I’m going into Day 3 full of anticipation! Today will be the highlight of the Summit for me – it’s the day of the old skool guys, the big boys – Nile Rodgers, Giorgio Moroder, Carl Cox, amongst others, but for me these are the big drawers! And there’s tonight’s finale party in Dalt Vila: DJ E.A.S.E. (Nightmares on Wax), Pete Tong and Carl Cox et al. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to relate to these guys more than the up-and-comers from last night.
Nile Rodgers was interviewed by Pete Tong. Well it was billed as an interview, but Nile didn’t need much prodding or probing to talk, in fact Pete had more trouble trying to get a word in edgeways than trying to get Nile to open up. We were also told beforehand that Nile wanted to play for us too – he didn’t just want to talk. So there he was, sitting on a stool, guitar at the ready.
What unfolded was a series of stories about how Chic started out and how some of their famous hits came to be written, with examples from Nile and his guitar, which he insisted on tuning by ear, blaming the Ibizan humidity for it being so out of tune when he started playing it. Here are some snippets from the tales he told us, but to be honest, I was too busy enjoying the occasion to be able to take substantial notes.
He started as a classical musician, and learnt to play the guitar to impress a girl, which he failed to get. In 1977/8 their records were being played in Studio 54 in New York, but they themselves couldn’t get in the club (it had a notoriously strict door policy, and if your face didn’t fit, that was it). He talked about how they were ‘anonymous’, because they only existed at that time on record, getting played by the odd DJ in clubs. He told an hilarious story about how Grace Jones had told them to go the back door of the club, and say that you’re a friend of Grace Jones, and that you have to let me in. It didn’t work. Their number one hit song ‘Le Freak’ was written as a response to this night.
They went back home, and started jamming out of frustration. It started out as “Fuck off”! The words gradually morphed and ended up as “Freak Out”, with a song becoming a tribute to Studio 54, rather than a frustrated rant about it. He said later of the song, “Le Freak was an accident.” The song and the band also became an instant hit with African’s who misheard the lyrics, thinking they were singing A-fri-ca! Sing it to Le Freak – it works, as Nile demonstrated to us!
They quickly learnt that if your record fills the dance floor, the DJ will put you on the playlist, and this was the case with Good Times, in 1978.
A fitting tale, because of the afternoon’s lineup, was his reaction to hearing Giorgio Moroder’s ‘From here to eternity’ for the first time, and that a lot of good music comes as a reaction to jealousy. When he heard that track he said to himself, “I want that”! Not realizing that it was played on a synthesizer, that night he taught himself to play it on the guitar. He said, “I’m going to play in Giorgio’s band- I was so jealous”. That night he dreamt ‘I want your love’, and a new song was born as a reaction to ‘From here to eternity”. We were treated to a live demonstration of how he developed the guitar riff and the style of playing, emulating the synth riff in the original.
Hew also talked about some of the other artists that they produced (they were also prolific producers, as well as writing their own material. An interesting example was ‘I’m coming out’ was Diana Ross’ coming out on stage song – they wrote it like that for her, because Chic always had a coming out song on each album. The record company didn’t like it, but Diana loved it, and she always come out on stage to that song.
Nile was asked about the new material he has been working on with Daft Punk. He said, “that shit is amazing … Daft Punk are smoking”.
One of the questions from the audience asked about the recent deaths and influence of Donna Summer and Robin Gibb. He said that one of the big turning points in my life were the Bee Gees – they were instrumental to our development, in particular the soundtrack from Saturday Night Fever. He said of Donna, “Donna was a terrific friend. We only worked together once. I adore her.”
Nile was hilarious – putting on accents as he told his tales (Grace Jones, Diana Ross and so on), and telling jokes – he had the audience in stitches. He came across as a very warm, open person, and wowed the audience. He received a standing ovation at the end.
