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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Mickey Thomas – Marauder album review

Mickey Thomas – Marauder album review
Released on: Gigatone. Release date: Available now.

Mickey Thomas has one of those voices that has been so slick and smooth that it's hard to knock and I for one, never could or would ever want to either!

I love the man's work first with Jefferson Starship - Who could forget the killer 'Jane?!' - and then with the simply named, Starship.
He has had a few solo albums out in the past and here's the latest.
'Marauder' is a collection of cover tunes that .., well, he just felt like covering!  

Opening track ‘Gimme Shelter’ starts slow, kind of too laid back for my personal liking and basically it maintains the same level of pace throughout. It really could’ve done with picking up somewhere if you ask me, but there you go.

 Next up is Mickey’s interpretation of Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer’ – Not a favourite song of mine in the first place. – and to be honest he stays pretty close to the original tracks pace here and all the special effects throughout, follow the same kind of path as Gabriel, so all things considered, it’s alright.

Now Wings track ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ was always one of my favourite, Paul McCartney post Beatles songs and Mickey throws an interesting twist here and it’s a little different, but it works OK. Traditionalists will no doubt raise their own reservations.

Well, my old friends back home in the UK would tell you that put simply, I never liked Oasis. The attitude of the (Noel and Liam) Gallaghers, did nothing win my approval at all. To be honest in the position they were in, they could’ve made themselves a lot more popular, if they could’ve just kept to playing the music.
‘Champagne Supernova’ I think gets a great makeover from Mickey, quite different if you ask me and I like it.

For me growing up in England, I always felt that the Beatles were overplayed to be honest – Just my personal take. – but ‘Rain’ presented here was one song that was never one of those overplayed tunes and so in this case, it’s a good choice of a Beatles song to bring up to date. I think Mickey’s done it alright too.

Interesting choice for the next track, which is Snow Patrol’s ‘Chasing Cars’ and I really haven’t been a fan of the band, but this EMO / power pop style track in this instance was always OK by me.

Another Lennon / McCartney number next in ‘Across The Universe’ which is a fine example of the kind of style that E.L.O.’s Jeff Lynne was so much drawn to and influenced to write like. Mickey does a very respectable interpretation here.

Mickey then picks another British band to cover with the Muse song ‘Supermassive Black Hole.’
Guess Mickey’s more open to some of that style than I am.  Interesting … I guess I’ll leave it there …

All power to Mickey for covering next song ‘Voices,’ a great song from the immensely talented songwriter Russ Ballard, that had a certain amount of video success back in the 80’s.
It presented in a similar, although not the same way as the original and it’s alright by me.

I think Mickey went a little bit overkill on the Beatles covers on here, as here’s another in ‘Oh Darling.’ Not really partial to this number, so swiftly moving on …

‘Delta Lady’ was a song written by Leon Russell, way back when and also covered by Joe Cocker and this version with Mickey’s voice has a much more melodic vocal, so to many it may come across as a little wimpy perhaps.

The Bob Seger tune ‘Hollywood Night’s’ was actually the first tune that got me into his music, so it holds a special place for me and it’s perhaps not as powerful from Mickey, but I still like it.

A little fun sounds like it was had in the performance of Tom Cochrane’s (Red Rider) ‘Life Is A Highway,’ here, but sadly the rapping here kills it for me. Yuck, done …

Wow! An AC/DC cover next in ‘Moneytalks!’ Any fan of Mickey’s will already know that his voice is a million miles from Brian Johnson, so it’s an interesting one. Good try though Mickey, perhaps a little too cabaret type performance though, almost getting close to say how Jimmy Barnes sounds, so not too bad!

‘Tempted’ from Squeeze was always a good song in anyone’s books to be honest. Nice laid back number from the former New Wave band, that became extremely poppy. Mickey stays pretty true to the original here too.

Back to the Beatles theme with final track ‘Wah Wah,’ from George Harrison’s solo album ‘All Things Must Pass.’
Perhaps a nice tribute from Mickey to George (RIP) to be honest and that wraps things up.

It’s not a great album in my eyes, it has moments that I really enjoyed, some nice guitar work here and there but not knowing which of the many musicians associated with the album played on what, I can’t credit the right guys.
Mickey’s voice here is presented in a very safe manner, I was perhaps one of the few out there who enjoyed his 2004 release ‘Over the Edge,’ and to be honest, I long for new Starship material.

