Richard Niles is an American composer, arranger, record producer, guitarist, broadcaster, and journalist. He has lived in London since 1975. Because of his extensive work across many genres, Sound on Sound magazine referred to him as "one of the most versatile men in modern music". Jazz guitarist Pat Metheny wrote, "Richard Niles is one of the best composer/arrangers around and an exciting musical force." Paul McCartney wrote, "Richard Niles is a great orchestrator and musician and was a great pleasure to work with."
BiographyNiles was born May 28, 1951, in Hollywood. He is the son of Tony Romano, a composer, singer and guitarist who worked with Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Ray Heindorf, Joe Venuti and Cole Porter, and Pat Silver-Lasky, who writes films, books, plays, and lectures in screenwriting. His parents divorced in 1959 and three years later the 8-year-old Niles moved with his mother to London. He grew up in the care of his mother and stepfather, the poet, playwright and screenwriter Jesse Lasky Jr.. Niles toured Britain with his group Pure Wings (1969-1970) and then decided to study. According to Niles in an interview with HitQuarters, although his parents were originally negative about his choice to be a musician, they eventually supported his studies. In 1975 Niles received a Degree in Composition from Boston’s Berklee College of Music where he studied with jazz greats Pat Metheny, Gary Burton, Michael Gibbs and Herb Pomeroy. Niles received his PhD from Brunel University in 2008 for his thesis "The Invisible Artist".
Returning to London in 1975, he signed to Essex Music as a writer, eventually becoming staff arranger/producer of songwriter demos for Essex and EMI Music. This indirectly led to becoming Musical Director and Arranger for Cat Stevens. On British television series for David Essex and Leo Sayer he arranged and conducted for many guest artists including Ronnie Spector, Twiggy, Kate Bush and Denny Laine. In 1978 as staff arranger for Hansa Records he discovered Sarah Brightman (then with dance troupe Hot Gossip) and arranged both his and her first hit I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper.
Since then he has composed, arranged and produced music for some of the world’s most creative and successful artists including Paul McCartney, Ray Charles, James Brown, Tina Turner, Cher, Petula Clark, The Pet Shop Boys, Cilla Black, Lulu, Randy Crawford, Anita Baker, Deniece Williams, and Gloria Gaynor. He arranged the legendary Grace Jones album Slave to the Rhythm.(1985) Niles also scored and conducted strings on Depeche Mode tracks "Home", "Only When I Lose Myself" and "Surrender" and for Berlin's "Sex Me Talk Me".
He appeared as the leader of the house band, Bandzilla, in Ruby Wax's Channel 4 television series Don't Miss Wax. Bandzilla released an album of big band instrumentals (including versions of his own arrangements for "Slave to the Rhythm" and Swing Out Sister's "Breakout" alongside original tracks). Bandzilla also recorded and performed with Paul McCartney ("Flowers In The Dirt"), Ray Charles, Pet Shop Boys and Kylie Minogue (a swinging big band version of Better the Devil You Know for Kylie Minogue’s 2001 tour). Bandzilla was the house band for the "Michael Ball" television series (1994) with Niles as musical director. Niles wrote and arranged for both Joe Cocker and James Brown on this series.
His arrangements helped define the sound of the 80s for groups like Pet Shop Boys, Swing Out Sister, Living in a Box, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and Was (Not Was). His pen has also gone to work with many male stars including Morten Harkett (of Aha), Cliff Richard, Barry Manilow, Ray Charles, Stephen Gately, Ronan Keating, and contributed to hits for many boy bands including Wet Wet Wet, ABC, Damage, O-Town, OTT, Take That, Boyzone, and many number one hits by Westlife including their duet Against All Odds with Mariah Carey.
Niles has also worked for the advertising industry, composing and producing music for TV commercials including McDonald's, Max Factor, Toshiba, Wall's, Nescafé and EuroDisney.
In Jazz, Niles also wrote, arranged and produced music for Pat Metheny, Bob Mintzer, John Patitucci, Jane Monheit and Bob James. Other jazz-oriented work produced by Niles include albums by Morrissey–Mullen and Jim Mullen.
Niles has released 2 CDs as guitarist/composer, Santa Rita (Sanctuary) and Club Deranged (Nucool). They feature players including Nelson Rangell, Hamish Stuart, Danny Gottlieb, Kid Creole, Nigel Hitchcock and Chris Hunter.
As leader of Bandzilla, Niles has released two albums, "Blue Movies" featuring Guy Barker and John Thirkell (1990 Lifetime Records) and "Bandzilla Rises!!!"(2016 Bandzilla Records) co-produced by John Thirkell and featuring Randy Brecker, Leo Sayer, Clarice Assad, Lamont Dozier Jr. and Nigel Hitchcock.
Niles discovered British R&B singer Clive Griffin producing and co-writing the album "Clive Griffin" in 1987 followed by TV appearances and gigs supporting Chaka Khan.
In 1999 Niles discovered the Norwegian singer/songwriter Silje Nergaard producing and co-writing 3 albums, "Tell Me Where You're Going" (EMI/Lifetime Records 1990), "Cow On The Highway" (Toshiba/EMI 1991) and "Silje" (Toshiba/EMI 1992). Their song "Tell Me Where You're Going" (b/w a duet of the same song with Pat Metheny) was Number 1 in Japan on the J-Wave charts.
In 2012 Niles moved to Southern California where he opened his studio and production/publishing company Niles Smiles Music.
Niles arranged two albums for the British singer Paul Carrack, "Rain Or Shine" (2013) and "Soul Shadows (2015).
In 2015 Niles became a member/arranger of The Wrecking Crew All Stars led by Don Peake, performing twice at Catalina's Jazz Club in Hollywood.
Author, Journalist, Broadcaster
Niles has written 4 books on music. "The Pat Metheny Interviews (Pub. Hal Leonard 2009), "Polymetrics" with Gary O'Toole (Pub. Jazzsense 2011), "The Invisible Artist" (pub. Amazon Create Space 2014) and "From Dreaming To Gigging - Jazz Guitar in 6 Months (Pub. Amazon Create Space 2015).
As a journalist, Niles has been a regular contributor to Making Music since 1994. His radio career began presenting Jazz Notes and Adventures in Jazz on BBC Radio 3 in 1996. Since 1998 he wrote and presented his own highly acclaimed BBC Radio 2 program New Jazz Standards, which The Guardian says has "changed the tenor of jazz broadcasting." Niles has since written and presented many BBC Radio 2 documentaries including "The Arrangers" and "Bright Size Life - Pat Metheny".
Educator Dr. Niles has taught and given masterclasses in the U.K.: Brunel University, Leeds College of Music, The Royal Northern College of Music, The Academy of Contemporary Music, The Institute of Contemporary Music and The Tech Schools of Music. In the U.S. he has taught at USC, UCLA, CalState (Northridge), The Berklee College Of Music and The Orange County School of Arts. His educational website is nilescreativeworkshops.com.
Music for film Niles wrote the score to "The Strike" (Comic Strip Films 1988) (Golden Rose of Montreaux, Honorable Mention for music), "Do The Right Thing" (Universal Pictures 1989), "Billy Eliot" (orchestration - BBC Films 2000), "The Christmas Carol: The Movie" (lyrics - MGM 2001), "Alice in Russialand (dir. Ken Russell 1995)
Personal life 1982 Niles was married to vocalist Tessa Niles, though the couple were divorced in 1988. Niles married Aylin Marquez in 1999 and they have one child, Alexander, born in 2002. Alexander is a professional musician and actor performing in Francis Ford Coppola's "Distant Vision" (2016).