He has written an autobiography which Pete Tong read and highly recommended, so if this has whet your appetite, I’m sure most of the tales and more will be included in the book: Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny
Next up were the DJs Loco Dice and Carl Cox in conversation. In what could have been a really difficult act to follow, another interesting session unfolded. They are friends, and there was a great rapport between them: it was a very jovial and informal conversation. They talked about the ‘competition’ between them. Loco jokingly says that keeps great new tracks to himself, otherwise if Carl picks up the track, everyone will think that it’s Carl Cox’s tune! He meant it as well!
Loco Dice believers that, “there should be no boundaries or barriers for DJs. We always have to try things out, it’s a rehearsal.” “You can still be a great DJ and play old music but you have to mix it up, pack it fresh.”
Carl said that sometimes we play together. When we play together I don’t win and he doesn’t win – the punters win!
It was an interesting and humorous exchange between the two of them, which gave a glimpse into some as aspects of their profession and their relationship.
This was followed by Giorgio Moroder being interviewed by Joshua Glazer.
He told how he had arrived in Ibiza from Cannes (the film festival has just been talking place), starting out in Nashville where he had attended Donna Summer’s funeral. His luggage still hadn’t arrived (obviously his airline didn’t realize who they were transporting!).
What brought you to Ibiza? “A friend works for Luis Vuitton and asked me to do some DJ remixes in Cannes. Ibiza is the capital of dance music so I had to go there.”
He was asked about Donna summer, and did he remember the first time he heard those songs in a club. He said that he would go to discotecs to hear the tracks to see how they sounded in that environment. He first heard ‘I feel love’ in Studio 54.
He talked about his musical past, and how some of the tracks were recorded. He started his musical career as a double bass player in a band. Are you a song guy or a tech guy first? “I’m a song guy.” He says “I’m a disaster with technology”. He has people that do that for him.
Talking about Kraftwerk he said, “I liked the first album and some of the songs … but it was a bit repetitive”.
He then went on talk about some of the film scores he has created and how he approaches making music for films.
And was asked, “were you paying attention to what was happening to dance music?”. Surprisingly, he answered that, “I don’t listen to music much. We don’t have a music system in the house. I listen to music in the car.” It’s strange that someone who’s prolific musically, does not really listen to the music of others much.
In the audience question slot at the end, Mark Jones a UK-based radio broadcaster took to the stage. He had emailed various musicians who have been influenced by Giorgio’s work to send him questions to ask. Phil Oakey (from the Human League) asked which 3 tracks are you proudest to write? He said that he loved the one we did with Phil ‘Electric Dreams’. ‘I feel love’ is the proudest, “because it was so much fun and it became so big”. LaRoux asked about he writes his songs – how much is improvisation or in your head. He explained that he usually sits at the piano, or “sometimes I get inspiration in a restaurant – now I use my iPhone to take notes”. But most songs are composed on the piano. Gary Numan asked, “How did you first discover synths?” He said, “the first time I heard a synth I knew it was a new instrument.” Other questions were asked by OMD, Adamski, Howard Jones and Two Many DJs, just to give an example of the man’s influence in recent and current electronic music.
After closing remarks from the IMS team, everyone relocated to Dalt Vila for the finale party, at the same site as the party the previous night. We were treated to a musical and light extravaganza, in what must truly be one of the best sites for a party in the world, sandwiched high up between the cathedral, old town and the port. The music was more to my taste than the previous night.
A highlight was Carl Cox coming on stage playing New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’, a mighty fine entrance in my book, and one that got the crowd going. A frustration was that he nearly at one point broke into Donna Summer’s ‘I feel love’, but he didn’t, and this was a huge disappointment. It would have been a fitting tribute to what had been a memorable and fantastic day, an exciting music summit, and a timely reminder of one of the ground-breaking moments in electronic music’s history. And a tune which we had heard so much about during the day.
In summary the past 3 days have been enlightening, informative, funny and made you think. A successful conference.