Friday, May 11, 2012

The Metal Advisor Interviews Jack Russell


As I walked with Jack to a quieter place to talk with him, I asked for his thoughts on the modern day music industry, to which he happily obliged. After that, we caught up with the latest in his band's camp and his life. Needless to say, I'm excited for some new music and for everyone to experience his revitalized and energetic performance in concert.

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Jack on the modern day music industry:

Jack - I’m certainly glad I’m not coming up right now. I’d almost be like, "fuck it, get a job!" You know? I don’t even see how new bands even do it. You’re never going to see bands selling millions of records anymore. You’re never going to see new bands playing arenas. Those days are long over, unfortunately. I’m just glad we caught it before it died.

What bands or individuals influenced you most?

Jack - Oh god, let’s see. I mean, my first experience with music, the thing that really made really want to become rockstar was The Beatles Help! album. It was the first thing I heard, and I was like, "Oh my god! This is what I gotta do." Before that I wanted to be an archeologist. Now I’m a freakin’ dinosaur.

That was the first thing. Then it was the Beach Boys, and after that I got into Alice Cooper. He was a huge influence. I just loved his whole deal. Aerosmith, Zeppelin, Deep Purple—all that bands from the ‘70s that were kinda blues-based bands. Everything I’ve ever listened to has in some way influenced my music.

What about life experiences?

Jack - As far as my writing goes?

Sure!

Jack  - Well, yeah, that’s what I generally write about, things that I’ve been through, see, and done. I don’t really write about fantasy. My life is too fuckin’ interesting. I don’t need to write about something I don’t know about! There is so much going on with me. Every record I’ve every written, every lyric I’ve ever done, every album is basically a snapshot of what I’ve been going through at that particular point in my life. You could pick any album and really look at the lyrical content and figure out where I was at emotionally and spiritually at that time. I just write about me!

Do you write the lyrics or the music first?

Jack - Generally, there’s a musical start first, and I’ll come up with a melody. Then with the melody, I’ll start scatting around to it. I’ll sing a line and go, "Oh, what was that?" It’ll just be some phrase that I’ll use as a starting point. I’ve never sat down and said, "I’ll write a song about this." It just kinda comes out. The song just writes itself. Usually, Mark or Michael would come up with a musical idea, sometimes I would, and then I would hum it to them because I can’t play, and we would go from there. And then would come up with a melody on top of that, and I’d place the lyrics over that. In the later years, I started writing more and more musical ideas than in the earlier years.

What’s been most interesting about going on tour with some old bandmates and some new ones?

Jack - There’s a new vibe that’s enjoyable. There’s not this 30 years of water under the bridge crap to deal with. Any time you’re with a group of people for a long, long time, no matter how close you are, things build up. There are things you don’t dig about people’s personalities and vice-versa. You kind of get along on the surface, but every time someone turns around and you’re talking behind that person’s back all the time. I’m really glad to be away from that. I don’t have that with these guys. It’s great because I still have guys I’ve been playing with for years. I mean, I’ve known Matt Johnson since like 1989 and worked with him on different stuff. In ’96, we did the Shelter Me album, which was my first solo album. He played guitar and co-wrote that with me. Then he played with Great White when Mark quit. And obviously Derek, after I fired Audie. Derek was in the band for quite a while. It’s cool to have that. It’s not totally brand new because there’s some familiarity there.

Then there’s a couple new guys, who are great dudes. It’s weird because they were all friends before except for Matthew, but Matt and Derek knew each other. It’s really neat.

I think it’s particularly interesting that you’re working with Rob from Fight.

Jack - Yeah, you know that guy is… I don’t even know what to say about his. He’s frightening, man! It’s great to have two really, really great guitar players because you can do so much more than before. You’re not pigeoned-holed into having a certain way of doing things. We’re able to trade solos back and forth and do harmony stuff, basically things we couldn’t do before because we were limited as far as ability. No there’s no limitations at all. We can do whatever we want.

Do you see an expansion in sound? Do you think you will progress with the Great White sound a little bit?

Jack - I think it’s gonna be what it’s gonna be. For me, it’s always going to sound like Great White because that’s who I am. I wouldn’t let the band all of a sudden become something that it’s not because I have different players in it. Of course, it’s going to develop, but that’s the natural course anyway. Even if I was still with the old members things would develop naturally, but I’m not going to let it get out of hand and become something that it’s not.

