US hard rock supremos, Night Ranger, recently played two UK Shows in March 2018, including a co-headlining London date with Skid Row. They also headlined a night at the popular annual HRH AOR event held in Pwllheli, North Wales just prior to this, with Night Ranger playing on March 9th. Jack Blades has worked in several bands: Rubicon, Night Ranger (as bassist and one of the lead vocalists), and Damn Yankees (as one of the founding members). Following the band’s UK shows, I was given the opportunity to have a chat – actually my third interview with him. We discussed his various musical projects – past, present, and future – and reflected on a career spanning over forty years in the music business.
Jack Blades: We loved it. We thought the audience was great, we thought it was really good. What did you think?
ANTIHERO: I thought it was incredible, best band of the night.
Jack Blades: Yeah you know, I mean we started out, and we went in there and just started playing, and not thinking about anything, and just rocking away. And being there in Shepherd’s Bush was a very, you know for us, it was a big honor. We really, really enjoyed it, and the fact that it’s such a legendary venue set Shepherd’s Bush Empire. And from start to finish, I mean we walked off that stage feeling great. I mean the thing is Night Ranger doesn’t … we don’t know how to do anything but give everything that we have, our heart, and our soul, and everything. We don’t know how to do anything else. We don’t know how to hold back, we don’t know how to do anything. And so we were very, you know, it felt really good.
ANTIHERO: The band now has been going for 40 years. I just wondered if you could attempt to explain why you guys are still around? Especially in the light of quite significant changes in the music industry in recent years.
Jack Blades: Well you know I think it’s the fact that a good song is a good song and it always will be. Do you know what I mean? I mean it’s something that we’ve always focused on and that Night Ranger always concentrated on was, we need to have good songs on our records. And whenever I write a song I sit down, and I start writing, if the song doesn’t come across with me just singing it and playing it on an acoustic guitar, then it’s not a good song. And I think if you look at the bands that are around, that have stayed and that keep touring and playing, you know, the songs are the main things. The songs are the ones that last, and I think Night Ranger has always had those kinds of songs.
ANTIHERO: Yup. And of course, you included a couple of Damn Yankee songs in the set that night as well.
Jack Blades: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well you know I co-wrote them so why not? Damn Yankees aren’t playing. That was like 27 years ago so why not play them? Do you know what I mean? Those are great songs too. Big, huge number one records in the States and wonderful rhyming. And you saw the audience, I mean the audience was singing along. The audience loved it too I think.
ANTIHERO: Do you think Damn Yankees will ever record another album? It does seem to be a time when a lot of bands from that particular era-the eighties are reforming and reuniting.
Jack Blades: You know I never say never, but who knows? Do you know what I mean? It’s been a long time and I just don’t know. Everyone’s doing their own thing right now. Ted Nugent and Tommy Shaw and I, and it’s, you know, you never know, but I wouldn’t count on it.
ANTIHERO: Yeah. When you first started writing music, did you have any other career plans? Was music just something you fell into or was it always something, once you heard of it that you wanted to be? You always wanted to be a musician?
Jack Blades: Well I think that I always wanted to be a musician, I think once I first heard the Beatles play. I know it sounds a bit of a cliché, but in this case, it’s very much true, when I was eight years old, and I heard that first Beatles record. You know I picked up a guitar when I was eight years old and started playing, and I was in high school bands. Actually, I went to college, I was a pre-med student. I was going to be a doctor, but I left in my fourth year of college to move to San Francisco and join a rock band and I’ve never looked back.
ANTIHERO: When you’re writing a song, do get a different feeling when you write a hit? Do you know when it’s going to be a hit, or is it only later when it becomes a hit when other people make it so?
Jack Blades: You know that’s an interesting question. I think the greatest songs are the songs that were the easiest to write. Do you know what I mean? I mean, I think that when I sat down and wrote “When You Close your Eyes”, you know it just felt great. The chorus felt great to me. I just started banging out the chorus on a piano, and the next thing you know the song wrote itself. When Tommy Shaw, you know, when we wrote, when Tommy and I wrote “High Enough”, we finished that whole song in about 30 minutes. And we sat back, and we went, “Is this good? I think this is really good. Is this good or does this suck?” I mean it was, we’re like, “No, this is a really good song.” And I think when you get an idea of, you know, when you write a song, that it’s going to go somewhere, and who knows where it goes? It’s up to the people, it’s up to the fans, and it’s up to the audience, and it’s up to the people, if they feel the same thing that you felt in your heart and your soul when you were writing the song, and I think that’s what makes a hit song.
