Friday, May 25, 2012

TALKIN' TRASH WITH...Jack Russell of Great White (interview)

In case you had not heard, Jack Russell is alive and well and back on the road, doing what he does best...rocking out front of his band, Great White.  Of course, there have been some problems in the Great White world, with TWO versions of the band out there touring, but make no mistake, Jack Russell's Great White is THE Great White if you want to be able to hear all of the band's hits performed the way they should be by the only voice of this multi-platinum selling band.  After more than 30 years and 11 studio albums, Jack is still filled with a passion for his bluesy style of hard rock and he and his new band are ready to bring the true sound of Great White to a city near you they embark on a summer tour with Faster Pussycat, Bulletboys, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Lillian Axe on the American Rocks Tour.

Jack was kind enough to take some time out of his tour preparations to chat with me about all things Great White, pulling no punches when it comes to what he has gone through recently in regards to his health and his former bandmates.  So...let's Talk some Trash with Jack Russell of Great White!

G2G:  First, Jack, thanks for taking the time to talk to me.  It's a big thrill for me to get to speak to the singer for my favorite band of all time!

Jack Rusell:  Right on, thanks, we're just taking a couple of days off here before we get things rolling again.

G2G:  Very cool.  So how are things going with you?  I know you had some health issues here a while back.

Jack:  Yeah things are great.  I'm feeling good.  I've been out doing some shows...umm...yeah, we're doing good, man.

G2G:  How are things going with the new line-up?  I know there are some familiar faces for Great White fans, but also some new faces as well.  Who do you have going out on the road with you now?

Dario with Stephen Pearcey 2010
Jack:  Well, one of our lead guitar players is Matthew Johnson, who has played with the band before when Mark (Kendall) quit.  Umm, our other guitar player's name is Robby Lochner...he played with Rob Halford (of Judas Priest) in his band, Fight.  He's amazing...they are both amazing lead players.  Our bass player's name is Dario Seixas, and he played with Firehouse and Stephen Pearcey (Ratt).  And Derrick Pontier is on drums and he's played with Great White for a number of years.

G2G:  About Dario, I saw Great White play about, I don't know, ten years ago or something, with Firehouse opening, and I know Dario was with them then.  Is that how you two got introduced or how did that work out?

Jack:  Yeah, that's exactly what it was.  Good memory!  (laughing)

G2G:  That's cool.  Are there any plans to record with this line-up that you are touring with?  I've heard rumors of a live album maybe coming out.

Jack:  Yeah, absolutely, we're gonna do a live album and also a studio album.  We're working on some songs right now, and we're getting ready to start laying down some new music.  It really sounds like Great White...well, obviously, it's going to sound like Great White.

G2G:  So are you currently writing with the members of the band, then, or are you doing more stuff as a solo writer...?

Jack:  Umm, a little bit of both.  I'm doing some stuff on my own and then translating it to them (the band), you know, and some stuff I'm writing with our guitar players, Matthew and Robby, which is great.  You know, I can kind of take both schools and turn them into what I want, you know.  They both have different writing styles, which is great.

G2G:  Let's jump way back, if we can, for just a minute.  For those that aren't aware, how did Great White get its start?

Jack:  Yeah, uh, let's see.  Back in 1982, Mark and I were in a band called Dante Fox.  And we met...Don Dokken, who was a friend of ours because of our drummer, Gary Holland, who had played with Don Dokken in Europe, and Gary told him about this band he was in, and Dokken goes off and he loved my voice and he liked the band, so he talked to this guy who was a friend of his named Alan Niven.  Alan worked for a small record company, and he (Don) coaxed him (Alan) into coming down to see the band at the Whiskey Hollywood.  And, umm, so he brought him down and, you know, Alan liked the band and my voice, and he liked Mark's guitar playing, so he went and met with us at his record company.  And he said, well, you know, the one thing I don't like is the name, I think it's kind of whimpy.  And we were like, "aww, man".  And he said what about changing it to Great White, because he had heard me call Mark was a nickname that I had for him when he played his solos, you know, "Mark Kendall, the Great White, on lead guitar", you know.  But we were like, why would we change the name and lose our following...we had like 200 people, you know (laughing).  So he convinced us by saying, you know, "record deal or not?".   So we changed the name, but we thought it was stupid, you know.  You know, I didn't mind it so much, because I had already came up with the nickname for Mark, you know, and I'm a big shark know, I've been fishing for sharks for as long as I can remember, and I still do, you know I've been diving with them...I'm just in love with them, I think they are amazing creatures.  So it wasn't so bad to me, and after a while we were like, "the name's kinda cool...we can live with it", and we kinda sucked it up and were like we can live with it anyhow.  And that's how we got our start...and then we got our first, uh, our first independent EP out and we sold like 20,000 units in L.A., and we had every label in town wanting to sign us, so it was ON after that, you know...

