Just before their show at the Hard Rock Casino Biloxi, we caught up with Mark Kendall of the legendary Great White. Performing with Slaughter, the band was warming up just before their 2018 performances on the Monsters of Rock Cruise.
Hey everyone it's Jennifer here from Photopassed, I've got Mark Kendall from the one and only Great White on the phone with me tonight! How ya doin?
Doing good, thanks Jennifer!
Alright so let’s get right into it, Mark, 2017 was really a big year for Great White. You guys just put out a new album over the summer called “Full Circle,” tell me a little about that.
Actually we were just talking about it before we started here - on the Monsters of Rock Cruise I saw that Michael Wagner [record producer] was on the cruise and I just wanted to say hi to him cause I hadn't seen him for a long time. The iconic record producer. He actually came and saw us play and I saw him after the show and said hi just for a minute, but then I saw him again in the merchandise area where they were selling t-shirts and stuff I was just hanging out there checking out t-shirts. We talked for maybe five minutes, and we said goodbye and as I was walking away he goes, “hey man, why don't we do something again?” and it kinda took me by surprise, but he had done our very first EP all thirty plus years ago.
Yeah I was gonna ask about that, what that reunion was like?
Yeah he did our first album as well, and before we knew it, we had kept in contact on Facebook, messaging each other over the next few months, then our schedules started to match up and everything worked out. Before we knew it we were in Nashville, that's where his studio is, and it was just a great experience. He's such a nice guy, such a great producer, and everything. We weren't totally prepared, we didn’t have the lyrics quite finished, he's not really used to working like that, but it all worked out. The way he recorded allowed us to focus; he does one song at a time. At first we record all the drums and bass, for all the songs, and then go back and just finish one song at a time. So we knew in advance what song we were going to do the following day. So we all crammed together in this house we were in about half away from town and just went crazy writing lyrics and did it that way. Came in with our first lyrics and it was like “yay!” We had some chorus ideas and stuff like that already but we didn't have lyrics totally done, but we had some songs.
I know in a previous interview the band has talked about how Michael Wagner is really an old school producer. As in, it's not about what the computer can do for you, it's about what you're hearing and does it sound good to you? If it doesn't were doing it again were gonna play it till we get it, 'till it sounds great.
We use the new technology but were old school in that way. We don’t wind up, today's technology you are actually capable of lining up the bass with every kick drum - so you can see the bass is getting off some on some spots you can correct that and put it right. What you do is you take the human element out of the track, and turn it into a machine. If you're listening to it and it sounds good, then it's good. You don't have to line it up because you can see on the computer the bass is a hair off on a spot. We don't take too much into all that, we just kinda play, and if it's a good performance, then it's good. We don’t nitpick around and make everything perfect like a machine. We'd rather just play, most bands I think like that.
Yeah, why mess with it if it fits for you guys, and you know it's gonna fit for the fans, then I say go for it. Let's talk a little more about the album itself, I listened to it all the way through, I gotta say I really enjoyed it. It's kinda got that timeless classic feel. We’re talking more than thirty years after Once Bitten; this album feels like a time capsule. It's got those same licks, it's got those same backing vocals, and the choruses. This is really classic Great White. How do you balance keeping your classic sound, your classic feel, with writing new things as a song writer.
We're real simple in that way, we don’t really change anything as far as the way we write. We still get together and jam and the best stuff makes it. We don’t have any preconceived ideas of what were gonna do, as far as “what type of record do you wanna make?” We don’t think that deep. We just get together and go, “what do you got?” I'll ask Michael Lardie, “what do you got man? You got anything good? Let's hear it. An idea, something.” We play each other ideas and were like “oh man I really like that, let's work on that.” And then basically the best songs make the record. That's just the way we do it. We're just old school. We have a sound. Instead of emailing each other our parts, putting it together that way, we get together in a room and play together. That's what makes our band sound the way it does. When you play together it makes a sound, so when we write songs, we haven't really changed anything. The only thing that changed with me instead of using micro cassettes like I used to, I use my phone for my ideas. It's got that little demo recording thing so if I have an idea at my house I'll put it on that so I don’t forget it.
