Jack Blades is a true legend in the rock n’ roll/hard rock world. He has made his mark on the world with his work with bands like Night Ranger and Damn Yankees. He has also written with amazing bands like Aerosmith and Journey. It was thirty-five years ago this year that Night Ranger released their debut album, “Dawn Patrol.” Thirty-five years later Jack shows no signs of slowing down. Night Ranger has just released their twelfth studio album, “Don’t Let Up.” The record is a great rock record with great guitar riffs and melodies that are synonymous with the band. I had the extreme pleasure of speaking to Jack about the new record, their touring plans, Night Ranger’s Hall of Fame chances, and even discussed the chances of a future for Damn Yankees. It was a great honor to speak with Jack. He was every bit as cool to speak to as he seems like he would be from watching him on stage. Without any further delay….ladies and gentlemen, Jack Blades.
The Music Room: Hey, Jack! Hey man, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. It is a real honor. First of all, congratulations on the new record, “Don’t Let Up.” Now that it has been out there now for a little over a week, I’m curious what your thoughts are on the finished product and how it came out.
Jack Blades: I’m happy with it. I’m digging on the fact that a lot of people are loving what they are hearing. You know, when you make a record you always wonder if people are going to like it. When you write a song and lay it down,it’s like you let them see into your soul and who you really are. So you make a record, and do the best you can. You hope that people enjoy it and kind of see what you saw when you wrote the song and created the music. So far, so good with the “Don’t Let Up” album.
TMR: As I listen to it, I really hear a balance. There are some really big crushing guitar riffs, and then there are the great melodies that you associate with Night Ranger. I’m curious, was there a pre-meditation going into writing this record to make a bit of a heavier album?
JB: It’s kind of two-fold. We wanted to make a record…I mean, this is the 35th anniversary of the “Dawn Patrol” album. Night Ranger is a straight ahead live rock band. We wanted to make a record that represented what our live show is all about. We’ve got plenty of ballads from the previous eleven studio albums that we’ve made, so we don’t have to go for a bunch of more ballads. I mean we have the classic ones already with “Sister Christian,” “Goodbye,” “Sentimental Street,” and on and on and on. So, we just wanted to make something that was a true representation of our live show, and it turned out pretty rockin’. There was a point when we were like, don’t we need a big rock ballad? Then we looked at each other and went…nah. (Laughing) We just kept coming up with stuff.
TMR: Honestly, I kept waiting for it as I listened to the record. I mean, I am a ballad guy. I like them. But I didn’t miss it on this record. The mix of the album is great. You have a straight up rocker like “Day and Night” and a tune like “We Can Work it Out” has a great melodic vibe to it. I have to say that my favorite track on the record is “We Won’t Be Your Fool Again.” It’s a real bluesy rocker. So there is a mix on there, but it’s all good rock n’ roll.
JB: Yeah, yeah. “Won’t Be Your Fool Again” was fun… Brad (Gillis) had this vibe going and I just started singing these bluesy verses. We were like, this is great! We just started recording it right away. In fact, I think the first and second verses are the demo versions. We listened to it and didn’t see it getting any better. Let’s just leave it what it is, you know? Brad and I were like, yeah…let’s just leave it where it is. I think it crushes man.
TMR: That was the first one that really jumped off the record to me during the first listen through. It was like, damn that was a great song. I have to say that growing up during my era of the rock scene, I’ve seen Keri (Kelly) in a number of bands over the years. He’s kind of come in to fill in for bands. It’s really cool to see him in Night Ranger. I’m curious as to what he brings to the band, and has he found a home in Night Ranger?
JB: He has definitely found a home in Night Ranger. Keri brings a real sort of a grove to the band. He’s such a great guy. He’s so easy going. He’e very aware of what Night Ranger has done and what we have accomplished, and he’s very respectful of that when he comes up with ideas. I really enjoy him. I brought him up to my place and we started hammering out ideas for songs and we came up with the foundations of “Somehow Someway,” “Truth” and “Don’t Let Up.” He, Brad and I came up with the whole thing of “Comfort Me.” Brad had the idea and the three of us hammered it out. I think Keri is really aware of the double harmonies. The double lead guitars, and the double lead vocals…I believe he’s really found a home in Night Ranger. I think all that other stuff he did was just preparing him for his sojourn in the Night Ranger world.
TMR: Yeah, he didn’t play with those other great bands for no reason. He’s a talented guy, and I am happy for him. In the current age of music, there are so many great bands out there that have now resorted to being touring bands only. They make comments that they are not going to make new music anymore. Nobody cares, or there’s no money in it…whatever. You guys have never really stopped making new music. Your last record was just three years ago, and now this new record. What is it that keeps Night Ranger making new material when it would be so easy to go out there and tour on your past?
