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Interview with Richard Hilton, From Chic music arranger and keyboardist

WHAT YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT WORKING WITH SKI

The best things about playing CHIC is being able to make music with some of the best musicians I’ve ever known, including a band we’ve had for the last five years, and being able to share the happiness of the audience. I also saw a lot of really amazing places that I probably would never have seen.

WHAT’S MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU?

Traveling rigors that are currently at the highest level.

WHEN DID YOU START WORKING WITH CHIC / NILES? And how did it happen?

I started working with Nile in March 1988. For about two years, I was interviewing various positions at “New England Digital”, which produced their own computerized musical instrument called Synclavier. They never hired me, but when Nile Rodgers called them (being a user of their instrument) asking for a skilled programmer who could play the keyboards, they kindly recommended me and that was it, I was in.

IF YOU DIDN’T WORK WITH CHIC, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

When I started studying in the Nile, I was teaching in a small college and going back to high school for my master’s degree. I hope to come back to teaching someday. I am very happy to work with young people.

CHIC IS ALWAYS THE JOY OF WATCHING WHAT IS THE MYSTERY?

A tireless commitment to delivering the best programming possible every night. There is a lot of trust and love on stage which seems to translate to the audience based on what they say to me. The value of the amazing repertoire we’ve given to play as a major factor in making it all possible cannot be underestimated.

RUMOR IS YOU WORKING QUICKLY ON MAKING AN ALBUM IN COOPERATION WITH DAFT PUNK? IS IT TRUE?

I cannot talk about ongoing projects.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR TECHNIQUE?

Adequate but not great. I do a lot of things quite well, but maybe none of them are “great”. All the players in CHIC are much more talented than I am. My skills span many different disciplines in my job, so my playing technique sometimes doesn’t get the attention it would otherwise deserve. I’m lucky that music has always come easily to me.

YOU ALWAYS LOOK SO HAPPY AND COMFORTABLE ON THE STAGE! WHY?

Because the privilege of playing this music and sharing the joy with the audience is overwhelming to me. Playing this music on CHIC is an amazing thing and I try to get it washed away when we do it.

IF YOU COULD COME BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU DO differently?

I would try less to get angry and more to love that I feel. There are a few other things specific to my relationships that I would like to do better.

IF YOU WERE NOT BORN IN THIS CENTURY, WHEN AND WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO LIVE?

I’m happy I’m here. I don’t think in terms of “what if” very often. That said, it would be very nice to hear Art Tatum, Beethoven and Chopin playing.

WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE ARTISTS / MUSICIANS AND WHY?

I’m really not good at favorite lists. I listen and look at a lot of things and I really like it. My list would go back to the 100’s and not be limited to a few specific musical and / or artistic styles.

WHO ARE YOU THE LEAST FAVORITE ARTIST / MUSICIANS AND WHY? (YOU DON’T HAVE TO ANSWER IF YOU DON’T WANT !!)

In general, those who contribute with all their power to the degradation of society and its inhabitants. Mustache, contenders. People who didn’t work for it and got it from society.

WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR FREE TIME?

Find out more about the world, the people in it and my work. I learn a lot alone, not limited to music or technology. I like cooking and spending time with my wife and sons. I don’t watch much TV – mostly sports and historical. I read a lot and spend a lot of time with computers and devices.

ARE YOU POLITICALLY ACTIVE?

More on the mind than on the body, but yes, I am more and more terrified of the world as I get older.

DO YOU DO ANY VOLUNTEER WORK?

Yes, I try to involve young musicians as much as possible, I am sure I can do a lot more. I am involved as much as possible in my sons’ musical adventures, usually without being directly involved in them. It takes many forms; Equipment advice and purchase assistance, participation in demonstrations, sometimes recording of shows. When they were in the marching band, I was the band’s unofficial cameraman and posted videos for the band to benefit from watching their work.

As an added bonus, the families of band members from all over the world watched these videos to see their relatives playing at a high level. I got comments all the time about how “Grandma in the Phoenix” watched each movie, and every week I was looking forward to them.

Besides, because of my sons’ music, I meet a lot of young people here at home and we talk. I like to think they’re easy to talk to. I like talking to them.

HOW HAS AMERICAN MUSIC CHANGED IN THE LAST TEN YEARS?

This topic could fill a book, but it briefly plunged into the rabbit hole caused by the democratization of the music-making process. Conversely, it’s also discouraging people’s interest in lively interactions between musicians, so this part is good. We are still trying to overcome the effects of machine making music, popularized in the 1980s and continued on.

WHAT’S ON YOUR SIDE THAT THE PUBLIC NEVER SEES

The bad, bitter, alienated side. At least I hope they never see it. It doesn’t work for me (or them) at all.

HOW DID YOU CHANGE AS A CONTRACTOR / ARRANGER?

I am more aware of my role as a performer and more committed to taking it for the benefit of the entire team. Now I trust and forgive easier.

How hard are you supporting each other?

I urge you to stay active in learning new things. I have a lot of competition for what I do from younger, hyper, more culturally educated people, and the number is growing every year. I meet them at university seminars and fairs.

I think the only way to keep up to date and commitment is to keep growing by using my long industry experience combined with the knowledge and techniques that I am gaining now. Much can be done today that was considered impossible a few years ago. I cannot stand still; I need to go ahead with the knowledge to stay in the game at my age.

WHEN ARE YOU FULLY SATISFIED WITH YOUR WORK?

I always feel there is something I could do or do to make it better. I think being “content with your job” is an artistic harbinger of doom. That said, if all of this is over tomorrow, I’ll leave feeling like I’m having a pretty good streak.

DO YOU SAY THAT YOU ARE SOME PERFECT

There is nothing worth doing, and nothing worth doing well. If you call it perfectionism, I think so.

What are you most proud of as a dad?

I have two amazing sons, James and Corey. James has just completed two Bachelor’s Degrees with Honors from Western Connecticut State University. For his outstanding achievements, he received a special award from the MIS department. He works in the computer industry and is doing fantastic.

Corey attends Music College in Ithaca, New York. He is a recording student whose main instrument is drums. In the first semester he became the head of the percussion section of a symphony ensemble, and in both semesters he was the dean of the letter. In his first year, he played a fantastic recital and recorded dozens of concerts. He too is doing amazingly well and is much appreciated by teachers and friends.

WHAT IS THE MAGICAL FORMULA OF SUCCESS?

Find something you enjoy doing and find a way to fit it into your life the right way. It may or may not mean getting paid for it. Don’t let others dictate who you are and who you should be. For me, success is finding a place of comfort and happiness in life without hurting it, however it manifests itself. It’s not about fame and fortune – I know too many rich and famous people who aren’t happy.

For me, good relationships with people in the world, both at home and away, also help to balance life and beliefs. It is extremely important in my life.

Note from the author: I was lucky to be invited to the Chic show at Kew Gardens in the summer of 2012. Music lifted me off the grass! I met Rich Hilton, one of the nicest, most humble guys you could ever meet. Richard’s joy on and off stage is contagious, and he and Nile Rodgers have been working together for decades. What a blessing for soul / funk / disco lovers like me!

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