Interview by Celtic Bob
Questions by Celtic Bob and Germ
Transcription help by Ashley “The Kid” Corbin
Thanks to Amanda at ABC PR and Carolyn at McGhee Ent.
The new Night Ranger album just got to say that that’s one of the best albums I’ve heard all year.
Thanks a million man I really appreciate that.
It’s a really good album.
Yea you know what we feel pretty good about it, we feel real good about it actually, it’s like a rockin roll record you know.
Very much so. I got to say that a friend of mine says that you and Tommy Shaw are the ‘best songwriting duo of the last 20 odd years’. And I got to agree with him like you know you’ve been very prolific in your writing and recording some of the most memorable contemporary rock songs.
Well thanks man I appreciate that and tell your friend thanks too and tell him I’ll pay him that 50 bucks I owe him.
OK will do (Laughs). So what makes your musical relationship work so well and how are you able to create such great music together?
Tommy and I, I dunno we just hit it off right from the very beginning right when we started the Damn Yankees I mean we just boom, we just started, we started um, we saw eye to eye you know musically and creatively, and we started playing together, you know it was one of those things where he would start a line and id end of finishing it or id start a line and he’d end up finishing it the way I would and id finish the way he would, and playing wise we’d start playing and ya know we’d just, it was a very natural thing like we’d swing our guitar necks and like we would know when to duck. Its just you know, one of those things that you run across, that doesn’t happen a lot. You know I’m know saying were like Lennon and McCartney, but you know they found each other and boom, there best work was when they were together and stuff. You know Tommy and I are always the same way.
So did you know each other before you started writing together? How did you meet?
Well we kinda casually knew each other like in 1984 I think we met each other at an American Music Awards or something like that and you know how that is its like, oh you know that guy, this guy knows who you are, you know who that guy is, its like hey, hey, you know one of those kinda deals, we didn’t really hit it off until 1989 when we formed the Damn Yankees.
Oh so the picture Inside the HALLUCINATION CD of the two kids playing guitar is not you and Tommy.
No no, but that was definitely Tommy and me but we sorta super imposed Tommy’s head on top of my brother. (Laughs)
Haha OK classic!
The HALLUCINATION CD was a great cd, one of the best rock cds in the last 15 years.
Right ya know the Hallucination was a real fun record and we released INFLUENCE last year which did really well and we toured a couple months last year with and we’re gonna play some more shows at the end of this year with it. Those records are really fun to make, the Shaw/Blades records. That’s kind of where we are, where our heart and souls are.
Why did it take 12 years between INFLUENCE and HALLUCINATION?
If you stick around long enough, in about 40 years we’ll have enough for a boxset right. (laughs) . I dunno, the time wasn’t right or whatever and we feel like making a record and said let’s do it now and that was that.
So will we get another album of original Shaw/Blades material?
We’re talking about that. Yup, we’re talking about it all.
The songs on INFLUENCE were they the ones that played a vital role in shaping your musical style or had some sort of impact on you or just favorite songs of your youth?
Pretty much songs that had impact on us that we thought ‘ so fun to record the songs that when we were growing up made us the musicians we are, that inspired us to go on an write the songs that we’ve written, like “Blue Collar Man”, “You Can Still Rock in America”, “Renegade”, “Don Tell Me You Love Me”. “High Enough”, all those kind of things. Its kind of, we felt it was a tip of the hat to all the people that inspired us that’s why we called it INFLUENCE.
There were rumors of INFLUENCE 2. Any truth to that one?
Yeah, definitely. In fact we’ve started working on it. We have some songs for it already. So that’s definitely in the mix.
What about the DVD release that was recorded in the spring last year?
Yeah there was a DVD that was filmed but it wasn’t in HD and it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it. We wanted to have more control over what we were gonnado. And all that kind of stuff so we haven’t hit the DVD world yet.
Maybe with the Night Ranger tour you’ll hit that one?
Yeah there ya go. That’s what we’d like to do.
Yeah, Night Ranger have had a few live albums over the years.
Yet we’ve never had a DVD.
Do a HiDef one for Blu-Ray/DVD release would be perfect timing.
The HOLE IN THE SUN tour would be great. Absolutely.
You and Tommy recorded “Your Invited But Your Friends Can’t Come’ with Vince Neil.
For the Encino Man soundtrack.
How did that come about? And how come the version you and Tommy played on never ending up on Vince’s solo CD?
It was on his album but it had Steve Stevens, Vikki Fox playing and his band played on it.
I guess they re-cut it.
(Laughs) I never knew that. Thanks for letting me know that. That’s good.
You are going to have to ask Vince that.
