INTERVIEW AND PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJALA
ADDITIONAL HELP BY SAMI RUOKANGAS AND PATRICK CLEMENT
Night Ranger is an American hard rock band hailing from San Francisco. The band gained its popularity during the early 1980s with such a classic albums as SEVEN WISHES, MIDNIGHT MADNESS and the debut DAWN PATROL. The bands biggest hit single to date is “Sister Christian” from the 1984. The first five Night Ranger albums sold altogether more than 10 million copies worldwide. After Night Ranger’s success slowly waned in the late 1980s, the band split up in 1989 and its members pursued other musical careers including Damn Yankees and solo efforts. The original band members Jack Blades, Grad Gillis, Kelly Keagy, Alan Fitzgerald and Jeff Watson re-united in 1997 to release two new albums in the latter half of the decade. Later on the original members Fitzgerald and Watson left the band and were replaced by Joel Hoeksta and Eric Levy. The current line up released its latest effort SOMEWHERE IN CALIFORNIA in 2011 and the band has continued to tour and remains very popular in USA, Canada and especially in Japan. The band now finally arrived in Scandinavia for the first time in their 30 year career and performed in front of an demanding Swedenrock audience in early June. After the show we had the pleasure to sit down and discuss with founding members Blades and Gillis about the bands future, past and present. Read On!
BACK IN EUROPEAN GROOVE
Metal-Rules.com: So you guys finally made it to Scandinavia and that’s great!
Jack Blades: I know and we are very happy about it.
Metal-Rules.com: How did the show go in your opinion?
Jack Blades: Oh, it was great! I mean we’ve never been here before in the entire career of the band. I mean for thirty years we played all over the world and we’ve never been to Scandinavia. And it’s like wow, here we are in Sweden! In front of all these great fans and it was so… it was so pleasing and so enjoyable to sit out there and see people singing along with the songs and everything like that I thought that was just… I mean I thought it was great! Didn’t you, I mean?
Brad Gillis: Yeah, I thought it was wonderful and the thing is I’m a one hundred percent Swedish, so I’m kind of coming back to my roots you know. My mother and father are from Sweden and my great, great, great grandparents are from Erin. And to come back and play for this audience was great and what was really cool for me is when Jack said how many people have actually seen the band before and only about five percent raised their hand and so that’s ninety five percent of the people there never seen the band and you always want to have new fans – so I think we made a little statement on this show.
Jack Blades: I think we won over some fans today.
Metal-Rules.com: Yes, I think you did. It was a truly great performance although it was a bit strange to hear Night Ranger playing “Crazy Train” live. I do know Brad’s history with Ozzy but what was that all about?
Jack Blades: That was just… I thought that was just a fun thing to put Brad on the spot, you know what I mean? And have him do a little bit of… you know do a little bit of “Crazy Train”. I thought that was really fun because I wanted the people out there to know the history of this band because we were doing some Damn Yankees songs and I just wanted them to know Brad’s history of you know what he’s done too, and I thought that was a good thing because not a lot of people knew that.
Metal-Rules.com: Right and it truly was great to hear that other stuff as well. Well, what is the main reason you did never tour much in Europe, not even in back the 80s?
Jack Blades: Yeah I don’t understand our manager would always keep us in the States or in Japan because we were so popular in Japan. I think he always went where he could make… and we could sell a lot of tickets and make a lot of you know… everything on the show and we only came over here once in 1985. We came over here in 1985 and we thought we were going to start coming over here every year but we never did and so…
Brad Gillis: It is a kind of strange thing because we should have done much more in Europe.
Jack Blades: Strange yeah because we wanted… we kept pushing him back in 83′ and 84′ to go to Europe and finally we got ‘okay lets go in 85’ and then we thought it was going be every year but it wasn’t, so it was kind of weird.
Brad Gillis: But I think it was a good thing also because playing here and having such, you know, a good response, we’ll definitely probably come back next year and do maybe five or six shows you know…
Jack Blades: Oh yeah, oh yeah…
Brad Gillis: And we’ve been doing real well in London last couple of shows we did; a couple of nights ago and the year before and that’s a given that we’ll go back to London but to come over here in Europe and play Sweden I mean we want to come back and do as many shows as possible. We were in Europe with Journey and Foreigner and did a bunch of shows but we didn’t come up this far. So I think next year might be a real good year for Night Ranger in Europe and in the UK.
