It seems that the past several months have brought about many shake-ups amongst some of the most successful hard rock bands in existence, and even though Great White vocalist Jack Russell and guitarist Mark Kendall had been playing together since 1977, Kendall felt that it was also time for him to move on. According to Russell, Kendall’s departure from the band was “definitely a surprise” and though he was disappointed by the change of events, he can certainly understand.
Unfortunately, since Kendall had left them only a few days before they were scheduled to go to Europe, they had to bring replacement guitarist Matthew Johnson along with them and attempt to perform with Johnson only having a few days to learn the songs. Despite their efforts, it didn’t work. After just one show, they decided to come back home to rehearse, but soon after, they began touring again with Johnson through some of the mid-western states and several countries in Europe.
At this point, Russell doesn’t see Kendall ever returning to the band, because “he was pretty adamant about really doing something else,” but as far as guitarist Johnson being a permanent replacement for Kendall, Russell says “We’ll see.” However, he does describe Johnson as a great guitarist. In fact, the two had actually met through Russell’s ex-brother-in-law, and according to Russell, Johnson was the perfect choice for him when he decided to do his solo album, Shelter Me.
Mark Kendall has already put together a new band called Train Station, which will be fronted by vocalist Todd Griffin, who lead the bluesy rock band Graveyard Train that had released an album on Geffen about seven years ago. Griffin has even supported Great White on tour in the past, and co-written some songs for Jack Russell’s solo album and for Great White, including “Psychedelic Hurricane” from Can’t Get There from Here. He can also be heard on the theme song on “That 70’s Show,” and on the soundtrack of an upcoming movie called “Metal Gods.”
Dicky Sims, a well-established musician, who has played on ten albums with Eric Clapton, will handle keyboard duties for the band. And through a nationwide search for drummers and bass players, Kendall chose drummer Pride Hutchison, who has worked with several bands and played on a record with the singer of Slash’s Snake Pit. The bass player, however, is totally unknown. He answers to the name Gary G., and according to Kendall, “he plays with the intensity of Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Kendall is very excited about his new band, and things are moving quickly. He says that they “just finished a 3 song demo” and when they played it for an A&R man at a major label “the guy just flipped out.” Kendall didn’t want to mention the label because he doesn’t want to jinx the deal. However, he did say that when the ink is dry he will definitely be making a statement, and “it is the biggest existing label in the industry.”
Kendall attributes his moving on with a need to grow as a musician…
“My years with Great White were wonderful until the last 3 or 4 years. I just got bored and needed to move on musically and say something that can still hold up in 20 years from now. I couldn’t do it with Great White. Believe me when I say I did it as long as I could but I mean they haven’t changed the live show in ten years and I just couldn’t take anymore.”
While he says he still loves the guys in the band, he “didn’t love the music” and according to Kendall, “that’s the bottom line.” He sincerely wishes them the best with any new guitar players they get, and wanted to make things very clear to his fans by saying: “The new band I’m in is just that, a new band not a solo project. I just wanted to assemble a band that was into the kind of music that I hear in my head and I found them, we’re called Train Station.”
Russell wishes his long-time bandmate the best of luck, and is keeping busy with his own bands. After Great White’s European tour, the band plans to stay home for three weeks and possibly get billed on a package-tour for the summer.
In the meantime, Great White has another studio album in the works for Portrait Records, though it is hard to tell how many more albums the band will do for the label. Russell says, “As many as they’ll let us.”
He explained that there are always options, but “an option is like an option.” “Even if they say you’ve got six firm records guaranteed and they turn around and say we don’t want to do another record with you what are you gonna do are you going to do, sue Sony!”
Though some portions of their Portrait Records debut album had already been predetermined, like the tongue-in-cheek “Wooden Jesus,” which had been written well in advance of the album by Russell, Lardie, and Don Dokken, Great White can attribute some of the success of Can’t Get There from Here to the contributions of Russell’s long-time friend producer/songwriter/musician Jack Blades (Night Ranger, Damn Yankees).
The two “Jacks” had actually started talking about writing together, when Russell was recording some high background vocals for the last Night Ranger album at Blade’s home studio. According to Russell, they got together and it worked really great. “He is a great songwriter and we just jelled really well” and “as a producer he is just fantastic because he wasn’t like trying to change who the band was, it was more like enhance who we already are…He’s a great guy I love him to death.”
As mentioned earlier, Russell is keeping busy with his own “bands,” another of which being a project that was put together by Portrait Records founder John Kalodner. The band also includes Jack Blades, as well as Poison’s C.C. Deville on guitar, and Ratt’s Bobby Blotzer on drums, but it has yet to be named. Though Kalodner has a problem with two guys from the same band playing in the group, Russell says that they need a keyboard player and a rhythm guitar player, and Michael Lardie is the obvious choice, so they are hoping to add him to the band.
He explained that although he has been “slacking off” on his homework, they do have some material written and he will be writing lyrics for some songs. The recording and the release of the album are very much up in the air since the Damn Yankees still need to record their album, and they are not sure when Great White will be recording their next album yet.