Jack Russell is beyond a rock and roll survivor, he’s a survivor period. Sort of like the animal that is his band’s namesake he continues to circle the waters and is a predator more by natural design than by choice. 2012 finds Jack once again hitting the road in March and on the hunt via a legal issue over the name of the band he started all those years ago. It’s just another hurdle in a life that’s never been easy but has been filled with the type of drama that’s normally reserved for Hollywood. Fitting, since the name GREAT WHITE has always been synonymous with California and LaLa land anyway. We talked with Jack about his new version of Great White, his health, sobriety, the early days and what it’s like to wake up every day to the sounds of the ocean. Read on….
Legendary Rock Interviews: Hi Jack! Thanks so much for talking to us. We talked to your old buddy Mark Kendall a while back and it’s good to hear from you again. I had the pleasure of meeting you many moons ago at the World Series of Rock show up here at Alpine Valley back in the day and have always been a fan, you were very cool to us backstage that day in 1991.
Jack Russell: Alpine Valley!! That was a helluva show man, a HELLUVA show. I remember that day, very good times! I remember Sebastian shoving a mic in my face during “Train Kept a Rolling” while I was mid-conversation with someone (laughs). Thank god I knew roughly where they were at in the song. I think I actually ended up on their home video. Thank you so much for reminding me of that day and for remembering it as fondly as I did. I owe everything in my career to people like yourselves that care enough to come see us and I never, ever forget that. This isn’t just about me, if it wasn’t for all the people like you I would have never achieved any of the cool things like that which have happened in my life. It’s because of the people who love the music and the blessings of God that I am able to do what I do and I will never take that fact for granted and hope I never have. It’s a good life out here living on my boat and I truly appreciate it.
LRI: What’s it like being a Captain? I wish I could park my house in the middle of friendly waters.
JR: It’s so great to have the birds singing and the waves crashing around me John. I’m not gonna lie. I have been a Captain for a while now and have had my license for a long, long time which means I can take people out on a 110 ton vessel. I used to work years ago taking people fishing on charter boats in San Diego, I was actually one of the youngest people ever to get their license so it’s something I have always done. If I was ever to quit singing and wanted to make a living doing it I could but I don’t think I’m ever gonna do that. I enjoy having my own boat and living on it and the only assholes on it are the ones I invite, you know (laughs).
LRI: Are you loving it out there?
JR: I am. I mean, I lived out in the desert for like ten years and I was fucking miserable. I almost drank myself to death which is pretty well documented and I came back here and I just have peace out here. I’m living on the ocean and this is where I belong, I get up every morning and sit on the deck in the sun and look around and watch all this life happening and I am just at peace, I don’t know how else to describe it. I can go ashore to take care of business but once that gate slams behind me on dock I just feel totally at home and totally happy. It’s a simple life and that’s what I need right now is simplicity. I have enough aggravation and crap in my life and career but I don’t at home. Some people say you have a hole in the water that you’re just throwing money into and I say you have a hole in the earth that you’re throwing money into and you can’t take yours to Catalina (laughs). I can drive my money pit anywhere I want (laughs).
LRI: My condolences on the passing of your mother. I told Lonn Friend that I always thought that was so cool that RIP magazine ran an advice column written by Mama Russell. Did she enjoy that?
JR: Thank you. She LOVED doing that so much. That was her Andy Warholian 15 minutes of fame you know, John? She always helped people anyway because that was just kind of her personality, her nickname was “Bubbles” because she was just this fun, bubbly, lively Lucille Ball-esque kind of person. It was wonderful having her growing up as a mom and I miss her tremendously but I am really glad that she’s gone and is at peace now. She had to be moved to a home when she got really sick and I hated having her live in a home but luckily had met a wonderful woman at a show in Denver who is now my wife and she’s a nurse. I had asked her if there was any way that she could move out and live with us in our big house out in the desert and I told her she could have her own room and help me and when I went out on the road she could be there to take care of my mother. She came out was just a godsend, she left her family and everything in Colorado and moved out here to be with us and took really good care of my mom. My mom got progressively worse and just not herself got aggressive and things like that and we ended up having to move her back into a home unfortunately because by that time I had also gotten hurt and this poor girl, my wife now, was just being worked to death between me and my mom. My manager then (in Great White) just wasn’t getting it.
