Interview By Robert Cavuoto
Photos by: Eberly Photo
In December 2011, Jack Russell’s Great White first bared its teeth and haven’t looked back. The frontman has recently welcomed longtime friend Tony Montana into the band but this time as a guitarist and keyboardist joining lead guitarist Robby Lochner, bassist Dan McNay, and drummer Dicki Fliszar. With the perfect members in place, the band is ready to meet their destiny and exceed fans expectations of what a classic rock band should sound like. Their commercially slick new CD entitled He Saw it Comin’ due out January 27th is all about the bluesy hard rock stomp that made Russell and Montana icons in the first place. The new music is for the millions of fans who stuck by Russell all these years.
I had a very candid chat with Jack Russell to talk about “He Saw It Comin’,” overcoming his addictions, and some much-needed advice for his friends in Ratt.
Robert Cavuoto: How have you been feeling, I know that you were having some back issues?
Jack Russell: My back has been a problem; I’ve lost 4 ½ inches in my height due to degenerative disk disease. If you never had back pain you can’t understand the pain that’s involved. It’s constant. I had two lower back surgeries. The first one was a laminectomy as the disk bulged, they trimmed it back and when I got up I was pain-free for the first time in a year. The problem was that I suddenly had drop foot. It was odd and surgeons didn’t take responsibility for it. Two days post-surgery I bent over and bulged another disk. I had to go back for a second surgery. It worked in the end but the recovery was painful. Little by little the pain went away and now I’m fine. I use a pain medicine that doesn’t make me high. It’s the oddest thing, it’s a medicine that you would think would really put you out of your mind but it doesn’t and I don’t crave it. I don’t think you could take enough to get high or maybe my tolerance is different. Unfortunately, I recently developed a pain in my lower neck with a pinched never that I have to get an MRI. Other than that I doing really well. My body feels good and my voice feels better than it has in years. I thought I lost two nodes but gained them back when I changed my warm-up routine. I’m 56 years old and sound like I’m 25 – just a little more mature [laughing].
Robert Cavuoto: You sound amazing on the CD like you did on the first LP.
Jack Russell: Thank you. The truth is that I’m really 25 years old I just can’t tell people about it because of the machine I invented. Otherwise, everyone will want one. [Laughing] I just want everyone to know that I appreciate their support in the new CD which comes out on January 27th. That they have to pick up a copy. The songs are amazing, I love the artwork, and everything about it is really good.
Robert Cavuoto: I understand you are working again with Tony Montana [former Great White bassist] what made you decide to join forces again?
Jack Russell: I was doing the Jack Russell’s Great White thing and asked him to join me in the past but he didn’t want to. One day Tony calls me up. He said he was doing a lot of thinking and it makes him mad that someone is out playing his riffs and making money off of it when he back home struggling. I told him he is welcome to join me as he has always been my favorite bass player. I had just fired my guitarist who admonished me for drinking. I had stopped drinking for a while and one night while on tour found him pounding huge margaritas before a gig. I said, “Dude this is a No Drinking tour; you know that.” I guess it was for everyone except him [laughing]. When someone tells me that they play better buzzed, I know they’re an idiot because it’s the stupidest thing you can ever say. That’s like saying I play better when I’m passed out. [Laughing]. I had to fire him that night and he was a dear friend of 20 years. I lost a friendship over that. If you get fired you have to take it like a man. My old bass player Sean McNab, I fired him three times and we were still friends. He doesn’t call me anymore, though [laughing].
Robert Cavuoto: Tony switched from bass to guitar on this CD?
Jack Russell: It was weird, he goes to me, “Can I play guitar?” I was like; I don’t know, can you? [Laughing]. I had forgotten he was a guitar teacher. I saw some of his videos just ripping it up. Obviously, you got the gig now you have to play keyboards and harmonica as well [laughing]. He knew keys and after a few weeks he learned how to play harmonica on “Rock Me.”
Robert Cavuoto: I think the CD is very strong musical; in true form of Great White from the 80s.
