A newspaper recently tried to calculate the monetary value of the music that has been created on the guitar that Nile Rodgers has recorded with for the majority of his career and they came up with the tidy figure of $1.2 billion. The real answer, mind you, is that his influence on music over the last thirty years has been incalculable. Rodgers discography is littered with hit after hit, from David Bowie to Madonna, from Chic to Daft Punk and almost literally all points in between.
Rodgers will make his return to Ireland as part of Chic to play the upcoming Forbidden Fruit festival in Kilmainham and we caught up with him for a quick chat.
Do you enjoy playing for Irish audiences?
That's almost like asking do I enjoy playing! Every gig in Ireland has been unbelievable.
I remember seeing you at the Electric Picnic festival about three years ago.
Oh right, I think that was the first gig we did in Ireland. It was great. The magic of our music with the Irish is just incredible, which has probably something to do with my lineage. You have so many black people in America who say that they're part Irish, in my life it's actually true. There's some sort of affinity that our music has in Ireland, it's incredible. Even when we're just travelling through little towns, it's great.
What do you have planned for this summer's Chic shows? Would it be similar enough to the set I saw a few years ago at Electric Picnic.
I don't really know what we played then but we've added a lot more songs. The thing is, we play a certain amount of songs because they're the hits that people want to hear. Even though we have a massive playlist, usually our sets are controlled by how much time we have on stage, if we're playing after somebody and if we have to shut down. I don't think that the general public knows all that stuff. If we're doing a show, sometimes we can only play seventy-five minutes, ninety minutes, and we're always very, very respectful of the acts around us because that means that we take away from their time if we go over. We also have to assume that there's going to be a large amount of people who's never seen us.
By any chance, do you remember the first festival you ever played?
Absolutely, clear as a bell! It was Oakland Stadium. Literally, it was our second show. We walked out on stage in front of 75,000 people and I suffered from stage fright - I thought I was going to die! I remembered downing a pint of beer in one swig and I felt this warm glow come over my body and I turned around and shouted "OAKLAND!" and they shouted "CHIC!", so we were off and running. I was terrified, I was shaking and my guitar lady looked at me and asked what's wrong. I said, 'what are you kidding me? Look at all those people!' The most I'd ever played to was a few hundred people and here we are playing to 75,000!
Presumably that stage fright has receded over the years?
No, no, it's the same. The only difference is that now I embrace it. Also, because of social networking, literally there's no show that I actually play that I don't have any friends at. A couple of years ago I was stricken with very aggressive cancer and I started doing a daily blog, so people were chiming in and I got to know them. I guarantee you that when I show up in Dublin there are going to be people there that I know on a first name basis, people who would have travelled from places like Ireland to see us play in places like Manchester. It seems to be a trend, every time we play in Manchester there's a huge Irish contingent. They make themselves known!
Do you feel more at home on stage or in the studio?
They're separate entities. Typically you always want to do what you're not doing. I've been making records back-to-back, literally a few hours from now we're doing our first concert that we've done in a few weeks and I can't wait to get there.
One of the things that has become obvious given the huge success of your collaboration with Daft Punk - 'Get Lucky' - is that the music that you played, and helped create, over the years is still incredibly popular. Were you at all taken aback by the success of that song?
We were a little bit shocked. It leaked, it was the first record that I've ever been on that has come out before it was supposed to come out. It was shocking, it caught us all by surprise. Typically when you do a record, as you well know, you have a marketing plan...once it got leaked we couldn't control what we were going after because things just started happening and it was well beyond our control. We sort of had a band meeting, we were at dinner, and I said: 'you know what guys, let's just relax. There's nothing we can do now that it's out. We certainly can't deny that it's our record, we have just got to let it be out there.'
Music is the one thing in show-business with which you can't fool somebody into buying something. With music, people buy it after they like it. They listen and listen and listen and then finally they buy it, so I said to the guys that this would only sink or swim after it came out because people would only buy it if they like it, so let's not freak out and see what happens. And people seem to love it.
You've have numerous hits over the years and so many different bullet points on your resumé. Does 'Get Lucky' rank up there among them?
Oh, absolutely. To have the kind of life that I have and to think that many artists I've worked with, I've given them their biggest records of their careers, which is UNBELIEVABLE to me. Daft Punk now, Duran Duran, Madonna, David Bowie, INXS, Chic, Sister Sledge, Diana Ross, The B-52's, it goes on and on.
Wow, to hear you say all those names is astounding. I kept expecting a full stop but there were just commas!
I know, I actually stopped! I could go on a bit longer...!