LRI: This was when things just had to slow down for you and all the while they were wanting to keep booking dates ?? What actually happened?
JR: I was like telling him basically “I’m being worked to DEATH. I need some time off for all these things” and he was like “I understand Jack, as your manager I can definitely pull the tour down and you can get your rest and get healthy, we’re 100% behind you man. As a ‘friend” though, as a friend I gotta tell you that while I can do that it will probably ruin or end your career, the promoters will never wanna touch you again so what do you really wanna do?” So I was in an interesting spot, it was like “Ok, well I can ruin my career or take a bunch more pills and go out on the road and slug through the pain, Ok, I’ll take a bunch of pills and go out and work with a health problem.” Consequently, I just beat the living shit out of myself. I started thinking about it one time when I got home here and was healing up for the next round of shows. I was like, “Look, I don’t wanna go out and do three in a row and shit, let’s go slow and do two and all this” and my manager was like “No, no, we’ve got a possibility of doing three in a row and it’s gonna be great” and I was like “Woah, dude slow down” and he’s all like “You’re a big boy Jack, you can handle it”. Right around that time was when I sat back and really thought about what I was doing to myself and wondered if I really want to pull that kind of schedule anymore just because that’s what he wants to do even though my body is telling me something completely different. It was like I had no say so whatsoever and I was killing myself for what and for who? It sure wasn’t to put on the best show for the fans because at that point what I needed more than anything was time off. I wanna go out there and have fun like I always have during the 30 odd years of my career in Great White. This is important, it’s a career and a choice, this is what I do but it’s FUN and it’s not just a “job”. So on December 10th of 2011 I just had to call them and end it. I said, “I’m done, I’m taking the name of the band that I started in 1978 and I’m moving on.” So basically, instead of them firing me, I basically said “You’re fired”. I had a band ready to go from my solo project and I said, “You know what guys? You wanna do GREAT WHITE with me?” and they said “Hell yeah” and that’s basically what’s brought it to this point. It gets even better though….(laughs). I came to find out that on December 7th, three days before I called them, that those guys had gone down and filed for the trademark on the name WITHOUT ME!!! December 7th, ironically the anniversary of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, those guys went and filed to take my own band name away from me. I was DEVASTATED, just devastated, no matter what was going on with our manager, these guys in the band have always been my friends, more than friends, we were LIKE FAMILY. I was just like “How could you do that to me, without letting me know?” I couldn’t BELIEVE it. I thought when I called on the 10th that they were GOING to do that okay, because when I talked to my manager for the last time and told him I was done, he told me “Okay, I’m gonna stay with these guys then Jack and I’m going to make your life miserable”. I thought right then, on December 10th, “Okay, I know the deal, they’re gonna go into court and file for the trademark”. I never thought in a million years that they had already DONE it. I was just devastated and blown out of the water. I’ve had my heart broken before but this was different, it was as if my heart was literally ripped right out of my chest.
LRI: I think some of us fans are confused about the timeline of events there before it got to that point. Was it always, always a situation where you were the singer of GREAT WHITE? Was it always the plan that you were going to rejoin Great White when you were able and all these other singers were just kind of getting them by and keeping them on the road until you were able to rejoin?
JR: Well yeah. I was always the singer of GREAT WHITE and they even said that with their big statement that I was “slated to return on February 10th and we were blindsided and shocked by Jack and blah blah”. I read an interview with Mark Kendall a few months back where he said he talked to me three times a week and they checked in on me constantly but I am here to tell you John. I have not talked to Mark Kendall in a freakin YEAR. The last time I even saw him was at the Jani Lane memorial and he had a panic attack beforehand because he thought he might have to appear onstage and play a song with me. Does that sound like a band that wanted their singer back? I mean come on…..does it? Let me make clear, nobody from that band called me to vent or otherwise say “Hey ma, we’re sick of this Jack, come on or it’s over”. I was still on the webpage and everything else.
LRI: I did a couple of interviews during that time with both Terry Ilous and Mark Kendall. Both of them were very kind and gave me great interviews and I even enjoyed seeing them live but they were very tight-lipped on your status when I asked about you coming back or whether Terry was permanent. I got a little bit out of Terry who told me he wasn’t sure about his status and whether you were coming back but that he talked with you about singing your songs and what an honor it was to perform the catalog. It was all really confusing from a fan standpoint.
JR: I know and that’s bullshit that they didn’t make it clear that I would be coming back. I did talk to Terry and tell him thank you for doing a great job and everything after the situation with Jani and there was even a point during the shows where Terry was telling people “Jack’s getting better and will be back” and all that and that all started to change only recently. I was on the phone with our manager so much to the point that he was like “Jack, I’m not gonna tell you again…this is your band, you’re the singer in Great White, we’re here for you, if the guys don’t wanna play with you anymore we will FIRE them, Michael’s on board, Kendall will just go where the money is and Audie might not like it but once he sees you rehearse and sees you’re fine then he will be okay with it.” Again, sneakily and ironically, Michael Lardie sent me a text December 6th which was the day before they filed for the rights to the name and the day after my birthday. Lardie sent me an email that said “Happy Belated Birthday you old fart…haha, super busy, gotta go, loves Mikey” and then the very next day they filed for the trademark without me. It was like, “Really Michael??? What the fuck is up with that shit? Can’t you have the balls to call me and say Look Jack, we’re really sick of your shit and we don’t wanna play with you anymore so we’re gonna call it a day and let’s go fight it out in court and see how it goes” Sending me a text and wishing me a happy birthday the day you take my band away from me was just really sneaky and telling if you ask me.
LRI: Prior to that point were you completely supportive of their efforts to keep the ship afloat with Terry and Jani and Paul and those guys?
JR: Yeah! I told the guys, let’s keep this thing together, let’s keep this going and I’ll call Jani Lane and Jani was like “Well, I really don’t wanna do that and I’m really not comfortable with that but for you I will do that” and he even said that in the last interview he ever did on THAT METAL SHOW. He said, “Jack Russell, my friend, called me and wanted me to fill in for him” and he did. He did an amazing job too, I was talking to his widow Kimberly and was like “You know Kim, Jani saved my life because I woke up from my last surgery on August 11th and the first thing I heard my wife say to me was ‘You know your friend Jani died today of alcohol poisoning’ and I couldn’t believe it. I was in a state of shock that Jani was gone and a few days later Steven Tyler called me and said “Jack, what the hell are you doing?” and I just said “I don’t know man” and Steven said “Jack, you gotta get sober buddy” and I did. I really did. Yeah, I gotta take pain medication, I probably have to take it for the rest of my life because my back is so screwed up but you can tell from talking to me or watching me sing that I’m lucid, I’m not all fucked up.
LRI: I saw the NAMM video, the interviews and the performances and was just even more confused by the Great White statements about you because you sounded and looked great.
JR: Well, thank you, that’s very kind. This is it, this is where I’m at and I am FINE. I’m not taking pills to get fucked up I’m taking what I need to take to get by and do my best. This is what I do and I’m not on medications that I abuse or make me confused or falling all over the place, incoherent or whatever. I’ve got a new doctor and new medication that works for me and allows me to do this without having me be a mess and I am very thankful.
LRI: Well, that’s another question that’s been raised this past year or two. How much of your problems were addiction related and how much were full-blown health problems? I do understand that one does sometimes blend into the other.
JR: Here’s the deal I was taking a LOT of meds. I was taking prednisone which is for inflammation and swelling and I was getting worked too much, my voice was starting to take a beating. So, the prednisone helped with that but it does all this other bad shit to your body and screws up your bones and ravages your immune system and everything else.
LRI: The Great White guys were putting it out there in some detail via a press release about your addictions, medical issues and abusing your pain meds which pissed off some of your faithful that they would go public with your problems. Thoughts?