G2G:  It's funny you mention that first album because I have a radio promo copy of that first album sitting here on my desk...I'll have to bring it out for you to see when you come to town, it's a really cool piece.

Jack:  Yeah, man, that's nice to hear.  I'd love to see it...

G2G:  Jack, how do you think that Great White's been able to stay on the music radar for so long, more than 30 years now, when so many other bands have fallen off that were around at your same time?

Jack:  Well, you know, I think we wrote songs that were timeless.  It wasn't like, you know, we weren't like, "hey, okay, let's write some timeless songs", we've always written what we liked.  You know Mark and I would sit down with an idea and, you know, if we liked it we kept working on it and, you know, we recorded it.   Our thing was to, we used to just sit with an acoustic guitar and my voice, and then we knew it was a good song if it could work that way, you know...and I think it just...whatever it is we like about songs, I think we kind of have like John Q. Public ears, or whatever, because when you hear a song from a musician's standpoint, but also from a listener's standpoint, it seems what we like most other people seemed to like also, you know.  It works out well, and we've been fortunate over the years to have some songs that have stood the test of time, you know..."Save Your Love", "Rock Me", of course, "Once Bitten, Twice Shy"...songs of that nature have stayed around and are still valid today.

G2G:  Do you think some bands have kind of been a victim of trend hopping, which Great White never really did?  I mean, you guys always sounded like Great White.

Jack:  I think so.  I mean, I can think of a couple of bands off the top of my head, with Warrant being one where all of a sudden they were like kind of trying to turn into a heavy metal band, wearing all leather and stuff, and I was like to Jani, "what are you doin', man?"  I think a lot of bands did that, you know.  All of a sudden it was like, okay, all of a sudden people switched over to grunge and tried to be grungy, but the thing is you've gotta be yourself.  You're not gonna fool anybody, you're not gonna get all these young kids who are gonna start going "oh wow, these guys are so great now", you know, they're gonna be like, "hey, that's an 80's band...what are they tryin' to do?".  And then you're gonna lose your hardcore fans because you're not gonna be yourself.  We just always played what we liked, and we never liked grunge, so we never played it.  We decided we're not gonna change who we are, so we just stayed the course.  But, the band's always been very diverse through the years.  Some albums are kinda similar, and some albums are way different.  We've tried to expand our musical direction, and I think, the last couple of albums especially, are really diverse.  The last album, Rising, which you know, got kind of a lukewarm response with the overall population, I think it was a great record.  It has some really nice songs on there, you know, but I think it wasn't as raucous as some people were expecting, but nonetheless there were some quality songs on there.  And Back To The Rhythm, you know, was a great album, and to me, Can't Get There From Here was one of the greatest records we've ever done. 

G2G:  Yeah, I think that's a phenomonal album, I love that album...

Jack:  Thank you, man...thanks.

G2G:  Getting into Rising just a little bit, you know if people really followed Great White's career from start to finish, there's quite a bit that's parallel between an album like Rising and an earlier record like Sail Away, would you agree?
Jack:  Yeah, sure, in a way.  It (Rising) is just a little more, a little heavier, you know.  But, as far as songs, I think there's some great things, some beautiful melodies, on, there's a song called "Down The Level" which I just adore, and all the stuff was written about stuff that was about where I was at, like on all the records, you know, where I was at spiritually, mentally, know, every record has pretty much been the story of my life at that particular point, and about what I'm doing.
G2G:  You have also released a couple of solo albums, so what made you decide to keep the Great White name going rather than just striking out as Jack Russell this time?

