Jack Blades is driving. After talking for a few minutes about his new solo record Rock N Roll Ride
, he has to switch to his cell phone and finish our interview as he heads out on an errand. The Night Ranger front-man is exactly as you would imagine him to be: friendly, energetic, happy. If you thought maybe his stage persona of the hyperactive lead singer running all over the stage, singing and talking fast was just part of the performance – rest assured, Jack Blades has no plans on slowing down anytime soon.You have out a new solo record. How would you describe the atmosphere of Rock N Roll Ride?
Well, Rock N Roll Ride
is an extension of the last thirty years of my life and it’s been quite a rock & roll ride, to say the least. And the record is basically exactly what it says it is. It’s a ride, you know. I wanted to make a record that was sort of like the old way when you’d put on an album and you’d listen to it all the way through from the beginning to the end. There is a start, middle and the finish. And the record, for me, touches on all the influences that have been around me all my life. You can feel this Southern California, Beach Boys kind of feeling, even the Eagles and Tom Petty kind of feeling. Then you can go right into the hard rock and stuff that I have been doing and then it’s sort of like funky bluesy stuff. It’s pretty much a rock & roll tour through my life.The title track has a really cool, fun vibe that puts you in a good mood.
Then I have accomplished my goal, I make you feel good. You know, I love the gang chants at the end: “What kind of road? Rock & roll road. What kind of high? Rock & roll high. What kind of life? Rock & roll life. What kind of ride? Rock & roll ride.” That’s kind of like what it’s been, you know what I mean. Your music with Night Ranger always makes me think of summer. This album has that same affect.
I think that is a good thing. You know why? Because I’m kind of a cheery guy. I’m kind of a happy guy and I think that that’s what the music is always about for me and that’s probably why you feel that same thing that I feel when I write the songs.Who do you have playing on it with you?
I have Joel Hoekstra, who does the guitars for Night Ranger, and he did most of the electric guitars and solos and stuff like that. Will Evankovich, who played with me in Shaw Blades did a lot of the acoustics and engineered the record and did some of the electric guitars. Singing-wise, it’s myself and Will and on drums I have Brian Tichy, the drummer for Whitesnake; he is a very good friend of mine. And of course Kelly Keagy plays drums on it. Another drummer friend of mine Alan Hertz who is kind of like a jam band drummer, he plays on a couple of songs. Then I had Robin Zander. I called up Robin and said I was doing a solo record and he was on the west coast and he came up and we wrote “Anything For You” together and Robin sang the chorus on it. Robin Zander is like the most uber-talented singer on the planet. Songwriting-wise, he is just amazing.Your son stars in the video for the first single “Back In The Game” as a soldier.
Yes, that is my son Colin. He actually co-wrote “West Hollywood” with me. He came up here to visit me, he lives in Hollywood, about a year and a half ago. And one morning he was just sitting in the kitchen and was strumming his guitar singing, “Are you experienced in love? I got to know”. He did the whole chorus and I was like, “Wow, that is really good. What is it?” And he said it was just something he was coming up with. So I pretty much logged that in my brain and when it came around to making my solo record, I remembered that and I called him up and said, “Hey, let’s finish that song.” So we wrote all the verses and finished it up and I put it on the record. It’s one of my favorites.You are like a ball of energy. You never stop moving, you always seem happy and bubbly and hyper-kinetic. Have you always been that way?
Yes, pretty much. I’ve always sort of been an upbeat person. That’s just kind of the way I am. It’s my nature and it’s how I was raised. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Southern California, born and raised in Palm Desert, California. I spent half my life there and in Scottsdale, Arizona.When did you get interested in playing music?
My parents gave me like a dollar ukulele when I was like eight years old. I started my first band when I was in Junior High school and I switched over to bass because like everybody played rhythm guitar and nobody played the bass guitar. So I said, “Ok, my parents will buy the bass amp and I’ll play the bass guitar.” I went out and got the bass guitar and amp and I became a bass player when I was like thirteen and have been playing bass ever since. Of course, when I write songs I always write songs on guitar. But I was senior class president in high school also. So you must have been pretty smart.
Yeah, I was pretty much a straight-A student (laughs). It was pretty much a breeze.What was it like being the senior class president?
Well, it was so long ago, how do you even remember it (laughs). But I do remember I got elected senior class president and then half way through the year I graduated early and started going to college. I had taken so many courses that I had so many credits and grades and stuff that I left in three and a half years and started going to a junior college.What would you say was your best subject?
Well, I was a pre-med student in college. I went to San Diego State University and I was going to be a doctor but I ended up being a musician instead.What changed your mind?
You know, what changed my mind is that I always thought in my head that if I didn’t give what was in my heart a real shot then I’d be always thinking I could have done what I wanted to do. In my fourth year of college, I took a leave of absence and moved to San Francisco to join a rock band. My parents were like, “What, are you out of your mind?” (laughs). But it all worked out well.What do you remember about the first time you were on a stage?
It was pretty natural. I think I was like ten years old, nine years old maybe, with my brother or something. I just got up there and started doing what we did in our bedrooms, just started playing guitars and stuff like that and that was the end of that. It’s been the rock & roll ride ever since (laughs)How long have you been writing songs?
I’ve been writing songs since I was about thirteen, twelve years old. I think I wrote my first song when I was in a Junior High band, when we were 7th graders at the Battle Of The Bands with the 8th graders. And we of course won (laughs). Shocked the hell out of all the 8th graders.Does songwriting come as natural to you as performing does?