Perhaps he’s suffering from writers block, who knows, anyway, it’s well sung, but it leaves me wanting to be honest.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Official website:

Friday, January 6, 2012

Interview with Joel Hoekstra guitarist with Night Ranger, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Rock of Ages and Foreigner

Interview with Joel Hoekstra, guitarist with Night Ranger, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Rock of Ages and Foreigner
Interview Late Summer 2011

Joel Hoekstra, is a guitarist's guitarist in the true sense of the world. This guy has turned his hand to so many different styles, playing blues, jazz, rock and even with Broadway stage productions.

Initially starting out teaching guitar, before getting involved in various stage productions, releasing his own solo albums along the way, then getting chosen to jam along some of the best in rock, with Jim Peterik's (Survivor, Ides of March, Pride of Lions) World Stage project to where he is today, being the other half of Night Ranger's twin lead attack alongside huge player, Brad Gillis!
Oh, he also has joined Trans-Siberian Orchestra on tour for the past two years and still worked his way into playing on Broadway in the original stage production of 'Rock of Ages,' in between gigs with the aforementioned two major acts ...!
How does he do it all and where does it end ... Or does it?
Read on folks, this was an excellent chat with the man ...

AW: Hello, Joel?

Joel: Hey man, how you doing?

AW: (Laughing) I’m doing good how are you doing?

Joel: I’m doing good.

AW: Sweet, OK man, crazy times huh?

Joel: Crazy times!

AW: So are you guys in PA or are you holed up somewhere else right now?

Joel: We’re in Pittsburgh, yeah, we’re playing tonight and we’ll probably come right back here after the gig and spend the night here again and I think if anything we’ll shove off tomorrow night as the Virginia gig got rescheduled. It’s rescheduled for September 4th, so yeah dude, we’ll probably just hit Syracuse tomorrow I’m guessing …

AW: There you go, the train rolls on right?

Joel: Yeah, the train rolls on exactly!

AW: So, I want to obviously talk to you about a bunch of things if I can? I don’t know if you’ve got a little bit of time? How much time do we have?

Joel:  Yeah, no problem, absolutely.

AW: OK great. I’ll probably wrap it up with Night Ranger, you know, you’ve got a bit of stuff behind you now!

Joel: Yeah, exactly!

AW: So, you’ve done three solo albums so far right, starting with ‘Undefined’ and they’re all instrumental, no vocals at all right?

Joel: Yeah, except for ‘Undefined’ where there’s two vocal songs …

AW: There is? Oh OK then …

Joel: Yeah, one is kind of like a novelty vocal from me, I do a kind of do a Leon Redbone sort of style vocal. It’s on the song ‘Space Cowboy’ and then I had my friend Cathy Richardson sing on a song called ‘Spank Me’ that we wrote together …

AW: OK, ok …

Joel: Yeah, but basically outside of that, they’re basically instrumental albums, absolutely.

AW: OK and are they all … Now I’ve got to be honest with you, I’m guilty of not having heard any of this stuff yet so are they all more of in a jazzy kind of direction then, because I understand that they maybe a little more that way?

Joel: Well the first one really has elements of funk and fusion and like I was said there was the ‘Space Cowboy’ song that was kind of a fun little country jam and then there’s a couple of blues influenced things on there. The second album, ‘The Moon is Falling’ is a little more like, I guess progressive rock style …


Joel: There’s not as much of the funk or jazz on that one, it’s a little more progressive rock on that one and then the ’13 Acoustic Songs’ is actually, really simple, easy stuff…, it’s more like a … I hate to use the term ‘cos it’s more likely to turn people off, but it’s probably more like easy listening you know?
It’s more like something you’d have on in the morning when you’re drinking your coffee in the morning or something or you’re going to bed at night or mellowing out …

AW: Don’t say elevator music right?

Joel: (Laughs) Well you know it’s just what I was writing at the time, I had a bunch of these songs that I just write the melodies and play the harmony behind it, so it’s like a lot of very simple chord enology on these songs, it’s not like me trying to show off on guitar and all, it’s almost just like a bunch of pop rock in a way, but just catching the guitar playing in a way.

AW: Well, why not man, it’s like you do enough stuff right, you’re rocking out every night so why not lay things back a bit?

Joel: Well the solo songs I can do whatever the hell I want right, so I don’t really aspire to make a living at that, I just love doing it for my own enjoyment so yeah, I don’t have to enter into any of the trying to prove anything there you know (Laughing). I can just do my own thing with it so … I like the music on there so that’s all that really matters to me!
I had so many of these songs that I thought I should at least document them and get them down, instead of having them all evaporate, so that’s what that’s what more or less what ‘13 acoustic songs’ was all about.  

