Nile Rodgers: Working With Kanye West, Avicii, Madonna & Janelle Monae
We got in bed with Nile Rodgers at the Grand Opening of Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza to explore the mind and soul of a legend…
By Jennifer Lynn
Nile Rodgers is perched on a bed in front of us at Hard Rock Hotel in Ibiza’s Playa D’en Bossa. Rocking a classic pink Kangol hat that Samuel L. Jackson would be jealous of, he’s taking as many pictures as our photographer Jonangelo Molinari is snapping of him, choosing to use our faces to test his focus. You couldn’t make this stuff up.
Speaking to MTV UK ahead of a performance with his legendary disco band Chic at the Grand Opening of Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza, Mr Rodgers gave us the scoop on working with his “little brother” Avicii, why Madonna is a dream to collaborate with, and just where Kanye West comes in to it all…
MTV UK: You’ve performed with countless legendary acts; how does it compare being on stage with the likes of Pharrell and Daft Punk, to playing with your own band, Chic?
Nile Rodgers: If you saw me with Guetta or Daft Punk, or Diana Ross or whatever, it feels like we’ve been friends forever, but my life with superstars is pretty glamorous because I just walk into the studio and do my thing. We don’t have to stay in bad hotel rooms, our buses don’t get flat tyres and stuff like that, but with my band we’ve been through everything together.
We’ve been stranded on the highway; we’ve actually had to change the tyres of the bus because the bus driver didn’t even know how to change a tyre. When I’m playing with my band it’s really like family. We sink or swim together. It’s awesome.
MTV UK: You’ve been in Ibiza a lot and most recently collected the Legends Award at the International Music Summit. What do you think it takes to become a legend?
Nile: [laughs] I don’t know, it actually makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable because I don’t think of myself that way, I’m just a really hardworking guy and fortunate enough to be a musician that is employable. Every now and then I get hit records and every now and then I get number one records! It’s pretty amazing.
I’ve always looked at my job and the business as something that I absolutely love doing and I would do it for free. That’s really the truth. The fact that we make gazillions of dollars is almost a joke to me, because I love doing this so much, I work just as hard on unknown artists and records that will never come out as I do when I’m working with Daft Punk or Diana Ross, or David Bowie or Mick Jagger. It’s all the same to me.
When I was working with Madonna, she used to walk into the studio and wonder why we were laughing so much, like ‘How do you guys get any work done?’ I take my job very seriously, but I always try to make it fun, because the most you may ever get out of it is the fun you have in the time that you’re doing it.
MTV UK: You mentioned Madonna; what’s one of your fondest memories of working on Like A Virgin with her?
Nile: That was really phenomenal. People don’t give Madonna the real respect and credit that’s due her, she absolutely is the single hardest working person I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve worked with literally hundreds of stars. Madonna shows up early, stays late, she’ll do every single task you want her to do and more. She’s the kind of person that you dream about. She brings the superstar thing and she brings a work ethic unlike anything you’ve ever seen. For me it’s like a dream come true. Probably one of the easiest records of my life I’ve ever made.
MTV UK: What’s your favourite of your recent hits?
Nile: I would have to say Get Lucky with Daft Punk and the main reason is because when we went in to do the record it was purely a labour of love. They had a vision of what they wanted to do and the vision was clear to me, but to the public at large it was a huge risk for them to take. I’ve had a lot of number one records in my life, but I’ve never had a record in my life that was number one in one hundred and something countries. As a matter of fact, when I got one of many awards, I laughed and I said to the dude, ‘I didn’t even know that there were 137 countries in the world!’
MTV UK: Who do you want to work with next?
Nile: That’s really impossible to say, because there are so many people I’m already working with and I like working with them so much that I continue working with them, like Pharrell and Disclosure, Sam Smith and Avicii.
Avicii to me is like my little brother, he’s one of the best composers that I’ve ever worked with, and Tim and I always make jokes that we wake up in the morning, we go into the studio and by nine, ten o’clock at night we have six songs. He’s already cut like 60-something songs for his next album, we were just together last week and he says, ‘Nile I’ve culled it down to 36!’ and then he says ‘Lets go write some more!’ I love people like that.
MTV UK: You’re looking to bring the world’s biggest disco ball to Bestival this year – how did that happen?
Nile: Well I was sitting in the bar at the Savoy Hotel in London and Rob Da Bank said, ‘Nile, every time you guys come there’s like 50-something thousand people dancing’. I said, ‘Well, what if we could get 75 or 80 thousand, make it ridiculous this year and to mark the occasion go for a Guinness World Record?’ We decided to try and make the biggest disco ball ever made, not even knowing if it was a category, but he researched it and found out it was so we had to figure out a way to top it. When I gave Rob the challenge he said he would do it if I come and play Bestival, so I said I’d try to give him the world’s biggest disco party.
MTV UK: What else is next for Nile Rodgers?
Nile: Where do I start? Kanye West sent me a track a couple of months ago. I’m dying to work on the next Janelle Monae album. She knows I adore her, we’ve been talking like crazy, we want to work together, but it’s just prioritising and trying not to mess up their recording schedule or their release date schedule. I’ll be working with Prince in the next couple of weeks, we’ll do live shows together, but of course I’ve always wanted to record with him.
I’m writing two Broadway shows at the same time and that’s completely daunting. That’ll probably take me the better time of this year to finish. I’m touring a lot with Chic. I have a brand new record deal and also we forget I still have my video game soundtrack business and it’s the biggest video game soundtrack company in the world.
Just an average day in the life of the busiest man in music…