INTERVJU: Night Ranger

På förra årets SRF fick redaktören tillfälle att sitta ned med hela Night Ranger. Från början var tanken att det bara skulle vara Brad Gillis och flertalet frågor om bandets storhetstid på 80-talet var förberedda. Strax före själva snacket stod det dock klart att intervjun skulle bli med hela bandet, vilket gjorde att intervjun blev lite olik originaltanken. En sak vi pratade om är hur mystiken från förr har gått lite förlorad idag:

I remember Led Zeppelin and it was such a mystery and there was such mystique around the band and you couldn´t wait for that record. Occasionally you would see a picture of them out on a fucking tarmac with their plane that said fucking Led Zeppelin and you´d go “This is the fucking best thing in the world!” Once in a while you´d get four or five pictures in a magazine and you would go “Oh my god!” You didn´t fucking no what they ate for breakfast that morning.

I want to start by quoting Will Miller, “What do you love about music?”

Brad Gillis: Everything… music is what brings everyone together. It´s the thing that binds us all. Music is why we laugh, music is why we cry, music is why we smile, music is everything. As far as all of us are concerned, music is our life.

Jack Blades: Ever since The Beatles came out I was hooked and I got my first guitar when I was eight and played my first talent show when I was twelve and decided it was going to be a career for me. Music´s been a wonderful thing, a wonderful plight for 50 years.

When you talk to a lot of the American bands that have been around for a long time, The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show is always mentioned.

Keri Kelli: Yeah, that´s the one that started it all. We have two singers in the band and the harmonies and the melodies. It´s what we all love.

Brad Gillis: And two guitar players!

Kelly Keagy: More like Thin Lizzy actually. When we formed the band we were all Thin Lizzy fans. It was 1980 and Thin Lizzy were fucking at their peak!

After the pandemic, what was it like getting out touring again? You had it worse over in the US. Sweden was a bit more laid back, so to say.

Brad Gillis: Yeah, we should have followed what you did. You guys had it down. We couldn´t wait to get back. We actually played some shows during the pandemic and we were the band that would play when everybody said “You can´t play Sturgis! Everybody´s gonna die!” It was a motorcycle festival and we said “We´ll play!”, so we went, played and nobody died, nobody got sick. When we get out in the Stes now and I know it´s the same here, people are just like “Live music is back!” People just go crazy. I don´t know who´s more excited, the bands or the fans? Everybody id just mutually fucking loving it. It´s wonderful.

I kind of miss the time pre internet when you released an album and you knew nothing about it. These days you´ve heard at least five songs before the album is out. The mystery is kind of gone. Do you miss those days?

Jack Blades: I think it´s cool. I like when they release a video a couple of months before and people get a taste of what´s going on, but what they do is that they hold off a couple of months and I hate that, those couple of months between finishing a record and releasing it, because you want everybody to hear it so bad. Luckily they put out a video or two as a teaser. Then it comes out and everybody´s like they either love it or hate it and it´s been a hate/love situation with our records. They hate to love it.

Keri Kelli: I was talking about this with one of our guitar tech days just the other day and I agree completely that the mystery is gone of anything. When I was talking to Ryan I mentioned when I bought the Dio (Holy diver) record and I didn´t know what the fuck was gonna happen. I put it on the turntable and “Stand up and shout” comes on and I was like “What the hell!” You literally did not know what the hell was going to happen. And the concerts too. When I was a kid I used to go and maybe you´d see something in the magazines like an interview or some live shots, but you didn´t know until you got there what was happening. Now, who ever plays, you just go on You Tube the next day and it´s there.

Jack Blades: It is true though what you´re saying. I remember Led Zeppelin and it was such a mystery and there was such mystique around the band and you couldn´t wait for that record. Occasionally you would see a picture of them out on a fucking tarmac with their plane that said fucking Led Zeppelin and you´d go “This is the fucking best thing in the world!” Once in a while you´d get four or five pictures in a magazine and you would go “Oh my god!” You didn´t fucking no what they ate for breakfast that morning.

Kelly Keagy: First time you saw pictures of that dragon (Jimmy Page´s clothes) and you went “Aaaahhh!”

Jack Blades: Yeah, I get goosebumps now thinking about that, man. Seriously.