JB: To me, I think it’s real important to keep creating and to keep using your mind. I think when you stop creating, that is when you die inside. I know a lot of guys are like, what’s the point? Truly, you can make as much on a long weekend as you can on your record. But for us, we’re going to keep on making albums and creating songs. I mean, I love writing songs. I love coming up with melodies. I love coming up with lyrics. I love all that kind of stuff. So, why not? Look, I’m a musician. This is what I do. This is what I have done all of my adult life, and what I am going to do until I am ninety-five years old. Brad and I, with Lita Ford, went and saw Les Paul on his ninetieth birthday playing a show in New York City. I was like, that is what I want to do. This is what I have chosen to do, and this is what I am going to keep doing. And all of the guys that say hey, you should hang it up, or it’s old man rock…I have two words for you, fuck you (laughs) or three words, go fuck yourself. You know, what have you been doing for the last thirty-five years? I’ve been touring the world and playing arenas.
TMR: There you go. I know one of the things that impresses me about you…I guess I’ll fanboy out for a second, is the fact that you seem to show up on some of my favorite records. You are on an Aerosmith record (Get A Grip), with writing credit. That was a very important record to me. The band, The Nixons. You’ve got some writing credits with them. You certainly don’t stand still. Your music is great with Night Ranger and Damn Yankees, but also with all of these other artists.
JB: Well I appreciate that, thank you very much. Sometimes I forget what I’ve written man (laughs.) A while back I sat back and was like wait a minute, what are those Aerosmith songs I wrote? Oh yeah, “Shut Up and Dance.” Then we did the Armageddon soundtrack. I co-wrote “What Kind of Love Are You On?” Then I co-wrote a song with Journey on that Armageddon soundtrack. Then on Journey’s “Arrival” album, I mean one of my favorite…”Higher Place.” I love it. Neil (Schon) and I nailed it. Look, I love writing with other people. I love that whole vibe of hopping in…you’re in their world. It’s almost like you put on a mask and you’re in that band now.
TMR: I’m going to jump back now. You kind of lead into it earlier when you talked about Night Ranger being a live band. With your catalog, I can’t even imagine writing a Night Ranger set list out. Will these new songs find their place in the set this summer?
JB: Yeah, yeah. The point now is which direction to you go and how many do you put in? At this stage in the game it’s like yeah, we’re going to play a bunch of new songs and people go oh no, not new stuff. They want to hear everything they know by the band. So, I think we’re going to sneak in a few of these. We’re going to pull out three, four or five maybe. What happens is we’ll play four or five and the top three will rise to the top. Then we’ll say okay, we’ll just keep doing these. Something like we did with the other albums. We did it with the “Somewhere in California” album, and with “High Road,” we’d play three, four or five of those songs and then a couple stay in our set list. Then we pull them out whenever we want to pull them out.
TMR: I think there are few on this new one that will sound amazing live. You guys already have a busy schedule planned for this summer, right?
JB: Yeah we do. I think at the end of May we’ll start working hard and heavy right through October, then we’re in Japan. Then on into November and December. You know, its the 35th anniversary of the release of the “Dawn Patrol” album…35th anniversary, we’ll play a lot of shows.
TMR: That leads right into another question that I have written down. I know it’s all about politics, but 35 years of Night Ranger and the body of work that comes with that, do you ever see Night Ranger going into the Hall of Fame?
JB: (Pause) Oh, who knows? That is so political and stuff like that, but I am really glad that this year Journey is. That was so long overdue its ridiculous. I mean dude, they haven’t even put Ted Nugent in! What kind of a crime is that? Give me a break. That guy’s been around since “Journey to the Center of Your Mind” in 1967. I think it has a lot to do with politics with this band and that band, but you know. It would be fun. It would be fun to get in there with Night Ranger. With Damn Yankees. It would be a pretty heavy honor.
TMR: Okay, I’m going to branch out and ask a question outside of Night Ranger. I am a huge Damn Yankees fan. I actually discovered Night Ranger through Damn Yankees. I did it a little backwards. With a label like Frontiers, and with the kind of awaken towards the music, do you ever see a day where Damn Yankees gets together again and does an album, or some one off shows? Or do you think that has pretty much sailed?
JB: I don’t know. I mean, every time we try to pull it together, something pulls it apart. It’s too bad because I think the fans would enjoy it. But with the schedules and everybody’s so busy…everybody doing this, that and the other. I would like to do it and that maybe someday it could be done, but so far, no.
TMR: Well, I’ll just keep that one on the bucket list for now. Jack, I know that you have a string of people who want to talk to you, so I am not going to keep you much longer. Again, I just want to thank you for your time, and to congratulate you on the great new record. I’m looking forward to seeing you guys this summer and more good things from Night Ranger.
JB: Well, thank you very much. Thank you very much.