I know, I know. We did the “ Your Invited But Your Friends Can’t Come” when Vince broke up with Motley Crue back in like 91 or something like that, when he split with the band. Vince and I wore really really good friends and he called me up and said “Hey man, ive left my band” and im like “ what? “ And we were in the middle of making the 2nd Damn Yankees record. I said “ Shoot man, come on over and hang out”. We hung out an stuff like that. We talked a lot and everything happened when I left Night Ranger in 1989. I woke up to Vancouver when Motley was cutting the DR. FEELGOOD record so I hung out for about 10 days up there and sang a couple of songs. They were all songs about the time we’d stay up till like 3 in the morning and talk after they’d finish recording and stuff. It was pretty interesting so Vince called me and said those guys want to do a song for a movie, you want to come and watch the movie with me? So Tommy and I were in L.A and were getting ready to cut the 2nd Damn Yankees record and so we went over and watched the movie and said yeah lets write a song for this. So we wrote the song and we were in the studio at the record plant cutting makes for the 2nd Damn Yankees record and we said lets just record this ad recorded the whole thing. It was Michael Cartellone playing drums, Me playing Bass, Tommy playing all the guitars and solo and Tommy and I singing all the backgrounds. We used our producer and had Vince’s voice on it, Vince came in and sang it, we knocked it out in like 2 days. The whole song. And said Here ya go Vince! It was like the first Vince Solo thing.
In 2004 you released your first solo record. What made you finally decide that was the right time to release that album?
I dunno. I just felt like doing a solo record. I’ve never done one before in my life and I was like; you know what? I’m going to do a record on my own. So I recorded it and there wasn’t any big thought process behind it or anything. It was like I think ill do a solo record now. In fact I’m thinking about starting another one this winter.
Perfect. I understand that some of the songs evolved from work on a possible 3rd Damn Yankees release.
Ya, like the song “Shine On”, the song “Shine On” was a song Tommy and I had written for the 3rd Damn Yankees record that never came out. There were several songs that came out that were written for the 3rd Damn Yankees record that over the years ended up on Ted’s records or on a Styx record, my solo record or something like that.
What is the true story behind the missing 3rd Yankees record, and will it see the light of day?
No. It never will. We weren’t happy with it. It wasn’t what we wanted.
I was talking to Damon Johnson a couple years ago and he said the same thing, it wasn’t consistent and wouldn’t see the light of day.
The original Damn Yankees line up was a powerhouse Quartet. The 2 studio albums were classic hard rock albums that sold really well. In July of this year there was a rumor that we may finally see a reunion tour after Sticks and Ted finish their tours. Any truth to this?
Well yea. I mean there’s always the chance. There’s been talk about that. The real sad part about it is the managers get in the way and keep everybody from having a fin time with it. Its kind of irritating in a lot of ways. Maybe it will turn out. Maybe the powers that be will let the artists do what they want to do. I dunno, its like kind of weird. There is a chance were gonna do it.
How would the tour go? Would you do a set? Tommy do a set? Ted? Then a Shaw/Blades one? Then a full Damn Yankees show?
Yea and we can do like the Grateful Dead do. We can all play our solo projects and who we are would be the opening acts. And end up with the Damn Yankees or something. (Laughs) or whatever. You know what I mean?
Let’s go back a few years, before we get into the Night Rangers stuff about the new album. In the late 70’s you were in a band called Rubicon with Brad Gillis.
From what I gather it was organized by Ex, Sly and the Family Stone, Member Jerry Martini.
What was it like working with Jerry and did you learn a lot of the business from him?
Jerry was the one that brought me to San Francisco and got me going. I was in college down in San Diego; I came up to San Francisco and met him. He introduced me to Sly and it was pretty interesting. The first thing in the music scene I was in, was in the record plant studio recording with Sly Stone. It was pretty wild. Then we formed Rubicon. Rubicon got a lot of action, a 7 piece horn band, it was really really cool. Jerry was really helpful in helping us defining who we were and everything like that. After that the band just turned into a rock band. (laughs) Night Ranger.
I was just going to ask if you and Brad left for more rock sound or did Rubicon just dissolve?
The band broke up. At the time my roommate was Allan Fitzgerald. Fitz. He was the keyboard player for Sammy Hagar and played bass with Montrose and Gamma and all those bands. He was my roommate and said “Hey lets form a rock band, I know this kid in Sacramento by the name of Jeff Watson. And you have your drummer which is Kelly Keagy. Kelly was the touring drummer for Rubicon at the end of Rubicon. He said “ why don’t you bring Brad and Kelly and You and ill get this other guy and put together a rock band.” I said “yea lets try it”. We got together in the beginning of 1980 and that’s the start of Night Ranger.
What happened to cause you to split up in 88 after MAN IN MOTION?