AW: Well it’s all you isn’t it man, so it’s what it is …

Joel: Exactly! Well I did hire some musicians to accompany around and so basically it’s like have the acoustic guitar play a solo thing and then overdubs around it, percussion and bass and so on. I overdubbed around it with mandolin and banjo on some of the stuff and there are little bits where there’s some electric guitar or two, just a chord or something behind it you know.

AW: Sure and you brought Christian (Cullen – Former Night Ranger keyboardist) in on that one too didn’t you?

Joel: Yeah, Christian did some keys on it and … Lots of great musicians on both those. The first two were basically made with Virgil Donati on drums, who’s played with Planet X and Steve Vai, you know, just a massive virtuoso drummer and then the bass player on those is Ric Fierabracci who’s played with Andy Summers and Frank Gambale, Chick Corea and so really great musicians and then the ’13 Acoustic songs’ I used just more happen stance, you know more pop rock guys like Nir Z (John Mayer) did a lot of percussion on it and Daniel Adair from Nickelback did some percussion on it, you know just some guys that I’m kind of buds with or whatever that just happen to do more pop rock stuff.  

AW: Yeah, well it’s all good stuff man, good stuff! It’s a little escape for you. So I take it at some point or another you’ll try and fit another one in right?

Joel: Oh absolutely! I’m just so busy right now that it’s hard to find time to record an album, but I love that and plan on doing that the rest of my life.

AW: Right, good stuff. I know you got the audition with Night Ranger I believe through hooking up with Jim Peterik’s World Stage right?

Joel: Yeah, well I’ve been with Jim for a really long time. I guess I’ve really been doing the World Stage shows for about 8 years now, but they don’t happen all that often and then they just happen like once or twice a year.

AW: Right …

Joel:  So I see Kelly (Keagy) at the majority of those and so we already knew each other, it just kind of happened that he came in one year and we were talking and I heard that Jeff (Watson) wasn’t in the band at that point and Reb Beach (Winger, Whitesnake) had to leave at some point so so I said, I’d love to get a shot at it and so a week later he calls me up and Reb needed to miss a show and they were either going to have to cancel the gig or have somebody fill in and so I said, ‘I’ll do it,’ and Kelly said ‘Are you sure man, you know we can’t rehearse or anything’ and I just said, ‘Dude, I’ll go for it!’ So, I had about 10 days to get like 25 songs and (Laughing), basically we went and played this casino in Michigan and that was a supper, fun gig man! You know, one of those highlights of my musical career in a weird way. It wasn’t the biggest gig we’ve ever played but was just the not knowing if we were going to make it through and everything was going to be cool and everything turned out great!

AW: Cool! I wish I’d been there, seriously! I mean obviously that’s where I’m at so, where was it, was it the Mt. Pleasant one or was it further up north possibly? Sault Ste. Marie or something ..? 

Joel: Erm …, you know …, hold on, in one second I could tell ya!
I’m going to go back and look at my old dates and see if I can remember the city. Someone asked me the same question actually the other day, so I’ve got to know this for myself. (Both laugh)

AW: Your first Night Ranger gig (Laughs), you’d think you’d remember that …

Joel: Give me one second and I’ll pull it up and tell ya …
It was … Don’t tell me I didn’t write it down …
Oh I did, I had it listed as Detroit … I know it wasn’t …

AW: No it wasn’t, I would’ve been there! (Laughs)

Joel: Aha! It was St Ignace, Michigan! It was June 30th, 2007

AW: OK Joel. So was Jim the first big name that you jammed with or can you give us a little more on how it all started to happen for you?

Joel: Yeah, I mean I was playing around town there with a friend of mine, Cathy Richardson and I was living in Chicago and basically I was working quite a bit with her and she does really well in Chicago, we played some cool gigs, packed it out and yeah, I guess it was Peterik from there and that was around the same time that Jim had me play on the first World Stage album …

AW: Right, yeah, it’s a good one …

Joel: Yeah, I was pretty much just doing sessions for people and gigging around Chicago and then really what got me off and running was getting the ‘Love Janis’ gig on guitar, which was a theatre show about Janis Joplin and after I went to New York, I basically went out there thinking that the show would run for a couple of months, but it ended up running for 2 years! So by the time it closed, I’d done like about 700 shows with it and met a lot of people and I was living with my now wife already, so I thought there’s no point in going back to teaching guitar lessons in Chicago … I was doing a whole lot of that, when I was with Cathy I should specify that. I was doing like 70 guitar lessons a week for quite some time. I was teaching a lot of private lessons and gigging with Cathy and Jim, whatever Jim would hire me for and then ‘Love Janis’ just kind of pulled me out and brought me to New York and from there I ended up working with The Turtles for gigs and Big Brother and the Holding Company, which was Janis’ band back in the day …

AW: Oh yeah?

