Earlier this week we learned that Jim Gillette, Michael Angelo Batio and Chris Adler were teaming up to bring back Nitro. The trio have already been working on new music together, and will be entering the studio with Josh Wilbur next month to start recording their new record. Last night I got to speak with Jim Gillette about the return of Nitro, the addition of Chris Adler, their new material, and much more. Enjoy the chat below!
Metal Mark: Jim, thanks for taking out the time today. How’s everything going?
Jim Gillette: Everything is good man. After the news broke on Wednesday, things have been a little hectic, but it’s all good.
MM: Yes, we learned on Wednesday that Nitro is back in the heavy metal scene again, and fans are super about excited it. How did this all come together?
JG: I wish I had a long, drawn out story for you, but it’s pretty short and sweet (laughs). I was sitting on my front porch with my lady a few months ago, and Michael Angelo Batio called me, and asked “Guess who was just offered a record deal?” I didn’t believe him at first, but the he said “Do you want to make an album and tour? I’m serious.” I said “I sure do,” and that’s about it man (laughs). We’ve been friends since I was seventeen ya know, so I’m always down to jam with him. This is going to be fun.
MM: Have you always wanted to bring back Nitro at some point, or was the timing just right for this to happen?
JG: A little bit of both, but it’s definitely the right time to do it for me. I’ve been really busy over the years doing real estate development in different countries, and obviously raising my family, and now that I have some time to breathe with work and the boys are all grown up, I’m excited to have the time and this opportunity to go on the road again.
MM: With Nitro’s name, you guys could have chosen any drummer to join you and Michael. Why was Chris Adler the right choice for the band?
JG: Honestly, he was my only choice. That’s not a lie. Once talks began with myself and Michael about doing this, I never thought about having anyone behind the kit but Chris. It’s actually funny how it all worked out. We were writing some of the new material, and Michael had programmed the drums so he could work something out, and all I could hear was Chris playing these parts in my head. I actually thought the presets were his drums at one point (laughs). When I approached Michael about asking Chris, he looked at me like I was out of my mind, but we got a hold of him, and he said he was down. It’s rare that you get your number one choice these days, but in my mind we did, and it’s awesome.
MM: Speaking of that new material, we haven’t heard anything from the band since the early 1990’s, so what can we expect from the new music?
JG: What can fans expect? The unexpected. If I asked a ton of fans what they expected to hear, I don’t think any of them would get it right. It’s very, very, very, very heavy. I’ll just leave it at that.
MM: That’s intriguing. What about your vocal performance? You were legendary for your high notes. Can you still hit those twenty years later?
JG: Good question. I guess we’ll find out soon enough (laughs). I know people haven’t heard much from me in a while, but I’ve still been singing off and on, and I still do the opera stuff too, so yea I can still do it. It’s funny, because there are guys out there in the scene that have been doing it non-stop for decades now, and they don’t sound anything like they did back in the day. I don’t know if it’s from partying, or abusing the vocal chords or what, but they don’t have it in them anymore. They don’t sound anything like they used to. I think since I’ve been out of the touring cycle for such a long time, the pipes are still there, and ready to go. Michael told me the other day that he thinks I sound better than I ever have, so that’ll tell ya something. Honestly though, I got Michael and Chris by my side, who really cares how I sound? I could just talk on stage, and it would still be awesome with those two playing behind me (laughs).
MM: Those two are ridiculously talented, but so are you. Did you try anything new with your vocals or just sticking with the formula fans are familiar with?
JG: I don’t think anyone has ever heard me sound like this before. I’ve already done the high thing ya know, and there is some of that on this new material, but not as much as people may expect. I wanted to introduce a few new tricks, and they are coming across great. On the O.F.R. album, we basically did vocal gymnastics(laughs). Some parts had four different octaves on top of three different harmonies, so it was just insane. I mean, if you heard it without the music, it was pretty intense man. So there is some of that on this new stuff, but I introduce a lot of new voices as well. I’m not that same kid anymore, and I’ve got more to offer, so what fans will hear is what I am all about today.
MM: Very cool. Obviously with the announcement of the new album, fans will be dying for tour dates once the record is released. Is there anything set in stone yet that you can mention?
JG: There’s nothing set in stone at the moment, but I’m expecting that to change very soon. Just in the past 24 hours, I’ve talked to several agents, labels, and organizers about setting up stuff, so we are just trying to process it all, and make the best decisions for us. There will definitely be shows, especially with the overwhelming response to the news of our return. We have to deliver now, and we will. Trust me on that. If you thought the old Nitro shows were fun, just wait until you see what we have in store for this new stuff.
MM: Let’s talk about the old Nitro days if we can. You guys played a ton of memorable shows, but are there some that stick out more than others?
JG: How long do ya got? (laughs) Man, we played so many amazing shows, but I must say that the ones at Blondies in Detroit definitely stick out to me. This was a little hole in the wall that maybe held 500 people if I remember correctly. I know you are too young to remember, but when we showed up, we always showed up with a sound system for an arena (laughs). So here we are with sound for 10,000 people, and the moment ‘Freight Train’ hit those speakers, that place just started to crumble. No shit man, plaster just fell from the ceilings on top of everyone, and it was a madhouse. I remember asking the owner if he was okay with us continuing the show, and he said “Go right ahead. I need to remodel anyway.” It was a trip. We showed up to the venue a few months later, and the ceilings were fixed, but they were much lower. I remember crowd surfing at one point, and I had my arms on the people and my legs on the ceiling. I looked like an upside down crab or something I’m sure, but I went around the whole audience like that. It was nuts, but a lot of our shows were nuts. That’s just how it was back then, so those Blondies gigs definitely bring back great memories.
Another favorite memory of mine was when we shot the ‘Long Way From Home’ video in New York City. We literally just showed up at the park and started jamming. We didn’t know how many people would show up from word of mouth, but by the end of the set, there was 10-15,000 people. The best part was that the crowd was made up of so many different people. From heavy metal fans to people in lawyer suits, they were all out there jamming, and it was a blast. We basically just threw a party in the park at New York City, and got away with it. It was an awesome moment.
MM: Well now you get to make new awesome memories in 2016 and 2017!
JG: Yea man, it’s crazy how life works out, but I’m ready, and so are the guys. We’ve come together with one mission, and that’s to make heavy metal. We don’t have anyone telling us what to do or how to sound this time around. This new Nitro material is us doing what we want, and that’s why I think people are really going to enjoy it. It’s raw. It’s honest. It’s heavy. It’s everything you want in a heavy metal record, and I’m excited to be back, and get this thing going again. So to the fans out there reading this, get ready.