Guitarist- Great White
Interview conducted on July 10, 2012
By: Joseph Suto
We had the opportunity to talk to Mark Kendall from Great White. We chatted about the new tour, talked about a few of the old albums and old tours. We also asked him about the possibility of ever playing with Jack Russell ever again. Sit back and enjoy our latest interview.
RSC: Elation has been out now for a couple months, how is the tour going so far?
Mark Kendall: It’s going great. We’ve been putting songs in the set from the new album and their going over great live and its really fun to play. We just played Las Vegas at a place called the Sunset Station that was a great show. All the shows are going great.
RSC: Have you dug any old warhorses out for the set at all?
MK: Yeah we pretty much go all the way back to the very beginning. It’s kind of difficult we do have a lot of material. We try to bring a little bit from each era. Obviously we can’t avoid the hits so we play a lot of the big MTV songs, do some jams. We don’t bombard people with brand new music but we play a couple from the new album. We’re just kind of switching that around. We really like the new album its so fun to play the songs. In the past we’ve done songs that we’ve never played live. I just think that’s such a waste of music to write music and never play it live. I always kind of hated that. The new stuff is so fun to play there’s really a live feel in the studio we’re just gonna kind of intertwine a couple here and there and just try to play pretty much everything on the record at some point.
RSC: So what else is planned for the rest of the year?
MK: We’ve just been playing two, three shows a week type of thing. We’re gonna do a more proper tour in Europe and get over to Japan I believe early next year and play there. There’s talk about maybe a package thing where we might go out with Loudness over there. We actually ran into them at M3 (Festival). We don’t tour hardcore. We’re not on a bus tour where we’re away two years from our homes. We do a fly in do two or three shows and come back a couple days off kind of thing. That’s the way it works best for us at this point. We’re not opposed to going out touring for a couple of months if it makes sense. So this is working out great. We’re playing really good venues like House of Blues, Hard Rock’s and those kind of places, and for the most part it’s awesome. We just played over in Switzerland that went over really well. We’re just playing a lot and really enjoying ourselves.
RSC: Out of all the tours you done past and present what tour stands out?
MK: Well touring with bands like the Scorpions or Judas Priest, Whitesnake those really stand out. One of the things we learned from a band like the Scorpions for instance was the way they treated their opening acts. They wanted the whole night to completely kick ass. They didn’t want the opening acts to choke and their the big stars to come out all wild and bitching. At one point I had Rudolph Schenker come up to me and I knew I didn’t play my very best and I thought I got away with something. He said “Mark you need to play hard you man you need to kick ass” Holy shit I can’t believe he noticed that one show that I didn’t quite get there and from that point on I totally went after it. I learned to really play hard every night. It was kind of inspiring that the headliner wants the opening acts to do well. When we got into headlining position we always tried to treat our opening acts good. We want the whole night to be good and that way the crowd’s getting their money’s worth. Tours like that. We’re selling a lot of records and that was really enjoyable to be on a tour like that where they were riding the high wave also. So many great moments its hard to single out one tour. We got treated so well by Judas Priest. When their really cool and treat you well you never forget that.
RSC: That Priest tour was on your first album?
MK: Yeah it was. We were really green we played the clubs for years and then you get the big record deal and you’re playing all these big shows. We actually toured with Whitesnake but it was a different version it wasn’t the one with Vivian Campbell and Adrian Vandenberg. John Sykes was in the band, Cozy Powell, Mel Galley and Coverdale and the keyboard player was actually Jon Lord at the time and that was in 1983. We were touring all over England and Scotland we just played around for three months and right before that tour ended we heard we got the Priest tour in the United States. And actually the first show was in Niagara Falls, NY. We went to the arena the night before and they were filming a video and I’m looking at the stage and whoa this was massive my heart was pumping and I wasn’t even playing yet. That was pretty big stuff.
RSC: Take us back to The Shot In The Dark album. You guys changed direction a bit.
MK: After we got back from the Judas Priest tour, we were out for about seven months. We came back and we found out the record company wasn’t happy with the how many records we sold. They said even though we have a contract to do another record we probably won’t do anything with it. So we decided to part ways then. All during 1985 we had no deal or anything so it was like starting all over. We had to borrow money to make a record and prove ourselves all over again. We wanted just a droning keyboard thing, not really a lot of keyboards. We ended up using keyboards on the song “Shot In The Dark”. We kind of like the way it sounded and we used them on one other song I believe. So when we were gonna play live we asked the guy if he could come play like behind the curtain kind of a deal. He said well I also play guitar if you want me to cover rhythm, I could play rhythm when your playing your solos that way it would sound just like the record. I go yeah that’s cool he won’t be seen the guy will be just behind the curtain. So we were just trying it. Then before you know it he’s no longer behind the curtain, he’s a little in front of it. So we got him his own riser, so where it still looked like three people in front. But then girls started to ask for him and before you know it was Michael Lardie and he’s in the band (laughs). Being a teenager and young kid I was always into feel kind of players like Johnny Winter, Billy Gibbons and Blackmore. Even though our first album was different like you were saying, I had a lot of Black Sabbath records. The more I wrote songs the more my influences came out more so you heard a little more blues. The more we wrote, the more kind of refined style started to happen and we didn’t question it we just kept going forward.