Joel: Then it was really at that point that I was doing a lot of that, I travelled with ‘… Janis’ and another show called ‘It Ain’t Nothing But the Blues’ and just kind of doing whatever you know, but I was always busy though. The one thing I’ve always been ..., the whole time I’ve been making a living with guitar, is I’ve been busy. I’ve never really had a period where I wasn’t really working.

AW: (Laughing) You know that was going to be one of my other questions later on, it’s like what’s the deal, it’s like you never like to stop, like thinking life’s too short right?

Joel: Well, I think it’s like at the end of the day, you’re just like anybody else who has a job, so you do approach it like that otherwise you’re not recognizing it for the blessing that it is right? I mean really I’m one of the lucky ones these days, as it’s hard out there for just regular jobs out there much less being a musician. It’s really difficult I think to make a good living as a musician these days, so any opportunity that presents itself, you really have to give it your all, otherwise you’re not showing it the proper respect that it deserves.

AW: Yeah, that’s fair comment, but I mean what’s the deal with Jim and his lack of gigs is it just that he prefers to work in the studio I mean I’ve never spoken to Jim so I don’t really know?

Joel: Well I think it’s just one of the things that Jim does he gigs a lot with the Ides of March, he’s always producing and Jim is the same way and he’s actually one of my role models in that department. He’s probably the hardest working guy I’ve ever seen. Jim gets up every day and is just busting on his music career. He works really, really hard and is a good role model in that regard.

AW: Right.

Joel: You know Jim’s always working, always.

AW: Yeah that much I do know, I mean obviously there’s a whole bunch of stuff that comes out that Jim has written and he’s written a bunch of stuff. I mean half the people that are into the music probably have no idea how much stuff he’s written?!

Joel: Yeah exactly he co-wrote all those great .38 Special songs, he co-wrote ‘Heavy Metal’ with Sammy Hagar, of course there’s all the Survivor back catalogue, then the Ides of March stuff, the ‘Vehicle’ song, which had such a rebirth through Bo Bice of American Idol

AW: Right and the Pride of Lions stuff …

Joel: Actually he’s got a couple of co-writes coming out on Jack Blades new Solo album that I played on too that’s coming out real soon. It’s kind of ready to go but we wanted to get the new Night Ranger album out first. That got top priority but Jack’s solo album is ready to roll and that will be out soon so …

AW: you are yeah I think its October isn’t it?

Joel: I honestly don’t know I’ve been asking Jack and I don’t think Jack knows!  (Laughing) ‘When’s it coming out?’ it’s that thing you know when we’re out on tour when we’re just told, ‘You get out on stage and play your set …!’ Anyway I’m looking forward to that coming out it shows a couple of different sides to my playing that maybe I haven’t been able to showcase as much lately, you know like more acoustic playing and slide playing …

AW: I take it you all added a little something on there right?

Joel: Yeah I think Brad’s on a song or two, of course ‘Growing up in California’ started out as being on Jack’s solo album and then the band ended up grabbing it and pulling off of there. So Brad was on that one that was already in the be on there, I think he’s on another one and Kelly’s on one or two on there and of course I got to play on the whole thing, I basically did all the guitars on the whole album.

AW: Sweet!

Joel: So, I’m looking forward to that coming out.

Editor’s Note: Frontiers Record’s are due to release Jack Blades solo album ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Ride,’ on March 23rd, 2012.

AW: Yeah I’m looking forward to hearing it, I take it it’s going to be through the frontiers label? I think it is because I get e-mails from the Frontiers guys and I’m pretty sure I saw it on the list … I get a lot of information through the Frontiers PR people and I think I’ve seen Jack’s album mentioned on the timeline I’m just trying to remember when that was but yeah I’m looking forward to hearing that!
So, do you know if Kelly (Keagy) is likely to do another solo album or Brad?