It’s always going to be the bluesy hard rock sound.

Jack - Yeah!

Are there any songs you won’t sing in concert that you just don’t care for anymore?

Jack - No, not really. We’re actually starting to expand our song list as we go to play different stuff. We’re looking at playing some other songs off the earlier records. It’s hard because only have so much time in a set and so many albums out, and you try to play something off each one, but you can’t even do that. What we’re going to end up doing is trading songs out. One night we’ll play this song, and the other night we’ll put another in its place.

I wondered if you had plans to swap a few of the classics with tracks you don’t play as often.

Jack - You know, I really would like to, but people want to hear the hits. They want to hear the songs they grew up listening to. We’re going to be doing some stuff now and then that people haven’t heard or we haven’t played before ever just because I want to play them. And there’s a lot of songs that weren’t hits or became turntable hits later on. I’ve written so many hits that didn’t become hits just because of timing or whatever. You’re like, "DAMN!  That song should have been it!" There’s a lot of stuff I really want to play and we’ll get there, but right now this is a brand new band, and we’ve only done a handful of shows

For those that were around in the ‘80s and heard the songs—that’s a hell of a good setlist. People don’t realize how many great songs there are if they don’t go deep into some of the albums. Even then, you could fill up a 14 song set with about 10 songs that everyone knows. Easy.

Jack - Oh, I know. It’s really great. It’s surprised me how many songs we really did have that were successful. I kinda was sitting there going, "Shit… We had a lot of videos." But like I said, there’s still stuff we can’t even touch on because of time constraints.

What do they give you? About an hour for the set?

Jack - No, we do like an hour and forty-five, actually.

And there are two opening acts tonight. Local bands.

Jack - Right on!

Moving on, though… What gives you the most satisfaction when performing?

Jack - When I have those nights when the voice is working just right, I just feel like this is the one spot in the universe where I truly belong. That’s what it is and keeps me coming back. Lately I’ve had a lot of those nights, which is great because my voice is feeling really, really good. I’m feeling really good. My body’s feeling really good.

So how do you care for your voice? I know a lot of guys on tour, especially when it starts to get rigorous, do something special for their voices.

Jack - I drink a lot of herbal tea and water, and I have a certain set of warm-ups that I do that I’ve been doing for years. I try to keep my voice quiet during the day. It’s working out well, though, because my voice is feeling great these days. Better than it has in years, actually.

From the video clips that are up it sounds like you are feeling pretty strong. You sound good!

Jack - Yeah, thanks!

And that leads me to ask… Are you writing songs? Do you plan a new album?

Jack - Mhmmm. Yeah, we’re writing songs. We actually have some stuff in the can. Just demos. I’m just gonna wait for the name thing to be resolved until I do anything with that. I’m not going to jump the gun like other people have for whatever reason.

You are trying to get a hold of the name, instead of having Jack Russell in front of it?

Jack - Well, I would have just let it go, but then when I found out they filed for the trademark without me, I was like, "I gotta do what I gotta do to protect myself."' If they would have came to me prior to all this and said, "Hey dude. We’re sick of you. We don’t trust you. We don’t ever think you’re going to get sober again. Let’s figure out something to do with the name that’s fair." We could have worked something out. But I don’t think they should call themselves Great White because it’s not. Whether it’s Mark Kendall’s Great White or Jack Russell’s Great White, I don’t think it should be called Great White because it’s not.

The voice is the one thing that sets any band apart. You listen to my band tonight, and you’re not going to wonder where Kendall is.

No, you’re going to assume it’s Great White.

Jack - Exactly! It’s gonna sound just like Great White. When you have some other putz in there singing, it ain’t gonna sound like Great White! No offense to Terry. I’m not familiar with his music, and I don’t know who he is. But I’ve seen a couple things he’s done with my songs. It just wasn’t done well. Jani, on the other hand, did a really good job.
  
And on the album you are recording, do you think you will rerecording any of the old material?

Jack - No. For now, we’re in the process of working on the live thing. I wanna do a live album and release it for free. And a live DVD and release that for free as well. Just put it out on our YouTube channel on the website and let people download it.

That’s smart—you’ll get back album circulation.

