In the FOLD with Nile Rodgers
Fold Festival to Rock Long Island
by Christine Gerani
I learned to drop the needle on the record at a very early age. As a child of the 70’s one of the biggest memories of music for me was a band called Chic. I would play “Good Times” like it was the last song on earth. Nile Rodgers has been making us groove for as long as I can remember. He is a dance anthem pioneer, a maestro and now the curator for what will be one of Long Island’s biggest parties, The FOLD Festival. This year’s performers include Keith Urban, Duran Duran, Pharrell, Janelle Monáe, Chaka Khan and many more notable artists old and new that will be rocking Long Island at Martha Clara Vineyards August 4th and 5th.
This is Nile Rodgers.
How are you feeling? I know you went through a rough patch. Are you cancer free?
I’m clean and I’m good and I’m always going through a rough patch. Four years plus it was really rough. I had progressive prostate cancer really bad. I had operations and stuff that sucked. Ever since then I’ve been on the mend and doing very well.
I had heard this elderly woman one day at a church somewhere and she said she had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. She said, but I came here to try and find the gift because even given the worst information there’s always a gift, you just have to look for it. I heard her say that and thought wow, she seems pretty good, I ought to listen to her…I was not there yet.
She’s right, every challenge you go through in life you have to work through and understand whatever God’s plan is…
There are two insanely huge things that come to my mind right away. I went to see Grace Jones in 1977 going on 1978 at Studio 54 and they wouldn’t let me in and as a result of that I wrote ‘Fuck Off!’ So I write the record of my career.
After being diagnosed with this extremely aggressive cancer, that day that was pretty lethal, I went on this tear. I had just finished writing my autobiography, I had to do a book tour and do concerts and all sorts of stuff and as a result of that, I just didn’t have time to think about feeling bad or feel sorry for myself. I don’t know if this actually helped me but it did help me one way and I felt less time being as they say ‘on the pity pot’. I had less time to do that because I always had a job to do.
You kept yourself busy.
I wound up writing “Get Lucky”, “Lose Yourself to Dance”, and did stuff with Avicii and Adam Lambert, Tensnake and underground artists that had never been on the pop charts before and next thing you know, we’re on the pop charts. The good thing about being a record producer is that you work for the other person even when you seem to be the boss. There’s a wonderful film called Ben-Hur and in the movie the tribute says ‘You live to serve this ship, row well and live’. If I roll well I live… (he laughs)
And lived well. You’ve worked with so many artists is there any artist that stands out to you this day that you are in awe of?
Everybody. There’s nobody I work with that I don’t think is incredible …the other day, just to show you that I’m not that unique…everybody knows and loves Sam Smith now. I worked with him a little over a year when nobody had heard of him. But now, he’s been sick, he had to get a vocal operation, so the first time they see Sam Smith, they see him at my show, standing on stage. He say’s “Nile Rodgers is in London I’m coming in!”
What?? That’s fantastic!
Next thing you know I’m standing on stage with Sam Smith, The Edge from U2 and it was just wonderful. That’s musicians…that’s artists. As crabby as artists can be every now and then, deep down inside they’re the most loving, altruistic people I’ve ever met. If you ever need anything, somebody like Sam Smith would give you his shirt off his back.
I totally agree with you about artists. I was on Debbie Gibson’s first two tours…I don’t know if you ever met her, she is such a lovely person.
She’s great the only thing I thought was weird was that she changed her name to Deborah. I was like ‘eh Deborah’ I said Debbie…no no no, you are Debbie Gibson, you change your name to Deborah (and I tried to talk her though it)…don’t you understand there are record stores…that means they have to start a new bin!
Out of all the places on earth what made you pick Long Island to do the FOLD Festival?
Well first of all it almost picked me because when I was originally invited to do AFTEE, I got to the [Martha Clara] Vineyard and became friendly with the family. The Entenmann’s family was fantastic, the wine maker Juan was fabulous, all of the farm hands were great and I thought ‘I can easily work with these people.’ They were so cool, level headed and together.
That space is huge!