Joel: Well, not off hand, I know Brad was compiling some ideas for his and then Brad actually ending up getting the ball rolling on a lot of the songs on ‘Somewhere in California.’ He had a lot of riffs and a lot of ideas that kind of started the songs … I don’t know how much material he has, but you know Brad had talked about doing one.
I’ve haven’t heard much from Kelly about another one but obviously this year we’re so busy with Night Ranger that I don’t know how much time anybody has?! (Laughing)

AW: No, that’s understandable, OK. I wanted to come back around to Night Ranger in a little while but what about ‘Rock of Ages,’ how did that gig come about for you in the first place? I mean that must make you feel really good, even though you’re busier than ever?

Joel: Oh yeah man, the ‘Rock of Ages’ gig is a great gig! It’s a real blessing. Well basically I was keeping busy and I was subbing on like regular straight ahead like pit stuff … You know when you’re down below in the orchestra pit, there was a show called ‘Tarzan’ that Phil Collins wrote the music for, that I subbed on and I met the music supervisor there for ‘Rock of Ages,’ he was playing keyboards on it.

AW: Oh right …

Joel: So then he got hired to be the music supervisor for ‘Rock of Ages’ he just scrolled through his mind thinking, who would be a good guitar player for it and … You know the theatre thing is, you can’t just stick some guy who knows how to play band stuff up there, you gotta kind of understand the in’s and the outs of the theatre thing a bit too, ‘cos it is a different lay of the land so to speak, so I think he just figured I was a pretty good fit for it, knowing a lot of 80’s rock and knowing how to handle the theatre stuff so, that was basically how that came about and it started, for me, as an off Broadway show in New York, I mean they had some other short runs in L.A. and Vegas trying it out but it started off Broadway in October of 2008 and I just took it on thinking, it’ll keep me busy in the Winter when Night Ranger’s not gonna be working much …

I start laughing at this point, as I know how much Joel has been working with this to date, it’s endless!

Joel: You know I had no idea it was going to do what it was going to do, but after the first performance I remember going home to my wife and going, after the way the crowd reacted and I told her, ‘This is going to be a hit show!’ She said, ‘Yeah, yeah …’ I said, ‘No, no, I’m serious.’ You know sometimes you do something like that and you just feel it and see it happening and say, ‘This thing’s going to take off …’  

  AW: Right …

Joel: … And it has! We basically went through the year playing off Broadway, then we moved up to on Broadway and have been running there for … Well, we did recently change theatres there but we have been going there altogether for about, gosh we’re talking three years here! We just had, show number, performance number 1000!

AW: Yeah? Wow!

Joel: Yeah, in New York and so it’s a little over that already. It’s fantastic and I’m able to go tour with Night Ranger and then whenever I’m not out with them, I can go home and play eight shows a week there and it’s great, I mean I really love playing the music and it’s all songs that I like, it keeps all my chops sharp and it gets my performance skills up and it’s great for staying out on the scene and meeting people and you know really, it’s been great for so many things. Even on this tour recently, all the bands went through and we were going to play (New) Jersey and all the bands came down to the show and I went and played it that night, as it was an off night for the tour, so I got to play ‘Rock of Ages’ for all of Journey, Foreigner and Night Ranger.

AW: Right, right.

Joel: They were all in the house, the crews and everything, it was a blast! It was one of the best nights of my life you know?!

AW: Yeah, I saw a bunch of the photos from that so that’s pretty cool so that must’ve made you feel pretty good doing that?
It’s really been kind of your baby for a while right …

Joel: Yeah.

AW: So it makes it all the more special …

Joel: Absolutely and all the bands have a vested interest in it at this point and it’s obviously being made into a huge $100M movie, with Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand, then there’s Catherine Zeta Jones, Mary J. Blige and the list goes on and on, so … Foreigner has a few songs in the movie, Night Ranger has one and Journey has a couple of songs in there too.

AW: Right …

Joel: So pretty much everybody from this tour is keeping their eye on it and I actually went down about a month and a half, two months ago and filmed a cameo in the movie, so I’ll be in it, just one scene, pretty short but I am going to be in the movie, which will be nice …

AW: Hey, it’s the least you deserve right, with everything you’ve put into it right?

Joel: Yeah, well you know I was trying to get in the band which Tom Cruise is the singer of Arsenal (The band) and stuff and as it turned out, they kind of needed me when Night Ranger was going to be in Japan so that didn’t work out scheduling wise so what they did was gave me a rocker cameo role it’s called. They put me and Sebastian Bach, Nuno Bettencourt, Kevin Cronin and Debbie Gibson all around Russell Brand in this scene and we basically sing across the street to Catherine Zeta Jones during this protest …

AW: (Laughing) OK, it sounds like a lot of fun.