Jack Russell: Thank you this CD has been a long time coming. I didn’t want to record until I felt I had the right guys. I was always one short, so when we got Dan McNay in the band; the puzzle was complete to get a record deal and start recording. Robby Lochner [guitar] and I are really a Page/Plant, Jagger/ Richards, and Perry/Tyler team. It is really easy to write with him. I’m not a musician’s musician. When I write songs I can’t play them so it’s difficult to share the idea so I have to hum them to my partner. As you know you can’t hum a chord unless you have six sets of vocal chords. It wasn’t easy to do but he easily figures out want I was asking. That’s how close we are, we’re like brothers. It’s nice to have someone like that in my life. I used to have someone like that in my life but that’s all gone now. I’m super blessed, I always felt that God put me here for something bigger. It wasn’t just to be as big as we got and then end. My belief in this world is to manifest your own destiny. There is a great book called The Secret, it’s about visualization and putting things into action through your thoughts. If you believe in something strong enough you can make it happen. You have to feel every aspect of it. It says in the Bible, Mathew 21:22 “And all things, whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.”
The title track “He Saw It Comin” and CD title are about manifest destiny. When I was a child I was given this information that I was going to be a rock star. That was a lot for a 6 years old to handle. If you believe enough, the universe will manipulate anything to make it happen. That’s just my philosophy and my beliefs though personal experiences.Robert Cavuoto: I originally thought this CD was going to be called The Gauntlet.
Jack Russell: It was originally called The Gauntlet, it was to be a slap in the face to my last band. Throwing a gauntlet is a challenge in the medieval days. They came out with a CD called Elation which was an obvious jab at me.
Robert Cavuoto: The song “My Addiction” is very personal, tell me about its creation and was it hard to share your story?
Jack Russell: No, that kind of stuff has always been easy for me. My life is an open book and I’m not embarrassed about what I have done. I have some regrets which are part of the learning process. The only regret I have in my life is when I’ve hurt people; emotionally or physically. Other regrets are based on my own stupidity; gravity is a triple strength for me when getting drunk [laughing].
Robert Cavuoto: What is the story behind the first song on the CD “Sign of the Times?”
Jack Russell: “Sign of the Times” was created when I was sitting in an airport. There were a 100 or so people at the gate I was sitting there twiddling my thumbs and staring at my feet. I started to notice that everybody had a gadget in their hands. There was even a couple sitting next to each other texting each other. I was the only guy not on a device. I had to wonder what’s going on this world. I get to the studio and my band is doing the same thing [laughing]. I felt out of place.
It’s also about the internet and all the worthless trolls, haters, and thieves. It’s about the sad the state of the music business with people illegally downloading music. People wonder why their favorite band breaks up; it’s because they can’t feed their family and have to get a regular job. In the past we used to tour to promote the CD, now we tour to make a living because the CDs don’t sell. I’m going to try and break that trend as I think I have the materials. I just have to add the ambitious and vision with the help from the right people.
Robert Cavuoto: Is it still an “us vs them” mentality with Mark Kendall’s Great White or has everyone found peace?
Jack Russell: I’m ok with everything. I don’t hold grudges for too long. If Mark called me up tomorrow, I would be “Hey, Buddy how are you doing?” Unfortunately he won’t take my calls but hopefully, there will be a day when that happens. That’s what makes me sad. We started the bands in 1978 when I was 18. We have so many memories that only he and I can appreciate. I can’t share them with anyone else because we lived through them together. It’s a weird situation.Robert Cavuoto: Right now Ratt is going through many of the similar legal entanglements that Great White has gone through. What advice could you offer these guys from your prior experiences?
Jack Russell: I’m friends with all of them and feel really bad for the guys. Bobby Blotzer and I go back long ways as I used to tuck his kids into bed. Stephen Pearcy used to help us book shows at the Whiskey. I can’t pick a side. My best advice to them would be to do what your heart tells you and be honest. It’s hard to hear your friend telling lies about your career or reinventing the past. That’s what causes the pain. When someone tries to change how the band started, or who was in charge, or discrediting your participation when you have the most writing credits in the band. Any advice to those guys would be to make sure you are wearing padded underwear because you’re going to get kicked by everybody. [Laughing] There really is no clear winner as everybody gets hurt. I wish they could patch things up. I hate to see them going through the same thing I went through, it’s not a fun thing.