Nile Rodgers on New Chic Songs and Keeping at It: ‘Nobody Would Ask Eric Clapton to Stop Playing the Blues’


Tonight at Martha Clara Vineyard in Riverhead, Long Island, legendary producer Nile Rodgers will host the FreakOut! Let’s Dance Festival. The two-day event boasts dozens of artists, including some of the biggest names in mainstream pop as well as lesser-known acts Rodgers selected himself. You can read more about the festival in the print music feature of this week’s Village Voice. Meanwhile, feast upon these choice outtakes from our interview with Rodgers, who talks about the latest hit dance singles by his band Chic and what to expect from their upcoming album.

On the release of the newest Chic singles, “I’ll Be There” and “Back in the Old School”:

“Music has saved my life over and over and over again. It’s given me the life that I have now, which is a wonderful life, but I can’t remember the date of anything… For me — and this is just for me — it feels semi-blasphemous… for something so important, so life-saving, and so life-changing, to not know [the] date [of each single’s release]. It’s weird to me. It seems disrespectful to something that’s been so wonderful to me. So I decided that 2015 was going to be the year of remembrance. Everything that I do that’s important, I’m going to know exactly what date it happens on.

“So I released ‘I’ll Be There’ and ‘Back in the Old School’ on the vernal equinox [March 20], and I went to a part of the world [London] where I knew we were going to have a total solar eclipse. I wanted that celestial event to line up with the release of my record, and it was really cool and fun, and it was great. It was so awesome.

“The sun came up, and then the sun blacked out because of the total solar eclipse, and I was there at that event. And when that happened, my song popped on the radio… Cost me a fortune, but I’ll never forget it. It was really fun and worth every penny of it because it gave me appreciation for all the people that helped me get to where I’ve gotten.”

On the creation of the songs:

“I now have all my Chic tapes back, and I didn’t realize that we had outtakes, because we’re a one-take band. Not that we get every song right in one take, but we practice, and after we practice it, get it down, then we record the song, and usually that’s it. So I had no idea that I had an outtake of a song that we would record the following day and turn into a Sister Sledge song.

“Everybody who’s on our first Chic recording [‘Everybody Dance’] appears on ‘I’ll Be There,’ and ‘Back in the Old School’ is officially our very last Chic recording. We never recorded as Chic again. That song never came out, but that song was a song called ‘Pay Me,’ and everybody is there. I have Luci [Martin], Alfa [Anderson], Bernard [Edwards], Tony [Thompson], Luther [Vandross]. Everybody’s on the record.

“Out of the early Chic lineup, out of the five guys that were in the very first photo, four of those five guys are dead: Luther, Bernard, Tony, and Raymond Jones, my keyboard player. I’m the only guy still around. So that was my tribute to them, and that’s all I cared about — an artistic statement… a spiritual statement, if you will, from me to them.”

On the upcoming full-length Chic album and whether the songs on it will be made from outtakes like the first two singles:

“Some songs will be, and some songs won’t be. I think that it’s probably going to be weighted half and half. The reason why is that at first I was going to do a whole album like that, but then I thought it was unfair to me as an artist because, yes, Bernard did die nineteen-plus years ago, but I didn’t. I’ve continued to make records. I’ve continued to grow. I’ve continued to have hit records. I’ve actually had some pretty big records lately, of course the biggest of which is ‘Get Lucky,’ but I’ve done well with Avicii and Adam Lambert, and now I have a new Duran Duran [single] that’s just come out… I have records coming out with Kylie Minogue and Nervo and Jake Shears. I have a lot of stuff coming, so I think that it would be totally wrong, artistically, for me to do a straight disco record that’s old-school, but I also think that it’s completely valid because nobody would ask Eric Clapton to stop playing the blues. I mean, that’s the music he loves, and this is the music I love: organic dance music.”