Joel: It was a blast man we ended up putting on an impromptu concert and catering for all the actors where we basically played everybody’s hit tunes and we didn’t even get to rehearse or sound check or anything, we just like plugged in some guitars, plugged in some mic’s and stuck us up there and we did all our stuff for all the actors … It was actually funny, we ended up going into playing some (Led) Zeppelin, playing ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and Sebastian’s down in Catherine Zeta Jones face, singing to her … It was a blast, really great!

AW: Too funny man! So did you actually catch up with Tom Cruise at all or was he pretty aloof?

Joel: Oh no, he’s a great guy man, he made sure we could all take pictures of us as a group with him and also individuals and during the shoot which takes so long … They would pull us out from the extras and they have us at the front of this huge crowd of extras; there was about 500 extras … And they would take us out into the centre with the actors and (Tom) Cruise comes in during our scene at the end on this motorcycle and he would between takes just walk around and walk up to you and make small talk with you, so he was a very nice guy. He was very gracious about all the bands’ history, he knew all about Night Ranger … He’s a totally 80’s music fan and he went after it, pretty hard for the role. I know he was singing four hours a day and practicing guitar for four hours a day for a couple of months leading up to it.

AW: Really, wow!

Joel: Yeah, he taken it real serious and I’ve heard the soundtrack and they’ve recut all the hit songs with the actors singing them and everything and he sounds great man! I mean (Laughing), for what it’s worth I heard the tracks for ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me’ and ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ and he sounded killer man.

AW: Really?! Wow! I’m surprised, but hey, all power to him right?!

Joel: You know I think he went after it and the thing is with him is he has a nice tone to his voice and it’s real loud and powerful, so I think when it comes to … You know I can’t speak to how much they needed to time or pitch correct him, but these days with the pro-tools you can make anybody … - AW: I start laughing here … - essentially, not killer but I’m not saying that they needed all that help with it but you can look at when they turned ‘Chicago’ into a movie and it’s the same deal, they had all these actors sing on it you know, but they all sounded great by the time they were done and it’s produced properly and so I think ‘Rock of Ages’ will be very much the same way and people need to realize that with ‘Rock of Ages,’ it’s a fun story it’s not so much about vocal pyrotechnics. You know that stuff’s not the point …

AW: No. It’s good stuff. So when is the movie supposed to come out Joel, do you know?

Joel:  June 1st, 2012.

AW: Cool and is all that on schedule as far as you know?

Joel: Yeah, right on schedule.

AW: Excellent! Right, so after doing all the Night Ranger stuff and ‘Rock of Ages,’ you start doing T.S.O. (Trans-Siberian Orchestra) …

Joel: Yeah, exactly, well I had a couple of friends that recommended me because Alex Skolnick (Guitarist with Testament) wasn’t going to do the tour last year and I even thought, well how the heck am I going to do that, with playing every day and whatnot, I thought well, I’ll go on the audition as it never hurts to let people know who you are and as it turns out, they offered me the gig and we were able to work it out, I just took a little leave at ‘Rock of Ages’ and the guys in Night Ranger were cool enough to let me go for that period of time and have at it, so that was a great tour, 67 arena shows so it was great for meeting a lot of new fans and that’s just a great organization. Great bunch of guys …

AW: Yeah, I mean it’s a huge production, sometimes two shows a day and it blew me away when I saw it … So do you plan on hooking up with them again on it this year or was it just kind of a one off as far as you know for now?

Joel: Yeah, I think it’s the same deal we’re just trying to work on the scheduling right now with everything this year, so it’s more or less the same, but it makes it harder this year because I’m out for four months already with Night Ranger leading up to it so it’s going to be like staying out for six / seven straight months when all is said and done but it’s definitely something I want to try and work out.

Night Ranger photo Ross Pelton

AW: Right, so finally to Night Ranger! Let’s talk some Night Ranger at last!
So, the tour how’s it going, I mean seriously it’s got to be great for you guys …?


