“Help, I’m steppin’ into the twilight zone. The place is a madhouse, feels like being cloned.”
No, this isn’t an interview with the band Golden Earring. It’s an interview with Michael Lardie from the band Great White–not to be confused with Jack Russell’s Great White. They are separate bands–although Lardie and Russell played for many years together in the original Great White. Of course, that was before there was a Jack Russell’s Great White.
Whoa…say what?? If you’re confused, take comfort. You’re probably not the only one. We will try to make sense of everything, my friends.
Officially, Lardie will not talk about the situation due to pending litigation. “Well, that’s something that we really can’t touch on, due to the litigation. My belief is that, sometimes in life, you’re faced with the opportunity to change. And to grow. And it was time to do that. We’re very blessed to have Terry [Ilous] the front guy for Great White now, and I think people are going to dig it.”
If one wants to go on the Internet and get all the dirt, there are two competing bands, with two competing websites. Depending on which website you read, Russell was either fired from Great White, or prevented from returning. Asked how the fans are reacting to all the muck being flung, Lardie says “You’d have to poll all of them. There’s people who would side with one camp or the other. Our whole thing is, we just want to go out and play shows, and so far, we’re at about 40 shows for the year. In 2011, we did 80 shows with Terry, as well. I think the fan base out there is understanding what’s happening. Terry gives 150% every time he gets on stage, and it’s a blast to be onstage with him.”
Although Lardie is most noted for playing with Great White, he’s a talented multi-instrumentalist who has played with other bands, most notably Night Ranger. “They took us [Great White] out in 1987, when we had just released Once Bitten. We had sent Rock Me to radio, and it was very instrumental to be able to play in front of that many people, and it helped break that record. Jack Blades and I developed a symbiosis, and we’d hear from each other every now and then. We reconnected through a mutual friend who worked for Warner Brothers, and I went up and wrote some songs with Jack, and I ended up working quite a bit with him in his studio in the last decade or so. There was a point where Great White was taking a break in 2002, and he said ‘what are you doing,’ and I replied ‘hanging out and trying to figure out my next move,’ and he said ‘come play keyboards for us.’ And I was like ‘OK. Absolutely. I’m there.'”
Funny how it ended up…I was playing most of the guitar, and C.C. [Deville] was just singing and playing solos.
Lardie has also spent time played with [Poison guitarist] C.C. Deville’s project Samantha Seven. “It was back in 2000. We had been on a break, and Poison was on a break, and C.C. wanted to do about 30 dates in support of his solo record. We had become pretty close during our tour together in ’99, and he thought I would be able to cover the guitar parts and sing the harmonies. Funny how it ended up…I was playing most of the guitar, and C.C. was just singing and playing solos.” Asked what he thinks of Deville’s vocal prowess, Lardie is very diplomatic. “Well…he had some really good nights, and some not-so-good nights. But he’s a great songwriter, and when he got up there and gave it his all, that’s all you can ask for. A lot of people would be also very surprised as his prowess with the blues. There was a guitar solo in the middle of his solo set, and he whipped off some blues licks, and I was like ‘C.C., where did that come from?'”
Great White has a new album, Elation, the first studio effort with Ilous on lead vocals. Speaking of the recording process, Lardie says “it was so great working with Terry. Mark [Kendall, lead guitarist] and I just had that connection with him. It was remarkable. I couldn’t believe how easy it was, and how fast it went. We wrote, recorded and mixed Elation in 35 days.” In addition to being a musician, Lardie also has his hand in recording, producing and engineering. “There are upsides and downsides to the advancement of technology. I do miss tape, and I do miss vinyl. As far as technology in the studio, we use stuff like ProTools and multi-track digital technology, but I always try to approach recording with an analog sensibility. I always try to get everyone to do a complete take on something. Now, if you have to go back and punch in a part, well, that’s just like you did with analog. I always got Audie [Desbrow, drummer] to play complete takes. It made it sound real, and sounded like a performance. On the basic track, we had drums and bass, and scratch guitar, and scratch vocal so we’d know where everything was going. But it happened so fast and the energy was so great that everybody was involved every day. When I hear it, I hear it breathing, like when we play live.”
Speaking of playing live, Great White’s approach to touring is very different from the heyday of the 80’s, when bands would spend months on the road. “We’ve been touring the weekend warrior way for about the last nine or ten years. You go out and play Friday, Saturday and Sunday, come home, wash your socks, turn around and do it again. We spend a lot of time in airports, but we get great gigs. On any given weekend we can do a biker festival, a casino…that’s a typical weekend for us. We’re not above playing a club, but fortunately, we’ve been getting some really nice gigs. It’s great for us to play for that many people every weekend. It just makes sense. A lot of people want to keep rocking. We’re starting to see multi-generational situations at festivals or bike rallies. Little kids with his dad’s Great White T-shirt that goes down to his knees. And the kid is singing the verses to Rock Me.”
Asked if there was anything he wanted to say to those fans, Lardie responded “Thank you for 30-plus years of support, belief, faith, and love of the music. The fact that we keep making a living at this…we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”