Jack Russell, Great White, Bio-Interview,Self-titled, Stick it,Lawsuit
Great White Vocalist
full in bloom: It’s a real honor to interview you. Great White was my first concert. It was Great White opening for Judas Priest.
Jack Russell: Yeah. 1984. Defenders of the Faith….it was a helluva ride…it was so much fun. We were right out of the clubs….we toured Europe, the UK with Whitesnake and that was amazing. We came back, the first show was in Niagara Falls. I was sick as a dog…got on stage and had a great time. The whole tour was a blast. Those guys were so fun to tour with and Rob is such a great guy and a great singer.
full in bloom: I can still see moments from that concert and there aren’t too many concerts I can even remember.
Jack: That’s awesome. That’s one of the cool things about this business. You touch people’s lives to a point where you’re engrained in their memory. There were bands that I liked…..like seeing Aerosmith….I can remember what chick I was with and what the grass smelled like that day.
Yeah, you know it was a different band then but it evolved….it didn’t lose its edge completely, we just got away from being Judas Priest wannabes and finding our own niche, which was more bluesy. There are still elements of that in our songs….if you look at songs “My World”, “Lives in Chains”…..that’s some pretty heavy stuff.
Lawsuit – Great White
full in bloom: What’s the latest with the Great White lawsuit? Initially it came out that you were ok with them using the name Great White and that you wanted to tour as Jack Russell’s Great White. Then the band announced they would be doing a new record with XYZ vocalist Terry Illous, which resulted with you filing to prevent them from using the name.
Jack: Well yeah, putting an album out as Great White….that’s not Great White. Now they’re having a 30th Anniversary, who are they kidding…..30th Anniversary of what? I fired them all. How can they have an anniversary if they’re all fired. I fired them on December 10th. But they obviously don’t want to be fired. Prior to that, they tried to file for the trademark without me. I could not believe it, my gut was so upset. I had tears in my eyes….I couldn’t believe these guys were my friends. Ok, I cost them some money but then again, I allowed them to go out with other singers. I called Jani (Lane) and said, ‘do me a favor and go out and fill in for me while I get well, so these guys don’t lose money’. Then Terry (Illous) came in and I was cool with that too. In retrospect I should have said no….’you wait for me until I come back’ but that’s not who I am….I don’t want to stop them from earning a living but they sure wanted to stop me. I’m getting emails from these guys, ‘you can only go out there as Jack Russell – formerly of Great White’….from a manager who has only been with the band for the last few years. Screw you buddy. Honest to God, these moves that I am making are not out of animosity….I mean it…..they are just business decisions. Those guys cannot be Great White. There already are too many people going, ‘which version of the band are you in?’. It’s ridiculous. They need to call it something else. It’s a different singer…..and the singer is the one element of the band you cannot change, without completely changing the sound of the band. I don’t care how great the singer is, or how bad. I don’t care if you put Steven Tyler in Ratt, it ain’t gonna be Ratt.
full in bloom: I read somewhere that the reason bands don’t file against each other is because each version of the band would have to stop touring until the matter was resolved, which could take up to two years.
Jack: No. Not true at all. It’s going to go very quickly.
full in bloom: It sounds like the Mark Kendall’s Great White is pretty close to releasing a new album.
Jack: That’s not going to happen. We’re fighting that tooth and nail….it’s a complete farce.
full in bloom: Are you pursuing the rights to use the name ‘Great White’?
Jack: Oh yeah. I do want the name now. If they would have called me up before all this happened and said ‘hey Jack, you know what man, we’re just sick of you, we can’t stand you, we hate your guts but we know where we’ve been, so let’s try to figure out an amicable way so that we can both use the name’. We probably could have figured something out. But the fact that they went behind my back and filed for the trademark, that’s just totally deceptive, that ain’t right.
full in bloom: There was a recent interview with guitarist Mark Kendall where he was saying that you joined his band which later became Great White.
Jack: I joined his band. (laughs) No way. He was in a cover band and he kept bugging me to sing for him and I didn’t want to do it because he was in a crosstown rival band. I had never heard them but of course they sucked because they were our rivals. That was when I was in a band with Audie. I finally went and checked out Mark’s band and the band kind of sucked but he played me some of his own stuff and I said, ‘you quit these guys, I’ll quit my band and we’ll start our own band’, that’s exactly as it happened, may God strike me dead. Then Don Dokken was the one that initiated us getting started here, he brought Alan Niven down to see us. The Dokken connection came from Gary Holland, who had played in Dokken over in Europe. I’ve heard Mark try to take credit for that. No. I just talked to Don the other day and asked him to refresh my memory. He said, ‘I met you guys through Gary Holland and I came down to the studio, heard you sing, loved the voice and said I wanted to work with these guys’. Then he introduced us to Alan Niven and he wanted to sign us to Greenworld. They didn’t want us, so he quit. He said, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do now, I don’t have a job’ and I said, ‘why don’t you be our manager’. He said, ‘I don’t know anything about managing’ and I said, ‘well, you’re going to learn’…..and learn he did, he became one of the best managers in rock n roll.
full in bloom: That was cool that you guys stuck with Alan even after the band got signed. Most bands part ways with their manager after they get signed. I didn’t realize that you were Alan’s first band.
Jack: Oh, he was so instrumental, he was instrumental in the whole thing. I think the band would have eventually done its deal but it would have been a harder road. He was a great songwriter and he helped me out a lot. He really helped me become a better lyricist, a better songwriter. I give the guy mass credit. But these guys are trying to change the story. It’s so well documented. I’ve got numerous magazine articles where Mark and I are talking about how the name started and how the band came up. I have the magazines! If he wants to perjure himself, more power to him.
full in bloom: Didn’t Mark quit the band at some point?