JR: I was taking pain pills but they were just making me a mess and all I really needed was time away and time to rest and heal. I needed to take a break from that schedule that they were so adamant about and it did hurt that they decided to make so much of my problems public but I GET IT. I was having problems with the medications I was on the last time those guys had worked with me. I was having issues with a lot of those pills and the oxy contin was making me an IDIOT, I was falling down and forgetting the words to my own songs and shit like that. I was nodding off and just wasn’t the same old Jack, I understanded that is a major problem, I get that. Do I think that my own band should believe me when I tell them that I have a new doctor and new meds and I’m sober now? Yes. Do I think I should have to take a piss test or be off my pain pills in order to be in the band I STARTED??? No. I have a new doctor who just has a different approach, I have new medications that make the pain TOLERABLE. Trust me when I say that I am by no means CURED from pain, it’s not that I’m not in pain anymore it’s just that it’s manageable and tolerable now and I’m able to be myself and be coherent and perform the way I expect myself to.
LRI: Do you find that some of those shows that weren’t up to par were following you around or haunting you on youtube?
JR: (laughs). You know, it’s funny I was telling my new manager Val the other other day that youtube used to be my worst enemy at one point but it’s going to end up being my best friend now. The proof’s in the pudding and at the end of the day it will all come to light. I have always been one to let the music do the talking and as usual I still have a lot to say (laughs). Don’t count me out.
LRI: I have to ask you about some of the moments in that musical catalog of course. We just talked to Michael Wagener recently and he told me you guys had a LOT of fun making that first album. What do you remember about him and those days?
JR: I LOVE that dude man! I was just thinking about that album the other day cause I am back here living in Redondo Beach where we recorded that record and now everywhere I go there’s memories of that time and that era. I remember one night Gary Holland (former drummer) and I went out and for some reason we tore this “No Dumping” sign out of the ground and we carried it back to the studio and ended up taking a picture of it with a roll of toilet paper in my hand (laughs). I don’t know why, it was just some stupid idea we had. I also remember we somehow had a pair of deer antlers that we just stuck up behind Kendall’s head and took another hysterical picture. We had a GREAT time recording that album. Ask anyone. That band was SO much fun back in those days. Mark and I were SUCH good friends back then. You have to remember I asked Mark to start a band with me back in 1978 when I was 17 years old. I said “Dude, come join me and let’s start a band” and it just went from there. We were so close that at one point Audie (Desbrow, drummer) and Mark were both living in my parents house with me. Mark would help me with chores and purposely set the lawnmower so low that the grass would die and my dad wouldn’t ask us to mow the lawn anymore (laughs).
LRI: SHOT IN THE DARK sounds like the logical stepping stone from that kind of metal feel towards the band that would eventually sell millions. Is that accurate?
JR: Yes. Absolutely, John. The sound of the band would sure change from that strictly metal sound but it was a natural growth that sort of happened and made sense. Prior to that point we were all sort of into Judas Priest and sort of developed our own style within that hard rock template. SHOT IN THE DARK was definitely a departure in that we started incorporating more of the blues and keyboards and that signature GREAT WHITE sound. The band kind of expanded and we were able to do different stuff as a result of that searching and finding our own sound within the roots of our influences. We never did anything logically though (laughs). We never sat down and thought “Ok, we’re gonna kind of tweak the sound and get bluesy” it just sort of happened… I think it started to happen with that album though. We just wrote songs that we liked and that was the only way we knew, we were like “Yeah, we like that, we like playing that and listening to that so let’s put that on the record.” We never had an A&R person come down to the studio and sit with us and listen to the tracks while we working to give their take on things and say “Ok, we want two ballads and two metal songs ” or anything like that. In fact, they never even came down. To me that SHOT IN THE DARK period may not have been the most successful commercially but it was a hell of a lot of fun making it and touring it. It was a hit in Los Angeles and to us that was cool. I remember all those early days so fondly because those were the days where the whole band was holed up and living in a little house that our ROADIE paid for. We were all surviving on mayonnaise sandwiches and Top Ramen and sleeping on a floor where the cockroaches were so big they’d climb in bed and throw a leg over on you (laughs). But it WAS fun. The reason it was so much fun is because you KNEW something was gonna happen, you weren’t sure what or when but you knew it was going to happen. The atmosphere around the entire scene was ELECTRIC. You could literally feel it down on Sunset and all over Hollywood as we were all hanging our flyers up over each others flyers and all bumping into each other at each other’s gigs. I mean it was amazing to be a band that was on the verge of breaking at that time in the mid eighties in L.A. Whether it was us or Dokken or Motley or RATT or Quiet Riot we all knew each other and we all hung out together and it was really just a FUN scene. Once you start really getting big it all happened so fast that it seemed to go by in a flash and it’s like, “Wow, where did all the time go”. Those early days of being broke and hungry are what you remember.