RSC: On the Can’t Get There From Here album, why did you not receive much writing credit on it?
MK: Yeah it was kind of a strange situation. First Dokken was gonna produce the album but he was a little bit inconsistent with his input and stuff. So we decided to try Jack Blades as a producer. I guess Michael knew him pretty good, I knew him from touring with Night Ranger a little bit. Jack and Michael went up to his studio and ended up writing five songs with him, and I wasn’t even there. I loved what they came up with. We’ve always been whatever it takes I don’t care if the bass player writes the entire album. We always been about what’s the best for any given song. It was kind of a little bit different that I wasn’t involved in the early part of the writing. I think Michael Lardie is a big part of the bands’ sound, my guitar is also. A lot of times the initial ideas stem from an idea I come up with and I share with the band and they get involved with it. That’s not the way that album was done. I really liked a couple of things on it. There were things I didn’t like about it. The performances were amazing. I felt there was too much singing not enough breathing room for the band. It was like sing over every note, I just don’t like flying into that area. There were some good moments, a couple of the uptempo more rocking things I really liked. There were some pretty good songs on there. It was cool working with an outside writer. I know that Jack Blades has worked with a lot of bands like Motley Crue and Aerosmith and he is a song writing machine. I really like his energy in the studio and he really has a lot of it. It’s pretty fun to watch actually.
RSC: You had just finished playing a NYE show at Crossroads in 99. A little while after you announced you were leaving the band. What exactly went down that caused you to make that decision at that point?
MK: Well you know Jack really wasn’t doing very well and we were supposed to go tour in Europe and he was telling me that we were gonna have entire concerts on tape and I was just not willing to be a part of that. Lip-synching is not why I got into music. And I’m not gonna go up and play air guitar. If your sick go home and get well. I’m not gonna go up and fake like I’m playing in front of a bunch of people. That’s why I took the hiatus.
RSC: Whose idea was that to even attempt that.
MK: Well Jack couldn’t sing. His voice was completely trashed. He was singing like the frog man at the Yucaipa show and there was a scheduled tour that started in Spain like a week away or whatever. I said we gotta postpone this tour and he goes no, we’ll put everything on tape and pretend we’re playing. I said call me when you guys are really gonna play. They called me for some farewell type show and I said “are we all gonna play live and sing and everything” and he said yes. So I said ok I’ll be there. Jack was talking about going solo so he did a solo album. So I said great I can get back to my solo stuff. I kind of made a band called Train Station with Dicky Sims who died recently. He was a great keyboard player who played with Eric Clapton all during the early era of “I Shot The Sheriff” and “Cocaine” and all of those songs. He just had an unbelievable tone. So I just put a band together and played around and made a record. Then I guess Jack’s solo tour really wasn’t selling a lot of tickets. I think it was a musical shock to the hard core Great White fans because it was so mellow and kind of Genesis type music. Jack was always known as a bad boy of rock n’ roll he’d sleep tattoos and everything. Now all of a sudden he’s wearing long sleeved shirts and out there singing like its Yes or something. The audience wasn’t really getting it even though I felt it was a really good record. It was such a musical change I guess people weren’t really accepting it. So he called me to go out and help with the tickets. We played more Great White that way and less of his solo stuff. So that was that.
RSC: With everything that has gone down recently and the departure of Jack, do you see a time when you and Jack might perform together ever again?
MK: I don’t think anything is beyond the realm of possibility. If he ever decided to get healthy and well and truly sober and get rid of everything that’s bad for him like opiates and all this stuff. If he got all of that out of his life I think his possibilities are endless. But this road he’s traveling at the moment, I just can’t envision it happening. And don’t think I haven’t tried everything under the sun to get that man well, I have. I work with a lot of struggling addicts and alcoholics. The ones that are successful are the ones that want help more than anything. And that’s what I think he lacks wanting to help himself. It’s really frustrating when your the one who wants to help and the guy doesn’t want it. I put my heart and soul into him he’s a great friend and we’ve been together so many years it really effects me. It’s so frustrating putting so much effort into something and it’s not working. At some point I just had to step away and put him into prayer mode I call it. Just pray for him, pray that he gets it at some point. I think right at the moment he’s trying to snow everybody he’s out there singing bad and he doesn’t look well to me. I know the look he has when he’s well and this ain’t it. I love him to death and I hate to see the self destruction it’s very difficult on me to watch this. If somebody doesn’t want the help themselves it’s very difficult to help them. I’m getting emotional talking about it. Very tough, very tough. Right now the band is very happy there is no drama everybody’s healthy we’re really happy with our new album. It’s going well so it’s good to have fun. Of course I wish him the absolute best, I really want him to get well. So yeah to answer your question if he got healthy of course it could happen for sure.
Special thanks to Melissa Kucirek for setting up the interview and Mark Kendall for his valuable time.