The nice big mixing desk in the main pro recording studio
Today definitely made for one of the most inspiring days of my musical life. It’s a bit after 5 am local time in Madrid (Tuesday morning) and my jet lag has got me up in the middle of the night again. I’m sitting up reflecting on how I shook hands with one of the most important names in pop music history, Nile Rodgers… hoping some of his hit-writing magic rubbed off on me, ha! I’ve always been a fan of Chic, anyone who ever dabbled in collecting funk or disco records probably has an album or two in their vinyl collection. I knew of course about the impact of their songs, whether as hits themselves or as reinterpreted and sampled by hip hop producers (Diddy most of the time), or even the first really celebrated rap tune by The Sugarhill Gang. But I can’t say I knew the full scope of just how truly Nile Rodgers and “The Chic Organization” as he likes to call it, really shaped R&B, Hip Hop, House, Disco, Funk and even Rock & Roll from the late ’70s and continuing even today.
Benji B. did an incredible job interviewing Nile Rodgers
After hopping on the huge tour bus taking all RBMA participants from our hotel to the Matadero complex, about 15-20 minutes away from where we are staying, near Gran Via in the city center, we all arrived together at about 10:30 am to the Academy studios and had a good traditional Spanish breakfast. After a quick test on some of the studio toys (more on those later) it was already time for Nile Rodgers to speak so we all made way to the lecture hall. Mr. Rodgers was a pretty humble guy considering his success (and wealth which he elaborated on a bit too, once joking “you ever see $500,000 cash?”) but one thing was for sure, he LOVES music and being a part of the music industry. How many times you think this guy has played and heard “Good Times” or “Le Freak” in his life? Well, he was still as passionate and excited about these recordings as the first day he cut these to 12″ for the DJs at Studio 54 to play. We got to sit in a near 4-hour lecture, running way over time, but to everybody’s delight I’m sure, and go in history from his early personal anecdotes as a youngster, the inception of his partnership with Bernard Edwards, formation of Chic, to working with artists like Diana Ross, David Bowie, Madonna, Duran Duran, INXS, Depeche Mode, The B-52’s, Mick Jagger, Hall & Oates, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and the list goes on… I mean, I hope to have a hit one day, even a marginal one by today’s screwed up internet standards… but Rodgers and Edwards defined such a crazy formula for pop hit making and just did it over and over. It’s just so incredible. I can’t wait to go back and watch the lecture session – there were so many inspirational points, and just some good REAL advice hidden in his stories. Needless to say, as I’ve fallen in love with bodies of producers’ works in the past a la Quincy Jones (who Rodgers was close friends with), Giorgio Moroder (who Rodgers cites as a big influence) and others, I’ll no doubt be digging to find every single tune Rodgers and Edwards wrote or produced.
The complex is built inside this massive hollowed out building at the Matadero
After breaking for more food (the food has been really good actually, and they’re keeping us really well fed – every time I turn around we’re back eating again!) and before hitting the evening event, we closed the long day with a listening session of ALL the participants, everybody was to prepare a two-minute snippet of what they did to share with the group. There’s some acts in our crew this year that I’ve already been familiar with like Jesse Boykins III, Nick Hook of Cubic Zirconia, Claude Speed of American Men, XXXY, Doc Daneeka, Anenon, etc., but it was really great hearing the other participants hailing from India, China, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and of course countries all throughout Europe that I hadn’t heard of yet. A really talented bunch, and I’m humbled by the wide range of sound, and professionalism from all the participants… it was clear right away that I’m not the only one who puts my whole life into my work. I know after the inspirational lecture by Nile Rodgers today and with the pool of talent amongst the participants, everybody is really hungry to get to work! Tomorrow we’ll have a big block of time to get our hands dirty… I’m ready.
Claude Speed and Exeter sneaking a quick tweak out on the Electric Blue Moog Voyager
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