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An Afternoon With Nile Rodgers

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The rebirth of Chic

Chic are now back on the touring circuit, and set for a high-profile performance on the West Holts stage at Glastonbury at the end of June. When quizzed whether a certain French pair of robots will be joining him on stage, Rodgers was coy, neither confirming nor denying the rumour. He was more forthcoming though about the decision to revive Chic.

“It’s hard to think in terms of Chic, because Chic really was Bernard Edwards and myself. When he passed away, which was a long time ago now, 17 years – I actually didn’t want to do any Chic music again. There wasn’t any need, because I could live off royalties. Thank god,” he laughed. “And then this promoter came to me and he asked me to come back to Japan to play as Chic, and I said well okay, but why? And he said because I want you to pay tribute, to Bernard and the music that you guys did. And I actually never really thought about it like that. It’s funny that other people can see it differently than you do yourself. The next thing you know, I’m on stage and those first notes I played were really for Bernard… and I never stopped since.”

He also went into detail on a new Chic album, based on old uncompleted recordings that may or may not ever see the light of day. “Some wonderful person at the Warner tape library realised they had a lot of stuff that didn’t belong to them. When Bernard and I dissolved our partnership, we left the master tapes at the recording studio. The studio was sold, and all the property had to go somewhere. It all just got labelled as ‘Chic’, and in that was my film scores, unfinished collaborations I’d worked on, even the original jams for Let’s Dance

“At the time we were working on a new Chic record, because we didn’t know we were gonna get dropped. So I have tracks of me playing with my old band that nobody’s ever heard. The stuff is pretty avant-garde and wacky… but if I worked on it with Avicii or Felix [Da Housecat] or guys that I have good relationships with, they could take a different look at it, or inspire me.”

“I think the songs have potential, and I think I will put them out and finish them…though I have to look in the mirror and say, do I really wanna do this? Or is it better to just let it lay in the vault and let it be romantic for me.”

Rodgers ended the session with a rather wonderful anecdote about Marvin Gaye, and the greatest show he ever performed. “My memory for all time,” he told the audience, who’d been gripped by the interview for over two hours by this stage. 

“We played a show in San Diego, California, it was a big jazz festival and we were opening for Marvin Gaye. We had just released Good Times, and we didn’t even know how to play it yet. We didn’t think it’d go up the charts that fast… So we finished with Le Freak, and then we let the band go back to LA so it was only Bernard and me who were still there.

“But this massive baseball stadium was demanding an encore! When Marvin Gaye and his band were already setting up on stage…  All we did in the end was jump in a player pitching cart, and we drove around the perimeter of the stadium, like we were the pope or the queen. And the only reason we did it was because the cops told us there was gonna be a riot! We were doing coke in the dressing room at the time, it was 1979 after all, we were right on it of course. And the cops knock on the door, we thought they were coming to arrest us! But they were asking for our help. But it was an incredible show, you felt like you could walk on the vibe, the spirit of the people would hold you up… and after doing that stupid little drive around, can you believe it, the cops came back and asked us to do it again.”

“But Marvin Gaye didn’t know us that day, so I’m thinking all my life that Marvin Gaye hates Chic. So about a year or two ago, I was speaking to a journalist, and I had just finished my book,” referring to his autobiography Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny that was published in late 2011. “He tells me about Marvin Gaye’s last interview, where he asked him about disco. He tells him he’s not into the four to the floor thing, but he tells him there’s one route he really likes… and it’s Chic!”

When the stadium crowd had started thumping their feet at that legendary stadium gig, Gaye had jumped under a table thinking it was an earthquake. “That aint no earthquake, that shit is just Chic,” laughed Rodgers. “It’s your opening act. That story is 100 percent true.”

If you weren’t fortunate enough to catch Nile live in action alongisde Chic at Glastonbury you can watch their entire performance at the festival by clicking here

or catch them at Festival Number 6. which runs from the 13-15th September at Portmerion. More information and tickets can be obtained by clicking here

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