The Conversation: Nile Rodgers, musician

'I used to fly to Paris for lunch – insane'

Hello Nile, what are you up to?

I'm sitting at my kitchen table because I've just finished breakfast.

What did you have?

I had meatballs and gluten-free pasta and eggplant, or what you call aubergine.

Meatballs for breakfast?

You've gotta be kidding, it's amazing.

You're back in the spotlight because you worked with Daft Punk on their new album. How did that come about?

When Daft Punk approached me, it was innocent and an abstract concept, although it was clear as a bell to me. When I realised what they were attempting I thought, "That's so brave", because that's not what the world is listening to.

Everyone is aware of your work, but they're not necessarily aware of you. Some people don't even know you wrote "We Are Family".

A few years ago I was diagnosed with very aggressive cancer, and my future didn't look particularly rosy. I walked into this restaurant and I heard the music come on and thought, oh my God, my life was valid.

You worked with Bowie on "Let's Dance" and on Madonna's "Like a Virgin". Was there any pressure on you to get big hits?

The only pressure was the pressure I put upon myself. David said to me he wanted to make hits, which shocked me, as he hadn't had platinum singles. Did I know the album was going to be as big as it was? Absolutely not. When I signed the contract with Madonna, she had sold 750,000 units. I told the record company I could get a three million-seller and they were hysterical, on the floor laughing. And then we sold 21 million. I got a ridiculous deal, a huge, phenomenal-percentage deal.

Did that bankroll you for life?

I was already there before that because I had done Diana [Ross]'s album, Sister Sledge with "We Are Family" and "He's the Greatest Dancer", so our publishing catalogue kicks off about $20m a year. I'm a pretty simple guy; it's easy to live on half of that for the rest of your life.

You're not a yacht man, then?

No. Well, I was.

Did you own a yacht?

In my early days, I was pretty crazy.

Did you have yacht parties?

OK. Stop, stop, stop already, that was a long time ago. We were so insane. You think it's exotic to eat meatballs for breakfast? How about going to Paris on Concorde just for lunch? That's how ridiculous our lives were – but I've always been relatively grounded.

Were you poor growing up?

We were really poor. I've been working since I was a child. I worked cutting lawns, delivering newspapers, I was a telephone salesperson, I was a guitar repairman.

Your parents both took and dealt heroin; do you still love them?

They were fantastic. That was just our world, I didn't know anything other than the beatnik world. It was as if our reality was the real reality and other people's lives were bizarre to me. I learnt how to have good manners because when I was in their environment their parents didn't do what my parents did, and it was semi-uncomfortable to me. But I almost felt like a scientist or archaeologist, going on an adventure into normalcy.E

Chic featuring Nile Rodgers are headlining the main stage at the Mostly Jazz, Funk and Soul Festival in Birmingham's Moseley Park, tomorrow

Biography

Nile Rodgers, 60, is an American musician best known as a founding member of the band Chic. He's produced records for Madonna, Duran Duran and Diana Ross, and features on Daft Punk's No 1 single "Get Lucky"

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea