Great White is one of those bands that just won't go away. Emerging on the hard rock scene in 1978 and essentially getting signed after performing a gig at The Whiskey, in Hollywood, one night in 1982, Great White has been recording and touring for the last 30 years and have sold over 12 million records. Their road of triumph has not been without tragedy, as most remarkably, the Station nightclub fire, which occurred in February of 2003. While everyone was playing the blame game, regarding who was at fault for the fire, it is often overlooked that Great White lost guitarist Ty Longley in the incident. Bad luck struck again, as On August 11, 2010, front man Jack Russell underwent emergency surgery for a perforated bowel. After being rushed to the hospital, he nearly died, and doctors implanted a colostomy bag. After being ordered to take a year off of touring, first, ex-Warrant front man Jani Lane stepped in to help the band finish the 2010 tour, and in 2011, Terry Ilous, former XYZ lead singer, has taken on the role of leading Great White. Ilous brings a dynamic and fresh approach to the Great White sound.
However, Jack Russell is not done and neither is Great White. During our interview with guitarist Mark Kendall, he made it very clear that Ilous' position in the band is only temporary, as Jack Russell is currently going through physical therapy, in order to be able to perform with the band, once again. The next step will be recording a brand new Great White album. Mark was very candid about the band's current situation and is very content and happy with the success they have attained thus far. He is equally as excited for the future. Read on for our exclusive, RockMusicStar.com interview.
RockMusicStar: Mark, you have a show coming up, here in Buffalo - on June 4th at Club Infinity. It's been a little while since you guys have been up this way.
Mark Kendall: Yeah, I dunno why? The east coast, I've always loved it. People lately, having been sending me these old videos of us playing the Ritz (in New York City) years ago. It just reminded me of how much I loved it. I got great memories from the east.
RMS: I'm sure one of the first questions you get asked in interviews these days, is the one I'm about to ask. For all of the Great White fans out there following along, can you please clarify what is going on with the lead singer situation?
MK: What's happened is Jack (Russell) has had a ton of health issues, that have literally made it impossible for him to perform. He was doing it (performing) with (the aid of) stools and we were getting ridiculed. People were saying, "Why are you taking that man out there (on stage) in that condition?" He's getting a lot better, he just had another surgery, so hopefully he pulls it out. In the meantime, we've been using a guy called, Terry Ilous, who used to be from XYZ. He's just filling in until Jack gets well, and the shows are going great. He does a real good job, so that's going great.
RMS: That's good to hear. While some people may be aware that Jack is not out on the road with you guys right now, many people want to know whether or not he will be back with the band at some point.
MK: He wants to. In fact, he's working out with a trainer and wants to come back. His voice is fine, but he just has to get himself a little more mobile before we take him out. We don't want to do like, wheelchairs in the airport, if you know what I mean.
RMS: I understand. I know that no matter how old you guys get, playing Rock and Roll, you still want to bring a certain level of entertainment with your live shows.
MK: Absolutely. We still want to have energy on stage. I don't think he wants to go out, and have to sit down when we play. It's just not good for our style of music.
RMS: Before Terry, you had Jani Lane (formerly of Warrant) filling in for Jack. What happened with that?
MK: You're correct. He did a great, great job, it's just - he's got his own solo career and stuff. He did it as a favor for awhile, and then he became unavailable. He did a really good job. I was actually surprised.
RMS: Now that you've been playing with a couple different singers since Jack has been unable to perform, have you adjusted the set list at all, to accommodate their range, or vocal personality?
MK: Terry seems to have all of his range still, while Jack has a few notes missing from the past. So he (Jack) doesn't like to do certain songs, to where we've been able to kind of pull them out with Terry, because he can hit every note. Jack has always been kind of a perfectionist, and always tries to sing the songs pretty close to the record. He doesn't want to go out, and do like a Freddie Mercury, and singing the songs an octave lower. He hates the idea of using a (pre-recorded background) tape, so there's certain songs that he didn't like to do, that we brought back to the set. So we can play more of the hits, and every song we've done videos for in the past - the MTV songs and stuff. It's just a handful of songs. Just a few that we haven't played in awhile.
RMS: For the people reading this (who are obviously not hearing your voice), I have to say, you sound really upbeat and positive. With everything you've gone through with the band, with the Station nightclub fire in 03 and losing Jack - not knowing when or if he could come back - what do you do to stay positive and keep the "fun" in what you're doing?
MK: Well Jack totally supports us not canceling all of the shows. He totally supports someone filling in for him. That it makes it easier. He wants to come back as soon as possible, so that makes it easier as well. We just love to play and this is what we do. If it means having a singer sit in for awhile, we still have fun on stage. That's what we're in this for - to make music and make people happy.
RMS: I was told that in late 80's/early 90's that Great White was exceptionally huge in the high desert region of California, more so than the surrounding areas for some reason. Do you find it that the band has a bigger following in certain cities/states, or countries for that matter?
MK: I know that up north (in California) for some reason...maybe it's because of radio, but I'm not really sure. It seems like we've never been big in like, San Francisco for instance, up that way. Although we have done this casino circuit up north and we've never had an attendance problem or anything. (Laughs) As far as LA and stuff, of course this is where we're from. So people kind of saw us grow from the club thing, and all of a sudden, we're playing the Forum - where the Lakers play. It's kind of like your 'hometown heroes' kind of vibe. Maybe we got a little of that from our fans in the high desert.
RMS: Although Great White reached it's peak of popularity in the 80's, I don't really consider you guys as a 80's (hair) band. You guys were more like a bluesy rock band from the 70's.
MK: People that put us into that category (hair metal), I understand it and everything. Really, it was just the fashion. I can't say we didn't have long hair, because we all had long hair. To me, hair metal was more like Poison, where it seemed the hair and fashion dictated the music. We definitely had a lot of blues influence in our band. Everybody had their different influences. Jack was heavily influenced by Zeppelin, and he liked bands like Aerosmith and what not. Michael Lardie liked more contemporary stuff, like Billy Joel. So when we would write our songs, you would hear the blues element, you hear the high voice - so you get the Zeppelin influence, and then you got the keyboards, and that's what makes our band, I guess. I think it's just an easy out for the media, just to write us up as hair metal, ya know? "NEXT"...It's just an easy way, they're not gonna research our music that heavy and go, "Maybe this really isn't hair metal."
RMS: I would like you to clarify something. I read that at the time of the 2003 tour, you were not playing with Great White, but you had rejoined the band just prior to the Station gig. Could you tell me what happened?
MK: What happened was, Jack Russell was out on a solo tour. He played like one Great White song in his set. So he was out promoting his solo album. I had left the band at that point. I wanted to get away from it, and do some of my own stuff for awhile. I think people had a hard time accepting Jack's (solo) thing. He likes to sing mellower stuff for the heck of it, but it was hard for people to deal with, when you got this sleeved tattoo, bad boy rock and roller, all of sudden singing like Genesis. His attendance was so bad, that he called me, and literally begged me to come out, so we could play some more Great White material, and have me in the band. Really, I was just almost like a sideman in his solo band. He called it "Jack Russell's Great White" or whatever. It was weird. I thought it was just gonna be Great White, with me and him, with hired guys. I guess it was something to do with his management or something. I didn't really care. I figured, down the road, we were just gonna get the original guys back together. Especially, if we were gonna do another record. We would never do it with hired people.
The tour manager told me that they use this sparkler thing at the beginning of the show, but some nights we don't use it when we don't get permission. I noticed when it went off, Jack would be standing right in the middle of the sparks. I was scared to death of it. I would be like, "Tell me when that stuff goes off, so I can be a million miles away from it." I was thinking it was dangerous or something. Then I told Jack, "You're standing right in this stuff! Doesn't it hurt?" He was like, "No dude. It's cold sparks. It doesn't do anything. It won't even singe your clothes." I guess what happened was that this place had all this sound proofing foam, because the neighbors complained about the sound. They had this sound proofing foam, but it wasn't the stuff like you see in rehearsal studios. It wasn't the standard blue, flame retardant stuff. This stuff was black. It looked like packing foam or something. To save money, they didn't get the right stuff. I guess it was SO flammable, that I heard later, it was equal to 13 gallons of gasoline on the wall or something. And they allowed smoking in that place. A cigarette could have done the same damage. We were just unfortunate.
RMS: You touched on Great White recording new material. Are there any plans for a new CD?
MK: Absolutely. We'll probably finish out these shows this year and then go right into the studio. I just have a ton of music and I'm dying to record. That's what keeps it fresh for us. If we were an 'oldies' band and just went out and played only our back catalog, I'd probably go crazy. I need to be constantly coming up with new music, that's what keeps me going.
RMS: Could you leave a closing message to all of the Great White fans reading this at RockMusicStar.com?
MK: I'd just like to thank all of the fans out there for supporting the band. Being with us, all these years,through thick and thin. I really look forward to getting out there and seeing everybody.
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