Joel: Oh! It’s like beyond our wildest expectations you know? I mean we started out earlier in the year touring with Journey, we did like (Las) Vegas and Reno and we went to Mexico, then Puerto Rico with them and those shows were all huge, just huge! Then we did some shows on our own, we went to Japan on our own which is amazing and then we basically hooked up again with Journey and Foreigner and it was Kansas actually also in Europe and those shows went really, really well and the band hadn’t been over there in a while and so it was really nice to see that, the fans actually were waiting, it’s not just like BS it wasn’t like you know you get and email or two from people saying we’re really looking forward to seeing you guys, waiting for the band and you’re thinking like, well maybe only two! (Both laughing) But we got over there and the fans were really enthusiastic, really gracious that we had made it over there and so I would think that we’re looking forward to going back to Europe and ever since we started up the United States leg of the tour, it’s just been absolutely mind-blowing!
We’re doing 18,000 / 20,000 a night and it’s like the biggest classic rock tour of the year right now and so yeah, it’s just mind-blowing and I know all the bands are just totally appreciative of that. I mean we all go around and tell each other that all the time.
It’s almost like one of those things where you’re going around doing your daily activity and you’re telling each other, ‘Do you realize what’s happening out here, we’re playing for like 20,000 people tonight?!’ It’s just killer you know?!

AW: Yeah.

Joel: We’re just having a great time, it’s at that stage with all these band where we’re all friends and everybody’s just … There’s a lot of camaraderie backstage between all the bands … It’s just like it’s really about the coolest tour I could possibly imagine!

AW: Yeah, it really is and I’m absolutely gutted that I couldn’t go …
I’m really pleased for you guys though, obviously I’ve caught you guys every year you’ve been coming through Detroit so …

Joel: Yeah, exactly, so you’re probably used to seeing us play a lot longer than we do on the tour. That’s the one thing we’d all change if we could, but that goes for all the bands you know and that’s part of being on a package tour. There’s people out there that wish Journey was playing two hours a night and it’s just around an hour and a half out of them and certainly Foreigner fans think, ‘Oh just an hour for Foreigner’ and of course there’s Night Ranger fans going, ‘Oh just a half hour for Night Ranger,’ but you know really man at the end of the day it’s all worked out so well having all the bands together that it’s just undeniable that this is just an awesome experience, albeit just a half hour of music for us, but we’re having the time of our lives …

AW: Yeah, as you say though it’s getting across to so many more people than you normally play out to …

Joel: Exactly! It’s getting us across to so many people and we’ve got the new album that we’re promoting and it’s just great to have the band’s name out there everywhere right now, so yeah it’s great.

AW: Right! So, what’s the word on sales? Have you any idea at all or not really?

Joel: No I have no idea, I mean I haven’t looked into it much, but you know we really didn’t care a whole lot about that, we’re kind of like ‘Hey let’s just do what we do best and not really try to chase after some unobtainable (Laughing) commercial success.
It was more or less, let’s just do what we do best and have a great time doing this. We have a great label behind us in Frontiers that just took care of us all the way and we were able to everything in Jack’s (Blades) studio, which really lends itself to us, being able to take our time and let everything come together really just how we wanted it so … The core of the band, Jack, Brad and Kelly got together and wrote the bulk of the material and then towards the end, they called in Eric Levy (Keyboards) and myself and we actually ended up writing a couple of songs, totally 100% as a band in Jack’s live room together and they were totally cool about Eric and I pretty much play the parts that we felt too, they didn’t micro manage and try to make it sound like this or that and we just had a really good time! We didn’t force anything and just had a lot of fun and we came out with a really good reflection of what we sound like as a band right now. Which is kind of like a throwback, not that we were trying to do that, it just is what it is, but I kind have an 80’s‘ish style, it’s kind of what I grew up on so I don’t really have to force that myself, but people are calling it classic Night Ranger, I mean I wouldn’t want to compare the two necessarily, because I think it’s unfair. I mean obviously the production is going to sound different two of the people in the band are different so I think, in terms of whether or not we feel it, we got an accurate reflection of what we sound like right now and that’s all we wanted you know?

AW: Right and it’s great to be honest with you, as I said in my review, I was very impressed with it and gave it as good a review and I was really looking forward to hearing something live, obviously being on the Journey / Foreigner tour as you say, you’ve got such a short set, it’s tough to try to …           


Joel: Yeah basically, typically we give ourselves one song off it and that’s kind of rotated up until now between ‘Growing Up In California’ and ‘Lay It On Me.’ We started with ‘Growing Up …’ and then we switched to ‘Lay It On Me’ and of course the joke is, by the time we end this tour we’ll have gone through all eleven songs on the album! (Laughs) I would love to play ‘Bye Bye Baby’ too live, that’s my favourite and I keep mentioning that backstage (Both laughing), trying to light a fire under them to get those guys to get that one out … I don’t know, I think it’s good to switch it up a little too, if you start playing the same set every night you know, it loses a little bit of its spontaneity …

AW: Yeah, you’re right … I know what you mean about and not just playing the same numbers every night right?