ANTIHERO: You always seem to have a great onstage chemistry between the band. I just wonder if there are any negative aspects of being a professional musician?
Jack Blades: Well I mean, being a professional musician, you spend, for us, you spend 22 hours a day getting ready for the two hours that you play, or whatever it is. And it’s always, you know, it’s a lot of traveling, it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of everything, but when you love doing something so much as I love playing music, it doesn’t seem like work. And so, it’s just sort of seems, it must seem easy to everyone, but there are pitfalls, there are ups and downs. You’re never home. This family life that you just have to sort of juggle like a juggler. You know what I mean? And there’s a lot of different issues and everything like that, but in the end, this is the profession that I’ve chosen, and it is the profession that I will be for the rest of my life. It’s all I’ve done all my adult life, and so it always just worked out.
ANTIHERO: Do you ever feel now that you’d like to go into a little bit more of the acting side of things, or are you happy enough just still being a musician?
Jack Blades: You know it’s fun to do all kinds of things. I starred in the Broadway Rock of Ages when they did it in Las Vegas, and I did some acting in there, we’ve done some T.V. and that’s always fun. I mean I love all that. In the beginning, originally, you only had to … if you remember, in the early days all you had to be was a musician to, you know, and then you had to write the songs and then suddenly, when MTV came about, you had to become an actor to act in videos and do the videos and suddenly you had to be seen in videos and all that kind of stuff. And so, it’s kind of like, they’re all part and parcel of the same sort of world I think.
Jack Blades: Oh, who would that be? Johnny Depp huh? Oh, he’s got his own band though, Hollywood Vampires. With my friend Alice Cooper, so I don’t know. Who knows? You know what I mean?
ANTIHERO: Of course, you’ve got another band as well, Revolution Saints who have just, as we last talked, brought out a second album. Do you think that Revolution Saints will have a long shelf life given the significant success of their two albums to date?
Jack Blades: Well you know it’s a fun band. I mean I enjoy playing with Doug Aldrich and also Dean Castronovo, those are great players. And in fact, Kelly, when Kelly had to have his heart issue dealt with, our drummer, we had Dean play drums with us in the States here. So, you know, those are great guys and I love the way Doug plays guitar. I’ve been really blessed by having been with some great guitar players in my career. I mean, you know, Brad Gillis, Jeff Watson, now, of course, Carrie Kelly and Ted Nugent, Tommy Shaw. Neal Schon from Journey is a really good friend that I’ve written songs with and played with, and I mean like that. And you know, Tak Matsumoto from the Japanese band B’z, I mean he’s phenomenal. Tak is a phenomenal guitar player. And you know Doug is right in there with everyone, so it’s a fun project to be involved in.
ANTIHERO: When you’re creating the song for a Revolution Saints album do you have to put yourself in a different sort of mindset that you would have dealt when you’re doing a Night Ranger song, for example?
Jack Blades: Well yeah, but you know with the Revolution Saints, I have not been that involved in any of the songwriting, period. And if we do another record, I’ll probably be a little bit more involved in the actual songwriting of the songs. And so really that hasn’t … what you do is, you just like when you write a song with someone like that, I’ve written songs with the guys in Aerosmith, I’ve written songs with Alice Cooper, I’ve written songs with Ozzie Osbourne. I mean you just sort of, it’s fun to just sort of close your eyes and think of yourself and being in that band, and so with the Revolution Saints I can maybe be heavier. I can be rocking her, I can do … yeah, you’ve got to be a little bit different.
ANTIHERO: Yeah. What about solo albums? Do you have any plans for, I think Rock N Roll Ride was released, what five-six years ago? Do you have any more plans for maybe a solo album, or are you just too busy these days?
Jack Blades: Do you know it’s … isn’t that funny that’s how long ago it was released? I can’t even. You know I mean it seems like it was only yesterday. It’s so funny. Yeah, I think it was. It was like 2013 or something. Something like that, or 12, but yeah, I don’t know. I mean there’s been talk with my record company. Frontiers have asked me about doing another solo record. At this stage of the game, I’m pretty busy with Night Ranger and everything that we’re doing, so I don’t know. We’ll have to see what happens.
