There is a new force rumbling across the rock ‘n’ roll landscape. It began when rock titans Deen Castronovo, Jack Blades and Doug Aldrich have combined their musical powers to form an exciting new hard rock/melodic rock supergroup — Revolution Saints! You can tell by the name – and the names involved – that this isn’t your average rock ‘n roll band. Their new album brings back the classic melodic rock style to where it should be: inspiring, uplifting vocals, soaring melodies and musicianship to die for. It’s completely badass.
Superbly handling drums and lead vocals is Deen Castronovo. Already renowned for his drum talents and backing vocals in Journey, Bad English and more, Deen’s excellent vocal talents are in the spotlight on this release. On bass, and co-lead vocals on a few tracks,Jack Blades is well known for his melodic, yet hard rocking approach to songwriting and playing via multiple classic albums by his main band Night Ranger, as well as with the Damn Yankees and the Shaw/Blades releases. On guitar, Doug Aldrich was excited to lend his fiery blues guitar attack to such a unique and melodic band. Doug, who just left Whitesnake after a fruitful 12 year run (including co-writing 2010s critically acclaimed “Forevermore” release) and also of Burning Rain and formerly of DIO, has a deep pedigree and is one of today’s most respected guitarists.
The project is the vision of Frontiers’ President Serafino Perugino, who for years had hoped to work on a project where Deen would be the lead vocalist. Having previously worked with all three artists on different projects on Frontiers, having Deen, Jack and Doug on board together was a dream come true for Perugino. With production overseen by in-house Frontiers man, Alessandro Del Vecchio (who also contributed to the songwriting and played keyboards on the album), the recording process took place in Portland, Oregon during the summer of 2014.
Revolution Saints’ music is played with a heart and soul and that highlights the passion and the enthusiasm of three of the best rock and all-around musicians in the game today! Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Jack Blades to discuss his amazing career, longevity in the business, the musical magic captured by Revolution Saints and much more!
I wanted to start by asking you about your early years. When did music first have an impact on you as a kid?
When I first heard the Beatles, it was like, “Oh, my gosh!” I was about 10 years old. I heard them and my dad, of course, said, “You won’t hear anything more about these guys in six months.” I thought that was pretty hilarious. From that moment on, all I wanted to be was a musician and I was always in bands or doing things musically. I had an illness where my left leg was up in a sling for four years. Second grade through fifth grade I wasn’t able to run around or play baseball or football, you know, all the things that kids do growing up. My parents gave me this dollar ukulele when I was about 8 years old, so I had been sitting in my room and playing with that and it really became my passion. My guitar was my go-to when I was anywhere from 8 to 10 years old. When I heard the Beatles, it blew my mind. I started singing and playing even more. In high school, I played in bands like everybody does. When I was 13, it seemed there were tons of rhythm guitar players and no bass players. I said, “OK! I’ll play bass.” My parents sprung for the bass amp and bass guitar. By default, I ended up being the bass player in the band when I was 13 years old. I continued through high school and college. When I was in college, I left in my fourth year at San Diego State University to move to San Francisco to join a rock band because I really wanted to give it a run. I was convinced I could do it and really it was who I was. I was young enough and I felt if I didn’t give it a shot, then I would never know! “I coulda been a contender!” [laughs] I didn’t want to be one of those guys who would always wonder what could have been.
You have been very successful in your career. What do you consider the key to your longevity?
I have always had a certain stick-to-itiveness. That is the whole thing! FIrst, you have to believe. When everyone said, “Oh, you can’t do that. It’s a million to one!” I was like, “If that’s the way you want it. I will be the one in a million then!” Constantly pushing and sticking to it has been the secret for me. Here we have all of the success we had with Night Ranger and the band had been passed on by every record company twice between 1980 and 1982. Finally, one cat decided to say, “I will take a chance with these guys.” We knew we could do it. I knew with songs like “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me” that people would love this stuff and we could be a good band that contributes. In the end, it just took one guy taking a chance. After Night Ranger broke up, we formed the Damn Yankees with Ted Nugent, Tommy Shaw and myself. It was the same thing! Guys were like “Eh, this stuff will never get played on the radio.” How many times do you have to prove yourself?! [laughs] It’s pretty funny!
Your latest project is Revolution Saints. How did you get involved with the project and what has you excited about it?
Deen [Castronovo] called me up and said, “Hey, I’m doing this record and I want you to be involved.” The whole brainchild for this was Serafino Perugino, the owner of Frontiers Records. He said he always wanted to have Deen be the lead singer on a record. Deen kind of played around with that a little bit on one of Neal Schon’s solo albums. On “So U,” he sang a bunch of the songs on the record and, coincidentally, I co-wrote a lot of the songs on that record with Neal. I have been friends with Neal since he was in The Wild Dogs in 1983 or 1984. Night Ranger’s manager was the manager of The Wild Dogs back in 1984, so I have really known Deen forever! I have played with him a lot, we’ve done projects together and recorded together. We know each other really well, so I said, “Sure man! I’ll sign on! I would love to be involved!” Then they got Doug Aldrich to do it and I couldn’t have been more excited because I have always loved the way Doug plays. I think he is a tremendous guitar player. I have been so fortunate that I have been able to play with people like Ted Nugent, Tommy Shaw, Brad Gillis, Jeff Lawson, all great, great guitar players! Neal Schon is another one! I have played on records and we have written Journey songs together with Neal. Doug just knows how to lay it down! We said, “Let’s do this!” And with that you have Revolution Saints!
Did you have particular goals or expectations in mind for this project from the start?