Joel: Right, exactly! You don’t want to get into too much of a groove. It’s great to be in a groove, but not too much of one. (Both laughing.)

AW: So, you’ve had to step in for Mick (Jones – Foreigner) on a couple of shows too haven’t you, so what was that like …?

Joel: What’s it like, filling in for Mick, is that the question? (Laughing)

AW: Yeah … Absolutely!

Joel: Totally an honour man! Mick’s a rock legend you know, he’s written some of the best songs that I’ve ever heard so … It went down real quickly. I basically had a day to learn it, you know it reminded me of when I learned the Night Ranger set, so I learned their set and it was like trial by fire man, it was right in and we played it down and once again, there was something about those gigs that you’re able to survive them, (Laughing) they feel so rewarding you know?! But you know really, it’s just like an amazing because I’m no one in the rock world compared to Mick Jones and so for somebody like me to get an opportunity to do that is just like a complete blessing and it’s like … I appreciate it and I just wanted to make sure that everything was exactly as he would play it, but the guys did encourage me to go ahead and be myself and have fun with it here and there as well, but I definitely want to thank whatever fans were at those shows for their support and their understanding and that Foreigner just felt that it was best to give them a show rather than totally 100% disappoint their fans and that’s really that.

AW: Right … So they probably changed the set around a little bit didn’t they right, because obviously there’s certain things Mick does and so on that …

Joel: No, no … The set was exactly the same …

AW: Really?!

Joel: Luckily Tommy Gimbel (Foreigner’s Keyboards / Guitars / Sax player) is like just so talented that he was able to hop over and cover Mick’s keyboard parts, so that was the only thing that was different that on like ‘Cold As Ice’ or ‘Waiting For a Girl Like You’ or ‘I Want To Know What Love Is,’ Tommy came over and covered Mick’s parts on keys, while I covered his guitar parts.

AW: There you go … But Mick also sings ‘Starrider’ though right?

Joel: Oh yeah right, well I don’t know if that’s been on their set throughout but that may have been a change, I’m not sure on that. I know we haven’t done it on any of the shows that I’ve covered …

AW: Oh OK, well that’s cool, hopefully Mick’s back on track again soon … Sounds like maybe he needed a breather?

Joel: He’s going be cool, he’ll be fine ...

AW: Cool. So Joel, I guess I’m getting close to end of my questions here … So Night Ranger for the rest of the year, once this tour is done with Journey and Foreigner (Laughs) or is it going to go on and on?!

Joel: Well, there’s been some talk of adding some dates onto the tail end of it but like I said, yeah whether we can work out the scheduling issues, for me to be able to do Trans-Siberian Orchestra or the other option is to go home and play at ‘Rock Of Ages,’ through the rest of the year …

AW: Right, well try and talk them into coming back to Detroit then, because I missed the show here with you guys! (Laughing)

Joel: Oh, T.S.O. you mean or Night Ranger?

AW: Well T.S.O. every year they always play Detroit so …


Joel: Yeah, that’ll be on there … The Night Ranger thing, I can’t honestly say, I don’t know. There’s been talk of extending, but it was all cities that we haven’t hit yet, so nothing like going back and repeating but …

AW: No, no, I understand … Is there likely to be any headline shows of your own at all through the fall or probably not?

Joel: Yeah, definitely there’s a handful right at the top of November I think.

AW: Right, that would be killer to see the full set with your new album, would that be likely?

Joel: Well we had a couple plugged into the tour here, there were some gigs in between tour days, we’d go and play a headlining show and we just did a full headlining acoustic show in New York actually. It was like a live simulcast on the radio for Clear Channel that’s been videotaped so I think we’ll have another one of those coming up in Nashville, an acoustic show that we’re doing … You know we’re the same way man, we want to play longer of course, just like every band does. There’s no band that just wants to play two songs and be done. Everybody wants to be out and enjoy what they do so …

AW: Yeah well … Awesome. Well listen Joel, I really appreciate it and thank you so much for your time …

Joel: Alright cool.

AW: Thank you ever so much for your time, enjoy the rest of the tour and please give my best to the rest of the band

Joel: Alright brother, really appreciate it, I’ll talk to you soon then.

AW: Alright, all the best man.

Joel: Thank you, bye, bye.

AW: Bye.

Official related weblinks:
Yours truly with Night Ranger 2010, Joel on far left - Thanks guys!