LEGENDARY VOCALIST JIM GILLETTE TALKS TO ZT ABOUT NITRO REUNION!
There are cult bands. There are kvlt bands. And then there’s Nitro. Born of the ’80s, the band’s outrageous vocals were matched by equally outrageous guitar virtuosity and spectacular hair – not many bands nailed that gloriously OTT vibe quite like them. Nearly 25 years have passed since the band split, and so news of their reunion has made more than a few of us a little giddy with excitement. Calum Harvie calms himself a little and talks to singer Jim Gillette about the band’s return.
For metal fans of a certain age, Nitro need no introduction. Spearheaded by the soaring (and we mean soaring) vocals of the hugely-haired Jim Gillette and the alakzam-wizardry of fretboard virtuoso Michael Angelo Batio, the band released a couple of sublimely OTT albums in the late ’80s / early ’90s before calling it a day in 1993. But, wait for it, Nitro are back. Yes! This time Batio and Gillette have brought on board Lamb Of God drummer Chris Adler, and a new album is in the pipeline. And although band reunions are hardly uncommon these days, Gillette admits that he is as surprised as anyone by Nitro’s new lease of life.
“Michael called and told me that a record company had offered us a deal,” he explains. “I was caught off guard as we’d never really discussed putting Nitro back together. He asked if I wanted to go for it and obviously I said yes. It was a great time for both of us and it just felt right. We decided not to sign with [that label] as we wanted to do Nitro the way we always intended and that meant no suits telling us how to play, sing, dress, and so on. Freedom – at last!”
In recent years, when questioned about the possibility of a Nitro reunion, Gillette has stipulated that he would be willing, on the proviso that his legendary vocal range and power were up to the job. So, we can assume that he can still reach those high notes? “It’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears. I finally get to be me, and I almost had to sort of rediscover who I was as a singer. For the first time in my life I can just focus on the songs and not think about showing off. There are no limitations or outside distractions, and that’s a beautiful thing! The best, and at the same time most intimidating, part of Nitro is the incredible talent I’m surrounded by. Michael and Chris are the best of the best. It really doesn’t get any better than these guys. I’m almost convinced that I could talk the lyrics and nobody would even care! These guys are sonic insanity. It’s calculated chaos…educated brutality. They’re true masters of their respective crafts and I’m very honoured to be a part of it. Oh yeah, the Gillette scream is alive and well.”
A core component of Nitro – then and now – is the relationship between Jim Gillette and guitarist Michael Angelo Batio. “We’re like family,” Gillette says. “I’ve known Michael my entire adult life. We met when I was 17 years old and I later recruited him for my solo album Proud To Be Loud. We’ve never had an argument and have always been like brothers. On the music side of things, it’s amazing. Michael was a prodigy on piano at age five. The things he can do with a guitar are almost inhuman. When we’re making music, it’s like magic. Michael’s skills are other-worldly and unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I guess it all boils down to mutual respect. I respect him as a person and musician and for some crazy reason, he respects me.”
Chris Adler is the new addition to the Nitro lineup and, says Gillette, no other drummer was in with a shout. “Michael asked me who I thought should play drums and in my mind it wasn’t up for discussion. The only name I even thought of was Chris Adler. We reached out to him about a week later and the rest is history. Up until that point, the only thing I knew about Chris was that he was the best drummer I’d ever heard. Over the past couple of months I’ve discovered that besides his ridiculous skills on the throne, he’s also an awesome person. I’m humbled that Chris accepted our invitation and he’s become a very important part of Nitro.”
The trio are currently working on a new Nitro album, and Gillette believes that it will finally see the band realising their full potential. “This will be the first time Nitro has really gotten to be Nitro,” he reckons. “When you have a record company paying the bills, they end up having quite a bit of control. Hard to argue too much with the person writing the cheques. Our vision was always for Nitro to be 100% heavy fucking metal and this album will deliver the goods. If you’re looking for bubble gum rock, you’ve come to the wrong place. I suppose if you threw Lamb Of God, old school Metallica and Nitro into a blender, you’d be headed in the right direction.”