So how is the Festival going down? Are you performing with all the acts?
Some of this and some of that. I’d like to play with everybody but I won’t get a chance to. I’ll play with a lot of people but mainly I’m the host so I’m bringing everybody on stage, hanging with them and playing with some of them. Keith and I have been writing songs lately, so obviously I’ll play with Keith Urban because we’ve just been killing it. I just played with Chaka a couple of weeks ago she played at my charity gala and that was killer!
I bet it was. I love Chaka! What was the defining moment in your career?
I would say that probably the big gigantic moment when my life turned around was when I did Let’s Dance with David Bowie. It was us against the world. He didn’t have a record deal, he had to pay for the record himself.
I didn’t know that.
He had no record deal and I was about to lose mine. I was months away from losing mine so it was just he and I. We didn’t have to answer to anyone and we just did what we heard.
That record was tremendous!
It was huge. It just changed both our lives. As a matter of fact there is a great documentary where he’s talking about it where he says before this I was playing clubs, the next thing you know I was playing stadiums.
It changed my life and prior to that I just hadn’t had a hit record. Now this sounds egotistical but because what happened was when I was a kid my first record was hit and then every single record after. I didn’t have one record that wasn’t a gold record. You come to my house every one of my first singles are gold or platinum, double platinum or triple platinum. Ok there’s only one triple platinum, but still it’s the biggest record in Atlantic history…”Freak Out.” Triple platinum single 13 million selling. So something ridiculous like that and then after our next album we put out Good Times and we never had a hit single again. I went on a cold spell but thank God I had Diana Ross in 1980 I had “Upside Down” and “I’m Coming Out” and all that stuff but ’81 and ’82 I really had nothing and for me that was a real dry spell. Then I come up with Let’s Dance in ’83 and then I had nothing but number one records right after. I had INXS a band no one had heard of and right behind that I got the biggest record of Duran’s life “The Reflex” and then, “Like a Virgin” and then I came with “Notorious” by Duran Duran.
I’m hearing you are back in the studio with Duran Duran is that correct?
We got a great record out right now called “Pressure Off”.
You’re coming out with a new album which I’ll sarcastically say It’s About Time 25 years?
What can we expect from this? Will we hear a little old and a little new?
You’re exactly right it’s old and new. Half of the album is based on the lost Chic tapes and other half of the album is because I didn’t die. Bernard [Edwards] has been dead 19 years but I’ve been around making records all along. I’ve had the biggest records in my entire career with Pharrell with “Get Lucky.” It’s almost as big or as big as “We are Family”,“Like a Virgin”, “Le Freak” or “Let’s Dance” it’s probably bigger than “Let’s Dance.”
Will it be released this Fall?
Yes I think it will have to be in the fall. I originally was going to release it in June but what happened was I started doing duets completely by accident. I had no plan on doing a duet. I did this duet with Elton John and Janelle Monáe it was unbelievable and then I did this thing with Michael McDonald so now Chaka Khan wants to do it with me. So it’s becoming incredible, it’s really good. I don’t know when it’s going to end but it has to end soon.
About The FOLD Festival
Grammy-winning composer, producer, arranger, and guitarist Nile Rodgers will produce, perform, and host the FreakOut! Festival®, an all-star concert to be presented at Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead, Long Island on August 4 and August 5, 2015. Co-produced by music industry veteran Michael Ostin and Peter Herman of Nile Rodgers Productions, the FreakOut! Festival® is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime event that will feature Rodgers and his multi-platinum band CHIC sharing the stage with music legends and contemporary trailblazers like Beck, Duran Duran, Paloma Faith, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Chaka Khan, Janelle Monàe, Q-Tip, Keith Urban, and Pharrell Williams, among other artists. In both scope and size, it’s the first music festival of its kind on Long Island. It will be the ONLY time you will see the two most recent Grammy® “Album Of The Year” winners (Nile Rodgers/Pharrell, 2014 and Beck, 2015) perform together on the same stage and for some artists, the first time you will be able to see them perform live in 2015.
For Ticket Information visit FoldFestival.com
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