Night Ranger are back and ready to release their first studio album in a decade. Hole in the Sun promises classic Night Ranger writing with a twist of modern guitar work. Drummer and vocalist Kelly Keagy recently spoke with Bring Back Glam! about Hole in the Sun, playing Rocklahoma with Triumph and about not being a "hair band." Transcription follows.
Bring Back Glam!: Tell me about Night Ranger’s new album Hole in the Sun.
Kelly Keagy: About 2 years ago, we got a message from the Japanese record company King Records that they wanted us to do another Night Ranger record…we hadn’t done anything in ten years. We were just trying to settle in playing live. It’s really time consuming to make a record. A lot of times we’d shy away from it... You know, we always wanted to make another studio album and when this opportunity came up, we decided we’d take it on. We started during tour season, so it kind of took us awhile. We’d tour, then go back and work on it – we recorded in spurts. We kept getting excited. The songs were starting to come out. Everyone was writing; everyone contributed songs. This made the album go in a lot of different directions and that makes it more listenable I think. Not just one song after another that’s hard rock. We really got into it.
BBG!: Some of the reviews of Hole in the Sun say the album has a very modern sound. Were you mindful of that while recording?
KK: It just happened. You’ll hear the classic Night Ranger and you’ll also hear a more modern sound from the guitars. After 25 years of being a band, we’re going to be influenced of what is going on around us such as sounds and studio techniques. There were songs that we wanted to have a certain “sound” so we tuned down or layered the guitars. We kind of followed our instincts.
BBG!: Do you listen to a lot of modern bands?
KK: Not really. I don’t have a lot of new bands in my collection. I might have All American Rejects or The Killers…but I just felt like, you know, we started doing that about 10 years ago with Neverland in 1996 and in 1998, we did another record. Each time, we try to move toward what is going on, sound-wise.
BBG!: Night Ranger has never been image chasers. It seems like you ignored Motley Crue and Poison.
KK: We just made it up as we went along. I remember we just didn’t try to find a trend and copy them. It’s not like we set any trends, but we just followed our hearts. You know, we went with
“this feels right.” I feel we were a little ahead time-wise. We were already kind of doing our own thing. Later we got lumped in with the whole hair band thing which I think is funny. Our music is not hair band. There’s a certain style, musically, that was “hair band” style.
BBG!: Does the term hair band bother you?
KK: No, not at all. I know them all and we’re good friends. Guys like Mark Slaughter and we recently ran into the (Motley) Crue guys. I saw Vince (Neil) not long ago. I don’t think they’re a hair band. I just think everyone truly had big hair! I think everybody really had their own styles. A few copied each other, but I think bands were trying their best to be original.
BBG!: Rocklahoma is next month and Night Ranger is playing. Tell me about the set list.
KK: We’re playing with Triumph – our good old buddies! We played with Triumph back in the day…I think our first tour, we played a stadium show with them in Oregon. It’s going to be great.
BBG!: Did you know Triumph was on the bill when you signed your contract?
KK: We actually didn’t. They (Catch the Fever Festivals) kind of fill the gaps as they go. It was kind of like that. We’d call and check every week when they asked us to [play] six months ago or whatever.
BBG!: So, back to the Rocklahoma set list.
KK: Yeah, we have an hour. That’s hard to get in any new material, but we are going to play a new one. A song you’ll hear from me is a single we’ll release soon. Of course we’ll do all of our old radio hits, “When You Close Your Eyes,” “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me,” “(You Can Still) Rock in America” and some other AOR tracks like “Rumours in the Air.” Some older rock tracks like “Eddie’s Comin’ Out Tonight” and that’s the set list and of course, “Sister Christian.”
BBG!: Night Ranger is so unique because you have multiple singers. How does that work?
KK: We’re (Kelly and band mate Jack Blades) kind of influenced by similar styles. I have a rougher, harder voice so that works when it comes down to…I think the reason why it works is because it makes the albums less boring. It was an idea we had way back when was to have different vocal focuses. We experimented, and sometimes it would work and sometimes it wouldn’t. We listened back to see how it flowed from part to part with different singers. Jack’s (Blades, bass and vocals) been really gracious with songs that were big hits. He would just say “I think you might be good to sing this song.” I would put myself in the song and it would take me awhile to relate. We work at it. Sometimes it’s tough, like with “Goodbye.” Jack wrote that about his brother’s passing. He never got a chance to say goodbye and he wanted to sing it himself. At the same time, when he heard me sing it, it moved him to go “this is good enough.” He felt I could relay the message as good as him and that was really nice of him to let that happen. I was ready to go either way with that song; I knew it meant a lot to him.
BBG!: You’ve had some recent lineup changes, but it seems like Night Ranger is a tight-knit group.
KK: Jack and myself are the two singers and writers and Brad (Gillis, guitar) is becoming a great writer as well. He wrote some of the biggest hits with Jack. To keep the three of us together is the most important thing. When you lose a singer, you’ve lost the focus. I think the new players fit so well with us. Joel Hoekstra (guitar) is an old friend of mine as well as Christian Cullen (keyboard). I just knew these two guys were really special. They were able to cover songs really well. They are great people. The band has been playing – with this lineup- since the end of last year. I feel like we’ve come up a notch, with these players and with us and a new record. We’ve got new energy and we’re so excited to have a new record. It feels like it’s all fresh and new, even though we’ve been together 25 years.
BBG!: Do you think that excitement comes through during your stage show?
KK: I absolutely believe that. People say we seem to be three feet above the stage. At the shows, we’re having a great time. We’re all smiling, there’s interplay. Sometimes you can make it work and sometimes you can’t when the lineup isn’t original. I think we’ve been blessed and we’re lucky this is working.
Photo credit: Kelly Keagy via Myspace.