Night Ranger Part 1: Jack Blades.
Jack Blades talks about Hole In The Sun - the new Night Ranger record, plus the new Shaw Blades record, Damn Yankees as always....anything else that comes to mind!
So Jack, why is there a buzz for the new Shaw Blades record, besides the fact that it's bloody good?
Well, I think that it's just one of those records that everybody likes. Everybody enjoys that music. Everyone's just excited about good songs and good music and hearing them from Tommy and I, and having Tommy and I work together again.
Is it nice to feel missed?
You know, it's very wonderful and very reassuring. We put the shows on tour, on sale and I think one or two of them are already sold out. And VH1 Classic hasn't even started the full court press on the promotion of the album.
Yes, I just got the press release today actually.
Yeah that's right and there's already such a great buzz out there. I think it's just the fact that the songs are the stars and that's what makes this such a fun record to have.
Covers albums are very hit and miss and I'd put more miss in my column. Why does this one work?
I think this one works because Tommy and I really approached each song in a reverent way. We grabbed acoustic guitars and we played it, then if it felt like we should go somewhere else with the song we went somewhere else. If it felt like it needed to be true to the way the song originally was like then we kind of went with that and just sang it with our vocals. Like for instance The Sound of Silence. But then you have I Am A Rock that we took a serious left turn on that sounds so great. Then other songs, we sat down with our acoustic guitars on Summer Breeze and we started playing. I started singing the verses and Tommy sang the chorus and then all of a sudden on the second verse he came in with one of those classic Tommy Shaw harmonies that are so different. So we went where the spirit lead us on the songs and I think people can feel that. I think the audience, the fans and people in general can really feel that and that what makes this a really good covers record. That and the fact that I think the songs we picked are just outstanding.
You did pick some really nice songs. A few classics, as few left of center that just came together very nicely.
Yeah, it just did, I mean that's the thing. When it's not so hard, I mean that's what we're finding right now, with the whole tour, everything that we're doing, setting everything up. It's happening so easy that you know it's the right thing. You know its right when everything just falls in line like ducks in a row.
So why did you wait so long?
That's a good question you know. It's just all in the right timing. It wasn't right when we originally started doing these songs. We were doing it with another label then that didn't turn out. Then this guy fell out, then that person. Originally with Sanctuary and then it was with a new label that Irving Azoff was going to start, then that didn't happen. It was just all these things. So we just waited and waited. It's just the right time now.
Absolutely, and the buzz is huge, the dates are going well.
Oh yeah, and we're just excited about it. We added a young man by the name of Will Evancovich. He's playing guitar with us. He's out of a band called American Drag which is out of San Francisco. They're sort of like a really cool indie rock band. He's a great acoustic player, a great guitar player and singer. So we're taking him out with us as a third guy to sort of like fill up the vocals and play some guitar with us.
And how did he come to light?
I found him through his band. It's very popular in this part of northern California so I sort of like sought him out and went and talked to him and grabbed him. Actually I brought him up here and started just playing songs with him and I started throwing songs at him. He didn't realize he was auditioning. We just had two acoustic guitars in my studio and I just said play Summer Breeze, sing this part, play Your Move, sing this part. Here, play this song, play that, try High Enough and just started doing it. I said OK, cool.
Very nice. The record sounds pretty 'live to air' almost. Were you and Tommy both up at the studio at the same time?
Oh yeah, we did all the record at the same time. We played all of the instruments except for the fact that Michael Lardie played some keyboards and of course engineered the whole thing. I think Michael also mixed four or five of the songs. Then we had the drummer. Brian Tichy played drums. Kelly Keagy played drums on Dirty Work.
I saw that.
So anyway, we were there, we were definitely in the room with each other all the time on this one.
There is a habit these days to record everything in your own individual studios and not even interact isn't there?
Yeah, yeah but I think that leaves a bit of something to be desired.
I couldn't agree more. I think it kills the spirit of the record which probably why this one sounds so electric.
I think so, you know what I mean, you can just tell Tommy and I were having such a great time singing these songs. I think you can hear us smiling on the vocal tracks (laughing).
(laughing) You can. I think it's a really nice mix too.
Dude, how can I not be excited about doing an Emerson, Lake and Palmer tune, Lucky Man. I mean then you put a couple of prog bands on there like Yes and ELP. I mean, that's what I loved about it.
It's not something you can normally put alongside California Dreamin' by the Mamas and the Papas!
Yeah, and The Sound of Silence, no you wouldn't put Keith Emerson right next to Paul Simon. No, you're right.
But again, the record works, it's great.
We're very excited about it.
I love Dirty Work.
Dirty Work is one of my favorites. It's the only song of Steely Dan that Donald Fagan didn't sing. They had another singer in there and I think once they heard that guy sing they fired him. (laughs) Not that he did a bad job, probably that he did too good of a job. (laughs) I just love that song.
That's one of my favorites about forbidden love and all that kinda stuff. It's just a killer song and I think it's overlooked a bit, so on this record now people are hearing it and going 'oh I love that song' so it's pretty fun.
You know, there are three or four tracks in particular that sound as if they could have come off the first Shaw/Blades album.
You know what, you're right about that and on tour we're playing three or four of the Shaw/Blades album, the Hallucination album. That's the fun thing about this tour. We're not only going to be doing songs off the Influence CD, were going to be doing some off the Hallucination record. We'll be doing some Damn Yankees songs, some Styx songs, Night Ranger songs. I mean we're going to be doing all these things and people are going to be hearing song after song after song. It's almost going to be like hearing the soundtrack to their lives when they come see us.
I can imagine it now, which begs the question, are going to be recording any of these shows? It sounds like you should be.
I think that's in the works. Yeah, that baby's in the works.
I hope so because there are going to be a lot of people who can't see the shows. Between the two of you, Tommy and yourself, did you ever set back and say 'man we've had a lot of hit songs between us'?
No, we don't want to jinx it. (laughs) We do feel that way though. When we get up there and start singing. Like today I was up here rehearsing with Will, the guitarist, and it was like song after song after song. He gets excited because he's getting to play songs like Blue Collar Man, High Enough, and Too Much Time on My Hands. Then at the same time he's playing like California Dreamin' and Your Move. He was pretty blown away. I was looking at the list, and I guess I don't even think about it, but it's like we grouped them in groups. Here's three of four songs from Damn Yankees, four or five songs from Styx, four of five songs from Night Ranger, then four or five from Shaw/Blades. Then here are some of our other favorites that aren't even on any of those records that we just like to play. It turns out that there's about a 40 song list that we have to figure out carve down to about 15 or 20 songs for the show. That's gonna be the hard part, figuring out which ones not to play.
I'm looking forward to hearing that. I love to hear it live. I have to ask you this. Why the two different album covers for the US and Europe.
That's a good question. We had the American album cover and Serafino at Frontiers wanted to do the European one I guess. Maybe he wanted to sell more records.
I like the American cover.
I do too. I've got enough covers with my face on it. (laughs) I don't care it's the music in between that counts.
Of course it is. Absolutely. Well, with that taken care of, let's talk Night Ranger. That's a hell of a record you've got there.
Thank you Andrew, we're very proud of it.
As well you should be. Again, you took a fair while to record it. Are you at liberty to discuss the difficulties behind it?
There was definitely a lot of crap going on when this record was being made. It started and stopped and you know it was very difficult. We're just happy that it's finally seen the light of day.
It's a great product in the end. Regardless of challenges you spent a long time working on this record didn't you? Was the reason that you just wanted to make the best thing possible?
If you listen to it you can tell that we just didn't make a record just because we had an obligation to do so. I mean everything was very though out and we were very excited about the songs. It's just that there were so many interpersonal band problems going on. It just maddening for Kelly and I.
I mean this record was three quarters cut, and all the songs were done back in the end of 2005. That was the frustrating part of it. We just had to put our heads down and just plow through everything and just make it happen. The lion's share of this thing was all etched out in 2005.
I hope fans consider it worth the wait. I think you'll get a good response.
I think we're gonna get a great response.
I think you're gonna turn some heads with the direction of a few songs, and perhaps the overall style. What are your thoughts in regards to that?
My thoughts are that it's one of the hardest rocking albums Night Ranger has ever put out. I think it rivals Dawn Patrol for just sheer hard rocking. I'm not talking about bad '80s reverb production rock. I'm talking about just straight ahead rock and roll. American rockin', you know what I mean, and that's what it sounds like to me. And I think it's the hardest rocking album that we've had out in years.
I agree completely, in fact the first four tracks and I was knocked almost off my feet, you know.
And I think that's the exciting part of it.
It's like a sonic onslaught.
It's like move over baby, Night Ranger's playing tonight. (laughs)
Now these songs, they're heavy, they're in you face, but they have a modern twist that I've talked to you about when it was just you and me chatting.
You don't want to revisit the past right?
Well yeah, I think really Night Ranger is basically duel lead guitars, dual singers, anthemic choruses, big ballads and hooky choruses. I think that's what this record is. I'm not sure I could turn around and write another record that sounded like a record I wrote 25 years ago.
Along the same lines that I'm sure people were saying to the Beatles. Where's She Loves You? What's this Happiness is a Warm Gun? What's this Come Together, where's She Loves You? It's like asking Lennon and McCartney why aren't you writing another I Want to Hold Your Hand? No this is our new album Sergeant Pepper.
No were want to hear Please Please Me. In that same respect I once saw a picture and it showed every stage of John Lennon. It showed the Beatles in 1960, 1963, 1964, then '65 and '66 during Revolver and Rubber Soul. '67 with Sergeant Pepper, '68 with the White Album. And it showed him with the different looks that he looked like. He changed, the times changed. You can't ask someone to stand still.
I'm telling you, if I stood still and played the same stuff I would die. I can't do that. What I can do though is write a song with a chorus, I can write a song with a melody and with every bit of my heart and soul and with every bit of integrity that I have. As long as I'm real to myself and write it with soulfulness and integrity I think the fans are gonna hear that soulfulness, integrity and spirit inside that song. I don't think you can ask anyone to do anything else.
And I think those attributes you talked about, you nailed because there is melody, there are hooks, there are choruses
There are twin lead guitars, blazing solos, twin vocals. This is Night Ranger. That was Night Ranger in 1984; this is Night Ranger in 2007. We've got twin lead guitars, dual vocals, anthemic choruses, and big ballads. We've got our hooky verses and hooky choruses. Describe Night Ranger and then describe this album.
It's just updated. In fact there are a couple tunes that I've spoken to you one on one about that to me are commercial top 40 hits.
Yeah but, you know, all we can do is just write songs that we feel are right. If it becomes a commercial hit then so be it. We're not trying to kid ourselves and think that Night Ranger's going to have a 10 million selling record in the United States or Europe or Japan or anywhere like that, but who knows? All I've got to say is, once you release a record you're in the game, you know what I mean. Wherever it goes is where it goes, but you're not in the game until you release that record. When you release that record you're in the game and then it's up to the Universe man. If the Universe green lights it then the Universe green lights it. And that's how it works.
What a great outlook. Does it frustrate you that there are a small portion of people who don't want any band to move forward?
No, no it doesn't.
You just go with it?
Everyone loves the music they love. I think a true fan would never want someone to stay in one position. I think true love is, I'll tell you, a great Zen quote is the way to control you cow or sheep is to give it a large spacious meadow. That's what I mean and I think any true fan that loves it is going to feel that this who we are, this is how we do it, this is how we play and I hope the absolutely love it. If someone thinks it's a bit too modern for them I don't know what to say. I'll just keep making music as long as I live man. I'll keep being true to my spirit. I don't think anyone would ever fault us for being who we are.
I love who you are and what you've brought here. I mean there are guitars everywhere on this record.
I know man, isn't that great? I love that.
I mean Drama Queen, it's like there are riffs everywhere.
(laughs) I know isn't it awesome?
It is, I even like the verse.
It's unnatural. (laughing)
What else do you like on this record? Tell me about Whatever Happened. That sounds like a really modern, radio friendly track.
I'll tell you. Whatever Happened was inspired because I was on Portobello Goat road in London a couple of years ago going to the big antique market on Portobello Rd. I'm walking along the street before you get to the antique market and there's a great shop that has all stuff from India. I bought several postcards one of which is this blue Hindu God. I came home that fall and put it right on the console in my studio and it's been there ever since. I stare at it and whenever I get really crazy I just focus into that blue Hindu God. I focus into that spirit within and it somehow really calms me. So I was just working on this song and I had this idea and came up with this lyric 'I can hardly wait for another day' because you know me I'm excited about life. That's my theory on life; I can hardly wait for another day. So I turned it into that so I can tell you how I'm really feeling. It's OK if you think I have my head in the clouds. So then it's like, whatever happened to the girl, whatever happened to that little girl, whatever happened to that blue Hindu God that was you? Because here's the blue Hindu God postcard that I'm staring at. (laughs)
Then I thought wouldn't it be great if we were all just like this pure spiritual being? And you're having this big fight with this girl and you thinking whatever happened to this pure spiritual little think that you used to be or whatever that's inside of you. And its kind came out of 'whatever happened to that blue Hindu God that was you'? That's kinda what inspired that whole song Whatever Happened.
I love it. And There is Life, that's probably the most classic Night Ranger tune on the record.
Oh I love that. I sat down to my piano in my living room and I'm like man, we need a song like this. And I start playing it on piano. Then I showed the chorus to Michael and Kelly and then Kelly's like 'everything happens for a reason'.
We were like in our spiritual, whatever will be, will be vibe you know. We thought, you know what, it can get crazy and it can get crazy, be at long as there's love man, there's life. That's kind of where we fell. As nuts as it can be, as long as there's love, there's life. Love is like life, it's like the air you breathe. Everyone needs love. When you don't have love you perish. You shrivel up. You become something that's a soulful human being. That just sort of came out and we came up with that idea that as long as there's love there's life. We just pounded that song out 'we don't always know, will the searching never end'. You know you're always searching for something and that song just came out and it sounded so great and we felt so good about it.
Yeah, you should. I love Rock Star too obviously and we've talked about that.
Oh I love Rock Star.
Big attitude filled rocker.
Oh I love Rock Star man. I love it because it was like when I was with TNT and we went to that club Rock Rock all the time and there were these little Polaroid pictures of all the rock stars all over the walls drunk on their asses. Of course we were in there some night just getting plowed and Yoko, the girl that was the manager of the place was always dragging us out of there getting us back to our cars and to our apartments. Always helping and it was like that and I just love that song Rock Star.
It sounds like you guys all over. The opening track is obviously one of the heaviest things I've ever heard from the band. Tell Your Vision
Yeah man, I was in a different space when I wrote that song. I was just gone man. One time I was just sitting down and I was just playing this riff on my guitar and I'm just like, oh man I dig this. Then I thought about my wife Molly, she's always got such a positive outlook, she's got such a good vision of how things should be and I'm like 'tell your vision to change my mind'. (laughs) Of course it's one of those songs that she always jokes about. I always like write these wonderful little songs on acoustic guitar and they sound like such nice little love songs but they come out as the Night Ranger songs like Don't Tell Me You Love Me, Rockin' America, Call Your Name, or this that and the other and she's like what happened to that little song you had? So that's where that came about, it was like, tell your vision. In other words, like come and give me an attitude adjustment. I always try to think of different ways to say things. So much has already been said, so I was like, tell your vision because everyone's got a vision. You've got a vision of that wife and daughter or wife and son of yours. Isn't it fun?
Yeah, I've got two sons.
And you've got a vision of what your life should be like and how you want them to be. Everybody's got a vision, you know what I mean? So it was like, tell your vision to come change my mind, that's what I was talking about.
It's funny you should say you always look at an alternative way of saying things because I get that from your lyrics. It's never quite straight forward, especially the Neverland record. There are some songs on there
Yeah, sometimes I get a little quirky. (laughs) But I like that about me. I just saw in Rolling Stone there's this new band called Fall Out Boy, have you ever heard of them?
If you look up the Rolling Stones review they mention that the lead singer sounds like Night Ranger's Jack Blades.
I think I'd better get that record and have a listen.
It said his kinda vocals sound like; I forgot how he said it, something like, the strip mall soul of '80s car radio rockers John Waite and Night Ranger's Jack Blades. I thought well damn, that's some good company to be in because I think John Waite's one of the best damned singers of all times.
Oh he is, absolutely.
And I was like, I love this fact, here you have this quirky like, punky band, which is what it is. It's very popular, it's a big band around here, and they reference me in the Rolling Stone review. I think it's only like the second time that Rolling Stone has ever mentioned my name. I think the only other time is when the slagged Aerosmith on the Get a Grip album for writing songs with Tommy Shaw and Me. Of course that album sold like 15 million records.
Exactly and that's like my favorite Aerosmith album.
Yeah, it's mine too because I had two songs on it. (laughs)
In fact, Hole in the Sun's got that same kind of vibe.
Yeah, that's a great record.
Yeah, just a great rockin' record. So are you gonna get out on tour and play some of these songs live?
I think we have to don't you?
I think it would be a crime if we didn't.
It would be a crime.
There ya go.
So, so you think you'll do some solo or like some Night Ranger dates or team up with a package or something?
I'd like to do both. I'd like to do solo Night Ranger dates and I like to team up with somebody. Maybe we should team up with the reformed Ratt.
Ratt's good but Night Ranger's at another level.
I don't know man, I think yeah maybe you're right, but you know what, I'd like to team up with somebody. I think it'd be great to go out with like Nugent and Styx. Night Ranger, Nugent and Styx. Then do a little Damn Yankees in the middle of Ted's set.
That is what you need to do.
Give old Teddy a rest. Tommy and I'll sing for a while.
That's what you need to do. I reckon every time we've done an interview that's sort of come up. Can it ever happen? Can you ever do it?
I think so. In fact I'm gonna go to LA this week and try to make it happen. I don't care what those managers say. (laughs)
It's a popular discussion and the board. What would you like to see as a package and it's always Styx, Night Ranger, and Damn Yankees.
I mean, why not?
Yeah, why not?
That's what I say man.
And then we'll have this acoustic act, Shaw/Blades open.
Absolutely, there ya go, and then you could play four hours in one night.
Yeah, I was talking to my friend Mickey Hart, you know, with the Grateful Dead.
He said when they go out on tour they rent valleys, rent complete like mountains and stuff. Then they go out and throw like a three day show and the individual band members have their own bands. He said those are the openers then the Grateful Dead plays at the end. It's like Bob Weir's band Rap Dog opens, then Mickey does Planet Drum
.then the Dead plays at the end.
That's great. Why not, that's what you need to do. Anymore stage shows coming up in the near future?
You know, I had so much fun doing that Rock of Ages thing.
You got some good publicity from that.
I had so much fun doing it. That was so great, I'd love to do that again. I think they're taking it to New York but I haven't heard anything this month so I'll have to find out what's going on with that. I'm a little busy these days though.
Yeah, you've got a few things on.
I've got a few irons in the fire if you know what I mean Andrew.
(laughs) That's great. Do you still have a desire to have Damn Yankees continue on where they left off?
I think it would be great. Every time Ted and I talk it's like really a great thing, and I'm supposed to be producing his second record but so far that keeps getting postponed. I don't know what the deal is with that. That'll probably sound like a Damn Yankees record.
Exactly, get Tommy and you on backing vocals. (laughs) Well anything else that we haven't mentioned interview wise Jack with Shaw/Blades, with Night Ranger?
You know we've got that Night Ranger live from Japan in 2003 coming out on Sony BMG that I think is coming out soon.
So much good stuff how can you not play three hours a night live with all these songs?
I know, it's kinda crazy isn't it? That's the funny part about it. Like I said before, which songs don't we play? I'm excited about this new record and I want to play all these songs.
At this point Jack and I break off into a non-interview related chat, which draws things to a close.
I hope you enjoyed the always vivacious and charismatic Jack Blades in conversation my fifth formal feature interview with him and always a pleasure.