Ahead of his performance at Kingsholm Stadium, June 9, with Chic the Grammy winning guitarist, songwriter and Chic frontman, Nile Rodgers, shares his experience of the music industry, what to expect from the next album and what it’s like being at a Chic gig!
You’re coming to Gloucester to headline at Kingsholm Stadium whose shows are very much family friendly. How does it feel knowing that there will be young fans in the audience having their first experience of a live concert?
If I judge from what’s happened in the past, it’s wonderful! I’m always shocked at how many people know the music that I’ve worked on. It blows me away. I’ve been educated, I’ve been told they say ‘Of course this is my favourite song! It was in my favourite video game’, or favourite movie, and nowadays our music gets licensed and synched to so many other products, that we wind up getting a fanbase based on playlists that were created for this product or that product and its pretty amazing.
It’s the sign of the times and the digital age that we’re in that there are so many new ways to consume and discover music.
I know and it almost makes me – sometimes I feel embarrassed because they’ll look at me like ‘How did you not know’ and I’m like well of course I licensed it but I didn’t know that it would create a fan of the song – I’m thinking you’re doing it because you like the movie. When you’re a traditional old school composer and people consume your music in new school ways – even though I’ve been around, and I’ve been a part of all of the different phases of it, I’m shocked at how much penetration and internalization happens as a result of a different platform when it comes to consuming music. It feels weird to me so I’m thrilled but its always somewhat a bit of a shock!
Because your music transcends the generations, you can tour with Cher but then work with Dua Lipa – and with Dua breaking through, her experience of the industry would have been a very different experience to yours. You’ve been working with her at Abbey Road studios; how have those sessions been going and how did you first meet?
Well I first met her at the Brits a couple of years ago. In the course of giving out awards, she got one and we had a good time and laughed and joked and she was terrific. It was all cool. You know when you just meet a person and like them and there’s a vibe that they have, and you don’t know where it’s going to go. But somehow, we got into a studio and she was like ‘I have been wanting to do this for a while now’. I said ‘Well, let me just show you what we do and how we do it’ and it was amazing. It was just so great because it was really going back to the way that we used to make records. Nowadays a lot of people make records just on your laptop, and that’s become the main way that people work. I guess she never went in and made a record with a live band and people who were just constructing it from the ground up.
You’ve worked with some of the greatest vocalists but you’ve also collaborated with producers like Disclosure, Avicii, Sigala – is it a consistent learning curve as each creator will bring something new to the table?
That’s why it’s so wonderful, yes, every person does bring something new to the table and it’s a give and take. People who grow up in an environment where the gear is so powerful that it becomes a real creative assistant, it becomes a real tool for them. In the last few months I’ve worked with a lot of new writers – especially women artists – which is really amazing to me, because now they’re recording their own vocals, they’re doing their own tracks, they’re making their own beats, and its not just a little pocket of exceptionally talented girls, it’s a vibe now. I’ve been working with girls who couldn’t have been more than 19 years old and they’ve never put anything out, but somehow, I got introduced to them through some really cool people who said ‘you’ve just gotta check it out they are really cool’. We get into the studio, we start chatting, we get to know each other, and next thing you know, we tackle the music. We have a job to do and we love it, we love doing it, and you have no idea just how fun it is to just create something from nothing.
When you’re working with brand new artists who haven’t necessarily had that much exposure, they must be keen to learn from one of the greats!
Believe me when I tell you it’s reciprocal! I wrote a song the other day, I wrote the bassline, and I said ‘you know what, before I go any further, I’m going to give this to these two young girls that I met the other day who just had a flare, for writing really cool melodies’ and it was very similar to when I met Avicii. I met him one night, he was already a big star, I went to see one of his shows, went backstage to meet him and it was a mutual connection almost right away. We booked studio time right away, a couple of weeks later, and we were friends up until his unfortunate ending.
