Since 1981, California’s Night Ranger have reliably delivered catchy melodies that have a vice-like grip, with the power ballad Sister Christian reaching the US top five in 1984.
Previewing their new album ATBPO – shorthand for And The Band Played On – bassist/vocalist Jack Blades (also a member of Damn Yankees with Ted Nugent and Styx’s Tommy Shaw) bemoans the difficulties of recording during lockdown.
The new album’s title, And The Band Played On is both defiant and apt.
Yeah. Besides all the problems going on with the world we had other issues; Brad [Gillis, guitarist] tore the rotator cuff of his shoulder, but stopping wasn’t an option.
How was the experience of recording during lockdown?
It was a pain in the arse. Kelly [Keagy, drummer and vocalist] did his parts in Arizona and sent them to me, then they went to Keri [Kelli, guitarist] in California. It was wild. On some songs we had one hundred and fifty tracks to mix down. Nobody knew what anyone else was doing. That was completely nuts, but the end result really works.
With the tight-knit vocal harmonies, guitars that soar and sear, and the propulsive rhythms, from the first notes of Coming For You to the fade-out of Tomorrow, this could only be a Night Ranger record. Are you proud of that recognisable sound?
You know, we’ve been blessed. We’ve been Night Ranger for almost forty years, and when you cut us Night Ranger oozes out.
ATBPO is the band’s twelfth album. Seventeen million album sales is not to be sniffed at, but shouldn’t Night Ranger be in the upper strata with Journey, Foreigner and Styx?
Everybody you just named are our dear, dear friends, and we feel in our hearts that Night Ranger carries the banner just like they do. Why are we not up there with them? It’s the luck of the draw, man. It is what it is. We’re fine where we are right now and we will continue to strive for excellence. I’m talking to you from Idaho, we’re back on the road again and very happy to be there.
Night Ranger are a quintessentially American band. Since a support slot with Foreigner in 1985 you’ve played just a handful of shows in Britain. Why didn’t you play here more often?
Honestly, back then our manager kept us where the money was. I wish he had done like Doc McGhee did for Bon Jovi. Not developing a European career was a major error in the career of Night Ranger. I really hope we can make it over next summer when we play the Sweden Rock Festival.
Night Ranger have appeared on TV shows such as Glee, Grey’s Anatomy and Parks & Recreation, in films, commercials, computer games and also in the Broadway hit Rock Of Ages. What’s the weirdest place you’ve heard your music?
Sister Christian was in the soundtrack of the movie Boogie Nights, in that scene at the drug dealer’s house where everyone is freaked out on cocaine. Kelly and I saw it at the cinema with our wives. Both of us were sweating because we swear we had been in that same house in, like, 1984. That was wild!