Inquirer: Brad Gillis
Guitar World catches up with Night Ranger's guitarist.
What inspired you to pick up a guitar?
In the Sixties, my brother used to buy a lot of records. He got me into music, and for my eighth birthday, I decided I wanted a guitar. My dad bought me a Kay guitar and amplifier, and my brother set me up with a pair of headphones and a little preamp so I could play along to his records. I used to sit in his room all day and all night playing Led Zeppelin, Santana, Big Brother, the Doors... What really got me off was Jimi Hendrix. That’s when I started getting into lead guitar playing and creating my own style.
Do you recall your first gig?
There was a talent show in middle school, and I played [the Sixties garage-rock hit] “Gloria.” I saw all the girls screaming and decided that’s what I wanted to do.
Ever had an embarrassing onstage moment?
Yes, the very first night I played with Ozzy in 1982. I’d sat in a hotel room for four days learning all of Randy [Rhoads]’s parts, but I’d never actually played with the full band before. Even at the soundcheck, we only played seven or eight songs, and Ozzy wasn’t there. Our first gig was a sold-out show in New York. We were playing “Revelation (Mother Earth),” which is a slow ballad that gets faster about halfway through. I went into the fast part early, and Ozzy shot me a look. The next night, Sharon came up and said [mimicking her], “Bradley, I want you to have a great show tonight—but don’t fuck up!”
What is your favorite piece of gear?
My red Strat, of course. I used it on Ozzy’s Speak of the Devil record and all of the Night Ranger records. But lately, I’ve been using a Soldano Decatone three-channel head, which is great. You would think that using a Stratocaster with a Floyd Rose over a wireless would give me a thin tone, but with the Decatone, I get a fat, strong sound live and in the studio.
Do you have any advice for young players?
Practice a lot and try to create your own style. That’s what I tried to do when I incorporated the whammy bar into my playing. When Eddie Van Halen came out and started doing dive bombs, I wanted to be a little different, so I started raising harmonics on my guitar. And then I started screwin’ around with the tremolo and came up with these different wacky sounds. But mainly, I tried to focus on creating my own style.