Funk music star and producer Nile Rodgers paid an emotional tribute to Avicii at Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) on Friday.
Speaking from the dance music industry gathering in the Dutch capital, Rodgers – whose career had him work alongside the likes of pop icons David Bowie and Madonna – said his collaborations with the Swedish DJ and producer, who took his own life in April in Oman, were some of the most satisfying moments of his career.
“As soon as I met him it was an instant love affair and we started playing together” he said.
“And I remember telling a reporter once that Avicii is the most natural melody writer I have ever come across. You put me and him in a studio for two weeks and we could write every song in the Top 10.”
The comments came as part of a couple of sessions featuring a string of veteran artists and industry figures, including Rodgers and influential house-music DJ and producer Todd Terry, discussing their multi-faceted careers.
Nile Rodgers remains a student of his craft
It was Rodgers who first addressed the packed crowd at the De La Mar Theatre. In an engrossing 45-minute session, he discussed various aspects of his career and admitted to still being a student of his craft.
“Staying hungry is so important,” he said.
“Because once you get to that place, where you believe that you know it all and you have got it all laid down then complacency is almost inevitable.”
That quest to try new things, Rodgers said, is what the drove the current pop sounds of his band, Chic’s, latest album.
Released in September, It's About Time finds the band moving away from its classic disco sound to take on a more pop and soul direction with a striking cast of guest performers including rappers Vic Mensa and Steflon Don as well as British RnB star Craig David.
Rodgers said these cross-generational collaborations – which include Get Lucky, the 2014 Grammy award-winning track hook up with Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams – are what keep him interested in a career spanning five decades.
“I love working with new artists. They are the ones that are coming up with new ideas that is always inspiring,” he says.
“So I always viewed such collaborations as a great learning experience, and we do have a lot of fun also.”
Rodgers urged the artists in the audience to have an open mind when composing and to always keep your listener in mind.
It was a lesson, Rodgers said, he learned early as a young New York City musician studying with Ted Dunbar.
He recalled how the late great jazz guitarist was concerned by the snobbish way Rodgers was approaching his work.
The situation came to a head when Rodgers moaned about an upcoming covers gig where he would have to play Sugar, Sugar by the Archies.
“I told him it was a bad song,” Rodgers said.
“And then he looked at me and said ‘Nile, that song was number one for six weeks. Let me tell you something and I hope you understand this, any song in the Top 20 is a great composition because they speak to the soul of a million strangers’.”
Social networking in the 1990s
In a panel session dedicated to the music industry of the 1990s, Terry said networking was a still a priority for aspiring artists in order to have their music heard.
“A lot of things just spread word of mouth,” he said.
“Then there were the magazines. They were very important because they were our social media in a way. Also, another form of social networking was buying vinyl records. You meet people there and they tell you the new stuff they are listening to.”
Famed music talent scout Bruce Carbone, who was behind the success of artists such as 2 Chainz and Missy Elliott, said the major challenge facing artists today is keeping the attention of listeners.
“There is no patience anymore,” he said.
“Records used to marinate for months, while now there is a quicker reaction time and that is something we have to be aware of.”
For that reason a music artist needs a healthy amount of self-belief to sustain his or her career.
Terry said he learned that lesson from the the initial sceptical reaction of his record label to remix of Missing by Everything but the Girl. He recalls digging his heels in, but when the remix was released it eventually became a global hit.
“They didn’t like the song at all and felt that my version took too much away from Everything About a Girl. I was like ‘yo, man, this is it, so just put it out’”, he said.
“There will be times where your work will be turned and that’s when you are going to have that belief. You need to be passionate about your music and take it to where you think it should go.”
Who else is appearing at ADE
ADE continues this weekend with more big-name artists set to appear for their own sessions. Today will see the appearance of star French DJ David Guetta who will reflect on his career as well his new album 7.
Hip-hop producer London On Da Track speaks about his hit-making, which includes the current club favourite No Stylist by French Montana and Drake.
Saturday will see the anticipated “in the studio” session with Don Diablo. The Dutch DJ, who will play in Dubai next month as part of the Bao dance music festival, will discuss his producing techniques to an intimate crowd of aspiring beat makers.
Go to Arts and Culture for further coverage from Amsterdam Dance Event