LRI: Was there any pressure or stress from Capitol that let you know they were expecting ONCE BITTEN to be something bigger than a regional hit?
JR: Never. Never. The only thing that did happen during that time was a bit of a disagreement that sprung up over the song “SAVE YOUR LOVE” which almost led to me leaving the band. I co-wrote that song and our manager who was also our producer didn’t like it, the record company thought it was weak and I said “Look, seriously, I’m gonna quit the band if this song doesn’t make the album”. It wound up being a major hit along with “Rock Me” which was another one of those songs where we knew we were on the right track, we knew we were really coming into our own sound. I remember Mark and I both listening back to that track and we both had the biggest smiles on our faces and saying “This could be really big” and we just cracked up laughing and saying “Kings to the End” which was our big motto. Now I guess it’s the end you know? At least the end of an era.
LRI: By the time you guys were established headliners on TWICE SHY were you approaching the albums differently knowing you were going to be taking them out on the road and pretty much doing your own show rather than opening?
JR: No, not really man. We just wrote a lot of songs and had a lot of fun. I know that a lot of bands in other situations would have a lot more pressure on them in those situations so I really have to tip my hat to our old manager Alan Niven. God bless him, Alan kept us out of those pressure situations and really did a good job of letting the band do what they needed to do in the studio. We were a really, really good band and he played a big part in making sure nothing and noone got in the way or derailed us from focusing on the music at that point. Twice Shy was just another really fun record. All of the records we made were just us writing songs and having fun, even the last one, RISING in 2009.
LRI: The HOOKED album had so much pressure from the outside world to live up to TWICE SHY that I think a lot of that record goes unappreciated. “Call It Rock and Roll” is much better than a lot of band’s best material.
JR: Oh, I love that song. I open up with that song still and it’s still my favorite video of all time directed by the now world-famous Michael Bay. That’s a great song. I think a lot of the songs we wrote over the years were great songs that just weren’t as big of hits as they could’ve been or for whatever reason the promotion and push didn’t happen and they didn’t wind up as massive as others. I agree that there’s a lot of good material on that album.
LRI: Somewhere after HOOKED you started expressing a desire to get out a do some solo work and maybe try some other things while still doing GREAT WHITE. Was that mostly just a creative venture or was that you sort of wanting to break away from some of the personalities in the band?
JR: Totally a creative thing. I just felt like I had another side to me and my writing and singing that was a little different and kept getting the no from our manager, pick a manager (laughs). It was just a desire to kind of explore some other styles and I eventually got to do that on both of my solo records. They are a lot different from Great White, a lot less hard rock and more AOR but they were fun and important for me to do.
LRI: You also started a period of firing and refiring up the Reunion thing with GREAT WHITE for the albums and tours that you’ve done these last ten or twelve years. I have to ask you, is it sometimes more difficult than the public thinks to pull of these big reunions?
