Nile Rodgers is loved both by the industry and the public for his work with Chic, arguably disco’s greatest band. Last year, he staged his first ever FOLD festival in Long Island, and in June he brings the music festival to Fulham Palace…
Words: Vicky Mayer
Nile Rodgers is a rare musician, loved both by the industry for his writing and production skills, but also by the public for his timeless work with Chic. Last year in the scenic Martha Clara Vineyards in Long Island he staged his first ever FOLD festival and this month he’ll be bringing the show to Fulham Palace from Friday 24 to Sunday 26 June 2016.
‘I’ve been to Fulham lots of times,’ he says, ‘and I once spent a day at Fulham Palace, which I loved. It’s a great place for families, artists and cool people to hang out in great expanses and little nooks. When I was looking for a venue, I knew it was the perfect venue to stage FOLD in the UK.’
FOLD (Freak Out Let’s Dance) is close to Rodgers’ heart. ‘It’s a market specific festival,’ he tells me. ‘So every night you can expect to see artists on stage who share a similar vibe.’ Each night Rodgers and his multi-platinum band Chic will share the stage with music legends and some of the hottest new names in the business.
The first night kicks off with a spotlight on the golden era of 80s pop, with Labrinth headlining. He will be joined by Alison Moyet and The Thomson Twins’ Tom Bailey. On Saturday night the focus is on modern day pop with sets from Beck, Emin and Anna Marie. On Sunday soul and funk lovers will be entertained by the likes of John Newman, Angie Stone and Incognito.
As well as writing and producing classic floor-fillers like Good Times and Freak Out with Chic, in his four decade career Rodgers has also produced Platinum albums for Madonna and the late David Bowie, as well as his number one collaboration on Get Lucky with Daft Punk.
We’ve achieved a lot of fun and collaborative experiences at every FOLD event. They’re rock ‘n roll marriages made on stage. It’s festival season in the UK, so who knows who will show up
Rodgers, not surprisingly, is known as one of the most well-connected men in the music business so you can expect to see some surprises on stage at FOLD. ‘We’ve achieved a lot of fun and collaborative experiences at every FOLD event,’ he says, ‘they’re rock ‘n roll marriages made on stage. I may well be introducing some surprise guests to the shows too. It’s festival season in the UK, so who knows who will show up – I’m always open to playing with my friends.’
When it comes to picking his favourite artist on the bill, Rodgers is ever the diplomat. ‘I have strong connections to everyone performing so asking me to pick my favourite is like asking me to pick a favourite child,’ he laughs. He does, however, reveal that he will be playing some Bowie songs in a tribute to his old friend. ‘David changed the course of my life and I can’t play a show without acknowledging that in song.’
As the curator of the first ever music event to be staged at the historic Fulham Palace, he is aware of the pressure to make the event work, but the line-up of the show is so strong he feels confident it will be a big success.
‘The beauty of an outdoor gig is that nature becomes our co-star and it makes the show a better experience,’ he says. ‘I love playing to Londoners too as they have a special appreciation for our music and we love them for that. America turned their backs on us for many years during the ‘Disco Sucks’ movement, but our UK fans stuck by us and we’re always grateful for that. We’ve never had a bad gig in London and even when I was busking last year as a ragamuffin in disguise I made quite a tidy sum,’ he smiles.
I love playing to Londoners too as they have a special appreciation for our music. America turned their backs on us for many years during the ‘Disco Sucks’ movement, but our UK fans stuck by us and we’re always grateful for that
With a host of famous friends in London, Rodgers says he’s looking forward to catching up with his mates while he’s here (‘it’s quite a long list!’ he jokes), but he also likes to take a day or so off to explore the city too. ‘I’m a big fan of Greenwich, especially the National Maritime Museum, so I’ll definitely be visiting there. For food and night out, I still love Knightsbridge and like to try out new places when I’m in the area.’
And if he had one last day in London, who would he spend it with and where would he go? ‘In my dream day I’d be hanging out with John Coltrane and we’d go to Ronnie Scott’s and jam with Miles and Dolphy,’ says Rodgers wishfully. ‘I’d be a better human being after that.’
Friday 24 June: British singer/producer Labrinth tops the opening bill of the festival together with a magic line-up of 80s legends Alison Moyet and the Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey, plus newcomer Jesse Rose.
Saturday 25 June: Beck fans are in for a treat as he tops the bill with amazing support from Emin, who scored a big hit last year with his number one single Boomerang.
Sunday 26 June: The festival concludes with the amazingly talented John Newman on top billing with soul singers Angie Stone, Grace and Incognito bringing funk and fun to Fulham Palace
See more at foldfestival.com/london-2016