Jack Russell of Jack Russell’s Great White Interviewed
Jack Russell’s Great White represents the next phase of a legacy. Rather than look backwards and merely attempt to relive the multi-platinum Hard Rock entity’s storied origins, Jack Russell set his sights on the future. In December 2011, Jack Russell’s Great White first bared its teeth. Since its inception, the frontman welcomed back longtime bassist and friend Tony Montana—this time as a guitar player and keyboardist—lead guitarist Robby Lochner, and drummer Dicki Fliszar. Now, this group has a sharp, soaring and slick new album ready, boasting the bluesy Hard Rock stomp that made Russell and Montana icons in the first place. Zoran Theodorovic had the pleasure of speaking with Jack and his wisdom is shared below.
Zoran Theodorovic: How you doing?
Jack Russell: I’m doing great how about yourself?
Z: Doing great I’m calling from up here from Sacramento, California the weather is great up here. I imagine it’s beautiful down there as well.
JR: Yeah it’s beautiful man it’s a little chilly but it’s clear and sunny but the wind is kind of going but I’m still sitting on the back of the boat, that’s just usually where I spend most of my time my wife and I live on a boat in King Harbor, it’s awesome
Z: How long have you lived on a boat for?
JR: On this boat for 5 years and I lived on another one for 20 when I was single. This is the way I love to live my life. On the water like to start my house up and go shark fishing.
Z: You spent a lot of time on the water as a youth with your parents, your parents come from that world as well?
JR: My Dad used to take me fishing when I was a little Kid all the time even when I was a teenager I used to work on charter boats in San Diego and that’s when I got my fishing license and captains license and I used to take people out fishing. Take 50 people on a 100 ft. boat in Mexican waters. It was great I used to do that in the summertime. I was the youngest kid to ever get a captains license
Z: Oh wow,
Jr: Yeahh it’s pretty cool. Someone’s probably beat me since then you know it was a long time ago
Z: So I think the first time I saw you was at the The Country Club in Reseda . Do you have many memories of Reseda and The Country Club?
JR; Absolutely It’s funny I was just talking to someone about The Country Club the other day kind of going over all the Gigs that used to be here that aren’t here any more like The Fleetwood Club in Redondo Beach.
Z: Yeah like I was saying my first Great White experience in The Country Club in Reseda. Do you have any fond memories or any memories that come to mind?
JR: Absolutely, I was just talking to a friend of mine about all the places that used to be. I mean the great rock venues and The Country Club it was amazing it was great big tall stage and huge room I remember we did several shows there. I remember one especially that we had a band we put together for a charity thing it was me, and Vinnie Appice and Howard Leese from Heart, Phil Soussan and Michael Lardy if I remember correctly, we did some cool stuff, some Bad Company stuff and some random songs it was great. It was a great band.
Z: Sounds exciting fun indeed. The next time I got to see you was with Judas Priest up here in Sacramento at Cal Expo. Care to touch on touring with Judas Priest?
JR: That was an amazing time for us. That was our first US tour, arena tour sold out every single night for the Defenders Of The Faith album and our first album. The problem with that was when we signed with EMI America we didn’t realize til later the reason was that Gary Durst was the vice president at the time he wanted the president’s job so he made sure that our records weren’t in stores. I mean we played in the arena and then walk across the street to the record store and ask where is the Great White album and they’d say “Great White, never heard of them” I said, “you’re kidding me” he says “no, never heard of them” I said we’re playing at the arena right across the street he said I’m sorry I never heard of you guys. So I’m calling my manager saying what was going on cuz I keep asking at the same thing and getting the same answer so we end up only selling only about 100,000 units and we should have been way past that. And we had every label in town we could have chosen from and the manager picked that label I thought you idiot. So we had to put our whole record out again and do the whole thing and signed with Capitol the sister label after that we has some success. So it was weird but being with Judas Priest was so fun It was great Rob Halford is a really nice guy the rest the band was great. I remember one time we were down in Georgia on the beach but you could walk like a mile out and it was only knee deep. We were playing softball in the sand with KK Downing & Glen Tipton of Judas Priest and we were playing soft ball I mean volley ball in leather jackets on the beach. Talk about rock star, hysterical.
Z: Now you have a brand new album did it come out last Friday?
JR: No it came out today. Released today. Yeah we’re very excited. It’s been a dream to put this band together and it took me a long time to get just the right people I wanted and when that moment happened I knew it and that’s when I thought it’s time to get record deals and start recording so that’s what we did. I’m really proud of the record I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done I’m really really happy with it it’s diverse and well thought out There’s great songs on it In my opinion I think it’s a win record. I love it I think people are really going to love it
Z: Not only do you have a new record but also a new way of life?
JR: Absolutely got sober again almost a year and a half ago
JR: This was the kind of thing where it was like I had no choice which was the only way I would have quit obviously. I’ve had some years clean. I had 8 years clean and sober. I had 2 years clean and sober but I always went back out. And this time I was on a bender with Don Dokken and he had come down and I was already 7 sheets to the wind. And when he got down to the Cheesecake Factory where I was at we just started drinking these huge mai tais. Just 3 liquor drinks and I did like 10 in 20 minutes. Last thing I remember I was falling off the bar stool I just couldn’t stay on. And the bartender says Jack you got to go dude they’re going to call the cops. I say OK so Don walks me down to my boat my wife put me in bed, the next morning she couldn’t wake me up so she knew something was wrong and somehow got me out of the boat up the stairs over the side of the boat down the stairs to the dock got me into a wheelchair that I had from when I torn my Achilles, so she got me into the car and drove me to the emergency room and I spent 5 days in ICU in a coma with my liver almost shut down it was barely functioning and I remember waking up out of this thing and there was all these people in my room, my guitar player, his wife, my wife and my friend from Chicago and all these people and I was like what is going on. I know I’m in the hospital I get that. And so I asked “What happened” my wife said “Jack you almost died, you were in a coma for 5 days and you’re liver almost stopped working completely” I said “woah” then the doctor come in and said “I hear your some kind of celebrity but I’ll tell you what, I’m just going to tell you, I’m not pulling any punches, not to scare you or anything like that If you drink again you are going to die, it’s not like you might die or you could die, the way you drink your wife has told me how you drink, you will die the next time you do that, so I would suggest that you don’t drink unless of course you want to die.” So I took that to heart. There was no grey area left there it wasn’t like you might or maybe, if they would have left that crack in the window for me I would have given it one more shot. But this is like drinking again for me would be like playing Russian roulette with a gun full of bullets. It’s just something you don’t do, so it made it easier for me to say that was enough. I’ve drank enough for 5 people. So I’m just dealing with it. I don’t miss it, I like to be clear headed and my body feels good, it’s just so much better. I’ve always like being sober. I just never in my addiction would it leave me alone and I know that there will be a day that it will come knocking on my back and I will think You deserve it. So I know I will be tested again but I’m ready for it. I just don’t want to die.
Z: Was it a resentment? Did you leave something off your 4th step or do you know what it was that took you out?
JR: I don’t think I did my 4th step as thorough as I should have. I have so much stuff. And there were certain things that I didn’t bring up from pride or embarrassment. I didn’t know better than that. That’s the kind of stuff that can take you out. So I have a really good sponsor. He’s great, he’s super, and I’m also working with his sponsor, so my Grandsponsor. So now I got these 2 guys watching over me and then a lot of my sober friends that have been sober some like 28 years. So now I have all that influence around me and all the tools and I’m using them. Now my life has really turned around because of that. Everything has changed.
Z: That’s awesome and now you have this brand new killer album. How many songs is this album
JR: There’s 11
Z: And do you have a favorite song on the album?
JR: Everyday it changes cuz I love this whole record so much. “Sign of Times” is great. I love every track for different reasons. OK if I had to give an answer for 1 today it would be “Sign of Times”, which we did a video for it. It’s a great song, it’s monumental. And I’m trying to do this with all humility. I’m just stating my truth. If it was someone else’s record I would buy it. I just think it’s a great record. All in all it’s just a really good collection of songs.
Z: Not a concept but a collection. I see “My Addiction” and “God Speed”. Sounds like you’re in a positive direction.
JR: I write autographically. There is only one song on the record that isn’t and that is “Spy Vs Spy” that came from the old Mad Magazine and I’d been watching a lot of spy movies and I saw that movie with Melissa McCarthy SPY and it was just hysterical and she was such a bad ass in the movie and I was like “holy crap” so I thought you know I’m going to write a spy song, so then I came up with the music and the lyrics and first I took it to my guitar player and I showed him the chord changes and he was like” OK, spies huh?” “I don’t know we’ll give it a shot” and then he was saying I love this song and I was good I told you. So yeah it’s nice to have a record you’re really in love with because I’ve done some that I wasn’t. And I’ve felt you know I don’t really want to have to do this.
Z: Have you done any bonus tracks?
JR: Yeah we have recorded a bonus track. We haven’t released that yet but. I don’t know where that’s going to go once we’re done with it.
Z: Can you tell us what the song is called at least?
JR: One for the Road
JR: Exactly opposite of the way I live my life. But it was how I lived my life.
Z: Been there done that.
JR: Yep been there done that bought the T-shirt, Read the book, my home.
Z: So what’s going on in the world? Your world is looking good how’s. In your opinion how’s the world coming along? I know you have an opinion on things of that matter. Do you have a positive outlook on the way things are coming along?
JR: You know I’m just going to wait and see. You know I give everybody a chance. I mean it’s like when Obama got elected I wasn’t over the moon about it but I’m not the kind of person that’s going to rage and preach against him or whatever. I said let’s just see what happens. See what he does give everybody a chance. That’s what I say. I mean whoever is elected president deserves at least a chance to do what they say they’re going to do. Either they will or they won’t. So that remains to be seen. I’ve heard enough promises from Presidents through my whole life. And it seems like they say whatever they want or what they have to get elected. And when they get elected they don’t do anything they say. But we’ll see. I just say give everybody a chance. That’s who won the election fair and square so let’s see what he can do. I’m hopeful. We need a government to go back to the people and if that’s what happens it’s really going to be a good thing. Because we’ve had big government for too long. Those guys just go into congress and vote I say we give ourselves a raise and others will co-sign that. And then in the yeahs and nays everybody says yeah. And we’re left with oh man really?. I wish I could to that. I want to raise my guarantees to $10,000 a show. OK!!
Z: You’re a small business owner yourself, for the most part.
JR: Yeah absolutely
Z: And since you own a small business did you get the short end of the stick, the last 8 years compared to years prior to that as a small business owner?
JR: Let’s just say there was a lot more taxes. It’s really hard to have a small business or a small corporation and with corporate taxes and all that kind of stuff it’s just really hard. For anybody. My hat’s off to anybody. You see all these business owners, I got to raise my hat to them because I know how hard it is. But fortunately I’ve never worked a day in my life. That’s why they call it playing right, playing music not working music. The ends justify the means.
Z: And let’s see here. The new album is all meant to play live? How likely is it that all the new songs will see a live setting?
JR: We’re doing 3 right now. We’re having an album release party/show next Friday at the Whiskey in Hollywood and we got a lot of friends coming down to play with us. Lita Ford going to introduce “Save Your Love” for me and Don Dokken’s coming up and we’re going do one of his songs. It’s going to be a really fun evening we’re going to do a few new songs in the set and that’s probably what it will be too depending on the set. How long it is. There’s nothing worse than having a band come out and just bombarding with the whole record. And not playing the songs that you love to hear and that you know. So you have to play the hits. There’s a lot songs of ours that were hits, that we going play and so we’re going to have to make the set a little longer which is OK with the fans. It’s harder on us. But it’s fun. I love it. We were rehearsing new songs for the first time and everything sounded great. I was like wow you guys really know these songs I was really impressed. Especially all the harmony because we did a lot of vocals on this record. A lot of big harmonies, stuff that I’ve never done before. Intentionally I wanted them to have really big vocals and harmonies, really Beatlesque, Queen, Beach Boys stuff and it really turned out well, we did stuff we’ve never done for instance the vocal break down of “Sign of the Times”. It’s really different. The harmonies and the title track. I just love this record. And I don’t want to sound like I’m being prideful. I’m really not. I’m just proud of it.