Brad Gillis: We were so lucky to grow up in the age that we did. My brother, being seven years older than me, in 69-70 I was 12-13 and had been playing guitar for four or five years and my brother would have the Hendrix records, Led Zeppelin I and Santana and The Doors and Blue Cheer and all these records. That´s where music started and where everybody´s emulated since, all those different styles.

Let´s go round the table. Could you pinpoint an album that made you go “This is what I want to do!”? We´ll start with you Brad.

Brad Gillis: Well, The Beatles came out in 64 and I got my first guitar in 65, but I really got into it when I heard Jimi Hendrix first record, Jimmy Page on the first Led Zeppelin record and then Jeff Beck. Those are my influences. I was fooling around with chords and stuff until I was 13 and my brother had all the records and he hooked me up with a turntable that went into a little box and he made a distortion unit because he was into electronics and he would go out every night and I had the headphones on, playing the record and trying to learn all this music. I´m 12-13 starting to play lead and going up and down the E-string, but Hendrix, Beck and Page were my guitar heroes.

Keri Kelli: I was really lucky because my parents really liked music and they were really into the Rolling Stones and Johnny Winter, so they were always playing music when I was just a little kid. We got the Queen record “News of the world” and I was like seven years old. I didn´t really know since I was a kid, but I put it on and it was just great. Then my mom took me to the concert so I saw them in 78 at the Forum and they did three nights. I was just this little kid at the Forum and there´s like 20.000 people and I was just like “Holy shit! This is wild! I´ve got to figure this out somehow.” I didn´t know how to figure it out at that point, but I wanted to do that. Then it just kind of went from there, but my parents really helped me out a lot. That Queen record was great and going to that Queen concert was insane.

Jack Blades: I hate to be redundant to Brad, but in 1964 when that first Beatles single came out, “I wanna hold your hand” and “I saw her standing there”, and when I saw that my dad said “Ah, you´ll never hear from these guys in six months!” and I was like “Hmm, I don´t know, man!” What really got me going was Creem´s “Disraeli gears” I just thought that record was fucking… I mean, the sounds of the guitars, the way that Jack Bruce sang, the way he played that EB-R Gibson bass he had on and Clapton´s playing and “Sunshine of your love” From that point on I got totally into English metal, man. From then on it was Zeppelin, Purple… the list is just… that´s fucking it. It was English metal from that point on.

Kelly Keagy: For me, the biggest impression from what I was listening to… I had my transistor radio and I used to hide it under my pillow at midnight in Los Angeles and they broke The Doors first song “Light my fire” and I couldn´t sleep the rest of the night. I couldn´t wait to get to school and tell everybody about this new band The Doors and they were like “What band?” That voice booming out of the radio… that was it. Then of course Hendrix first album and the lyrics that he wrote on that first record.

Eric Levy: Of course The Beatles. My parents had a record collection and me discovering that and I started listening to “Abbey Road” and the “White album” and that blew my mind. My dad was a musician and he sold a microphone for a Wurlitzer piano and that´s when I started learning the piano. One day I was going through his record collection and he had this 1972 Chick Corea playing a Rhodes piano and I think that clicked something together in my brain. Hearing somebody of that galore playing electric piano was like “Wow!”

Brad Gillis: You´ve got to realize that Eric was born in 1987. (laughs)

The first Night Ranger album I bought was “Big life” when I was on a school trip to Berlin and it´s still my favorite Night Ranger album. What do you Brad, Jack and Kelly remember for that album?

Brad Gillis: Not much. It was the 80´s. (laughs)

Jack Blades: I remember being so fucking high the night before we took that album cover. We were up until 6 or 7 in the morning, but we were also doing (snorting sound) this until we went “Fuck, we´ve got to do an album cover shoot!” So went all down and we were like “Yeah, ok.” And it was “Sit on this, sit on that, do this!” Oh my god!

Brad Gillis: we were playing the game.

Jack Blades: It was fucking nuts that album cover! I remember that.

Kelly Keagy: They asked us to do the movie and they had this huge budget to do “Secret of my success”. We did the video and supposedly they trucked the camera from the “Star Wars” movies down to do the video and it was on a track and they had four different sets. It was over the top.

Jack Blades: And that was also that we were all out of our minds.

Kelly Keagy: And Mötley Crüe, those guys were the horn players in the video. (laughs)

Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen