SO where, we asked whilst sitting
in the Thai restaurant on 8th Avenue, do you go from here? Bernard Edwards,
Nile Rodgers, Tony Thompson, Alfa Anderson and Luci Martin (the nucleus
of Chic) are, to put it mildly, enjoying enormous success right now on an
international level. Dismissed by some eroneous music pundits as being merely
a fad, Chic and Chic's music seem to be standing the test of time and there
doesn't seem to be any let up in the degree of their success.
Through platinum and gold albums and singles, the group
are currently hitting all fronts with their, latest offering "Risque",
topping off a massive hit with the single "Good
Times". Add that mentors Nile & Bernard finally brought Sister
Sledge home after years in the land of no-hits and that their next project,
an album on French singer -Sheila B. Devotion looks like another monster,
and you've got quite an achievement for a team that's only been producing
records for two years.
Top it all off with the fact that they are about to produce
the legendary Diana Ross and you have a serious phenomenon! So where do
they go from here?
"Well, we don't feel that the group has peaked yet
by any means. Musically, that is. It's great that the records re still taking
off the way they do but now we have new challenges. We want the critical
acclaim, we want people to recognize our capabilities outside of just making
hit records, because you never know when that's going to come to an end."
The focus for the group's new challenges will be their
live show. "We're concerned about a couple of things: projecting more
entertainment value in our show. That will mean more props, lighting, special
effects and so on because we really want to dramatize the songs more. Not
just come out there and do the hits, because people expect you to just do
that in a standard way.
"There's going to be more playing and singing, more
dancing and more hard work! That should begin at the beginning of next year
although we'll be trying some things on our European tour."
Another major consideration for Chic at this point is "developing
the personalities within the group. We want people to see that we're not
just singers and musicians. We have definite other talents and other aspects
to us as people that we want to project on stage and through the media.
Up until now, people haven't had a chance to really see
us as people through our shows or on television. We wanna let the TV people
know that we can speak - and we do speak English!! And everyone has other
aspects that haven't been really portrayed properly."
Alfa notes that "I've been taking acting lessons and
we want to use what I'm learning in our show" whilst Luci contends
that "I'm crazy and we wanna show more of that onstage! It's about
showing that we have a good time on stage and that what we're doing may
be hard work but it's also fun!"
Tony concludes that "everyone has hidden talents and
they should be brought out". Hopefully, during Chic's upcoming shows
that's exactly what will happen.
Meanwhile, whilst they're not on the road, the group is
spending many, many hours in the studio. What do they feel is the one factor
that's contributed above all else to the acceptance of Chic's sound?
"The first reaction we get from people generally is
that our music cheers them up - it's happy music. There's something positive
in there that makes people want to dance, laugh and just generally feel
good. Just a natural exuberance in the music."
Nile and Bernard, as producers and writers and arrangers
of all the material admit candidly that what they do with the music is -contrived
to a degree. We think about the general idea of what we want to convey before
we start working in the studio but, nonetheless, it turns out to be quite
spontaneous. We're aware of what people have reacted to, what they've liked
so there has to be a certain format to it but there is a lot of flexibility
with our tunes.
Want Your Love" - we knew how that was going to be more or less
from the beginning when we began writing it, and the same with "Le Freak", but in our more
recent work, it's been more what's happened in the studio - on the spot."
Because their career has become more and more successful,
the pressure has increased and both gentlemen agree that "the pressure
means we do a lot of things at the very last moment" although they
laughingly confess "we've almost always been that way anyway! We knew
we had to do a new album three months ahead of time but we didn't actually
begin working on it until six weeks before it was due!"
has certainly been the summer's giant smash across the world, it seems that
that wasn't the original plan. "When we first started working in the
studios "My Feet Keep Dancing"
was going to be the first single. We felt that was the one. But it didn't
quite gell to start out with. And then when we did "GoodTimes"
we just knew that it would be the one and we seem to have been proven right."
Strangely, however, with the release of Chic's third set
("Risqué"), it isn't "MyFeet
Keep Dancing" that's emerging as the next hit. It's "Forbidden Lover".
"Now that really surprised us! We didn't expect that
kind of instant reaction to the tune. But we've studied it and we found
that there's a certain rhythm pattern that happens in there that's what
It's the same with all of our hits - a certain combination
of bass and guitar that seems to really get to people."
