Here’s what sucks about hanging out with Nile Rodgers in the newly-opened Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza: the resort is so new to the White Isle they’ve run out of limes before the first day of the annual International Music Summit (IMS) and there are no lobster crackers to speak of, making the already-messy job of prying apart our two-pounders extra challenging.
Here’s what doesn’t suck about hanging out with the Chic hero in the clubber’s paradise on the day he is to be honored with an IMS Legends Award: everything else.
Situated in one of the only shaded areas of the Hard Rock Ibiza, in a speakeasy-reminiscent alcove with red leather cushioned cathedras and cold brew on tap (though not a lime in sight), Nile Rodgers - who opts for sparkling water over alcohol these days - is strumming a few chords on “The Hitmaker” (his guitar) for a few excited onlookers and shutterbugs.
His manager soon ushers everyone out so Nile can have some quiet time with DJ Mag USA and reflect upon a lifetime of using his aptly-named axe, an inexhaustible passion for penning hits and being ushered into the spotlight more than ever at the age of 61.
Thanks, in part, to America’s lasciviousness for EDM over the past few years, the disco don has lent riffs to Daft Punk, Avicii, Chase & Status, Disclosure and Carl Cox to name a few, and ushered in a new era for adding allegiant musicality and a humanistic side to dance music—elements all too often overlooked in the synthed-out blitzkrieg of today’s EDM.
Here at IMS, where DJ-luminaries like Pete Tong and the aforementioned Cox have already been honored with the Legends Award, Nile is - in the words of his 1980 mega-hit, which he penned with Chic cohort Bernard Edwards for Diana Ross – really “Coming Out,” for what seems like the umpteenth time in the past two years.
He’s everywhere, sparkling in music videos, smiling on red carpets and splashed across billboards. This is because the world can’t get enough of him. And luckily for the world, Nile’s got a lot more music to give.
When plugged on the meaning of the word itself, “Legend,” a humble Nile Rodgers attributes it to, “People that I think are amazing, who are not me.” The non-legend/legend is sinking back casually into the leather benches lining the airy room, wearing a lightweight white t-shirt and a black Kangol fedora atop his long familiar mop of braids. It’s still just Nile the composer, the same guy whose been doing his sonic thing since childhood.
Perhaps this is why the recent onslaught of awards is causing him some angst. “I really feel uncomfortable because I’ve been so accustomed to not winning awards, especially the big gigantic ones,” he states frankly. “When anyone calls you a legend, it’s not like I feel like I have to live up to it. I guarantee you, I don’t.”
Later that evening, it becomes even harder to believe him. P-Funk legend George Clinton (see our feature this issue) and Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran surprise Nile by appearing at his Legends Dinner, and yes, all three hop onstage together for an impromptu rendition of Funkadelic's “We Want the Funk.” It is exactly the kind of moment where the word “legendary” fits. It’s also, in the spirit of Nile Rodgers’ humility, like attending the world’s best Bar Mitzvah.
As for the future, Nile’s got gusto and a schedule so congested he’s barely got time for a sneeze. When the topic of his forthcoming musical output comes up, he’s earnest, calling it, “Purely an artistic aesthetic decision.
Let me go on the record right now and say I’ve never made a Chic record thinking awards. My end game is always to try to reach the hearts minds and souls of a million strangers. I’m trying to, against all possible odds, write music that wants to be consumed.”
His words are smoother than butter, and honest if his eyes are any indicator. “I don’t want to sound corny.” He doesn’t.
“Americans sometimes misread what you’re saying.” We won’t.
“I want it to be consumed on a spiritual level.” We can try for you, Nile! Show us Americans the way.
“I want to make music that a person says, ‘My God! I want to spiritually commit to reaching into my pocket and pay for it.’ It’s an effort. One thing I’ve learned so early in my career is to never compare yourself to anyone else, especially anyone who is a star. I’m not a star.”
While the rest of us are unanimously pro Nile Rodgers, The Legend, the man himself modestly shrugs it off. “When I came here to Ibiza and I saw those posters with me on it, I was laughing, I was crying. I’m like, who is that guy?” Since he's too modest to label himself a legend, we'll just let his music do that for him.