Southbank Centre Meltdown festival: Nile Rodgers interview

Meltdown at the Southbank Centre is set to be a scorcher. Music legend Nile Rodgers tells Flora Neighbour about curating the 2019 festival, which runs from 3 to 11 August 2019.

Born in 1952, the American musician has become one of the biggest names in music. If you don’t recognise his name, you’ll certainly know his guitar riffs, from the opening to He’s the Greatest Dancer to the refrain in Get Lucky.

Co-founder of disco band Chic, the mogul has sold more than 500m albums and 75m singles across the globe and collaborated with David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Diana Ross, Luther Vandross, Daft Punk and many more.

It was with Daft Punk that Rodgers made his comeback in 2011, after recovering from cancer the year before. He has previously described this time in his life as ‘the jumping-off point. I decided to attack life with gusto I didn’t realise I’d had. We’d soon record three life-changing songs together: Get Lucky, Lose Yourself to Dance and Give Life Back to Music.’

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Proving that disco is definitely not dead, Rodgers is joining forces with the Southbank Centre to create this year’s Meltdown festival (3-11 Aug). He joins a list of curators that includes David Bowie, Yoko Ono and Elvis Costello, each putting their own stamp on the festival. 

‘It’s been a challenge,’ he explains. ‘I tend to dream big, so I’ve learnt to control myself. There were certain crazy things that I wanted to do, but I realised that most of my concepts were physically impossible. The effort that it would take to pull it off would be immense.

‘The wackiest thing that I managed to pull off is the Studio 54 night at Meltdown – it’s going to be outrageous!’ A Night of Studio 54 (3 Aug) sees the original DJs from the seminal New York nightclub play (including John ‘Jellybean’ Benitez and Nicky Siano) and is set to be one of the biggest tickets of the festival. 

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‘I’m so excited to perform Eurythmics Songbook with an all-star band put together by David A. Stewart from the British band. We will be performing the greatest hits from the ‘80s group – I can’t wait!’ Rogers says.

‘The thing I’m excited about is seeing how Brazilian pop star Anitta will react to this audience. I also can’t wait to see London jazz pianist and producer, Alfa Mist.’ Mali’s Songhoy Blues, Johnny Marr and Thundercat are ones to watch out for, too.

Nile Rodgers is certainly making his mark here. But what does he love so much about London? ‘The vibe and the people are great,’ he says. ‘London accepted disco, so my music has always been popular here and people in the UK are open-minded to new music. People are better listeners in this city.’ 

Meltdown festival runs from 3-11 Aug

Southbank Centre, SE1 8XX
020-3879 9555
www.southbankcentre.co.uk 

Read our interview with another living legend, Gloria Estefan here.

Images courtesy of Jill Furmanovsky

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