As the mastermind of pioneering disco deities, Chic, Nile Rodgers forever altered dancefloors with "Le Freak" in 1978 before going on to create future classics for Diana Ross, David Bowie, Madonna, Peter Gabriel, Duran Duran, and, of course, Daft Punk, with the scientifically-sound earworm "Get Lucky."
New York City writer/DJ Colleen Nika spoke to Rodgers at Red Bull Music Academy's New York City takeover about some of his most memorable (and diverse) production experiences to date.
"It’s one of my greatest achievements, I think, because it was the easiest and fastest record I ever made. One day, David showed me a picture of Little Richard in a red suit – hair hanging down to there, and getting into a red Cadillac convertible. He said, 'Nile, darling, that’s what I want my album to sound like.' As soon as I saw it, I knew. He didn’t mean he wanted a retro record, or anything of the sort. He meant he wanted a record that would be modern and timeless. Just as that picture was from the '50s and it looked like it was from the future!"
"I’ve tried to explain to people why 'Like A Virgin' is a great pop album. It’s not just because of 'Like A Virgin.' It’s not just because of Material Girl. it’s because every song on that record is an amazing song. That's what great pop records are like. Like 'Thriller,' you play the record and everything is great. Yes, 'Like A Virgin' is a fantastic song and it features fantastic production but it’s because of moments like, [sings] 'Ooh, you're an angel,' that make it great."
"Steve Winwood said in an interview recently, 'When Nile comes in to play guitar, he winds up producing his whole performance – and the fact that he’s producing his performance winds up making him produce your record.' Certain portions of that are very true! So when I did a song like 'Anticipating,' I listened to the tracks which were there before I got there and I figured out what I needed to do to make this work. I don’t think [Britney] knew what I’m capable of doing. It was just, 'Wow, I’ve got Madonna’s producer on my record!' I did not have the abstract conceptual drive from Britney."
"Laurie is one of those people who speaks in that abstract wonderful way. I could get caught up in it when you’re hanging with them. I have a massive amount of respect for her, and I wish I could have achieved commercial success with her. Because for me there’s nothing better than taking somebody from the underground to pop."
"I love it when artists can speak to me in what would sound to a normal person as abstract terms, but to me it’s completely clear. When I got down to the studio to work, it was just… everything was open. I had as many colours as I wanted to paint with on my palette, but I had specific limitations because we were going back to an analogue live world. I got some chord changes going and I said, 'This is how we do it in Chic.' We would map out the chord progressions in single notes, so I started mapping it out and then we’d lay another guitar, a Moog part on top of that and so on – and they were so enthralled with that technique, they were like 'That’s cool, do it to this.'"