J e f f W a t s o n I n t e r v i e w

February 2000 and Jeff watson is hard at work at his home studio on a new instrumental album. I talked to Jeff about that, Night Ranger's 20th anniversary, why Neverland never got the exposure it should have, the re-issue of Around The Sun and a bunch of other stuff.... G'Day Jeff!
G'Day Andrew

Hey how are you?
I'm doing good, I'm working in the studio.

Oh good, you got a few minutes to talk?

Tell me about what you're doing right now?
At the moment I'm cutting a steel stringed classical guitar piece with a little bit of electric slide over them for another instrumental record like my first one, 'Lone Ranger' that came out early '90's.
I'm shopping that in Japan, Europe and America. More of like the 'Windham Hill' and 'Higher Octave' kind of stuff.
This is a little more intricate than that because it's a higher degree of difficulty due to some of the classical pieces I wrote. So that's coming out real good.
I'm getting a real good response. I just did a song for a movie. It's a huge animation thing, a lot like Pokemon which is very very popular. I had never heard of it but amongst young kids it's huge. So we did a song using the singer from that band 'The Biggs' who I told you about. (Jeff produced the as yet unreleased 'Biggs' album)…

Sounds great Jeff.
He's a great singer.
Have you got the latest Mother's Army record?

Sure...did a review off the Japanese release last year.
Too many people haven't had a chance to hear that.

I agree they certainly haven't. It especially doesn't help with the European label going under. That was sad.
Yeah it was USG. Anyway we think it's viable record. We're all real proud of it. Joe sang his butt off on it you know.
Other than that last year we toured 50 cities. Night Ranger with Quiet Riot, Ted Nugent with Slaughter.

Did you enjoy that?
Yeah, good shows and big crowds every night. Lots of fun because all the bands are good friends. I've known Ted Nugent since 1978. We all just partied every night. Before that I've been doing Nash Bridges, Don Johnson's TV Show.

What have you been doing on there?
Well I put 7 or 8 songs on there. Some of them were off my solo record and some of them from 'Mother's Army'. As well as I have recorded special ones here in my studio for the TV Show. Also I've appeared in the show 3 times.

I think I heard that. How was that?
Oh good stuff. Also Don's a friend and he's been recording his demos here at my house.

Yeah Don Johnson' been hanging around Camp Watson you know.

Yeah. He did a fairly credible album about '85 didn't he?
Yeah, you know he's a real good singer. He comes over here with a whole lot of songs and I replace his guitar bits and I tell you he's got a real nice warm, believable voice. So we have had a lot of fun and we've done a few songs.
He's busy now cause he's just had a baby with his new wife Kelly. I haven't seen Don since I've been back from tour. So we'll have to get back to it you know.
Brad Gillis just left he was over here. He's my guitar buddy.

Oh really? I just e-mailed him yesterday.
Oh that's cool. We were just hanging out here this morning. We listened to his new solo record and he listened to my new stuff.

I really can't wait to hear his new album. Is Gary singing on it?
Yeah Gary's singing on some of it. Brad and Mark McGhee are also singing on it.
I thought the stuff sounded real good. Brad was real enthused about the classical and acoustic stuff. He was blown away at the sound of it. So we've both got good stuff coming out.

We're the 2 bad boys off Night Ranger you know. We're the guys that always get them into trouble.

You guys go off on stage. I just love your guitar dueling.
Oh we have fun!

How much do you feed off each other on stage?
Well you know in the beginning it was a lot. I mean Night Ranger was together 20 years coming this April. Way back then we both had completely different styles he was more of a funk player and I was more of a speed kind of player. So we would combine those things. Now we have played together for so long we just naturally know what we are going to do. It comes real easy. You know it's like "you take this part, I'll take that" or "this part sounds like Jeff and this bit sounds like Brad" so we work it out like that.

It must be a great comfort on stage to know that you feed off each other on stage so well?
I tell you one thing that's nice is being in two bands, 'Mother's Army' being a rock band and 'Night Ranger' being more of a pop band. I mean 'Night Ranger' is an aggressive band but also has more of a pop edge. When I go on stage I always know that we're gonna play great. There's never a doubt in my mind. There's always gonna be little screw-ups with any band. I don't care if it's Frank Zappa or the London Philharmonic there's always human elements. I walk on stage and I'm not nervous I'm ready to go.

Every guy in the band has had a solo record, or with Kelly at least it's on the way. That's a rarity isn't it?
Yeah. Kelly hasn't had one out yet.

I've been talking to him also and he sent me the demos for his upcoming debut solo album. So they sound fantastic as well.
Oh good. I haven't had a chance to pursue them. I heard a couple on headphones on the tour bus. At the time I couldn't really get a handle on them cause it was pretty early stages. Jack of course did the 'Damn Yankees'.

You're a pretty productive bunch?
Oh yeah you gotta keep moving and being creative. Keep writing and playing. We don't just sit around. I mean I write songs every day. I've been doing some Country writing with my buddy's in Nashville.
He also wrote 'The Power of Love' for Huey Lewis and a song for Pat Benatar. He's a real good buddy of mine. So we write Country stuff together which is really rocking. I started out playing folk music and country music when I was a little kid. I started out on the acoustic guitar.

So it's not too foreign to you then?
No in fact that's where I feel most at home. I pick up the old 12 string and I'm right there.
I used to sit around with my mum and dad at the Folk Music Society in Sacramento when I was a little kid.

Where did you start the 8-finger tapping?
That stuff is pretty second nature to me. I did that in like 1979. I was trying to work out a guitar solo. I had written it on the piano and I really wanted to get these notes in there. There was just no way to pick it. It was functionally impossible. I play it just like I play the piano and that's how it all started.

I've got a couple of live radio shows which are a little less polished than the two live albums you put out and they just sound fantastic. A Westwood One show one of them is.
Oh that's good I might have a copy of that here.

What I wanna do is this acoustic/ classical record then I want to do another record after that which totally fuckin' smokes.

Yeah really.
Yeah well I have both sides. I don't want to confuse people. So I'll put out a serious mellow album and then a serious metal album.

Who might sing then? The fellow you're using for this other soundtrack, the Biggs vocalist?
I think so. I might use that guy, Stuart. Of course I'm going to sing some of it myself. I'm singing more and more.

Yeah you sang a couple of tracks on the 'Around the Sun' didn't you?
Yeah the new version, the American one with the 3 bonus tracks I sang and played and did all of it.

I haven't got the American version. I've only got the Japanese version.
I'll get one of those to you in the mail right off.

Thank you Jeff I appreciate that.
I'll send it straight away. Make sure your address is on the email.

I'll do that.
I'll send you a copy of each. Have you heard the 'Lone Ranger'?

You know what that's the only record I don't have.
I've got one right in front of me I'll send this one too.

Thank you.
No worries mate. I think you'll get a kick cause I've got Sammy Hagar on there, Steve Smith, Brad Gillis on here.

Wow I knew the lineup was strong but that's very strong. Hey how do you know Sammy?
Ah well I auditioned for him I was going to be in his band when I was 17. I almost got the gig but I kept calling him too much.
However Allan Fitzgerald who was in his band had come to Sacramento and met me he had started producing the Jeff Watson Band. He said I want you in Sammy's band and if we don't use you I wanna start a band and have you as the guitar player. So that's how we started 'Night Ranger'.
Sammy and I have been friend since 1977 probably. He does live right up the street by the way.

I'm a big Sammy fan.
Sammy is a neighbor. We got all these people living in this little community, Huey Lewis, Starship, Grateful Dead, Santana, the Night Ranger guys and Sammy. It's a very artistic community here.

You're in San Fran aren't you?
No I'm in Marin County.

So you're near Jack as well.
Oh yeah Jacks' up North about 40 minutes from here. So we're all pretty close.

I know I was in San Fran in '93 and there was a Mr. Big gig on Marin County. It was at the civic center. Yeah my buddy and I went. It was in the middle of nowhere and we didn't know where we were.
I was there.

I was there because Schon's band played too.

That's right and Sammy came on and jammed.
Remember that well! Oh my god yeah.
That was at the Marin Civic Center. That's North of me by about 20 minutes.
You know Eric Martin is one of my neighbors and we both came from Sacramento. He used to be the lead singer for the Jeff Watson band in 1976. Eric Martin was my singer in my band.

I never knew that. No way!
He and I have known each other our whole lives. He lives right around the corner from me. You can almost toss a rock.

I'll have to drop by sometime.
Yeah next time you're in town (laughs). No I'm gonna come your way dude.
My fiancées best girlfriend is from Tasmania or an island off the Coast of Australia.

Well that's where I am.
I bet she's got a house right by you.
I'm gonna come down there and sit on the beach and drink XXXX.
God it's my favourite place. I've often thought about buying a home down there.

You know I'm going to have my own website soon, which we can link together. It's going to be jeffwatson.com.
I don't know if you do that sort of thing. I'll be able to make things available like posters of Night Ranger and myself that were never released.

Great! Are Night Ranger going to do anything for the 20th Anniversary then?
Well we are looking at touring this summer. We are looking at doing clubs on weekends or festivals. There were talks about Reo Speedwagon, Styx and Night Ranger. There has been talk of Journey and Night Ranger.

That would smoke…
Yeah that would be fun cause we are all such good buddies. The Journey guys live here too.
We'll look at doing another record if there's enough interest from Europe or Japan. If something comes up it needs to be financially viable. It's gotta be substantial to get us all to fly in and get hotels and start recording together. We'd love to do one.

So nothing slated at the moment?
Nothing slated for a record but we are looking for some tour dates for the summer.

Cool. I was wrapped when you guys got back together. 'Neverland' and 'Seven' were a couple of great albums what is your feeling about those?
Yeah we went in and made some great product. The thing is in America and I can't speak for the rest of the world, but it's hard to get radio airplay, which means it's hard to sell albums. Without it nobody knows you have an album out. So for us we are making them but are a little bit disappointed because we weren't getting the airplay we were looking for. There are only so many hours in the day and there are so many new bands out there. It's hard being an 80's band and trying to get people to play your music. It's really difficult.

Yeah I hear you.
Yeah cause we are the old guys now.

The dinosaur's right?

You had some really contemporary commercial stuff especially on Neverland.
You know what I thought was good. Jack and I were driving back from LA in Jack's Mercedes and I was driving cause I like to go fast and he doesn't - going about 125mph just cranking the fuck out of Neverland and we thought this has gotta be a hit album. However nobody got to hear about it. It's difficult to get the word out. If you look at it this way our fan base are guys that are probably now having families. They are more professionals, your doctors and lawyers and stuff and they aren't the same kind of crowd they used to be that brought every CD that we brought out when we were younger.

Yeah. Mike Tramp said exactly the same thing to me.
The other thing is as you well know is with this Internet thing I think the whole sales of music is going to change drastically. Don't you think?

Yeah it could do. The opportunity for direct marketing is huge isn't it.
I mean could you do something like that? Let's just say I made an album and I have it available here to download so if you pay in $1 per track or whatever amount and I'll send you the music. Can you do it directly like this?

I think you can. I think it's just starting. It hasn't been wholly realistic that you can do that, but it's just about ready that you can for sure.
That's cool and I'm going to look into doing that.
Well I'm going to send you these CDs with the American version of Around The Sun so you can hear those bonus tracks.

Great Jeff, thanks. I am a fan of Steve Walsh. I love his voice.
In fact I'm tacking on another song of Steve Walsh's for the European version.

That'd be great to hear again. Who is going to pick the album up in Europe?
I'm releasing it with Frontiers. Then we are going to do another album I think.

So they'll probably do your next rock record?
Yeah we sure hope so.
Well I look forward to it either way man. Everything good down there for you man?

Yeah everything's good!
Well get yourself a Cascade there buddy. (That's the Cascade Brewery - the local brew!)

You bet! Well thanks for your time Jeff.
No worries Andrew I'll look forward to your email. I'll send you all the jokes I get. Look it was great talking to you.

Yeah thanks again Jeff.