Jack:  Well, because, this IS Great White to me.  I um, you know, on December 10 (2011), as is all well-documented, I decided I was gonna leave the band and take the name.  I said, "look guys, I'm outta here...".  At first, you know, I just couldn't stand being at a point where nobody was calling me, nobody was talking to me, you know, and it was like, "well, okay, I wanna come back (after his illness)", but nobody's doing anything to get ahold of me.  So, after months and months of that, it was kind of easy to read the writing on the wall, you know.    So I decided, and I told them and our manager, "look, I'm not gonna sit there and you know, do this anymore, I'm taking the name of the band I started and I'm moving on."   And, basically, they didn't want to give up the name, so, now we're fighting for it.  So, you know, I mean for me, calling it Jack Russell's Great White is just so there's not confusion.  I could've called it Great White, but that would've really confused people, so...

G2G:  Absolutely.  Now, maybe this is a touchy question, but have you even heard Elation, the new disc from the "other" Great White yet? 

Jack:  I've heard some of it.  It doesn't sound like a Great White album.  There's some stuff on there I could tell was Mark playing guitar, but it does not sound like a Great White album, at all.  And, I'm being completely unbiased, because if I were just John Q. Public listener, I'd be like, "that's not Great White". Without my voice, it's not Great White.  What really, really sets a band apart is the singer; the voice is the only thing that really makes a band sound like a band, unless you're like Van Halen where you have such a really great guitar player people can go, "oh, that's Eddie Van Halen playing".  And Mark's a great guitar player, don't get me wrong, but I think for the most part the voice is the only thing that makes a band distinct, you know.  I mean there is so much to do with the way someone sings a song, and the sound of somebody's voice...I mean, you take Vince Neil out of Motley Crue, and you put in John Corabi, and okay, John Corabi's a better singer, but that didn't work out so well, because it's not Motley Crue.  And there's so many examples.  You take (Steven) Tyler out of Aerosmith, it's not Aerosmith.  You change the singer in a band and, to most people, it's not the same band.  They're like, "all right, change the name". 

G2G:  I agree, and it's been a frustrating situation for fans, too, I know.  I mean we now have the two Great Whites, we've had the two LA Guns for a while now, we had two Faster Pussycats going on, we essentially have two Dokken's going on now with Lynch and Brown and Pilson doing their thing together and Don, of course, owning the name and recording as Dokken.  It's been really frustrating from a fan's standpoint.  Have you been getting any frustration from the fans with your situation?

Jack:  No, none at all.  Our fans have been amazingly supportive and love the new band!  They're just flipping out over it.  I was expecting a lot more, you know, but none of that.  They've been super supportive, I haven't heard one bad thing.  You know, they come to shows, the do the meet-and-greets, and they are just loving the band, loving the players, loving the way the songs sound, you know, I mean, it's Great White.  The songs are being played as they were played on the album.

G2G:  How do you see this thing resolving itself?  Do you ever see yourself standing on stage with Mark and Audie and the others, all standing on-stage together?

Jack:  That, my friend, would be an act of God.

G2G:  And that's unfortunate...

Jack:  It is unfortunate, yeah.  It's hard because when you're in a band, it's like being in the Marines or something, you know what I mean.  And, you never leave a man behind.  Well, I got left behind.  You know, I was in the hospital...I'm dying in the hospital...and nobody called me, nobody came and saw me...well, actually Michael (Lardie) and our manager came by for five minutes as they were on their way to a casino.  Other than that, it was crickets chirping, you know, other than my wife and my cousin who were always there, you know.  And its sad, man, it's really, really is.  And it still does.  I was crying just yesterday.  I did an interview with this guy and afterward I just started bawling and I was like, "man, this really sucks".  These guys were my friends, you know, forever, and all of a sudden, like one day, they're not, and it's like I don't understand why.  Is it like because you got somewhere before I did?  It's like "ouch, man...that hurts".  Anyway...

