by Ryan Meehan
Musician Jack Russell of (Jack Russell’s Great White) has been through some hard times during his three-plus decades in the business, but he is one of the few artists from the hair-metal era that has stuck it out and survived. (Russell’s) voice comes from one of the most recognizable set of pipes in the industry, and has stayed every bit as refined as it was when they released their hit cover of the Ian Hunter classic “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” back in 1989. After a troublesome legal debate over the rights to the name, Russell now tours with a group of talented musicians under the name “Jack Russell’s Great White”. The band will be playing at The Rock Island Brewing Company on Friday, July 24th, and tickets are available at Co-Op Tapes and Records for just $15. We’re excited to have Jack Russell of Great White as our guest today in 10 questions.
RM: How are you feeling physically? Could you talk a little bit about the rehabilitation that you had to go through after the incident in the Fall of 2009 in which you cracked two vertebrae; and how long did it take you feel comfortable enough to get back to the point where you were ready to get back on tour?
JR: I believe you are referring to a fall I had on stage on my birthday in 2009 in which I shattered my left femur. I went to physical therapy for many months and learned to walk again. I returned on tour as soon as I was able to put one foot in front of the other.
RM: You seem to have an obsession with all things nautical…Where did that interest begin; and did you have anything to do with giving Mark Kendall the nickname which would eventually become the band’s moniker?
JR: I’ve been in the water, on the water, and have had a fishing pole in my hand since I was five years old. As far as Mark’s nickname goes, of course that came from myself. Mark didn’t know what a fish was until I showed him. After I taught him Mark took to fresh water fishing and is quite a good angler, although I still prefer salt water fishing. As long as you like to fish, you’re okay to me.
RM: There are obvious traces of influence from classic and hard rock acts such as Led Zeppelin which one can hear in your voice, but who were some of the blues vocalists that really had an influence on you in your formative years? How did you go about translating those blues influences into the type of hard rock music that made Great White so successful?
JR: Muddy Waters, Willie Dickson, so many blues songs I might have heard. I believe everything that you hear and like finds its way into your music. Much like the saying “You are what you eat”.
RM: I noticed when watching a recent performance that “Save Your Love” is one of the songs you’ve been playing during your live shows…That song would appear to be a bit of a decrease in intensity within the set list for the rest of the band, but it’s hardly five minutes of light lifting on your part as that isn’t an easy song to sing…How do you go about pacing yourself at a show when you know you don’t have the same opportunity to take advantage of those breaks in the action?
JR: The song for me has never really been a difficult song to sing. I don’t mean that to sound trite, it just happens to be a part of my range that has always been comfortable to sing in.
RM: Speaking of your voice, you’ve been able to maintain the vocal tonality that broke Great White out into the mainstream back in the late eighties…Why do you think you’ve been able to do that while several of your peers from that era have struggled to match the power and the range that they once had? Is it simply a matter of practice or is there something else going on there that the casual hard rock fan might not be aware of?
JR: A musician never tells his secrets.
RM: In the aftermath of the Station fire, you did a few television interviews and I remember being very impressed at how you were able to keep your composure during such a tragic time where you had lost a very close friend…How were you able to do that; and did you in any way feel obligated to talk to the media directly in those interviews as opposed to having a publicist or tour manager speak for you?
JR: I prefer giving my own interviews whenever possible. Thank you for calling me composed…That is hardly how I felt.
RM: What’s your take on this trend of crowd-funding that’s going on all over the music business these days? Do you see anything incredibly revolutionary about the crowd-funding model; or you think it’s not much different from the way that records were paid for in the past because the fans are essentially still financing the projects at hand?
JR: The only thing different is that fans can be involved with artists from the beginning of making of the record, so it would seem to me that albums would be much more personal to them. This is a route that as of yet we have not taken and are not sure we will. Whether we decide to or not, there is and will continue to be new music released from Jack Russell’s Great White.
RM: What’s the biggest difference between the way you write lyrics now as opposed to the way you constructed ideas for songs twenty-five years ago? Are you a fan of recording voice notes on your phone, or do you still write words on notepads or napkins?
JR: There really is no difference between the way I write lyrics today. As far as paper versus recording my voice on my phone, I do both. My phone is easier to use while driving or out and about. The real difference is whom I am writing with. As I always have, I will come with some musical ideas and put some melody lines to then then put lyrics to the melody. Now instead of having 2 other musicians helping me write, I have four. Every member of Jack Russell’s Great White can write, and sing. A couple of them write with me as if they have been doing it for the last 30 years.
RM: You’re sober now and back on the road again…How do you go about distracting yourself from triggers that may threaten your sobriety? Are there any activities that you have taken up which help keep your mind off of those triggers given the environments you’re in on tour?
JR: I hang around my band while on the road. My band would kick my ass if I was drinking.
RM: How do you want people to remember Great White a hundred years from now? What do you think the band’s legacy will end up being in the long and storied history of rock n’ roll?
JR: I hope they will remember the band for some great songs, and with all humility a vocalist with a truly God given talent. I hope they will remember me as an artist who would sacrifice anything for his fans and genuinely loved, cared for, and appreciated them.
RM: What’s up next for you guys in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
JR: We will continue to record and release new songs, the next titled ‘Blame It On The Night’. We hope to compile songs into an album titled ‘The Gauntlet’. We will also continue to tour and enjoy our fans. There is something big in the works, which I am not at liberty to discuss as of yet. Stay tuned…
Jack Russell’s Great White Official Website: (Being rebuilt so stay tuned to the pirates page for information regarding the website.)
Jack Russell’s Great White Pirates Facebook Page: (https://www.facebook.com/jacksrussellgreatwwhitepiratespage)
Great White on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JacksGreatWhite
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