JR: You know what man…at first it was a great idea. It was my idea to begin with because I was like “Ok, I really wanna do a new album but I really want it to be with the original guys”. Like, I could do another GREAT WHITE album without them but I don’t wanna bastardize the whole idea of the band. Even now, I could do a new GREAT WHITE album but it’s a difficult thing to wrap your head around. I would probably be more inclined to do it under my name or something like that at this point but I could wind up eating those words a year from now who knows. I know I’m not done writing and recording music and I think everyone knows it’s not for the money because there’s no money any more in recording new music. It’s more for your artistic juices and for the fans than anything else. I know my former band mates are already talking about doing it and wouldn’t hesitate calling it Great White. I think Terry’s a great singer but that’s not Great White. It’s just not. You take the lead singer out of ANY band no matter how good or bad he is and it just changes the entire sound and dynamic of the band. I think I’m a great singer, one of the best singers in rock and roll and I don’t say that to be cocky because I totally think it’s not even my doing, it’s just a gift from god and I am very grateful. Having said that, if you kicked Steven out of Aerosmith and put me in there it’s not friggin Aerosmith man. It’s not gonna be Aerosmith. I can sing Zeppelin like nobody’s business to the point of Robert Plant saying “God, that guy sounds more like me than I do” but I could never replace him in Led Zeppelin. You cannot change the singer in a band and have it sound like the same band or have the same feel, it just doesn’t work. You might be able to get away with changing any other element of the band but not the singer. I don’t say that to mean any disrespect to any particular members of any band including the guys in my old band but to me, that’s just my personal opinion. The lead singer is kind of the most recognizable component of any band. The singer is basically the signature of the band and without that it starts to sound like a cover band.
LRI: We’ve seen it before where discussion starts over splintering of the classic lineups. There were two L.A. Guns for the longest time and it really caused a lot of confusion and chaos for both fans and promoters. I do think that it’s a REALLY hard issue to handle and wrap your head around. If you and Mark Kendall both started the band then how could you possibly be prevented from using the name “Great White”?
JR: Well, exactly. I do have every right to use the name which is why I am using it. The distinction is I’m not calling it GREAT WHITE, I’m calling it Jack Russell’s Great White which is to make sure that NOBODY is confused. I know what you’re talking about and I wanted to make sure that distinction is there so that the fans know exactly who it is they’re coming to see when they are coming out to the show. I don’t have a problem with fans supporting Mark and those guys, I have said that from the beginning. Live and let live, support both bands, who cares? We could have both gone out and both done well and made money. That would have been awesome. We could have simply struck a deal and agreed to both go out as separate camps and do our thing but that’s not how my former bandmates and manager saw things. Like I said, they made clear their intention was to make my life a living hell. Having said that, I’m not just gonna go away quietly and give up and die when this is the band I started, you know? They really should have just left me alone, they could’ve done their thing, I could do my thing and the fans could support us both but no, they have to go out in the press and attack me and drag all my personal life into their press releases. They went on the offensive and said I have no right to use the name of the band I started, the band I NAMED. They had to wake up the sleeping giant. Well, now I’m up and I’m ready to fight for what’s mine. I’ve got two different legal teams working for me here and helping me out, one of them, ironically or serendipitously is called the Great White, that’s his laywer nickname (laughs) because he’s like a shark. I don’t want the world John, I just wanna be able to use the name of the band I started. In 1978 we were called Dante Fox and back in the old days I used to call Mark Kendall the Great White, cause he was really white (laughs). I used to call him that and then our manager, the one and only Alan Niven was like “Hey, that’s great, why don’t you change the name of the band and call it Great White”. Mark and I both looked at each other and shook our heads no and said “We”ll lose all our following!!!” (laughs) which at that point was like 300 people or something (laughs). . We both thought “Well, that’s a STUPID name Alan” but I always liked sharks since I had the boating background and grew up on water and everything and it grew on us and stuck. Originally, it was just my nickname for Kendall though (laughs). That’s the truth and it’s also not boasting that my name happens to be on the writing credits of more of the catalog songs than anyone. We all split writing equally and we all contributed but the fact is that my name is on more writer’s credits than anyone else in the band. Again, I’m not saying that to negate anyone else’s contributions I am just stating the honest to god truth. I’m the only one who’s been in this band through EVERY inception. I can’t imagine me not winning this case or being able to use the name Great White but it COULD happen. They’re going to try to drag me down but guess what? I’m prepared to fight and you better believe I’m going down swinging.