Jack - Yeah, it’s just fun. Why not just let people hear the new band? What the hell? I just want people to hear our music.

Well, I hope people actually latch onto this new material, instead of wanting hear the classics.

Jack - That’s the hope, but generally only the hardcore fans that buy every single record want to hear any of the new stuff because a lot of the old people that have been coming around that know us think Once Bitten… is the first album. They don’t even know about Can’t Get There from Here, Back to the Rhythm, or Rising. If we play something off of one of those, they’ll wonder what we’re playing. It’s difficult and frustrating. And it’s not like we don’t have enough material. It’s still fun playing what we play. I don’t get bored.

What kind of turn out do you usually see at shows? Is it a mix or just a bunch of older rockers?

Jack - It all depends on where we’re playing. If we’re doing an all ages venue, you’ll see all generations of people out there. It’s amazing. If we do festivals, you’ll see whole families together that all grew up with our music. It makes me go, "Holy shit."

It’s not just a bunch of old farts. It’s great to see all the people learning this music, and it was a great era. Not just because I was in it, but because there was truly some really good songs, great singers, great bands… What became of all that, I don’t know.

Do you think you might collaborate with Jack Blades for the new album since you’ve worked with him in the past?

Jack - I would love to. I spoke to Jack not too long ago. We’re still friends. We have a show coming up with him soon. We’ll see. I love working with because he’s a great writer. He really, really knows where I’m at, so together it’s easy for us to come up with something that works.

We actually had a band together called Spun. It was myself, Jack Blades, Bobby Blotzer, and C.C. Deville. Michael was in it as well to round it out. We got a deal with Portrait and they gave us an advance, but then it just kind of started to fold. We never ended up doing the record, but it would have been fun.

Quite a bit of talent there.

Jack - Yep! I decided to call it Spun because I figured there where so many egos in one band. What else could it be, right?

It has to be interesting, as you said, to manage the egos, and it must be fun for you with a new group of guys to get to know each other and not have all the 30 years of crap hanging.

Jack - Oh, absolutely! There’s no animosity. There’s no, "Well, you know, you did this. Well, yeah, you did that. And don’t forget you did that." It’s brand new. It’s fun. It’s like when you first fall in love with that new chick—that feeling, you know what I mean? It’s great, and I’m really having a good time. I wish I had done this sooner.

Jani Lane. A big loss. A hell of talent. But as you say, one loss is another person’s gain.

Jack - He saved my life. He really did.

Jack Russell's Great White is: 
Jack Russell (vocals)
Robby Lochner (guitar)
Matthew Johnson (guitar)
Dario Seixas (bass)
Derrick Pontier (drums)

Find them here:

4 comments:

  1. Spectacular. How did you land this one? I was 14 years old when Once Bitten... came out and am not embarrassed in any way to say that both that and ...Twice Shy have been in regular rotation for me for damn near 25 years (while I filled in the backcatalogue and later releases over time). While I certainly understand how Great White got lumped in with the whole Hair Metal era they - and Jack - also remained one of the harder-rocking, more enduring presences of the time. His own personal struggles, the two camps' conflicts and, of course, the '03 fire have certainly overshadowed the music in recent years - good to read things are evening out for him in present times. Cannot wait to read the rest!

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  2. Been a fan since Once bitten.......just saw the show in Indianapolis...April 2012........Good to see them again and hear real music............in rotation since Once bitten,....and always will be.....under-rated band ....very talented group of guys... I love the sound and the lyrics........Keep it up guys!

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  3. Gogs - The band and their management were extremely open toward my request for an interview. We set it up through email, and I met everyone before the concert in Indy. I think Once Bitten... and ...Twice Shy are good albums, but I put my current favorite as Psycho City. That record has some damn good tracks, and I think Jack was at his creative peak with that one.

    Like you, I do, in fact, see why Great White was lumped in with hair/glam rock movement (similar to Tesla's situation), but it was unfair considering their roots and sound. I've never appreciated the generalization because the band was mashed in with stereotypical glam rock, something that Great White was and is not.

    Metalhead - Nice to see another Indy concert-goer posting up here. We'll see new material soon!

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  4. As you may have noticed, Part II is not up. I think, at least for now, I'm going to can it because the interview wasn't very coherent but instead a lot of joking around from the guys. I may revisit it in the future.

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