Night Ranger's Brad Gillis and Joel Hoekstra
By Jay Oakley
I'm here with Brad Gillis and Joel Hoekstra from Night Ranger, how ya doing guys?
Brad Gillis: Doing fine and dandy. Glad we're here and it's a beautiful day, I heard it rained yesterday and it's nice and clear except for a few clouds so we'll have a great show.
You guys have a new record coming out, High Road what can you tell us about it?
Joel Hoekstra: Well, number one I think High Road is one of the best songs that Night Ranger has written in a very long time. It's one of my favorite Night Ranger songs of all time and as a newer member of the band, this being my seventh year, I can really say I'm not only just a member of the band but a fan so I'm excited about the album I feel it's a good representation of everyone's influences, we produced it ourselves and I'm just so proud of the core members of this band, yea know Jack (Blades), Brad (Gillis) and Kelly (Keagy) are in this business for the right reasons. They still care and just to watch them go through trying to make a fantastic album for the fans that kicks ass is just a pleasure to be a part of and watch. Then to step on deck with them and watch them give 110% every single show and get to be a part of that kicks ass!
That's awesome, anything for yourself Brad?
Brad: It was a blast making the record and like Joel says, we're trying to make a record for the fans and we're here not just trying to take dollars because have to keep the reputation of the band. I gotta tell you, being in this band thirty-two plus years since our first record we just gotta keep it moving but we didn't want to just throw a record out there. We took a little over a year to do it which was kind of an advantage to be able to pull us back and hone things in. Of course we had all this touring going last year so we'd go in do a couple weeks, take a break and do some shows, come back then go back up to Jack's to listen and hone it in and the last two months of doing the record we really got it right. So everybody's pretty proud and the worst part for me is that hang time of two months when you've finished the record before it comes out. It's like, "I want them to hear it now!" So we're just sitting back and doing all these shows and touring until it comes out, we're even talking about pulling off the single, "High Road" tonight on stage.
That actual goes into my next question but how was the recording process? Was it smooth?
Brad: It was smooth but it was long. We took our time but when it came down to the end when the songs were done we wanted to get the mixes right. It took another two weeks to get the mixes sounding good because we and I personally wanted it to sound huge. We went back to Anthony Fox, who was mixing it, and pretty much kept stomping on him to get this to sound bigger and better and it turned out great, we just wanna get it out there.
It sounds like you were very happy with the finished product and everything came out to your liking.
Joel: Absolutely, I'm just so proud of these guys and I think a lot of bands at this stage of the game or in a similar circuit have given up on making new music or if they do they just crank it out to fulfill a contractual obligation instead of doing it for the right reasons. I'm just so proud of these guys, they really go after it and I think we have a kick ass record to show for it.
Do you have any particular goals for this record?
Brad: Well you know, there's always the big goal of going gold or platinum but in this day and age and with the music the way it is basically we just want to get it out there and sell a descent amount of records and just let people know that we're still out slamming it and that we're a great live band that keeps putting out great music. So that's the bottom line.
Joel: You know the zen answer to that is that it's not really about the final result it's about the journey. So it's more about enjoying the actual process of making the album and going out and promoting the album. That's where we have fun and that's what Night Ranger's all about for anyone who's come out to see us whenever or ever, long before my time but since I've been in the band as well we give 110% on stage and love to kick some ass for the people. A lot of people who have never seen Night Ranger live are always a little shocked how high the energy is.
Brad: And actually the perception that we are a ballad band. People might not know "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" and "Touch of Madness" all these heavy tunes and all the hard rock tunes we do so we just blow them out of the water. Of course all the die-hard fans know what we're all about and have been with us through the years and seen what we've done and know that we're a nice hard rock band with great ballads.
Did you ever worry that people would look at you as a softer band or do you think songs like "Sister Christian" would bring people in and then they would realize how heavy your music is?
Brad: Of course, most people that think of "Sister Christian" don't know that we're a hard rock band. I think that we have a nice mix between our hard rock tunes and our ballads and of course "Sister Christian" took us to the top and has sustained our career this long to do the stuff that we're doing now and we've been in two TV shows in the last couple weeks. Plus with "Sister Christian" there's been TV commercials, movies and all over which has lasted for thirty years and I tell ya when you've had a song that's timeless it'll sustain anyone's career. Of course we did have a lot of big hits too so I think it's a combination of everything and how Night Ranger is with our live show and having William Morris booking us and Doc McGhee managing us we have a great package to help sustain our career.
I've noticed that you guys like to play songs which aren't part of the Night Ranger catalog but are from your individual music histories. You'll play songs from Damn Yankees and Brad, you've played songs from your time with Ozzy. Is that something that you like to do if the sets allow for it?
Brad: Yeah, we kinda of change it up every night, every show depending on the length of the show. We feel that familiarity is king and Jack being involved with Damn Yankees and Damn Yankees not being together we're able to pull off a couple Damn Yankees' songs which is great because it always goes over great and people love it. "Crazy Train" always goes over great and with our hits and a couple ballads that gives us a nice fat set.
Joel: Our live shows are about the fans, it's not about us so everybody sets aside their egos if they want a part of a certain song or period and I give credit to these guys on that. They're all about the fans and making sure that we give you guys a kick ass show.
To wrap everything up, what are your influences? What got you into music?
Brad: Well I'm old school, I started playing guitar when I was eight, that's right when the Beatles came out around 1965ish so I got into that and The Stones and stuff like that. In the late 60s and early 70s I actually started playing lead guitar with my brother who's seven years older than me, he was kind of a hippie, he had all the Led Zeppelins, Santana, The Doors and all these old school, late 60s and early 70s records and I learned from that. So my influences are Jimi Hendrix to start with, with his flamboyancy and just the way he played and Jeff Beck with his taste and then Jimmy Page with his rhythms and stuff. The Led Zeppelin records were just fucking killer back then and I'd sit down and learn that stuff by ear and when I learned something new I'd just be jumping for joy in my room.
Joel, how about you man?
Joel: My parents are classical musicians so they had me going on music from a very early age. Cello at three and piano at seven so that's in there somewhere that my parents were an influence and it's just being around music nonstop as a kid. Then AC/DC finally got me into rock and roll and playing guitar. Everything kinda stopped when I saw Angus Young for the first time, it was like in slow-mo. I was like, "Who is this dude? He's the coolest dude I've ever seen in my life. I wanna be that!" So I started out like everybody else just kinda just straight metal Ozzy, Sabbath, AC/DC then branched into more melodic stuff, kinda like Night Ranger is these days, players like Brad and Neal Schon and I'm a big fan of Trevor Rabin from Yes and of course all the guys that could flat out shred, you had to learn it, you had to learn to play like Yngwie (Malmsteen) when I was growing up and that was a tremendous help to go through that kind of competitive era of chops and guitar playing. Say what you will about it, you had to learn how to f'ing play you couldn't just sit on your ass and call yourself a guitar player. People will laugh you right out of the place. I'm just blessed to be a part of it all. Rock and roll is the best.
Brad, Joel thank you so much. I appreciate you taking the time to sit and talk for a bit and have a great show.