Z: Sounds Inspiring. Sounds like you were quite inspired.
JR: Yeah it’s a combination of Robby Lochner and myself that brings this music to fruition. When you write with a different person whether they can write or not I was really apprehensive and I’d never heard anything he’d done and I didn’t know what kind of music goes into his head and we started writing together it was like magic. I was like wow this is such a great combination. Because we both think alike but he’s more music theory and also very street smart in a musical way. So we were like brothers in a sense and it was very easy to write with him. Every song that’s on the album was the songs that we wrote we didn’t write anything extra. Everything that we decided to work on we thought OK this is good. This is valid. There was a couple times that we came up with something and I was like nahh and he would just throw it away without putting a bunch of energy into it. So it was a really magic time. Writing for me I’d never experienced that before where it was just that funny and the ideas were just flowing. It’s really kind of indescribable. I can’t explain it unless you’re a musician you wouldn’t know what I’m talking about.
Z: I’m a musician and I completely understand what you’re talking about.
JR: Yeah you know when you’re in that zone and you get that feeling that everything is right. It’s almost like a high. You get that sense of wow and you get the chills. That’s when you know you’re on the right track. I’ve always judged songs by the chill factor.
Z: Totally it’s almost like sex.
JR: Absolutely. And I would actually say that sometimes it’s better. No offense to anybody and I’ve had my share of that. Because there were the times and it’s something you did and you’re like “Oh my God” body orgasm.
Z: Right music is the gift that keeps on giving unlike sex where it ends and then you go mow the lawn or something.
Z: Right on I got a couple more questions. What would you say your top 3 bands of the 80’s?
JR: Cinderella, Kix & Dokken. There were so many great bands.
Z: That’s a great pick. Dokken for sure. Yeah that’s a great pick there.
JR: If I had to pick one album I would pick Under Lock and Key. That’s just the greatest album.
JR: Don’s just a really great song writer and He’s got a really great voice. He’s singing a little differently now I mean we all get older But he’s still great. I love Don. I’ve always loved Don. He was very integral to getting us signed. Without him it would have taken us a lot more. I’m sure it would have eventually happened but you know.
Z: Some people are not always helpful like that. Some people are like unhelpful.
JR: Yeah. Exactly
Z: And when you have people that are helpful it’s a blessing.
JR: Yeah. He was instrumental for us. He really was. He’s been there every time, always there. I would ask Don “get me up to John Kolodner’s office.” And he would get me right up there and that’s how we got a deal with Sony in 99. I went and got it. John said he didn’t want to talk to any managers or any people like that. He said I will just deal with you Jack and see if we could get this thing working. So we were got him demo after demo after demo and finally and I said how about if we got Jack Lays to produce it and he goes I like that idea. And we got a hold of Jack and I say hey dude can you work on some songs for me and he said yeah. So I came up to his house and we worked on some tunes. And Mike Lardie and I spent some days up there and we recorded some demos. So I was sitting back at my house waiting for the word. And he calls one day and says “Jack its John, yeah I’m signing a band and I don’t know if you got another album but I believe in you and so I’m going to sign you.” I went “Right on!” and jumped in my pool in the middle of winter with all my clothes on. I told my wife I got this record deal I don’t care what time and it was freezing but I didn’t get wet I was so hot. It was a great moment.
Z:. So do you have a final words of advice? Words of wisdom? Anything you’d like to say to anybody that might be listening?
JR: Yeah. Sure if you have a drug or alcohol problem please try to recognize it, if you cannot stop drinking or using. Life is so much better on the other side. Get help. It’s out there and for any musicians out there or anybody anywhere. If you want something whatever it is you can have it you just have to believe it and put all your energy into it. You have to visualize it like your actually doing it. And you’ll get where you want to be.
Z: All right Jack. Thank you so much for your time and we look forward to seeing you on the road.
JR: I appreciate it my friend thank you so much
Z: your welcome take care
JR: you to brother alright Bye bye.