Music Interview: Great White still striving for greatness

By Cayley Evans

Great White has been around for years, forming in 1978, just as the golden age of ’80s metal begn. But they’ve shown more staying power than most of the “hair bands” from that era. In fact, Great White never really embraced the “hair band” image that, along with bad makeup and syntho-pop made the ’80s infamous.

“Hairspray was too expensive. [Anyway] it’s all about the music,” explains lead singer Jack Russell. “We want to make good music.”

Great White has outlasted many of its peers by staying together as a band. They continue to tour across North America and Europe, despite the high turnover of band members. Great White has 14 former members who have come and gone over the years. Did they leave because of artistic differences or just the need to move on?

“After 10 or so years on the road they’re just not enjoying it as much as they should. If you’re not having fun doing your job, quit it,” Russell says.

In spite of that, the band has always replaced lost members and manage to carry on for years, with Jack Russell and Mark Kendall being the constants.

Sadly, a few years ago, disaster struck. Mention Great White now and two things come to mind: predatory sea creatures and nightclub fires. The band made headlines in 2003 when, during a show at a nightclub, a pyrotechnics mishap caused a fire engulfing the building. The fire killed 96 people (including the band’s guitarist) and landed several more people in hospital. A heap of red tape and legal battles ensued, but the band was eventually cleared of any blame. Nevertheless, it wasn’t exactly good publicity.

“I wouldn’t wish something like that on my worst enemy. It’s definitely changed my life in a lot of profound ways,” says Russell.

Obviously, this sort of thing is difficult to cope with. One would think it would affect not only the psyche, but also a person’s career. This proves to be the case for Russell and for Great White.

“I haven’t written any [music] since [the incident]. I haven’t been in that space or frame of mind where I want to sit and write songs. I don’t know if it’s a direct result of that or if I just don’t feel like it right now,” Russell reveals.

Despite the tragedy and the frequent turnover of band members in the past, Great White continues to tour, much to the delight of fans.

“We’re just at the point where we just want to play and do shows,” Russell explains, spurning a return to the studio. With Great White touring again and making a stop in Calgary, Russell is just glad to be back

“We haven’t been to Canada in so long,” says Russell.

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