Monday, February 26, 2024

GQ Magazine: The Q New Right Now

May 14, 2013 — by Jen Ortiz

The GQ+A: Nile Rodgers on Playing with Daft Punk

Nile Rodgers is bringing disco—the sound he defined with his icon-status group Chic back in the genre's heyday—back, with the help of two guys dressed as robots. Sort of. He's produced songs for serious industry names like Mick Jagger, Madonna, and David Bowie, but kids these days might best recognize Rodgers as the guy with the dreads playing guitar alongside Daft Punk while Pharrell croons on "Get Lucky." The first single off Daft Punk's Random Access Memories has a dance-y, disco sound—thanks, in large part, to Rodgers and his guitar—that has defined expectations for the twosome's new analog album. Rodgers went back to basics with the digital pair at the iconic Electric Lady Studios in New York City nearly a year ago, taking a decades-old approach to recording that's made a classic sound new again.

GQ rang up Rodgers at his Connecticut studio to hear more about the collaboration, the new album, and what he's learned from the helmeted duo.

GQ: How did you guys team up?
Nile Rodgers: We met at a listening party for their first record, like a gazillion years ago. That meeting was brief but spirited—we were instantly members of the mutual admiration society. Fast-forward to almost exactly a year ago, and I get a phone call to my apartment. They told me that they were in New York and they wanted to drop by and talk to me about some stuff. They came over and we hung out for a while, and we talked about the project in sort of a holistic way—we didn't drill down on anything in particular, but they did make it clear that they had a song that would be perfect for me. I popped down to Electric Lady and they talked to me about this holistic concept of approaching the music, as if we were back in the '70s and '80s—How did we make records then? What did you do exactly? And for me, that's a wonderful question because I can't wait to answer it. Because I want to show people like, This is what we had to work around to pull this kind of stuff of. Instead of being intimidated or daunted by the process, they thought the exact opposite. They were like, This shit is cool. And so I started to deconstruct my guitar parts and how we approached the Chic sound. I started playing this track that they wanted me to play on, and I said, Well let me sort of strip it down to its bare bones and do my thing and then, you know, we'll build it back up. We got really into it and typically I know that things are working by the reaction I get from my partners when we're working on a record—I look around the room and the heads start bobbing and the smiles start appearing on their faces, and I go, Okay, we're in the zone now!

GQ: What was it like to work together at Electric Lady? How did your creative processes come together?
Nile Rodgers: Once it got down to specifics—once I had to pick up my instrument, and it was like, Now we've got to translate from concept to reality, we go from nothing to something—I said, Well, this is how we used to do it. And guess what, guys? You're also in the place where I cut my very first record. This is where Chic became Chic. And not only that, I also did INXS here, the biggest record of their careers. And I was here when the studio was built for Hendricks, and I was here before that, when it was a nightclub called Generation, and I played here and hung out here as a teenager. There's a lot of great ghosts in these walls. And at that point, it was like, Okay, the magic is about to commence. I started to deconstruct my parts—I do one pass where I'm playing it, and I take it apart, and do it sort of in single notes and other components. That process seemed to be the way they worked, because they were working with me. They would sing little licks that they'd hear me do, or I'd play something and that would spark an idea. And this is actually how most analog sessions work.

GQ: Was Pharrell in the studio with you at that time, working on "Get Lucky"?
Nile Rodgers: No, he came in later—Pharrell found himself in France, and Daft Punk were in France, and they said, Why don't you come over to our place? So he came over and they were like What are you working on right now, Pharrell? What's happening in your world? And he says, Well, I'm working on this Nile Rodgers type of stuff. And they were like, Really? And he said, Yeah. I'm actually trying to figure out how to do some Nile Rodgers type of grooves. And so at that moment they're like, Hold on a second. And they play the song for him, and of course, it was "Get Lucky." And of course, it was me playing. So the song was not yet called "Get Lucky," of course, but obviously he got lucky because they played it for him. And they said, Here it is, it's done. Now you go and write to that. It was hilarious, you couldn't have planned it better.

GQ: You also worked on two more songs: "Lose Yourself to Dance" and "Give Life Back to Music." How do those tracks compare to "Get Lucky"?
Nile Rodgers: Not everything is that jolly, so to speak—because "Get Lucky" is actually pretty happy. I remember the feeling when we were on the soundstage working on the video and one of the dancers screaming out between takes, Hey, what kind of music is this? And I screamed out disco! just because that was my reaction, I didn't know what else to say. And they all went, Wow. There was this collective moment of discovery for them, like Indiana Jones finding the Arc of the Covenant, and it was like, Wow, that's what disco is. And I wasn't really trying to say anything profound, I was just trying to say what kind of music is this. I could have said funky, groovy, sexy, whatever, but I just screamed out disco for some reason. And at the end of that shoot, we played the full playback; I saw people hugging each other and crying, and I thought to myself, I've seen this before. Actually I've been that person: I was at the opening of the Fillmore East in New York City when I first heard Albert King play guitar live, and the tears were streaming down my face, and I was just overcome by that feeling of musical magic. I don't know how to explain it.

GQ: Does that mean that disco is back?
Nile Rodgers: I'm always the last person in the world who would ever try to predict a trend. We made this record in the past, for the future. When we were doing this record a year ago or whatever, I knew that we were doing future music based on something that had already existed. But because you couldn't tell when the record was going to come out—there was no record deal, there was nothing—you can't predict that it was going to have that kind of influence on people, and that it was going to make other people do similar stuff, and how quickly would they get it out, and all that sort of thing. I know what it makes me feel like, but that's the kind of music I love. It's not just of the genre, it's a good songs of the genre, so it's a nice representative of that style.

GQ: How would you sum up the new album?
Nile Rodgers: They've gone back to what we used to do routinely, which is that they've gone back to an album being a concept. In the old days, that's what we did—records were basically films, with music. It was a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. It was a portrait of the artist at that point of time in your life. This album really feels like that—you know, like Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon—a real concept record. It's evolution and it's revolution, really. This is a real paradigm shift in record making, because basically, they went back to a time where you had to spend a lot of time, you had to be in the studio with the people, whereas nowadays a lot of times when a person wants to plan a record, they can send me the files and we can do it here and talk on Skype, and they can direct me through the record. I can explain to them why I did it that way, and they're like, Okay, cool, and we're done.

GQ: Describe Daft Punk's evolution as artists.
Nile Rodgers: To write from scratch, without the benefit of using samples the way they did their earlier music, that's evolutionary and revolutionary. When you have a concept and it works so well, why would you want to change? What's the reason to change? The reason to change is you learn more about music, and you evolve. You learn more about the construction of music; you learn more about collaboration and how that works. And all of a sudden your world expands, and it gets more exciting to you. And if you have the resources to live in that world, why would you choose not to? I really respect the fact that they've followed through with that dream. It became exciting to them and, I think, one thing led to the next and led to the next.

GQ: Did you learn anything from them?
Nile Rodgers: Their openness to this approach was so... How do I say it? They weren't giddy, but they almost were. They were having so much fun. I realized that in today's world, that is achievable again. Since I've worked on their record, which has been about a year now, I've been chasing that feeling again. Now when I'm recording, I'm actually going back to the way I did it more and more.


Read the original article here:

Category: PRESS