G2G:  Man, I can't even imagine being put in that position...

Jack:  Hey, what...what did you think of that album, the new Great White album these guys did without me?

G2G:  I think its terrible.  I reviewed it (see the review here) and as a Great White album, I think I gave it a 3.5 out of ten, and as an album in general, I think I gave it a 5.5.  I just think it's flat...I think it's lifeless. 

Jack:  Right...that's pretty much what I've read from others, that's pretty much been the consensus, and that's unfortunate, you know, because I would have expected more from Mark and those guys, you know.

G2G:  I think there's a couple of songs where I could really hear you energizing a couple of these songs, but with Terry (Ilous) singing, it doesn't sound like Great White, it doesn't sound like XYZ (Ilous's old band) sounds like they are trying to be Tesla or something. 

Jack:  Right..yeah, somebody else said that to me, too.  I'm just really saddened by the fact that they're taking the name, and they are doing this to it.  I mean they just totally screwed up the entire discography by putting the name on that album (Elation), and it's NOT a Great White album, I don't care what anybody says.  You know.  Sue's not a Great White's got our name on it, but to me, it's not, and I should know....I sang on all eleven of the real ones, you know.

G2G:  Speaking of singing, a couple of years back, you recorded a song called "Monkey Dance" for the group Liberty N Justice.  You remember that song?

Jack:  Yeah, yeah, yeah...that was actually pretty trippy, man.  It was fun.

G2G:  Do you have any specific recollections of that song?  We're good friends of Justin Murr of Liberty N Justice, and I was just curious what your memories of that song or that session were...

Jack:  (laughing)  Yeah, I remember when I first heard it I was like, "what the hell am I gonna do with this thing?"  (laughing)  But when I got done with it, and after I messed around with some of the melodies and stuff like that, I actually liked it.  It's actually a pretty funky, very cool tune.  Yeah, I really liked it.  I remember as I was recording it I was talking to the engineer about what I was wanting to do with it, and we started goofing around and doing some different stuff and changed some melodies and tried some different things, and yeah, it's actually a righteous song...

G2G:  It's actually been reissued, did you know that?  Liberty N Justice just put out a new album (Hell Is Coming To Breakfast), and that song is on there in an alternate mix form, so it has been given new life.
Jack:  Oh, right on, that's cool. 

G2G:  Now, you're currently part of the America Rocks tour, correct, with Pretty Boy Floyd, Faster Pussycat, Bulletboys, and Lillian Axe?

Jack:  Yes sir...

G2G:  Have you played any dates yet?

Jack:  No, it starts on June 15th, actually...
G2G:  So you've been doing stuff on your own as Jack Russell's Great White then, correct?

Jack:  Yeah, it's all us, all Great White stuff.

G2G:  Do you see a lot of multi-generational families showing up at your shows?

Jack:  It's crazy, man!  It's amazing.  We're seeing three generations a lot now, especially at the all ages shows, you know. It's really incredible.  I mean, we see people who are 60 years old, and they got 40 year old kids...and they have 20 year old kids, and you're just like, "oh my God", you know.  It's really awesome.  We started noticing that a number of years back.  I remember Mark and I were talking about that.  One time we were driving out of a gig and there was this family waving us down, and they were like, "hey, I'm so-and-so, and this is my daughter...and she's her daughter...", and it was just crazy, but what a rush, you know. 

G2G:  Now, we're fortunate enough that you are going to be coming to our city on the 19th of June, here in North Platte, NE.  What can fans expect to hear from Jack Russell's Great White?

Jack:  You know, umm, just playing the hits, man.  It's going to sound like you want it to sound, but we've re-energized things.  This band really has a lot of energy and you know we changed some things around on intros and endings to add some spice to things so it doesn't sound like the exact same thing you've been hearing for the last 30 years or whatever, but it sounds just like it's supposed to sound, you know. 