I’m just really impressed with the level of talent that’s out there in today’s world, and its because they’ve become so computer savvy when it comes to working with technical gear that they don’t have to spend all the years that I’ve spent going to music school and learning theory and so on. Most people that I know that are really really big stars don’t actually even understand the fundamentals of music theory, they are just somehow able to make great music because they can step on the gear and do what they need to create and it’s wonderful.
Technology has made the expression of music so much more accessible, if someone doesn’t have the theory but has a computer they can still be heard.
That’s exactly correct, I sort of think about it this way, if a person is in the room with a musical instrument, and they just have the desire to get something out of it, they’ll pick it up and start to figure something out – it may not be the traditional approach to that particular instrument but they will get something out of it because music does something to us. It creates a feeling inside of us that’s – you know, maybe I’m overly romantic – but it creates a feeling inside of us that’s so magical that once you experience that thing, and if it does that to you, you can’t help but want to keep doing it and keep doing it and then you get better and get better and next thing you know you wind up being a complete virtuoso and you go ‘oh my god, how do you have that guitar tuned?’ completely weird. Like, Ricky [Wilson], who was the main songwriter with the B-52s all those years ago with those weird tunings and stuff and you can only play those songs with those tunings!
With your ‘It’s About Time’ Album; you championed such a wealth of British talent on there from Nao to Emeli Sandé and Craig David. Am I right in saying that ‘It’s About Time’ was Chapter One, and you’re working on a Chapter Two to essentially bring in the new era of Chic?
Yes. You have it exactly correct and also the fact that I am spending so much time at Abbey Road; that’s become sort of my new home base and I felt like, let me paint a musical picture that’s a more accurate reflection of my current life. At first I started out with a different concept but I love working with these people and its just great.
So is it fair to say that the music of Britain is going to get reflected in the next album as a lot of it will be recorded here?
You know, who knows what I’m going to be doing, but it has to on some level because I have already created some stuff that’s great! At least the music feels great to me. And also what the Dua sessions have taught me, it’s re-taught me again how much fun we have when we just walk into the studio as a band, as Chic rhythm section and just go in and play.
You compared the sessions you’ve been having with Dua on social media to the sessions you had with Bowie and Madonna, which coming from you, you couldn’t really give a higher compliment to an artist.
Because, when we think about it, when we do this, it’s almost like making a pact. It’s basically saying, we’re all in this together; sink or swim: here we go. And we all walk into the studio and we all contribute on every level. We did a little thing, where I just couldn’t help it; I posted the handclap session [on Instagram]. Chic, we’ve always been known for our live handclaps, which is sort of a stupid thing to be known for, but we always do these handclap circles and if you check out a lot of technology and a lot of people who make records, you’ll see the whole kind of ‘Chic handclap library’ that people have created from making remixes and getting our records and you know you give a DJ the master tapes, all of a sudden they say ‘woah we got these Chic handclaps’ and they put all these things together and you know they just make it out there into the universe, but we still go back and do it live like that when we’re doing a record.
For those people who have never been to a live Chic show, what can they expect and what can they look forward to when they come and see you?
I would just say, we really believe in having fun. Good times and happiness. What people have told us, not that we can’t control this, but people tell us that the happiness seems to last. Like in other words, after the show is over you’re still happy the next day! You’re still thinking about ‘man we had a blast last week’. I see on social media sometimes, people say things like ‘my feet are still hurting from 2 weeks ago when I went dancing to Chic all night.’ I mean for me, at my age, having done so much music and have an audience really appreciate it, it blows me away. Honestly, at the time we did it we were just hoping to get a record on the charts and you’re hoping to get penetration into the market place and you’re hoping to get what we call a hit record, but you have no idea if it’s going to last.
To me, I mean we were in the studio the other day with Rudimental and we were just laughing and joking and I said ‘you know what’s funny; I don’t think there’s anywhere I can go on the planet where I can’t go ‘1,2, aaaah’ and then they go ‘freak out’’. It’s the funniest thing. Every country.
And every generation. Everyone knows the songs and everyone just has an amazing time.
Tickets on sale now via http://musicplusspsort.com