LRI: I really was surprised when I read your comments on METAL SLUDGE after they put out their press release. You DID make it a point to say that you really hold no ill will against them and want the fans to support them. Do you regret that now that the attacks have gotten more personal?
JR: No. I still feel like the fans shouldn’t have to take sides. Why? That’s SOOOO stupid, why divide them and have that controversy? I didn’t LIKE the fact that they made an official press release about how I was a drug addict. It was like, “Oh, did we mention Jack Russell’s a drunk…..and he falls down….and oh yeah, did we mention he’s a DRUG addict?? and he wears a COLOSTOMY bag, ewww!!” I didn’t appreciate that, that was pretty unnecessary to the whole matter to drudge all that up. I guess it was supposed to be shocking or embarrassing or gross the fans into being like “Well, I don’t wanna go see some guy with a COLOSTOMY bag”. Whatever. I don’t wear one anymore so I don’t care but that’s pretty childish of them (laughs). I just want to go out and play a normal schedule with guys that support me and most of all HAVE FUN. For the record, I know for a fact that those Great White press releases about me weren’t written by the guys in the band anyway but by management. The guys are a lot of things and I love them but they are certainly not intellectuals. I may have my differences with them at this point but I still have a lot of love for them as people. As hard as it is for me to say right now John, I will never, ever, ever NOT have love for Mark Kendall. It’s painful knowing that he was a part of what they are trying to do to me but you can’t spend that much time and share so much experience in life with someone and cut them out of your heart completely. At least I can’t.
LRI: One other thing that came out recently and made me think was on the MADMAN radio show. He was hinting about how it was his theory that some of your recent issues and addictions stemmed from almost a post traumatic stress disorder after the Station Fire in Rhode Island. Do you think that’s a fair assumption?
JR: Yeah, you think???. I absolutely think that’s valid. That’s something I am still going to counseling for, I recently started again because that experience is something that’s never, ever going to go away. There’s not a DAY that I don’t wake up and sit out here on this boat and look at this beautiful sunrise and the seals and life and think about the fact that there’s 101 people who will NEVER see that again (voice cracking).
LRI: I’m sorry man. I just always wondered and had to ask, I can let you go.
JR: No, I’m sorry. Pardon me. It’s a totally appropriate question. It’s just hard to this day. The anniversary isn’t the only reminder, every day is. It’s so hard that people who mean the WORLD to me lost their LIVES and I….. They died for no other reason than the fact that they wanted to come see me sing you know? That breaks my heart. All the families that are just DESTROYED because of that night. They are forever changed and destroyed because of the ripple effect of that. It’s really beyond comprehension to think about and deal with. All the people who were injured. One of the last guys who came out of a coma, he came out and realized his hands were all burned off and all this and this guy was a computer guy. They asked him, “Hey would you ever go see Great White again?” and he was like “Hell yeah, they’re my favorite band!”. I heard that and I just started BAWLING like a baby. I was deeply affected by that night and yeah it definitely started a spiral as far as my addictions went. I was catatonic for about six months after that fire and would just take anything or drink anything that would numb me or slowly kill me. I just looked at it and thought “Well, this will help me get outside myself or be oblivious, no matter what it was or what it did I would take it or drink it”. If I knew it would screw me up or knock me out to the point of where I didn’t have to think about anything or feel anything I would just put it in my mouth without even thinking. I went to a very dark place and my addictions followed me and got worse as a result. I’ve always had problems with drugs and alcohol though as have most of the guys in my old band. We’ve all had our issues and we’ve all been there for each other at various times. I guess that I get to be ostracized for it because they got sober before I did but I remember a time where we all went through our individual problems and all inconvenienced each other. Now they’re publicly saying I cost them too much embarrassment and too much money these last few years leading up to me getting sober. apparently money is more important than being brothers or being there for each other anymore so it is what it is.
LRI: I know you have your lovely wife and a new band to lean on. Still, you have this upcoming tour starting March 1st and an even bigger tour this summer headlining the America Rocks Tour (Faster Pussycat, Pretty Boy Floyd, Lillian Axe and Bulletboys). Is it still difficult to put yourself out there on the road and stay clean and sober?