ANTIHERO: Okay. Just a final one then. To quote one of your own hits, what is the secret of your success?
Jack Blades: I think the secret of any success is persistence. I think you stick with something and persistence pays off. I mean when Night Ranger first started out we were passed on by every record company twice, but we kept pounding at it, we kept believing in ourselves, we kept believing that, no, no, given the chance we could prove that we can sell records and tour and this is what we want to do, and that’s what happened. And so, I think you just keep pounding at it and persistence, I think, that’s the key to any sort of goal that you want to do.
ANTIHERO: Would there be any particular piece of advice that maybe somebody’s given you over the years that has actually stuck with you and you followed through to this day?
Jack Blades: Yeah Billy Gibbons. One time we had finished, you know, we had a huge record in the Midnight Madness album, we were getting ready to write the next album, the third album, Seven Wishes, and I was talking to Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top and, because he was a friend of ours, we had toured with them and I said, “Man I got all this pressure on me to come up with music and do it and kind of play it, and do everything that I have to do.” And Billy said something to me that just stayed with me for the rest of my life. He says, “Just stop thinking about it, you just do it. This is what you do. You know. Now you finish that one record, now you go on and make another record. That’s just what you do. You sit down, you write the songs and you just do it.” And for me, I don’t know if that was just like a bam that hit me in the side of the head like a two by four, you know like a brick, and it was like, “That’s right. All you’ve got to do is just, okay let’s do another record.” Boom! Let’s write the song. Boom! Let’s record them. Boom! Let’s sign them. Boom! Let’s go. That took a lot of the heat off of me and made me realize that you just close your mind and you just become, and then you just close out all the outside stuff and just open your mind and the stuff will just come.
ANTIHERO: Do you think songwriting has become easier for you over the years, or do you find it’s become actually more difficult?
Jack Blades: No, I think songwriting is definitely a function of, the more you do, the better you get, the easier it is for everything to come out. And I think the more songs you write, I think for any … I mean I think that’s the better it gets.
ANTIHERO: What’s next for Night Ranger? Are you guys touring right throughout the year?
Jack Blades: Yeah, yeah, we’re touring. I mean I’m just right now trying to get over doing the London because I stayed in London about four extra days, five extra days, and we came right back to the States and we went right into shows. So now I have a couple days off at home and I don’t have to work until next week, so yeah Night Rangers are going to be very busy this year. Busy, busy year. And we’re just going to be hit and run over the States, all over everywhere. We’re going to be playing lots, and lots, and lots, so I’m glad that we were able to go to, early on, I’m glad that we were able to come to the UK.
ANTIHERO: Yeah because you guys don’t get over here often really.
Jack Blades: Yeah, you know it’s strictly when we come over there, it’s strictly a … it costs so much for us to get over there. Do you know what I mean? And then the amount of time that you can play and everything like that, I mean it ends up Brad and Kelly and I paying for everything. We don’t make it. You know nothing happens if, it actually comes out of our pockets. So that’s probably why we haven’t been able to come over that much. Frankly, I’d love to be over more.
ANTIHERO: I guess it’s changed times, you don’t have a big record label bankrolling you? For tours and stuff these days?
Jack Blades: Yeah, yeah. Well it’s different in the States, and in Japan, we sell out, and we sell great shows and everything like that, but we never were over in Europe enough to lock in that whole thing. Like, you know, Bon Jovi’s done or those kinds of things. So that’s what we’re … in the last few years we’ve been able to come over there, but it’s just getting harder and harder actually.
ANTIHERO: Okay Jack. Thank you very much for taking the time to chat with me today.
Jack Blades: Yeah are you in London?
ANTIHERO: I’m actually in Manchester, although my accent is from Ireland originally.
Jack Blades: Was a pleasure to talk to you again. But thank you very much. If you need anything else, call us, will you? Let us know, or call my people and they’ll get a hold of us if you need any more information or something else for the interview or something okay?
ANTIHERO: Yeah that’s great Jack. Thank you very much, and thanks for a fantastic show in London.
Jack Blades: Yeah, I can’t wait to see your review. Okay mate, cheers.
ANTIHERO: Thank you very much, bye.