Gary James' Interview With
Nick Gilder

Born in London, England, he gained fame in Vancouver, Canada and later the world! He started out in a Glam band called Sweeney Todd. They had a number one record, "Roxy Roller", which went on to win a Juno Award for Best Selling Single in 1977. Then a song by the name of "Hot Child In The City" went to number one in Canada and the States. It also resulted in two more Juno Awards, Single Of The Year and for Most Promising Male Vocalist Of The Year in Canada as well as a People's Choice Award in the U.S. Bette Midler, Joe Cocker, Pat Benatar and Scandal featuring Patty Smyth have also recorded his songs. The gentleman we're talking about is Mr. Nick Gilder.

Q - Nick, as we speak, do you have a record deal?

A - A record deal? Wow!

Q - Well, somebody who puts out recorded product.

A - E.M.I. still releases product, in sort of compilation. There was a re-release at one point of almost all the work, but it's been awhile since there's been an official new release. I haven't released anything for a long, long time. I'm going to. I would like to do something of course, bring something new to a Rock genre. That's not easy to do. It's been around awhile. Lots of ground has been covered.

Q - Maybe everything has been covered.

A - (laughs) I guess we hope not. Maybe you're right though. You don't want to keep recapitulating stuff that you've already done. You can't help but notice after awhile as a writer there's a certain something you gravitate towards, interests that you have. So, to try to find something new or a new approach is a challenge and something that I've been trying to do. And I think that's why maybe personally looking at other music forms for an inspiration is kind of an interesting place to go.

Q - You're still performing, aren't you?

A - Yeah. This year (2014) we went out and did some shows. We had a lot more shows last year. This year we did festivals, casinos and annual country fairs in Canada. I want to come and work in America again. That's really right up at the top of the list of things I want to do.

Q - What kind of material are you performing today?

A - The radio songs. There was a bunch of songs after "Hot Child In The City". Up here (in Canada) there was a song called "Roxy Roller" that was really a hit in America in the Northern states as well. CKLW was a big station in Windsor and they would break records in America by virtue of the fact it was right on the border, the spill over. They would get lots of attention for new releases. The song went to number one in Cleveland and Detroit and all along the border states in air play. Then there was like a controversy over the song, kind of a cover battle kind of thing. (laughs) But it still got recognition and even recently it was in the movie The Runaways. It was the first track played when the movie started. Cherie Currie from The Runaways sings the song in her shows. She loves the song. "Here Comes The Night" was another Top 40 hit after "Hot Child In The City" in America. Then there was a variety of songs released from the forthcoming record, the "Frequency" record, including "(You Really) Rock Me", which got significant air play, which you do get when you've had big success like "Hot Child In The City".

Q - And you should.

A - And I did. So that was good. There were songs up here that did well in the charts as well. I just kept plugging away at it for years and years. You always sort of wonder if it's possible to do it again and think what if we'd done this or that, you know? (laughs)

Q - I suppose after "Hot Child In The City" the record company was asking you to give them another song like that.

A - Kind of. We didn't. We were at the time more akin to the idea of doing different things which again hindsight being 20 / 20, in reflection it's easier to see what you probably should've done. We should've really nailed down a hard and fast direction of what we were doing, but we kind of branched off and we started to do different things musically. I think that we should've have done that in reflection actually. We were a roots Rock band is how we really started. It's a fun body of work when I go listen to it. I think that's good. We did do lots of variety, but if we're more genre specific I think it would have served us well. Plus, I think we should have gone out and toured. It was always like, do you want to go out and tour or do you want to make another record. (laughs) Every time. I think we really should've gone out and toured and got more road experience. That really serves you well, becoming a performer, becoming an entertainer. What I realize now is what has enabled me to sustain a career. It was my first love to get on stage and sing. The rest of it sort of evolved from that. Now I guess we can write our own songs and have something to sing, which is more identifiable with my own life.

Q - When you talk about "we", you're talking about Sweeney Todd aren't you?

A - Yes, that's right.

Q - They, you were Canada's first Glam band?

A - Yes, we kind of were. I think we really were, yeah. That band was actually called Rasputin originally. It was "oh, we should get a new name or something" and became Sweeney Todd.

Q - I don't even know what that means.

A - It's kind of an old English mythical character based on Jack the Ripper.

Q - Oh, boy.

A - Yeah. A notorious character. You could quickly find out Stephen Sondheim did a play plus in recent years there was the Johnny Depp movie called Sweeney Todd, where Johnny Depp sang and played the part of Sweeney. I believe his wife's name was Mrs. Lovett. (laughs) Very, very obnoxious story though.

Q - Somewhere along the line Sweeney Todd got the attention of London Records? Where did they see the band?

A - Actually, the career of Sweeney Todd existed on London Records. Then what happened was we were shopping around. As this was all happening, the band was sort of falling apart. Jim (McCulloch) and I wound up going to Chrysalis Records in Los Angeles just as the song "Roxy Roller" became a hit, kind of curiously. (laughs) And then I think for the next year or about a year later there was a release I think just after we got there. From that, Pat Benatar recorded a song called "Rated X". The album was pretty artsy actually. I don't know why we did that either. (laughs) Writers... The writing thing and just trying to be creative.

Q - You can blame The Beatles for that.

A - Yes! That's it. You're exactly right.

Q - You had "Yesterday", but you also had "Twist And Shout".

A - Yeah, that's it. That's what we were trying to do. It was at the apex of specialization starting. Bands that did enormous variety, there weren't any left I guess by that time. We were really inspired by that. And Bowie of course. That era, there was always something new. Folks like Tom Petty though, they really created a root, genre specific effort and it sustained him I think. It's ironic I think, going full circle, the writing has gone back to the roots and really trying to be simple. Simplify it.

Q - How did you get on London Records?

A - There was a fella named Martin Shaer in town that my manager met or knew and he brought him down to see a show. He'd been in a band in England I think. His band in England was called Tony Rivers And The Castaways. He was really quite a talented producer. He put "Roxy Roller" down on tape with us. The album was released and to be perfectly honest with you, I thought the recording was great, like all the time taken to record it, but I didn't like the mixes. It just wasn't representative, I didn't think, of the band and what we were 'live', which was really a loud, Rock 'n' Roll band with my quirky voice floating over the top of it kind of thing. We wound up going back into the studio and I wanted to do a mix myself. We went into a place here in town called Little Mountain, where Bon Jovi had recorded and all of the folks that were recording at the time. We did a mix of "Roxy Roller" and it was a hit, a really big hit. (laughs) It won a Juno. Actually, I've won three of those. Jim and I wound up going to L.A. and we did an album and "Rated X" was culled from it, which Pat Benatar had a hit with up here and then Terry Ellis, who was the President of Chrysalis Records at the time, and his partner Chris Wright. That's how they got the name Chrysalis; Chris - Ellis. He said, "You guys started your efforts and your band was born of the stage. You should really re-do what you did in Canada here and see if you can do it again. Put a band together and go play," and we did and it worked. In those days there was sort of a flourishing nightclub scene in Los Angeles, which included The Whisky, which is still there and The Starwood, which is still there. I think the first gig I did was at Doug Weston's Troubadour in Los Angeles and we did some university stuff and we built a following. Then Mike Chapman came down. Terry knew Mike and we recorded three songs of which "Hot Child" was one and we didn't change it a bit from the way it was played 'live'. I kind of wondered about that. I said, "Michael, it sounds so empty. It just has all this space on it." He said, "Well, that's why it works. It'll sound great on the radio." And it did. He was right. It was a really big hit that Summer. I don't know if you know this, but it was the song that took the longest to get to number one. But it actually, finally did make it to number one. It was around in the early Spring and it went to number one towards the end of October. It was there all year, gradually climbing up the charts, which is kind of neat.

Q - Did you and Jim write that song?

A - Yes.

Q - How long did it take you guys to write that song?

A - Not very long.

Q - Like how long?

A - Wow. It's hard to say exactly. I just sat down and wrote the lyrics one day. I think I sang the bass line riff to Jim and then he picked up the ball and carried it and we put the song together. I think it was almost completed within the first day of starting it. "The Warrior" was slower, but that's because we were not able to complete it on the day if I remember correctly and we spent some time on the phone. When I got together with Holly (Knight), I remember I said to her, "I got this idea," and I sang her what was the chorus and she said, "I've got something that fits with that perfectly." And it did! (laughs) And then the song, suddenly there it was. The best songs are probably like that. They're actually fairly quick. Just like an old cliche. I think it's really true. "Roxy" was the same way. Jim just started playing that riff and I started singing something. Before I knew it, there was the song.

Q - Is that song based on anybody you might've known?

A - (laughs) Well, really it's about a gal who worked at a movie theatre and was showing people to their seats, an usherette. But I've heard so many interpretations you think, I don't know if I want to talk about what songs are about because some of the explanations are hysterical. (laughs) Did she wear roller skates? Roller blades? Was she rolling a doobie? (laughs) Was she a high roller? (laughs) It never ends. And that's when you know you've got a good song, when people's ears perk up and they've got questions, I guess.

Q - Did George Martin produce Sweeney Todd?

A - No. I went into the studio with George, yeah, which is amazing to me that I was actually in the studio working with George Martin. We were working on a song. We may have done two, but I think we did a re-mix of "Roxy Roller", which Terry thought wasn't the right approach for the American market. Of course it was. By the time we'd finished, George said, "Honestly, I think I like the original better." I thought, wow! What an incredible compliment to the record, to the finished product of the original. We had some of the top players in L.A. come it. We kept the original vocals I think and added to them.

Q - What top players are you talking about?

A - We had Lee Sklar, Jeff Porcaro and we kept the original guitars. So it was a funky kind of thing, a funky shuffle instead of the straight Rock shuffle. And the end of the day, as I said, George (Martin) thought the original was better. I've got a mix of it somewhere that I did with George, a re-mix.

Q - When you did some road work, you toured with Journey, Peter Gabriel. Was that when "Hot Child In The City" was number one?

A - It was more of a recent record.

Q - They treated you pretty well, didn't they?

A - I think so. They were bands that were much more established really. They already had a boatload of hits. Some of those worked really well. Others I thought maybe it didn't work as well. It was always fun. We had a great time. There's nothing that beats experience though.

Q - What I was getting at is there might have been some resentment over the fact you had a number one hit.

A - It was a fun time. It really was. I think the shows with Styx worked especially well as far as compatibility. The Cars, that worked really well, for obvious reasons. These days it wouldn't make any difference. It's a different world we live in. Musically I think the stuff has just taken on more of an edginess, the approach and the delivery. The experience I've had over all these years has really helped a tremendous amount.

Q - Nick, what you really have to do is find this "Hot Child In The City " and make her a part of your act.

A - That's right. (laughs)

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