Great White Interview

Great White

Neil Zlozower

Great White have been around for more than three decades now. The current lineup of the band includes founding guitarist Mark Kendall along with longtime members Michael Lardie (guitar, keyboards) and Audie Desbrow. Bassist Scott Snyder has been in the band since 2008, with frontman Terry Ilous (XYZ) joining in 2010. Their latest album is Full Circle, and we caught up with Kendall, Lardie and Desbrow.

Chad Bowar: Was there anything unique about the songwriting process for Full Circle compared to your other recent albums?
Mark Kendall: Not really, we haven’t changed anything. We each work on riffs and ideas on our own and get together and jam. That’s pretty much the way we’ve always done it. The best ideas develop into songs. We sometimes go into the studio with things not finished all the way.
Michael Lardie: One of the biggest changes was we got to take more time to compose the songs.

After self-producing your last few albums, you worked with producer Michael Wegener. How did that come about?
Kendall: Quite by accident. I heard he was on the Monsters of Rock Cruise. I saw on the schedule he was doing a Q&A show with Eddie Trunk. I saw him, we embraced, said our hellos, chatted for a bit and said our goodbyes. However, as I was walking away he said, “Hey man, we should do something together.” It sounded good enough to me and the rest of the band seemed excited also. After chatting for a few months, we moved to Nashville to start recording in January and February of this year.

Mark, how did this experience compare with recording your 1984 debut with Wagener?
Kendall: We got better and it’s 98 million records later for Michael Wagener (laughs). He’s obviously had a very successful career and we’ve done well, also. Wagener has not only helped design new audio gear, but he has workshops with engineer/ producers from all over the world and they share new things and new ideas. On our first album, our influences hadn’t really come out of us yet. We were just trying to be like Judas Priest or something (laughs). Our manager Alan Niven helped extract our influences and that is when our identity surfaced.

What will be your strongest memory of the recording of Full Circle?
Kendall: The beauty of Nashville. It’s very peaceful and we had zero distractions. Michael Wagener was a joy to work with and we learned a lot from him. His studio is beautiful and his wife is wonderful. We’re all thrilled with the album and production.
Lardie: Being able to record without distraction was a great joy.
Audie Desbrow: Just being able to record with a world-known producer for the first time and also being able to live in Nashville for two months and soaking up the culture. It was really awesome.

How has the band’s sound evolved from Elation?
Kendall: We come in the studio with the songs almost finished instead of no songs (laughs). I think the songs are better for that.
Lardie: It ended up being more diverse, a well represented look at all of the types of songs we do.

What’s included on the bonus DVD with the album?
Kendall: We decided to hire a company called Rockslide Media to film the entire recording process. This way we could actually invite our fans into the studio to see how we write and make records. So, this Making of the Record documentary will be in the two-disc package, CD/DVD. I think the fans will like it. The production is top notch.  I wish my heroes would’ve made them!
Desbrow: The DVD contains information on how the recording process works and shows how we pretty much wrote the songs. And, hanging out in Nashville.

With how much the industry has changed, how do you judge the success of an album?
Lardie: One of the biggest changes is we seem to do albums now to get shows, instead of doing shows to promote an album. It’s very different.

How much attention do you pay to reviews?
Kendall: I read the ones that are sent to us, but don’t search for them. I was told years ago to not believe your own press anyway. If an article says how great you are, some people start to believe it, and that can be problematic. Then if an article says how horrid you are, that can be troublesome also. I like constructive criticism and I can tell if someone listened closely to the album, by the comments. The optimum, and what we care about most, is if the fans love our music!
Lardie: It’s smart to pay attention just enough to get an overview on opinion about a new album. But, to not obsess about it.
Desbrow: I like seeing them. Any press is good press, after all. It’s just one person’s opinion.

What are your upcoming tour plans?
Kendall: Play live and put new songs in the set! We’re biting at the bit for that!
Desbrow: Our touring plans consist of playing as many cities as possible and to get our new CD out to as many people as possible.

With so much material, how do you go about putting together a setlist, and does it change from show to show?
Kendall: Keep the big songs in and bring songs that didn’t get all the radio exposure in and out of the set.
Lardie: With each album we do, it gets more difficult for sure.
Desbrow: It varies depending on how much playing time is allowed, by contract. We try and play all the hits and work in new material whenever possible.

Fans of course want to hear your big hits, but since you’ve played them for so long, is it challenging to bring passion and emotion to them after all these years?
Kendall: Not for me because we do extended jams that are never the same and we continue to make new music, which also keeps our energy up. You will never see us go through the motions or become oldies band, that’s a certainty.
Lardie: It’s never challenging. That moment in time is a completely new moment for that song and that group of fans.

With two versions of the band touring and releasing albums, does that create confusion among fans?
Kendall: Not really, because we aren’t a version, we are the only Great White. Three of us have been in the band for 30 plus years. We just changed singers, man, nothing else changed. As far as songwriting, Michael and I have written most of the music for the band and Alan Niven wrote 98 percent of our lyrics in the heyday!  So if you’re going to see Great White, that’s us. If you’re going to see Fred or Bill’s Great White or any other person’s name attached to Great White, that’s not us. It’s pretty easy, really.
I’m grateful that our fans know who they are coming to see.

What are some of your non-musical interests and hobbies?
Kendall: I’m semi pro at pool and I love playing with my four-year-old grandson!
Lardie: Golf
Desbrow: I like walking. I like to bowl. Biking – mountain bike. I like going to movies. I like to travel; traveling outside of touring is cool.

Seen any good movies/DVDs lately?
Kendall: I pretty much watch all kinds of different documentaries, for the most part. Loved the Tom Petty doc!
Lardie: Hidden Figures.
Desbrow: (laughs) I really haven’t seen any great movies lately, I will if they ever come out.

What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
Kendall: Nothing here.
Lardie: The Beatles.
Desbrow: The CDs that I’m playing a lot of right now are Disturbed: Live at Red Rocks and Great White’s Full Circle.

Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Kendall: Full Circle and the Making Of documentary are available on officialgreatwhite.com now and it’s available on every download site: iTunes, Amazon and 33 other stores for music only (not the documentary).
Lardie: Thanks to all our fans that keep coming to the shows. It’s because of you, we still get to do what we love.
Desbrow: Buy the new CD, it’s totally worth it. Great songs – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. See ya on the road!

(interview published June 2, 2017)

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