G2G:  Any songs you've dusted off that you haven't played in a while?

Jack:  Man, I'm trying to think...well, we pulled "Call It Rock N Roll" out, which we hadn't done in quite a while, so we started playing that.  We're putting a couple more in the set this year.  There's just so many songs, you just look at the albums and go, "God, this is so hard just to play the hits!"  If you look back in the catalog, there have been quite a few hits, you know, so you gotta stick with those as much as possible, really.  And, with a show like this, where you're doing a big package tour you're not gonna have the ability to play two hour sets, you know, because there's so many bands you just put them all in there on rapid fire, you know. 

G2G:  Well, I know your show in North Platte is just you, just Great White, so you can play as much as you want for as long as you want!  Stay all night if you want!

Jack:  Right on!  I appreciate that, my brother.

G2G:  Do you ever get any calls to do the Led Zeppelin stuff?

Jack:  You know, Arttie, yeah, we do, and we incorporate a Zeppelin song in one of our songs, "On Your Knees", which we have been doing for quite a while now.  We've done it for a while now, but what's cool about it now...the way we did it before with the other band was not really the way it should have been done, it was just kind of like, you know, some chord changes and stuff, but now, with the new band, we're doing it exactly like the record, and it just sounds amazing.

G2G:  Do you tease the fans with any new stuff at all?

Jack:  No, you know, we're not playing anything new yet.  I don't know, I wanna wait until we got something down and recorded.  I think we're just gonna take the first track and put it out there for free on YouTube, or somewhere, to let fans have a taste of coming attractions, you know. 

G2G:  Very cool...

Jack:  I think the live album we're just gonna put out for free.

G2G:  Hey, the trend right now seems to be everybody's writing these tell-all books, these autobiographies, so will we see a Jack Russell book out there sometime?

Jack:  Oh yeah, it's on the way.  We've been working on it for a while now.  It's just such an incredible story, man, I mean my life has been such an amazing adventure.  I mean, (laughing) it's like four or five of anyone else's books all in one, man.  I'm not actually blowing smoke, truly has been amazing, starting when I was, when I was a young lad, all the way until recently, I mean...God...there are just so many things to talk about.  I should call the book "You're Not Gonna F**king Believe This", but I think I'm gonna call it "Dancing On The Edge", actually.

G2G:  Jack, how can people keep up with Jack Russell's Great White?  Do you have an official website or a fan club of some sort?

Jack:  Yeah, it's and then there's also the Jack Russell Pirate Page on Facebook, and, of course, my own Facebook...

G2G:  And of course you're on Twitter now...

Jack:  Yeah, and at Twitter, exactly, thank you...

G2G:  And at your shows, do you do some sort of meet-and-greet with the people before the show, after the show, fan club members do you work that?

Jack:  Absolutely, we wanna meet everybody.  We always do it after the show and its all free, and we'll do signings and everything.  We do it every night...

G2G:  Well Jack, unless you have something you want to specifically touch on, I've taken up more of your time than I planned on, I really appreciate it...

Jack:  No, no problem, I appreciate your time, man.  I want to thank people like you, and I want to thank all the fans, for making this transition, umm, very easy, and I'm very comfortable in what I'm doing now, and for people who come out to see a show, you're guaranteed to be blown away.

G2G:  Well, thanks, Jack, I appreciate the time...

Jack:  Absolutely, man, you're welcome.  If there's ever anything else you need, feel free to call.  God bless, brother.

Well there you have it, folks...straight from Captain Jack's mouth!  Be sure to keep updated on all things Jack Russell and Jack Russell's Great White but checking out his webpage and by getting out there to support the band live!  Here are the first few dates in June for Jack Russell's Great White and the America Rocks Tour.

June 19 - North Platte, NE - Sculley's Shooters (Great White only)
June 20 - Loveland, CO - Phaze Events Center
June 22 - Savage, MN - Neisen's Concert Hall
June 24 - Vienna, WV - Yellow Beards
June 29 - Columbus, OH - Alrosa Villa
June 30 - Sayreville, NJ - Starland Ballroom

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