Metal-Rules.com: You just mentioned Journey and Foreigner, which both have been quite active and successful again. Does that inspire you as well to create new music and tour more as you can see that there is still a plenty of demand, you know, for this kind of bands?
Jack Blades: Yeah, I think that… like I said on stage that we’re going to make new songs and keep creating because that’s what you have to do to keep your heart going you know what I mean? That’s what you have to do to keep your soul alive and you know when you stop creating, you start to die you know what I mean? And so… and so we are going to keep creating and writing the songs and to get new fans in Scandinavia to us it is just a dream come true after all these years, you know what I mean? Because we’ve done so much, we’ve done it all, we’ve sold millions of records, we’ve done all this but you know what this is something we’ve never done! So it was really fun for us, it wasn’t like okay lets go back… lets go back here again cause we’ve toured in Cleveland you know all our lives and we’ve been to Japan like seventeen/eighteen times – so… but it’s like here we are – it was something brand new for us. So it’s really… yeah it was exciting for us you know, it was really, really exciting and the excitement built up and you could… I think you could tell by the show that we gave how excited we were.
Metal-Rules.com: There were many people in the audience who have been waiting for 30 years to see you play live so tonight was an emotional moment for many after such a long wait….
Jack Blades: I’m crying now, just because you said that… “Laughs”
Brad Gillis: And we felt it, we felt it on stage “Laughs”
Jack Blades: We felt it, we felt the love, we felt the connection too with the audience out there you know and I know it’s hard, it’s the first day we’ve come at dawn, during the daylight you know it’s a beautiful day though – It was just absolutely – I mean the sun broke through and everything like that – it was a clear sky, but I mean it was all these things that it just made it for a moment – it was a special moment but for us as well as well as the fans that have seen us for the first time.
Night Ranger live at Swedenrock 2012 !
THE ROCK OF AGES AND FRONTIER RECORDS
Metal-Rules.com: There is one really interesting thing coming out really soon and it’s the movie Rock of Ages. So how do you see that movie – Rock of Ages as well you’re involved with that as well?
Jack Blades: I think it’s going to be great, I mean we’ve been involved with them ever since the beginning of the play in Los Angeles. In fact I actually acted in it in Las Vegas as the club owner and we’ve been involved with them with our songs and going to it, and sing a bit you know and for…since the very beginning. So we’re really excited about it, we are excited about the movie and I think that the movie will even give more attention to melodic rock and the whole sort of like…
Metal-Rules.com: Sure, it will help propel the whole 80s thing into the limelights again.
Jack Blades: The classic rock and entering like that which is going to be great all over the world -you know what I mean so we’re very excited about that.
Brad Gillis: And it was kind of fun – we were in London I swear every other big red double decker bus we saw had the ad for Rock of Ages on it and we thought man this is like worldwide, its huge you know. We already knew it was going to be huge in the States cause all the ads and the TV ads and everything but to come over to London and see all the double decker buses with the ads on it – this… I think the movie is going to be huge and we just happy to have a song in it.
Metal-Rules.com: As we, all know the overall state of record and the music business of the moment what is the meaning of Frontier Records for you guys?
Jack Blades: Frontier Records is just wonderful – the relationship that we have because they give us the green light to create what is in our hearts and you know they give us certain direction… they let… you know they say you know we’d like you to this, that and the other… but the bottom line is they let us do our… do what we want to do and they never like you know get in the middle of it or anything like that. They give us sort of like carte blanche to create what Night Ranger does… to do what Night Ranger does best and that relationship is just so wonderful for us at this stage of the game; to be able to have record company so supportive one, and two just so giving us the okay to do whatever we feel we want to do and it’s just such a good symbiotic relationship.
Brad Gillis: And we just actually finished it – DVD live at… you know from our hometown in the San Francisco Bay area – acoustically and that will be out pretty soon.
Jack Blades: An acoustic DVD yeah that we’re going to release in the fall yeah September.
Brad Gillis: And that will be worldwide and we’re looking forward to that and we just got another deal through Frontiers, so we’ll be starting a new record here in a few months and have something out early next year. So the machine keeps rolling.
