With the release of He Saw It Coming, Jack Russell's Great White have reintroduced themselves to the music world. The hooky, guitar-driven charm of Great White is evident on this album but there’s an edge to the sound too. Jack Russell’s Great White consists of Jack Russell on vocals, Tony Montana playing guitar and keyboards, Robby Lochner on the guitar, Dan McNay playing bass and Dicki Fliszar beating the drums. They are a dynamically powerful combination. Over the weekend Jack Russell and Tony Montana had a thoughtful conversation with AXS about how they generate and maintain that quality of sound and performance.
AXS: Jack, you have been singing for a while and the quality of your voice has remained on point. What have you done to maintain your sound?
Jack Russell: First of all I am just really fortunate; God blessed me with my voice. I was lucky enough to meet a teacher through Don Dokken in 1983. At that point I couldn’t sing more than two nights in a row, my voice was gone. We got our first tour, with Whitesnake. Everyone was all excited but all I could think was how many shows in a row are there? They said there were five in a row starting off. I thought they might as well just cancel it now because there is no way I can do that. So Don sent me to this teacher that taught me how to warm my voice up, to help it last and kind of save it. Got to warm up. Just like if you were a runner. You aren’t going to just get up and run ten miles. You are going to get up, stretch out, thin your muscles out. It is the same thing. Your voice comes from a muscle and you just have to learn how to thin it out. I have been doing that routine for 30 some years now. Obviously it seems to be working. I don’t drink anymore either. Smoking is not good for the voice either. It is another vice I am working on. Alcohol really dehydrates your voice and it strips off all the natural oils that are on your chords. Plus, when you are drunk you are not in control of what you are doing.
AXS: He Saw It Comin came out this year, there’s a bit of experimentation on this album, it is a very eclectic record. How did you come to this approach?
J.R.: Well you know every album has its own evolution and becomes the sum of its parts. I have never been one to sit down and say I want an album to be about this subject. Albums are a snapshot of your life while you are doing that album. You could put one together two days later and it could turn out completely different-you just don’t know. This record was the first record that I have done without Mark Kendall and Michael Lardie being cowriters. I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out.
AXS: Do you two (gesturing to Tony Montana) write together?
J.R.: Not as much as we should have. Not as much as we did on the last album. That is a great song, it is called “Hard Habit.” It really is about who has the ideas at the time.
AXS: We heard you hum ideas to Robby Lochner for him to get down.
J.R.: I do! I have been doing that forever because I don’t have the time or the inclination to be able to pick up a guitar and express myself. It is easier to go, “Da, na na, na na na.” I mean it’s harder for them because they have to take that and make notes and chords out of it. Somehow they figure it out.
AXS: Tony, what is your favorite track on the new album?
Tony Montana: Well, I really do like the single, “Sign Of The Times.” I like that song. I like the message of it.
AXS: How is your relationship as bandmates different now than it was back in the day?
T.M.: Ha! Jack and I just fall into the same old things. Sometimes we want to kill each other and sometimes we are cracking up laughing. We love each other though. There’s always love, it is a brotherly kind of thing. Actually it was a lot harder when we were all locked together in a tube all the time. Whether it was a bus tube or a plane tube at some point you would just be sitting there staring at one another thinking to yourself, “Man I really hate that guy. I hate how he eats that cracker. I swear if he picks up that cracker I am going to lose it! He better not eat another one.”
J.R.: Ha, ha! “I hate the smell of espresso in the morning!” I would wake up to that coffee smell. Oh man, I would get so mad. I like it now though.
T.M.: Me too! That is one thing I learned from Michael Lardie is to appreciate a good cup of coffee.
AXS: Now you started out as bass now guitar originally but are now guitar?
T.M.: When I started playing I worked at a music store with Stephan Williams. He was in the band for a while and was even a co-writer on “Save Your Love,” “Is Anybody There” and “Shot In The Dark.” I taught lessons there. Guitar and bass. Basically anything with strings on it actually. When they said the bass position was open I said I am doing that. So I was with the band for years, took a break, came back and was playing bass for Jack. Someone else happened to make the playing the guitar opportunity by blowing it and I thought to myself I am ready to change it up and play guitar. I have always played. Been playing the guitar since I was ten years old. Keyboards is something new for me now, harmonica too. I never seriously tried to learn how to play the harmonica before either to tell you the truth…and now I have to seriously learn. I’m doing pretty good, getting better anyway.
AXS: This is your first record since 2009, how does it feel to play the new songs live in front of people?
T.M.: You know, we have played some of our songs so many times, at this point it is not so much about the song anymore but more about how am I delivering it. That’s where the satisfaction comes for me anyway. The song is there, but there is the performance. That’s when every once in a while something will come back at you and you think, wow, that was pretty cool.
J.R.: Another great thing is even though we have played these songs thousands of times, the audience is always different. There is a different appreciation every night for what we do. That energy transfers to us from the crowd is almost palpable. It is what gets you going.