It was just everybody was going in a different direction. The typical stuff. Everyone’s ego was getting crazy. A lot of the nonsense that a lot of the bands go though. You know what I mean. Everybody wanting to write the songs, everyone was jealous of me because I was writing a lot of the songs and this and that and the other. So I said “ Hey Man, everybody go do their thing. Everybody go write the songs, everybody do their own thing, have a nice career”.
And it took until 97 to get you guys back together for NEVERLAND.
Right, what got us together?
It was just one of those things where we were all sitting around and those guys called me up and said “Hey why don’t you come and play” I decided ok ill try that. And we went to Japan in 96, I think and sold out a whole bunch of shows. We went “ this is kind of fun, lets start up again” so there ya go.
Now its back to the fun aspect, and not the career aspect.
We saw back to back albums in 97 and 98 with NEVERLAND and SEVEN. Will we see that again with HOLE IN THE SUN this year and another album next year?
Id like to yea. Id like to keep it going, id like to keep new music flowing, its always a good thing.
The new album is very classic sounding. Was this a conscious effort to re capture the classic night ranger sound with songs like “Tell Your Vision”. “Rockstar”, and “Wrap it Up”.
I think its basically where we are in 2008. You cant help but having recorded with so many different people and made so many records. You cant help but be influenced by all that you are around. When you write the songs, those are the songs that you come up with. You try to be creative and you try to write from your heart. And that’s where Night Ranger is in 2008.
One of the first things I noticed is the guitar solos are brought back. I find a lot of newer bands have forgotten the guitar solos.
We did make a conscious effort. We wanted a rock album man. Lets make a real rock record here. So we made a conscious effort to do that.
A lot of guitar solos are being left out of albums and songs now. That was one of the first things that caught my attention.
With Guitar Hero and stuff like that Guitar Solos are coming back. (laughs)
Why does it take a video game?
Yea it takes a video game to save the music right.
It’s so messed up.
Yea, its so messed up.
On the new album, you have Michael Lardie from Great White on keyboards. What happened to Allan Fitzgerald? Where is he now?
I don’t know. I think he is the keyboard tech for Van Halen. Then he’s the keyboard tech for somebody else. I think he was on the Ringo tour, that’s the word I heard.
When you started Night Ranger back in 1980, did you ever envision putting out albums and touring 30 years later?
No. (laughs) Make a record, this is do what you do and hope for the best. This is the chosen field that I’ve chosen. Being a musician, playing, and I’m going to keep playing forever. The most inspiring thing I saw was, I was in New York last month or the month before last. It was Les Paul’s 93rd birthday. He’s up there playing guitar at a club in New York City. It was one of the most inspiring things I ever saw in my life.
At 93 man. Way to go!
You have to give the man credit for that.
Yea it’s phenomenal.
When you were writing your songs, do you have a different frame of mind when writing for Night Ranger or Shaw/Blades or for somebody else? Or do you wait until the song is completed and go, that sounds like a Motley Crue song, or a Damn Yankees Song?
You kind of have to do the whole thing. You kind of have to write and the songs you write you have to make ‘em for what they are.
How do you decide who sings lead in both Night Ranger and Damn Yankees? Is it based on who did the most writing or is there some sort of ritual combat involved?
Basically, what it is is whose voice fits the song better. A song like Tell Your Vision, I wrote that song, and I’m like “Kelly, you should sing this one, you could really tear into it”. Kelly and I have always been that way with Night Ranger. We’ve always fallen over each other, like, you sing this one, no you sing this one. It’s like, you first, no, you first. It’s the same thing with Tommy. Tommy Shaw. His voice fits certain things and my voice fits certain songs. When we did the influence album, Tommy really wanted to do “Time of the season”. And it was just too low for him. And he was like man, you sing it. And I’m like “ but you’re the one that wanted to do the song, go ahead”. He was “no man, you do this one”. I ended up singing the lead on that one. It’s kind of like that. Its worked out well. Fortunately for me, both bands I’ve been in, had 2 great lead singers. So its been really easy. You know it’s been really fun, its gives you a break.
My final question. What’s next for Jack Blades and what can we expect from you in the next couple of years.
Well, I’m doing a radio show in Denver, Colorado on 103.5 the Fox, every Saturday afternoon from noon to 3. That’s starting to be syndicated across the country in different stations. I’m really enjoying that. I produced Ted’s last album LOVE GRENADE. Ted and I are going to do more stuff together. I’m going to do a new solo record, Night Ranger is going to do another record, there’s just so much going on. Were touring all summer, touring into the fall. Working with some Japanese artists, there’s a lot going on.
Maybe you’ll get up to eastern Canada?
That would be nice wouldn’t it? We oughta do that some time.