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Guitarists Joel Hoekstra and Tommy Kessler Discuss Their Roles in ‘Rock of Ages’ Musical

RockofAgesFor Joel Hoekstra and Tommy Kessler, it might be like being inside of a time warp.

Not only do the guitarists for Broadway’s Rock of Ages musical get to perform in the fictional Eighties band Arsenal night after night, but separately, they play music from that same era, even when not performing on the Broadway stage.

Kessler’s other “day job” includes working alongside Debbie Harry in Blondie, while Hoekstra continues to record and tour with Night Ranger and is about to start his fourth winter tour with Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

I spoke to Hoekstra and Kessler about Rock of Ages and some of their other projects.

GUITAR WORLD: What are some of the differences between performing as part of Night Ranger and Blondie, as compared to Rock of Ages?

JOEL HOEKSTRA: With Night Ranger, it’s all about playing the classic songs/solos and entertaining the audience with an energetic performance. With Rock of Ages, people are there for a humorous, entertainment experience, not a serious rock show. My approach to that is campier because it’s more in the spirit of the show. People are just there to have a good time. In Night Ranger, I use EVH iii amps. With RoA, I play through a Fractal Axe-FX Ultra.

TOMMY KESSLER: The main difference performing-wise is that when Blondie plays a show, it’s six of us doing a rock show and it’s song after song. We’re all featured at any given moment. With Rock of Ages, there’s a story going on in front of the band. We are on stage the entire time because Arsenal is the house band of the Bourbon Room, but the story goes in and out of the Bourbon Room so there is a lot of time we are in the dark and not playing music.


Read the rest of my Guitar World interview with
Joel Hoekstra and Tommy Kessler by Clicking Here


Brad Gillis Talks Night Ranger, ‘Midnight Madness’ and His Time with Ozzy Osbourne

Gillis3Thirty years ago, Night Ranger were transformed from an opening act to a headliner with the release of their album Midnight Madness. The 1983 record became a smash hit within months of its October release, thanks to tracks like “Sister Christian,” “(You Can Still) Rock in America” and “When You Close Your Eyes.”

For Night Ranger guitarist and founding member Brad Gillis, the time between then and now seems like a lifetime. Over the years, in addition to recording and touring with Night Ranger, Gillis has released solo albums and written hundreds of songs for the ESPN network.

Although his greatest fame came with Night Ranger, Gillis is also remembered for replacing Randy Rhoads in Ozzy Osbourne’s band immediately after Rhoads’ death while on tour with Ozzy in 1982. At the time, Night Ranger were still unknowns, whereas Osbourne was a star. Eventually, Gillis would be forced to choose between staying with Ozzy or continuing with Night Ranger.

Guitar World recently caught up with Gillis to talk with him about Midnight Madness, his tenure with Ozzy and his and Night Ranger’s forthcoming albums.


Read my interview with Brad Gillis by Clicking Here!

Guitar World Interview: Wang Chung Discusses New Album, ‘Tazer Up!’

WangChung_TazerUp!It’s been quite a while since Wang Chung released a full-length studio album (1989’s “The Warmer Side of Cool” to be exact). But throughout their “hiatus” the band’s music, synonymous with the 1980’s has still been going strong. Most recently, as part of the soundtrack for TV shows like ‘Breaking Bad’ (Dance Hall Days) and the pilot episode for ‘The Walking Dead’ (Space Junk).

Guitarist Jack Hues and bassist Nick Feldman had been working on side projects over the years but found themselves reunited for a reality show that planted the seed for a full on reunion. The duo then set to work on a new album to bring the band into the 21st century. The result of their efforts, Tazer Up! is a welcome blend of freshness and crisp songwriting that’s instantly recognizable as Wang Chung but with a modernized sound. Notably, songs like “Let’s Get Along” with its cool intro and infectious guitar groove and the track “Stargazing” which has a sublime, almost ethereal feel to it. With another new studio album and tour being prepped for 2013, the future has never been brighter for Wang Chung.

I spoke with Hues and Feldman about Tazer Up!, how they came together and of course, the origin of the iconic 80’s song “Everybody Have Fun Tonight”.

Guitar World: Why such a long hiatus between records and what sparked Tazer Up!?

Jack Hues: Life and families intervened, although Nick and I had both been involved in a lot of side projects. But a few years ago, we were invited to do a reality-type show called “Hit Me Baby One More Time”. The reality for us was, we had to play one of our hits (Everybody Have Fun Tonight) along with a cover of a modern tune. So we did Nelly’s “Hot In Here”. 

Nick Feldman: The show gave us the taste of working together again and we decided to record an album. So we started writing and it slowly came together over the years.

JH: We were also thinking about what a Wang Chung album might be like in the 21st century. We knew we wanted to keep it sort of 80’s aesthetic, but we also wanted a modern twist.  During the interim, we started touring again which also was a lot of fun.

You can read the rest of my Guitar World article with Wang Chung by clicking here!

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