Pretty much. I’ve always been able to sit down and come up with an idea, write a song. It’s not a stretch for me, you know what I mean. Some songs are a little difficult, some songs I kind of torture myself over, but really songwriting is something that I’ve done all my life. It’s what I do and I have no qualms about doing it.I read a quote where you said that you had music going on in your head all the time.
Constantly. Right now, “California Dreamin” is in my head, the one I did with Shaw Blades on the Influence record. I mean, there’s always a song in my brain. It’s kind of scary actually (laughs). My wife is like, “Boy, you don’t get much rest, do you” and I’m like, “nope” (laughs)You have a birthday coming up real soon. When you were that kid in your room, could you ever imagine that you would still be doing this at the age you are now?
That I’d be in 50’s writing and recording and touring? No. Usually you think a band is good for five years and that’s it. And the fact that we’ve been doing this, and this is the 30th anniversary of the release of the Dawn Patrol record, it’s pretty cool actually. We’re still one of the survivors, we’re still standing. I mean, there is a lot of us and it’s so funny that so many bands know each other because of that and the ones that are still around and the ones that are still there and still doing it and everything like that because we’ve all been doing this for so many years.What was the first band that you heard that totally blew you away?
The Beatles in 1964, when I first heard that single, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and then the flip side was “I Saw Her Standing There”. I went down to the five and dime store and bought that 45 and that was it, man, that was it for me. Of course my father said, “In six months you’ll never hear those guys.” Like, wrong (laughs)Would you say they were your biggest influence?
Yeah, my influences when I first started out were The Beatles. Like I said, I’m from Southern California so there was a lot of like Beach Boys and stuff like that. Then there was a stage in my life in the mid/late 60’s where I was really deep into British metal – Deep Purple, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Blind Faith, Thin Lizzy. Night Ranger is really like a Thin Lizzy type band, actually, if you think about it: Bass player that sings, two lead guitar players. Then I got into funk and got into Sly & The Family Stone and soulful bluesy stuff and everything like that. That kind of shaped me for all kinds of music that I loved.What was the first concert you went to?
The first concert I went to was The Monkees. It was very sad when Davy Jones died about a month ago. I felt really bad about that because I was a big Monkees fan.How old were you?
Oh shit, I was like eleven.Who was the first rock star that you ever met?
Might have been when I moved to San Francisco … No, it was Davy Jones. We chased him out in the desert when they were out in the desert in 1967 and they were playing in Phoenix, Arizona. I found out where they were staying and they went out to ride dirt bikes in the desert and I chased them out there. Got his autograph and everything like that, so he was actually the first rock star that I ever sort of met. I was like, Dude, this is where I want to be (laughs)Did he think you were nuts for chasing him down like that?
No, he was like, “Just don’t tell anybody where we are right here,” and I was like, “You got it, Bud.” And we didn’t tell anybody else and that was that and it was really great. You’ve worked with a lot of very talented musicians. Who would you say you have learned the most from about being in music, performing and the music business itself?
For performing, it was great when we formed the Damn Yankees with Ted Nugent. Ted and I are really good friends and basically Ted taught me something in Damn Yankees that is sort of the Ted credo: if you’re going to scream, then scream the loudest most blood-curdling scream you can do; if you’re going to jump, then jump the highest you can jump over the Marshall amplifiers; if you’re going to shove your bass neck into the drums, then you better shove it into the kick drum all the way through it and up into the drummer’s ass. In other words, do everything to the max cause that is what rock & roll is all about.By the way, how did you record an album with Motley Crue down the hall? How did you get anything done?
laughs) Actually that was all in the 80’s when we were cutting our records and they were cutting their records and we were down in LA. We’d go up to the Rainbow and grab them and we’d all come down to our studio and rock out until two and three o’clock in the morning and sing on the songs and stuff like that. When Night Ranger broke up in 1989, Vince Neil and I were really good friends, and I told him what was going on and he said, “Come on up, we’re recording our record up in Vancouver,” and that was when they were all sober and stuff. So I flew up to Vancouver for ten days and actually sang on the Dr Feelgood record on a couple of tracks and Vince and I just stayed up all night and shot the shit and it was really a lot of fun. Those guys, we’ve known each other for years, ever since the beginning. You do a lot of things: you write songs, you play bass, you sing, you produce, you act. Do you have a preference?
You know, I love doing it all. I love everything about the music business. I love everything about everything I do. I love writing songs, I love producing people, I love creating, I love being on stage in front of people, I love acting, like in the Rock Of Ages run in Vegas, I had a radio show. I love doing everything. It’s all about music and rock & roll and living life. Carpe Diem – seize the day.So what are your plans for the rest of the year?
I’d love to put a band together, the Jack Blades Band. I think it would be great with like Will and Joel and maybe Brian Tichy and myself and just go out and play some shows. I think that would be really, really fun. There’s a lot of Night Ranger shows and DVDs to film and another record to make for Night Ranger; there’s just lots going on. I am always busy (laughs)What do you do for fun besides doing music?
For fun? I’m flying to Arizona this week and my wife and I are going to take some time for our birthdays. We’re going to go up to Red Rocks, up by the Grand Canyon, and take a few days. Then I’m going down to play in Alice Cooper’s golf tournament. Alice Cooper is a good friend of mine and he invited me down to his golf tournament. So I’m going to do that and have fun with friends. I love life !!!Next week we feature former Marilyn Manson/current Rob Zombie guitar player John 5 and you may be surprised to find out how normal he really is.