Yeah, we wanted to kick some serious ass! [laughs] The aspirations were to have Deen to be the killer lead vocalist that everyone knows he is but hadn’t had the shot to do it yet. In addition, Doug had just gotten out of Whitesnake, so I wanted him to just be blazing! I said to him, “Dude, do anything you want! This is your first statement out of Whitesnake, so make it a statement! Go for it!” That is exactly what he did.
What can you tell us about the writing process for Revolution Saints. How did it differ from what you have done in the past?
It was completely different. All of the songs were pulled together for Deen. Doug and I were getting together to write some stuff but we never had time because everything was so busy. Night Ranger was on the road and Deen was constantly on the road with Journey, so there was a lot going on. The songs were pulled together by Alessandro Del Vecchio, who produced the record. He is a great songwriter, producer and singer. I contributed on a couple of things but the majority of it was Alessandro.
To get a little off track for a moment, how do you typically go about putting a song together? What is your process?
Songs hit me wherever they hit me. Sometimes the music will hit me first or playing a riff or a big hook. It all depends and I am open to whatever flows into my mind at the time. It’s funny because it is like there is a song in my head all of the time. There is always something always going on in my head and sometimes that can be really irritating! [laughs] Like right now, the chorus from Revolution Saint’s “How To Mend A Broken Heart” is playing over and over and over in my brain. Sometimes, it’s like, “Wow! Get this thing out of here!” [laughs]
Speaking of the songs on the Revolution Saints album, what songs resonate with you the most right now?
I love “How To Mend A Broken Heart.” “Dream On” is another great one. I love the first track that we came out with, “Turn Back Time.” “Here Forever” is a great song. I have to say, it is difficult to choose just a few because there is a lot of great stuff on this record.
Looking back on the process of bringing this album to life, what stands out as the biggest challenges you faced?
The challenge was being in different places with everyone recording different things. That was not a challenge but an odd thing. If I had my druthers, I would rather have us all in one room to record and that is probably what we will do next.
That is cool to hear. With that said, I assume it is safe to say that Revolution Saints is more than just a one-off and you have plans for moving it forward in the future?
Yeah. We are hoping that the music will resonate with the fans and so far there has been a good reaction to it. That is a positive thing! People aren’t saying, “These dudes suck” or anything like that! [laughs] It’s a lot of fun. I think it is fun for the fans, it’s fun for us and it’s fun for the classic rock community. I think it is a good thing to shake the tree every once in a while and make people nervous. I think it is a really good thing.
As a fan, I think the album has a real energy to it and you really are enjoying the process of bringing this music to the fans. In turn, I think that is why the fans are responding to it so well.
That’s the whole thing, man! This thing wasn’t something we had to do. This is a project that we really wanted to do. It is one of those rare occasions where you don’t feel like you are obligated to do something. The three of us really want to do this. We wanted to do this album and now we want to play live and have fun. It is all about having fun and hanging out with people you like at this stage in the game. Otherwise, why do it?
What are you looking at in terms of touring? I imagine there are quite a few moving pieces to contend with at this point.
It’s funny you should ask. We are getting everyone together in the next few days with conference calls to discuss how to attack this beast. We are getting offers from all parts of the globe to play shows with this thing. We have offers from Japan to the UK to Europe to the USA. We have to figure out how to put all of these parts together because I think it would be a real shame if we didn’t play live. I think the fans would really love it.
You have been a part of so many great projects through the years. Looking back, what is your biggest evolution as an artist and player?
Wow. That is a good question. Wow, I think that is one of those questions after 60 million interviews I haven’t gotten. That is a good one. Good for you! Ya know what? I think the biggest evolution of my whole thing was when we formed Damn Yankees. I came out of Night Ranger wondering about everything and questioning everything. I was questioning music and everything else. I got together with Tommy [Shaw] and we really hit it off. We started writing up a storm and then we linked up with Ted [Nugent]. Ted came in and was the way he is, just so straight ahead. They really broke the mold when they made The Nuge! He is his own unique character. The way he plays, the way he attacks music and carries everything is pretty rockin, dude. That really taught me a lot of lessons and was a big step in the evolution of me.
Where do you see yourself headed musically in the future? Is there still ground you are eager to explore?
I think that the world is always a wide open place to experience so many things. There are so many different directions that one can go into nowadays. There are so many opportunities and there is so much going on. Yeah, man! I feel like I am only mid-way through this journey. That is what I’m thinking!
I wanted to ask you quickly about one of my favorite projects from your career — Shaw Blades. “Influence” came out in 2007. Do you see yourself revisiting that project in the near future?
Yeah, that is a great record. Actually, we are about three quarters of the way through another one at the moment. If Tommy and I ever get our shit together to sit down and actually finish this thing up, it would be another two weeks and we would have another record done! [laughs] We are just trying to find a time we can actually do that!
One more question for you, Jack. You have seen so much in your time in the music industry. What is the best piece of advice you can offer to aspiring musicians looking to make their career in music in today’s climate?
I think persistence is the key. Keep your eye on the ball and never take no for an answer. By the time a person says no for the fourth time, you never know, they might say yes the fifth time. For me, it is all about persistence and stick-to-itiveness. That is what I have done all of my life, what I will continue to do and the lesson I have imparted upon my sons. That is what this life is all about, man!
Great advice, Jack! With wisdom like that, is there a chance we might get some type of autobiography out of you in the future?
Yeah, ya know what? Several people have asked about that. I think a great way to look at that would not just be a book about music but about the life lessons I have learned along the way! That is what this whole thing has been. It’s been about music, learning life and life’s lessons. Trust me! There have been so many lessons I have learned over the years! Rock ‘n’ roll is a good teacher! It’s just that a lot of people don’t listen! [laughs] That is when you get into trouble!
Thanks so much for your time today, Jack! I hope to catch you and Revolution Saints on the road in the near future!
Thanks so much, Jason! Great talking to you!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.