Chic legend Nile Rodgers: 'Kylie wants me on her new record'
As a founding member of disco outfit CHIC, Nile Rodgers is a musical legend. As well as the band's impressive run of disco hits (Le Freak, Good Times, Everybody Dance), he's sprinkled his production magic across hits for the likes of Madonna (Like A Virgin), David Bowie (Let's Dance) and Diana Ross (Upside Down).
Still going strong after a shock cancer diagnosis momentarily sidelined him four years ago, 2015 is shaping up as a big one for Nile: He launches the first new Chic single in 23 years at a special London gig next week, and returns to our shores in June for what may be the biggest, gayest party of the year: a British Summer Time concert in Hyde Park with Kylie Minogue and Grace Jones.
So, we're loving what we've heard of the new single I'll Be There. It's your first Chic single since 1992 - did it feel like the right time?
I didn’t think about that until you mentioned it, and I’m not going to think about it anymore! I never now what the right time is, and I don’t govern my life by that clock. I don’t judge the future, I go by the statistics that say every record you put out is probably going to be a flop. I just make the music I love, I’m not smart or calculated enough to plan anything else.
The only reason this record is coming out on March 20 is that I wanted to remember it for the rest of my life, and I don’t know how long that’s going to be. Four years ago, I was stricken with very severe cancer. I said to myself, I don’t know what day Let’s Dance came out on, I don’t know what day Like A Virgin came out on, I don’t know what day my first record came out on. But I’ll know what day I’ll Be There came out on, because I’m going to launch it in the UK on the day of a solar eclipse. I wanted to be in the place where the have Greenwich Mean Time and watch day turn to night... I’m gonna remember that shit for the rest of my life!
You mentioned your cancer diagnosis - you've previously talked about how doctors told you to put your affairs in order and prepare for the worst, and yet you've been touring the world for the past four years. Do you think immersing yourself in touring and music has helped?
Being 100% honest? I don’t know. All I know is I feel good playing music and writing songs, but I don’t know if it’s helped me other than making me feel good. If you really like good food, it could be killing you slowly but while you’re doing it you feel good! I’m considered cancer-free right now, but I don’t make a big deal out of it because the day before they diagnosed me, I was cancer-free that day too, technically. It was only when they got the biopsy back they said ‘Whoops - you got severe cancer.’ I know my time on this earth is limited, that’s why the album is called It’s About Time.
The Hyde Park show in June promises to be a pretty huge party. Have you had much to do with Kylie before?
I worked with Kylie last year; she came and played with Chic right after the BRITs. We became tight after she played with us, because of course we're both cancer survivors.
I actually just got off from texting her, she wants me to come and play on the new record with her and Nervo. And Nervo, Nicky Romero and I just wrote another song.
Then there's the other diva on the bill, Grace Jones. You've worked with her before - is she slightly terrifying?
For me, she’s not, but I can see how she would be for other people. Think about this: Grace was the very first star to reach out to Bernard [Edwards, Chic partner] and myself in the very beginning. We did our first album, and Grace wanted us to come see her show. Well we got there and they wouldn’t let us in - they told us to f*ck off - so we went home and wrote the song, ‘Ahhh, f*ck off! F*ck Studio 54’ - which of course turned into, ‘Aaah, freak out’!
I’ll love Grace Jones for the rest of my life. We’re just best friends, and no matter how tough she may be with other people, she’s like my little sister. She’s adorable with me. Think about that - Grace Jones, adorable? When Grace and I are rolling together, she is adorable.
Kylie, Grace Jones, Nile Rodgers all on the same bill: come on, tell us there's be a collaboration or two on the night.
Look, it’s part of the night to jump on stage with Chic. For this gig, Kylie might not want to appear in front of the crowd before her set, but who knows, I might end up jumping on stage for a song I write for her in the next few weeks. I never try to predict the future!
Nile Rodgers and Chic play alongside Kylie Minogue and Grace Jones at Barclaycard Presents British Summer Time Hyde Park , June 21. Tickets on sale now.Chic's single release tour of the UK kicks off at London's Roundhouse on March 20 - tickets and info here.