JR: Not anymore. Not with these guys and this schedule which I am able to have control over. The pressure is way less because I don’t have to agree to three in a row over and over on the road just to make their ends meet. I don’t want to do that at 51 years old and I’m singing stuff that, like Terry and Jani said, is REALLY tough and challenging to sing. I’m thinking to myself sometimes like “Why did I write that or sing that?? God….what was I thinking!!” (laughs). It’s pretty intense stuff vocally to sing but I didn’t think about 25 years later when I wrote it (laughs). This band is VERY supportive of my sobriety also. I was telling one of my guitar players Rob Lochner “Hey man, you should join my Jack Russell Well Wisher’s page on Facebook” and he was like “Man, I was a member on that page before I even met you Jack”. I got all warm and fuzzy (laughs). These guys are the best. They’re very supportive of my sobriety and will be watching me like a hawk, which I don’t need but I can appreciate. If some fan comes up with good intentions and says “Hey man, I heard you’re in pain, here’s some Vicodin” these guys are the first to swoop in and be like “Nah, nah, Jack’s good.” (laughs). That sometimes can be an issue because that bad guy with the horns is always on my shoulder, tapping me and saying “Comon Jack, let’s take it. You deserve it, you’re in pain” That little devil Jack is always going to be there and I know that because he’s been there my whole life. I’ve gotta keep Jack in the box. My wife, is a saint. That sounds so cliché, but in this particular instance it’s just a fact. Without that girl I would not be ALIVE. I am not exaggerating when I say that she literally saved my life three times. She’s a nurse and thank god she is. When I had to wear the colostomy bag it was in a place that I couldn’t change it and she had to change it every single time. That’s beyond love to do something like that for somebody is just like….come on. She’s a saint. I know a guy who had a bag and his girlfriend was like “Ok, I’ll move out until you can have it removed” and I was like “Ok, that’s pretty typical I guess”. I’d be like, “Ok, honey, I’ll move out and you know what I’ll drop off the last bag for you as a parting gift (laughs).
LRI: I wanted to ask you about your new bandmates in Jack Russell’s Great White. I had heard they were a bunch of garage band guys and nobodies but then I find out that’s just not the case. These are guys that have played in bands with Rob Halford, Stephen Pearcy, C.C Deville, Oz Fox, Frank from Angel and have recording and writing credits on Firehouse records and even past versions of GREAT WHITE. Are you having fun with these guys?
JR: I am so blessed to have this band. These are truly some of the best guys I have ever played with. I thought that was pretty funny that the Great White press release called my band a “garage band”. I’m not sure why they would say that since two of the guys are former members of GREAT WHITE (laughs). Derek Pontier (drummer) took Audie’s place in Great White for YEARS. My guitar player Matthew Johnson took over for Kendall when Mark quit the band. Why would diss on people who you had in your own band (laughs). Come on. I honestly laughed cause they were that desperate to say something shitty about us. This is about as far from a garage band as it gets. If this is a garage band then that’s one HELLUVA garage, I’d park my ride there. The rehearsals are going fantastic and we are sounding tight which you can hear in that good old youtube clip from NAMM (laughs). It’s going really well and I am honestly so excited and happy to get back up onstage and put on an amazing show with an amazing setlist of songs. We’re not just going through the catalog and only playing the obvious songs one after another and then saying goodnite. I haven’t played in a while so I’ve been saving up. Get ready for a SHOW. I’ve been planning this for a LONG time. When the guys never contacted me or touched base with me for months upon months I could sort of read the writing on the wall. I started writing songs and getting my band together and had a contingency plan in place in case of some final falling out with band and management. I knew something was up when guys I was so close with just fall off the face of the earth and have no contact with me. I always planned on being able to have a chance to return to Great White but I’m not STUPID, it was in the back of my head that I should have some plan in place if things didn’t work out. All I can say is Jack is back, people love a trainwreck but they love a comeback story even more.
READ PART 2 of our interview with Jack and his lovely wife Heather right here http://www.legendaryrockinterviews.com/2012/04/06/new-legendary-rock-interview-with-jack-and-heather-ann-russell/