Although they encountered slight problems initially with
"Le Freak" in terms
of reaction to the word itself, the group agrees that "My
Forbidden Lover" is a whole lot more controversial.
"We've tried to stay away from anything that was really
controversial in our tunes so we were kinda worried about it but it seems
that people are digging it anyway. You see, we try to write songs that will
relate and the fact is that people - especially in big cities - definitely
relate to the concept of a love affair outside of the conventional boundaries
that society had set up."
In examining further some of the other tunes on "Risqué"
and coupling it with the cover concept, we discovered that in fact, Nile
and Bernard are intentionally focusing in on what is definitely a new cultural
"The whole disco scene has produced a new culture
really. Add to that the general permissive society and the fact that there
are more and more single people out there - it's no longer wrong not to
get married it seems - and you'll see that we're writing about a whole new
development. We're just observing what's going on out there and what's important
to us is to stress the love content in personal relationships, whatever
they may be.
"We're not looking at life through rose-coloured glasses
- we're just trying to make observations about the nicer aspects of permissive
Just to show that they don't want people to take everything
too seriously, we got a complete explanation of what "Risqué"'s
cover art is all about. "We got kind of tired of just doing the same
old kind of cover so we decided we'd do something with a theme that tied
in to some of the tunes on the album - like "What
About Me", "Forbidden
Lover" and "Can't
Stand To Love You". So there's really a whole mini-story linking
the songs and the cover.
"We were thinking about all those old mystery movies
- Charlie Chan, the whole 40s thing - the Agatha Christie books. So the
essence of what "Risqué" is about is "who done it?"
We'll be illustrating that through our stage show more - we may even be
putting together a whole minimovie about it for the stage."
Without getting into the complexities of the cover, it
seems that (for anyone who's seen it and the inside sleeve) the plot revolves
around the gigolo, none other than Nile, the maid (Luci), lady of the house
(Alfa), the unconcerned butler (Tony) and the man of the house Bernard.
We won't give away the secret as to who actually "killed" Bernard
but let's just say it wasn't the butler!! All of which attests to Chic's
obvious intention to keep their whole presence both musical, interesting
and lots of fun!
Yet another aspect of what has kept and keeps Chic at the
top is the rapport they maintain with their audiences, and with people in
general. "We've tried as much as possible to stay in tune with the
people, by hanging out and talking to thern, finding out what they like.
We're aware however that as we develop further mass appeal, that may become
a little more difficult and so we will have to make whatever adjustment
"As it is, Nile and Luci tend to be the most recognizable
members of the group and Alfa's getting that way. Eventually, we know more
and more people are going to know what we look like and when that happens,
it may not be as easy to just hang out like we have but that's the price
you have to pay. But whatever happens, we will definitely be staying in
tune and observing, watching, listening and looking at people and their
"There are only but so many different themes. What
people go through and experience. It's like a lot of our tunes come from
a woman's perspective since Luci and Alfa are singing leads," both
Nile and Bernard agree, "and what happens is we sit down and talk with
them and find out about some of their experiences and observe other personal
situations. So what's in our music is based partly on what we ve seen and
what people have experienced as well as stories that we make up - yes, there
must be some fantasy in there!.
It may not be fantasy but more like a dream-come-true for
both gentlemen that they are about to produce Ms. Diana Ross and naturally,
they're very excited about the project.
"We met with Diana when we were out in California
performing and she came backstage to tell us just how much she enjoyed our
music and how much fun we seem to have onstage. It seems that she feels
that she's at a point where she wants to have more fun onstage herself.
She says that it's important to relate and that even her kids don't enjoy
her music as much as they do ours! So she wants some of that light-hearted
approach in her music so that's what we want to give her.
"It's going to give us a chance to write some real
class material too - so it's a definite challenge for us - something we're
really looking forward to.'
Meanwhile, Chic are completing a new album on Sister Sledge,
a single on former lead singer Norma Jean as well as putting finishing touches
to the Sheila B. Devotion album. After all of that, it will be time to start
working on another Chic album. No doubt by the time the team gets ready
to do that, they will have a few more platinum awards under their belt.
Without wishing to borrow a pun from another songwriting
team, you could say that there ain't no stopping them now!