Metal Edge, January 1985
Night Ranger have been flying high with their sophomore effort, Midnight Madness, which has spawned three hit singles - "(You Can Still) Rock in America," When You Close Your Eyes" and the smash ballad "Sister Christian." Metal Edge caught up with guitarists Jeff Watson and Brad Gillis and drummer/singer Kelly Keagy to find out how they're handling rock 'n' roll success.
What’s life on the road like for you guys?
Jeff Watson: It’s not enough anymore. Things have changed so much. We grew up listening to music and today’s kids are watching it. It’s become very instrumental in the success of a lot of bands, including ourselves. We have an identity now. We’re not faceless, we’re entertainers. By using the right concepts for the video we can show our personalities through them.
It’s funny how most of your songs are pretty hard-driving but it’s the ballad (“Sister Christian”) that gets the most notice.
Watson: Yeah, but I think it represents the band as much as any of our harder rock songs. It’s a song-oriented band. We don’t have to stay in one direction.
What directions are you going in now?
Brad Gillis: We’re kind of spread that out a little bit.
Watson: But it seems to be working. We’re not making a conscious effort to sound one way. We’re just writing songs and arrangements. And Brad and I play so well [laughs]. We put in a lot of guitar technical stuff so we don’t get categorized as being light and wimpy. We don’t do it as a conscious effort but that’s the type of style we have as guitarists. It lends to the harder edge the band has.
Who are your influences? Both of you?
Watson: I think a lot of them are the same. Blackmore, Hendrix, Beck, Page, Johnny Winter…
Gillis: Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck, mainly.
Do you all contribute equally as far as writing goes and ideas?
Watson: Mostly Jack and Kelly write the songs but Brad contributes a lot of the arrangements. I contribute some, but mostly on the solos and stuff.
Gillis: We all participate
Watson: Jack comes up with the skeleton, we add the meat.
How do you characterize your sound?
Watson: I hate to do that.
Gillis: We call it stainless steel.
Watson: It’s hard rock with melodic insights and harmonies, and lyrical – there’s a lot of lyrical substance to the songs. There are messages there.
I understand that your sister was the inspiration for “Sister Christian”?
Kelly Keagy: Yeah
Her name is Chris, right?
Keagy: Christy. You know, it’s pretty much the standard cruise thing, she said, “I want to cruise for guys,” I said: “Right, motor for guys.”
Keagy: Yeah, 21 now, then she was like, 18. After I visited her, about a week later I started writing the song. Who ever thought it would take off as it did?
How does she feel about it?
Keagy: She’s kind of withdrawn so it’s hard to tell. I know she really appreciates it. It’s hard for her to relate.
Do you guys have a game plan?
Watson: It’s real hard to predict what’s going to happen in the future. We have hopes of longevity with the band.
Gillis: A couple of good years.
Can you see yourselves doing this at 35 or 40?
Watson: Sure, I can see doing it at 35, 40. Then I’d want to settle down and raise a family and be domestic. By then we’ll have so much damn money that we won’t care.