By VIVIENNE WONG
But this has been a good year for Rodgers, especially after he worked with French electro act Daft Punk on their highly successful Random Access Memories album.
Rodgers co-wrote and laid some of his trademark guitar riffs on three of the album’s singles – Get Lucky, Lose Yourself To Dance and Give Life Back To Music. He has also collaborated with some of the top deejays in the world, including Avicii and David Guetta.
His determination to put out more records came after Rodgers was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago.
“They were telling me to get my affairs in order.
“And it was funny because when the doctor said to get my affairs in order, I thought he meant making more records!” said the 61-year-old, who announced on Twitter in July that he was clear of cancer.
“I didn’t want to go out like my biological father, who’s a great musician. I have no musical memories of him, there was nothing recorded, nothing written down, no manuscripts. So it’s gone, and I said, ‘Well, I’m going to overload you with music’.”
With all his success, it is only fitting that the legendary Rodgers, who was in town for the Chic Featuring Nile Rodgers concert in Kuala Lumpur last week, was invited for a special one hour Red Bull Music Academy Session, where he shared his journey as a musician and record producer and, of course, demonstrated some skills on his 1959 Fender Stratocaster, known as The Hitmaker.
Speaking about his experience working with Tim Bergling, aka Avicii, Rodgers admitted it was no different from working with “the most esoteric jazz or classical musicians”.
“That was how I composed with Avicii. It’s exactly the same way. If you took a picture and looked at Avicii and I in a room together, it would look the same as me and John McLaughlin in a room together,” he revealed.
“But when I’m talking with Tim, I’m giving him musical chunks and then he dissects it, but then after that it becomes part of his knowledge base. That’s why we ride like crazy.”
It may seem odd that Rodgers, who grew up in a jazz music environment, would try dance and electronic music, but the risk sure paid off when Random Access Memories hit it big, reaching the top spot in a total of 24 charts around the world. But none of it would have happened if it weren’t for the wise words of his jazz teacher.
“He said to me, ‘Nile, you seem in the dumps today’ and I said, ‘yeah, I don’t feel so great because this weekend, I got to do these two Boogaloo gigs,” he said.
According to Rodgers, “Boogaloo, it’s a derogatory term for R&B”, which wasn’t something that he wanted to play.
“I said, ‘I’ll be playing bull****’. And as soon as I said that, he looked at me and went, ‘you’re playing bull****? You mean to tell me, people are paying you money to hear bull****?’
“And I was like ‘yeah, I got to play the Top 40’.
“‘You mean like those 40 records that have probably sold a million copies? So you’re saying that those million people are stupid but you, Nile Rodgers, are smart. Wow, I’ve never heard anything so egotistical in my life’.
“He said, ‘Nile, let me explain something to you. Any record that sells over a million copies is a great song. That doesn’t mean you have to like it. But it’s a great song because it has the power to connect to more than a million people when that artiste is not standing in the room.
“‘This person has recorded something and that message is so powerful that when (the artiste is) not there, (people are) consuming their information, their art form. You should be proud playing their music’.”
Rodgers also went on to credit his childhood, where he was “never afraid”.
“I’ll never listen to a song and think I can’t fix it. Never.
“You got to believe in yourself, believe in partners and don’t be afraid. If I make mistakes, that’s just all part of the learning process. All of my teachers taught me that you couldn’t get good unless you screw up. You got to make mistakes. That’s my philosophy.”