Jack: Yes. Mark quit the band and the corporation in 2000. He gave up all rights to it. Here’s the timeline. 2000 Mark (Kendall) left the band. In 2000 I fired Audie (Desbrow) and Sean (McNabb) who was the bass player at the time. In 2001 I did a reunion thing. See John Kalodner with Sony…..I’m the one who got that record deal with Portrait. I went and met with John…he wanted to meet with me only, no managers, just me. He told me, ‘I don’t know if Great White has another album in them but I believe in you, I love your voice, I want to sign you guys’….I was thrilled. We got the deal and did a record. He wanted to do a second record…..I just couldn’t hear the songs and I was kind of leaning toward doing the solo thing. So I told John, ‘no, but thank you’…..he bought us out of the record deal….we did our ‘Thank you….Goodnight’ album, said bye and we were done. I went and did my solo thing, Michael (Lardie) went and played with Night Ranger and Mark went and did his choo choo train band or whatever it was called. My solo tour was rather lackluster as far as attendance went, so I thought, let me call Mark up and see what he’s doing. I hired him as an employee to work with Jack Russell’s Great White. Nobody said anything then. They didn’t say anything when I dissolved the band because they couldn’t; I own the band.
Then in 2005, Mark and I started a corporation called Shark Touring, which I am CEO….it’s split 50/50….and then when I decided to reform the band, we hired Audie, Sean and Michael. They had been getting paid through that corporation until I fired them on December 10th, then they had to start a new corporation to get paid through, but even when I wasn’t in the band, I was still in the band. Even by their own words.
In 1998, I reformed Great White Productions, which was our production company, it is solely my corporation. So from 1998 to 2001 when I dissolved the band, all of their checks were being cut from Great White Productions, which I am the sole owner of…..so they’re employees of mine. I don’t know how you can argue that, it is what it is. It right there on paper. It’s really just sad that it had to come to this because we were all such great friends. Money became more valuable than a friend. I’m in the hospital with a perforated bowel, which means the contents of your bowel get launched into your body cavity causing a horrendous infection. I was in a coma for five days….they told my wife that they didn’t think I was going to make it. During that time, not one of them called to check on me or to even see if I was still alive. That was truly sad…..ok, so I cost you a couple of grand, I embarrassed you but you know what, I was their friend. When they screwed up….they had their issues too. There was a time when Audie couldn’t play on the record because of his addiction. He didn’t play on the ‘Can’t Get There from Here’ album. Mark missed part of the Scorpions tour because of his alcoholism but I was always there for them. So I get ostracized because they got sober before me? Now they just want some puppet on a string singer, a yes man, who is going to do whatever he says. They shouldn’t call it Great White because it’s deceptive, it’s not Great White. I did the hiring, I did the firing, nobody else wanted to be there….I always had to do it all…..because it was my band. Then they file a statement saying that I have no right to use the name? What? What do you mean, I have no right to use it. I have every right to use it.
full in bloom: It is sad, mostly because you guys have stayed together for so long.
Jack: It is sad….it’s horrible. These guys are my really dear friends. I think about them all the time. I think about Audie when we lived at my parent’s house and all the fun we had, I think about me and Kendall hanging out, everywhere we went, we were inseparable. It is really, really sad. The idea of us sitting on a porch one day talking about our old stories. It’s not going to happen anymore.
full in bloom: You and Audie go back to the seventies.
Jack: ’76, man.
full in bloom: In my interview with Tony Richards he said he replaced Audie in the band.
Jack: Yeah Tony Richards. I used to change everyone’s name. Tony’s name was Tony Orlando and I said nope, you’re Tony Richards. Tony Montana, his name was Anthony Cardenas, I said nope, you’re now Tony Montana. Lorne Black.
full in bloom: What happened with the trademark?
Jack: Their trademark application got denied.
full in bloom: They are still acting like the album is coming out.
Jack: Well, we’ll see what happens. I’m not worried about it right now. I’m just trying to get my band sounding better and better, which they are, these guys are hot shots.
full in bloom: What’s in the future for Jack Russell’s Great White?
Jack: We’ve been playing. We’re getting ready to hop on a tour bus tomorrow night. Then we’re going to do the America Rocks Tour for a month, in June, which is a big headline package.
full in bloom: Are there any plans for some new music?
Jack: Oh yeah, we already got some stuff in the can. We’re recording a live album right now and we are going to release it for free. We’re also going to do a video release and release it for free. Why not? You don’t make money from record sales anymore. People don’t really want to hear the new stuff, they want to hear the hits…and I get it. Right now we are swapping songs in and out of the set. If you come to more than one show you are not going to see the same show.
Great White – Self-titled Album – 1984
full in bloom: I love the aggression of the first self-titled album. I love the songs, I love your voice….it was so aggresive……
Jack: Yeah, Jack Evil. That’s what Michael Wagener used to say, ‘sing like Jack Evil’.
full in bloom: Are there any songs in the set from the self-titled era? I’m sure you probably still do ‘Stick It’, right?
Jack: No. We don’t do ‘Stick It’, we do ‘On Your Knees’, which goes into ‘Achilles Last Stand’. I haven’t done ‘Stick It’ in so many years. I just really have no desire to do that song again.
full in bloom: Really?
Jack: I can’t say it will never be done because every time I say that it turns around and bites me on the butt. I wouldn’t mind putting ‘Hold On’ in the set, I love that song.
full in bloom: When was the last time you did ‘Streetkiller’?
Jack: Probably back in ’84, on the Priest tour.
full in bloom: I think those songs, from the first album, were incredible. It was such a raw record…..I still jam it.
Jack: That’s awesome. I’ve got to take a listen to it…I haven’t listened to it in many, many years.
Make sure to read PART II w/ Jack Russell