BACK in the technicolour 1970s, club life was spreading around the world, in Nile Rodgers's evocative phrase, "like nuclear winter".

The scene in his native New York was a blur of sex, music and creativity. "Happening clubs seemed to be opening almost weekly," he writes in his memoirs, Le Freak. His life revolved around clubbing, recording and watching movies. He was a regular fixture at the celebrated club Studio 54, alongside David Geffen and Truman Capote.

Rodgers was enjoying the high life on the back of the extraordinary success of Chic, the funky, stripped-down, cutting-edge disco/R&B band that had a run of influential hits such as Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah), Le Freak, Everybody Dance and I Want Your Love. Le Freak, however, only came out after Rodgers and his musical partner, Bernard Edwards, were turned away from Studio 54 on New Year's Eve, 1977. They were there as personal guests of Grace Jones but the stage doorman rudely told them to "f*** off". Working out their frustrations later, over some vintage Dom Perignon and some cocaine, the duo, jamming on their guitars, reworked the doorman's words into "freak out!" – and a stunningly catchy chart hit was born. It sold some 12 million copies.

Chic were on top of the world but the 'disco sucks' backlash torpedoed the band – unfairly, many felt, as Chic were a cut above the dross that passed for disco back then. The point, incidentally, rankles with Rodgers, even today. But his musical genius saw him go on to produce two of the biggest albums of the 1980s – Madonna's Like A Virgin and David Bowie's Let's Dance. He also brought his Midas touch to The Thompson Twins, Duran Duran and Mick Jagger, among countless others.

Now, at the age of 60, the man who in addition to these achievements pioneered a distinctive style of playing guitar, is back. He is one of the handful of collaborators in French duo Daft Punk's global best-selling album Random Access Memories, on which he co-wrote and played guitar on three tracks – Give Life Back To Music, Lose Yourself To Dance and international number one hit Get Lucky. And on Friday, at the Wickerman Festival in south-west Scotland, Rodgers and Chic will bring their irresistible brand of funk to the masses.

In a phone interview – he's in Monaco – I tell him that the music Chic made in their heyday does not seem to have dated terribly much. "Well, I don't know about that," comes the drawled, good-humoured response. "But I'm proud that it does have an evergreen quality to it. Obviously, it feels dated to me, because I remember making it," he laughs.

Listening again to Chic's output reminds you that Rodgers was an exceptional lead guitarist. Take his mesmerising solo on Savoir Faire, which made many rock-guitar fans sit up and take notice when it was released as a single in 1978.

"The thing is that, prior to becoming Chic, we were a sort of fusion-rock band, and that was primarily because of jazz: we were sort of jazzy R&B guys, which is actually how Chic developed. We were impressed by the fact that so many jazz musicians were on the pop charts and the R&B charts with dance music. There was a natural evolution for me.

"In R&B music, soloing is not the mainstay of the music. It's the groove. Soloing is something you do to have fun, or sometimes to make the record more interesting. But it's really all about the groove. Every now and again you get that rare record, like the Isley Brothers's Who's That Lady?, but that's a rare thing. When it came to our style, I didn't want to have this overdriven, distorted sound that we had when we were doing the fusion. I went for a more clean jazz style, and that seemed to fit the style of Chic better."

Rodgers's engrossing memoirs, which came out to acclaim in this country in 2011, detail frankly his childhood, his musical explorations, his fame, his addictions. He writes about his parents, Beverley and stepfather Bobby: they were bonded by their love of art, music and literature, but were drug addicts. "As they spiralled deeper and deeper into addiction, they were also increasingly self-centred, not infrequently criminal, and less and less interested in the responsibilities of raising a kid."

But young Nile was a musical prodigy, and when fame arrived in the shape of Chic, he embraced a hedonistic lifestyle with gusto. The New York club/music scene back then seems to have been phenomenal.

"It did feel like it was the most liberated period in music, the most open and free, absolutely," he admits. "Chic was like a reflection of the times, that we could put instrumentals on our albums, we could do songs like Savoir Faire, where I'm just soloing through the whole thing ..."

The 'disco sucks' movement, however, "basically demonised an entire segment of the musical community ... It was pretty incredible. We felt that we weren't a disco band but we also felt that the openness of the disco movement allowed anybody to participate. Rod Stewart wasn't a disco artist but his biggest record was D'You Think I'm Sexy? Queen are not disco but Another One Bites The Dust was one of their biggest records. It was just that kind of musical movement. It didn't have the snobbery that other forms of music had. No-one had to be dug in and say, 'I'm only a disco musician'."

Does he feel that Chic's music has been something of a cornerstone, three decades later? He laughs again.

"I wouldn't go so far as to say it was a cornerstone, but it certainly is a major part of music. For us, it became apparent at the beginning of hip-hop, with Rapper's Delight [the Sugarhill Gang's use of Chic's Good Times led to a copyright infringement lawsuit, and "a lot of money" ended up going Rodgers's and Edwards's way]. As the decades progressed and people got into what I call the compound form of sampling, like Public Enemy, the interesting thing about Chic's songs is that they basically became the backbone of a lot of records, like [Will Smith's] Gettin' Jiggy With It, or for a lot of Puffy's records. That makes me proud, that they keep our records relatively pure, and they just write a new song on top of that."

On October 27, 2010, Rodgers discovered that he had an aggressive form of cancer. After consulting doctors, he opted for radical surgery to seek to remove the cancer in its entirety. The diagnosis would have been enough to persuade some people to lead a quieter life: not Nile Rodgers, though. He is as busy as ever.

He talks enthusiastically about the Daft Punk album ("it's wonderful, really terrific"), about working with Madonna and Diana Ross, about the joyous reactions that Chic's music engenders. He's had enough adventures and achievements to fill two or three lifetimes, but he reserves a special place in his affections for his global We Are Family Foundation, which was named after the song he and Edwards wrote for Sister Sledge, and which he launched initially to help with the post-9/11 healing process.

"It's probably the most important thing in my life, maybe on par with the music," he says with feeling. "It's amazing to me. I wake up sometimes and I think it's the best thing I'll ever do."

Which is quite something, coming from one of the most tirelessly productive musicians ever.

Chic play the Wickerman Festival, East Kirkcarswell Farm, Dundrennan, Dumfries and Galloway on Friday; for full festival details, see