Great White sharks live a long time; proud, muscular beasts that control their domain and will probably continue to do so for eternity. The legendary L.A. rock band of the same name shares a lot of the same characteristics of its animal namesake. The band has been spending recent months out playing glorious outdoor summer rock gigs and doing it better than ever. While the band has made many a hit record those who are in the know are aware that the live show is what the band does best. We recently had an in-depth chat with new vocalist Terry Illous but that was heavy on conversation about his days in another L.A. band XYZ. We still had some GREAT WHITE questions after all these years of loving the band and co-founder/guitarist Mark Kendall was very gracious and answered some of them for us including the past, the recent stint with Jani Lane and where the band is headed. Read on….
Legendary Rock Interviews: Our sympathy to you guys in losing Jani, we have seen some of his performances in the band and it looked like he was back in peak performance. How much did you guys enjoy your shows and time together?
Mark Kendall: We loved jamming with Jani. He was completely professional in his preparation and he sang great. It was horrible losing him! I was working with him closely and supporting his sobriety, as I do with 6 others. At his memorial, I wanted people to know that he wanted to be sober more that anything. I sent him daily prayers and we spoke on the phone about our individual walks with sobriety. Unfortunately, his demons overcame him and it was very sad. I also let people know about his talent at the memorial. The guy had phenomenal talent not only in song writing but in music in general. He also played drums on Warrant records and is solely responsible for the band even having a career. I didn’t let any MORE information out of the bag but I will say I was upset that none of the WARRANT members showed up to his memorial.
LRI: We just walked away from a Great White show recently and were totally blown away. The band was always one of the better live acts during the Capitol years but to see you guys STILL as good or god forbid BETTER was a little shocking. Terry was amazing and sang like it was the most important gig of his life. After all these years how do you battle complacency? At this point a lot of bands try to get by on name recognition alone.
MK: Thank you John!! I think the way we keep ourselves from going through the motions is that we have kept making new music over the years. We also have extended jams that bring the crowd into the show and it’s a little different every night, which is what keeps it exciting for US. We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen from night to night. That is refreshing for a band. If we were just going out and only playing Once Bitten Twice Shy every night we would probably have to go on suicide watch, (laughs).
LRI: It was especially cool to see some of the older, “heavy metal” ish GREAT WHITE mixed in the set alongside the signature hits. Is it fun playing tunes like “Down in Your Knees”?
MK: Sure it’s fun to show people how we used to do it in 1982!!! We like to take them through a little journey with our discography, so going back to the beginning makes sense…….That stuff rocks.
LRI: You have had the pleasure of working with some really quality replacement guys in Jack’s absence. What is the plan moving forward, is it going to be full speed ahead with Terry Ilous (XYZ) from here on?
MK: We love Terry and everything he brings to the band. We will all have to wait and see what happens. We are all having a lot of fun at the moment and it is a pure joy working with Terry….
LRI: I know it’s not really lucrative to release product in this day and age but watching Audie beat the drums like they owed him money while you, Scotty and Michael are grinning war to ear makes you think. If it’s still working so well is it tempting to wanna go in and maybe cut some new material and release it via iTunes or your page?
MK: I have been writing off the hook lately and I hope we get in the studio soon. You definitely haven’t heard our last record or anything like that, I assure you. We love to create and will definitely be doing a new record.
LRI: When you guys were a young L.A. band recording the very first album what were your expectations? How did it feel to be recording an album?
MK: Well, first of all we were working with the legendary Producer/Engineer Michael Wagener so we were very excited and had high expectations. I still love that record even though it wasn’t a big seller for us.
LRI: The band started to develop its own unique sort of vibe, a bluesy signature…. It not only set you apart from the pack of other acts in the 80s but it was highly successful and sort of timeless. When did you guys realize that the more classic, bluesy style suited your strengths and needs as a band?
MK: That happened in the mid 80s. The more I wrote the more my influences started to show up along with everyone else as well. Everyone in the band has different influences and mine mostly stemmed from the blues style players and our style began to evolve.
LRI: People always say hindsight is 20/20 and “if I knew then, what I know now”….Are there any career moves the band or you made personally that you wish you could hit reset on and change any elements?
MK: Yes, I wish we would have taken a break before we recorded Hooked. We needed to follow up our Once Bitten……and Twice Shy Albums with something very, very strong and I believe we fell a little short and just needed to take a little time off to accomplish what we needed to do.
LRI: Always LOVED the song “Call it Rock and Roll” and thought it was one of those songs that should have been a top ten hit. You guys managed to end up having quite a few radio/mtv hits over the years, did it ever seem like there was any rhyme or reason as to why a song would blow up versus a song that underperformed? Can you even worry about stuff like that?
MK: The band has never picked a single in its entire career. Our job has been to write the best music we can that we love to play. After it’s on tape, you hit your knees and pray other people like it too (laughs). I have never written a single per say but I have written songs that have become singles. The record company usually has a song they want to put out as a single or whatever.
LRI: The band makes it a point to be accessible to the fans, not just over the internet but in person at every show. You don’t force people to buy a meet and greet or anything, you just make it known that you’re there. VERY COOL. What was it like meeting fans 25 years ago and how much has that changed over the years?
MK: There is really not much difference between now and back then. Our fans have always been extremely important to us and we usually don’t hit the road after a show until everything is signed and all pictures are taken. Sometimes it takes a while but we always have a good time and our fans are VERY loyal so it’s nice to actually take that time.
LRI: Your solo spot, where you jam a bit on guitar, reminded me a bit of our hometown boy Rick Nielsen. Are you as big of a gearhead as Rick and what are some of your influences from a guitarist standpoint?
MK: I’m probably not as much of a gear head as Rick, however I am always looking to improve on my tone. I have a lot of influences. Carlos Santana, Johnny Winter, Alvin Lee, Richie Blackmore, Billy Gibbons and many, many more………
LRI: Bands have to go out and play mostly the same songs every single night, every single tour, year after year. We understand the staples and the fact that you CAN’T get away without playing Rock Me or TWICE SHY. With such a huge catalog of great stuff aside from that how do you go about picking a setlist? It seems daunting.
MK: We just interchange those songs we don’t HAVE to play and that helps a lot. It is difficult deciding what makes the set at this point but it’s also quite fun actually…..
LRI: Last question, you’re off the hook so to speak! What is the biggest misconception about Great White or yourself that you’ve ever had to correct?
MK: Not too many people are aware that Great White was my nick name and it’s how the bandname was conceived!! We came up with incorporating the shark image well after the fact. Go to http://www.edromanguitars.com
and check out my new guitar. THE SHARK IS BACK FOLKS!!! Thanks for the support from all the Great White fans around the world. WE LOVE YOU ALL!!!!