duc­ing a new gen­er­a­tion to the group and get­ting rumps mov-

C’est chic: ‘I was a jazz snob,’ says Nile Rodgers. ‘I sort of looked down upon pop mu­sic. I played it all the time be­cause I had to make a living, but I felt it was be­neath me’

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