Nile Rodgers on Daft Punk and his renegade approach to music
Nile Rodgers has been enjoying a resurgence of epic proportions so far this year. He’s always been an in-demand producer and performer but, since Daft Punk’s new album surfaced, he’s been introduced to a whole new generation of music lovers and he’s reveling in the attention. I interview Nile as part of a piece on the Daft Punk album, which was published in The Independent’s Radar supplement a few weeks ago – here’s an extract from that interview, which you can read in full on my website
When did you first meet Daft Punk?
Oh my God, we first met when they released their first album years ago! They had a listening party in New York and they told how they’d dedicated so much of their first album to my partner Bernard Edwards, who had just died, so that was around 17 years ago… then, we’ve tried to have subsequent meetings after that and it’s really been a comedy of errors!
Well, I’ve said, ‘We’re going to meet on this day at two o’clock in Paris’ and they said, ‘Ok great’. Then I get to Paris and they’re in St Tropez. So it’s like, ‘Okay, tomorrow we’re going to meet at this place at 12 noon in St Tropez’. They said, ‘Cool’ and then they’re in Paris! We kept getting our signals crossed because when the artists are trying to do the meetings it gets all messed up…
Leave it to management!
Yeah, haha! So, I’m in Paris, they’re in St Tropez and vice versa, I’m like, ‘Wait a minute!’. So finally they just show up at my house, about a year ago, in New York and, maybe they can tell you different, but I don’t think they played any music. We just talked about music. It was conceptual, conceptual, conceptual – talking, talking, talking, ‘We’re gonna film like this, we’re gonna shoot like that’. All of that stuff prepares you, artistically, for what your job has to be because, if you know all those other back stories, you walk in ready to do that. Does that make sense to you?
What was it like working with them in the studio to Chic other artists?
That’s the thing, it was no different. We were on the same artistic and spiritual wavelength so there was no difference. As a matter of fact, to show how unbelievably ridiculous the coincidence was, we recorded the tracks in the very same studio where we recorded Chic’s first hit record! And, not only was it the same studio, it was some place that, when I was a little kid, I used to hang out in before Jimi Hendrix bought it. It was a nightclub called Generation, which I used to go every single night because it was two blocks from my house.
I went there every night of my life. So, walking the guys around the room, I said, ‘Yeah, Hendrix did this here, so and so did that here. When we cut Chic, we did this here’. Every inch of that room, I mean that’s where I cut INXS Original Sin, I did that song in one take, that’s where I cut Hall & Oates Adult Education, Femi Kuti – we did a dedication to his father, Fela, with D’Angelo and The Roots, we did it right there. ‘You don’t know how many ghosts are in these machines!’.
Were they not aware of that history at all then?
How could they be? No one knows that s**t, you gotta be born in that neighbourhood to know that stuff. You may know the Hendrix part of it, but you certainly won’t know that it was a nightclub called Generation, where 16-year-old Nile Rodgers used to hang out and pretend to get drunk by drinking Coca-Cola and rum extract, haha… because I was on LSD, I didn’t have to get drunk! No one would know that, in fact you’re the first one to hear that part, I never told that to anyone! There’s no way you could know that because it wasn’t documented. Remember, when I was 16 I wasn’t known, so that history is not documented – I was just a 16-year-old, enthralled with the building and the location and the people around me.
Catch Nile Rodgers, along with Seth Troxler and more for a Red Bull Music Academy special at The Forum in London on Friday 14th June – more information here.Chic, Daft Punk, Jimi Hendrix, Nile Rodgers
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