Jack Blades: And they put out my solo record you know and so and Kelly’s and so it’s very much… you know it’s very exciting.
Metal-Rules.com: So when you’re writing songs do you know while writing that this song is going to be for solo album and which one is for Night Ranger?
Jack Blades: No, it’s just whatever it turns out you know what I mean? I mean however it works its… whatever works best. I mean some songs turn out you know they sound like Night Ranger, they sound like this, that or the other and you just like whatever works and you know however you do it and when you get together and write all the songs. The last record that we did with night ranger wasn’t really great because we did it in the old way we used to do it is we all got in the room together and we created, we created the piece of art all together and then we immediately went in and recorded it; so it stayed fresh you know and I think that that’s why so… everyone was so excited about this SOMEWHERE IN CALIFORNIA record it was like back to what we – you know what we do best.
Metal-Rules.com: So Brad… Do you have plans to release more solo albums in the future?
Brad Gillis: Yes, I’m half way done- I’ve written all the music again – going to get some big singers to sing on it so basically I’m to the point where you know I’m actually… I can’t really talk about it but I got somebody – a couple of people that are really big and going to be involved and singing on the tracks and they are already starting to write lyrics to that.
Metal-Rules.com: Do you know have idea when it’s going to be released, maybe next year?
Brad Gillis: Oh yeah, because we are just so busy with Night Ranger right now.
Jack Blades: Who’s that guy that sings in the bars with you sometimes that’s going to maybe sing on one track?
Brad Gillis: Sebastian Bach
THE CURRENT LINE-UP AND A BITE OF DAMN YANKEES
Metal-Rules.com: Okay, one thing which also seems to work great now is the current line-up, which has now been stable for years. It does seem that’s a great team and fans are not missing some of the old members too much anymore?
Jack Blades: No, I think that, that’s not even their question of that I mean this is Night Ranger – I mean see what… before it was like a chapter in a book and we finished that chapter and we started a new chapter for Night Ranger. But it’s you know with of course and Kelly and myself but this is a new chapter for Night Ranger and it’s just you know it’s… you finished the old chapter and this is our new chapter. And we’re very, very excited having Joel (Hoekstra) involved and Eric Levy, our keyboard player, is just amazing! I mean he’s the most musically talented in the band.
Brad Gillis: Yeah he’s got… but yeah…put us all together and then you got Eric you know.
Jack Blades: Yeah Eric’s like crazy brilliant.
Brad Gillis: And actually from him and them Joel’s the second best so me and Jack and Kelly we just fly off the cuff.
Jack Blades: Yeah we liked having people better than us in the band.
Metal-Rules.com: There’s one more thing about the band Damn Yankees. You never played together in Europe but actually when Michael Cartellone is playing here tomorrow with Lynyrd Skynyrd then you all members have played at Swedenrock, so then in a way, you have played here “Laughs”
Jack Blades: Individually, yeah. Michael is playing tomorrow which is so funny – yeah he’s playing tomorrow with Lynyrd Skynyrd right and Ted played what two years ago? And Tommy played last year with Styx, was it? Tommy played last year, so individually we all have played here – but we wanted to do the Damn Yankees songs because that band – those songs have never been played here and they are not being played right now by anybody…
Brad Gillis: And they are great songs, they are fun to play.
Jack Blades: And they are great songs and so with Night Ranger we’re just taking them over – they are like our songs now “Laughs”
Press manager: Last question guys we got to roll.
Metal-Rules.com: So my last question is that this one Swedish journalist was describing Night Ranger as a cross of Billy Joel and Van Halen but if…
Jack Blades: What’s the first band?
Metal-Rules.com: Billy Joel
Jack Blades: Billy Joel and Van Halen – I love it! I love it! What a great….
Brad Gillis: What? We’re cross between what?
Jack Blades: We’re a cross between Billy Joel and Van Halen – that’s brilliant! Like brilliant song writing and fucking kick-ass rock and roll, kick ass American rock and roll. I love that journalist.
Brad Gillis: Billy Halen…Van Joel
Jack Blades: Billy Halen “Laughs”
Brad Gillis: Van Joel…
Press manager: Ok guys. Time’s up now!
Metal-Rules.com: Thank you guys!
MORE PHOTOS FROM NIGHT RANGER SHOW !!!