So mixing technology with the secret ingredient, which is actually being together physically to kinda hammer it all out, is what it sounds like.
Yeah the whole worlds changed and there's so much technology and everything that you can use where you don't even have to leave your house. But we're just old school, we believe in the human element. Getting together, seeing each other, and playing. That's when we usually sound the best, when we're in a room playing together. So we don't change.
It sounds like there was a lot of diversity on the album, we've got songs about being a rockstar like “Big Time,” there's a ballad, there's some bluesier tunes, which I think that’s really your forte as a guitar player, I think your band mates would agree with that. There's a lot to be had on the album in terms of diversity - how does that come about is that organic or do you sit around and think?
It just turns out that way; we didn't preplan anything we just came with probably about fifteen ideas or so. We just took the best ones and those were the ones that we worked on and it just turned out to have the diversity but it wasn't anything by design. I came up with an idea for that ballad “Let Me In,” each of us just have ideas and even some of the ideas I had were changed a little bit from input from other guys - “oh why don’t we try this? Why don’t we try that?” so again it was very much a group effort by everybody, we all have input on it.
We've established 2017 was obviously a great year for Great White, and now 2018 you’re taking this show on the road. You've got a show coming up in Biloxi, we talked a little about the Monsters of Rock Cruise, a lot coming up in terms of actual tour dates for you guys. Is that exciting?
Yeah yeah it’s real exciting, we’ve got a lot of shows coming in daily. You know were looking into a few tours, to where we actually go out for 5 or 6 weeks, I can’t really talk about that yet too much but if something happens, I don’t wanna jinx it.
No we wouldn’t wanna do that.
You can maybe look for us to be on a real tour where we take a bus out for a few weeks. So there’s a lot of exciting things, were going out to Europe and playing some festivals over there which we had a lot of fun doing that last year.
Oh I bet!
Yeah we went over to Norway, we played in London at a theater, not really a theater, but it was like a very old - it looked like a theater outside but it was more like it used to be a place where you stored wine or something like that. It was awesome though, everything was hand carved wood and the place had some legendary value, I can’t even remember the name of the venue right now, it was right in London. That was really awesome, it was a lot of fun.
It sounds like a lot of fun.
We played with the bass player from the Dead Daisies, I don’t know if you’ve heard of them.
Oh, Marco Mendoza?
Yeah Mendoza, we played with him.
He is a great guy and we hung out and he really dug the show. We even talked about maybe doing some shows together, so that was cool. And then we played that Rockingham festival in Nottingham with Loverboy and a few other bands that were awesome, I’d just never heard of any of them! I guess they’re all from Europe? Everybody was going crazy for these bands and they sounded great, they had the old school sound kinda 80’s type stuff but very very good bands. Were just putting along, doing what we do.
Well you’ll have to keep me posted on future US tour dates because we wanna know about them here on Photopassed!
Absolutely, Jennifer I will keep you updated, and you know it’s a lot different than the old days where we’d book an entire tour and it'd be like 100 shows or something.
That's a marathon.
These are little different because we fly in and do three here and three there so it’s a little bit different. It’s not like routed all perfect like it used to be. We try to keep the fans updated, if you go to officialgreatwhite.com we constantly update the shows. If we’re not in your area or coming to your area right now it’ll probably happen a little bit later cause like I said the shows are coming in, we’ll get to you eventually!
When it comes to your shows, what are you seeing in terms of the audience? I know I’m a younger fan, there’s plenty of other younger fans out there and then there’s the fans who have been with you these thirty plus years. Are you seeing a big range of ages coming to your concerts?
Yeah it’s amazing, in fact we just had some 20 something’s come last night! We played near San Diego, California and my son works at a huge distribution bank company and brought four of the guys he works with including his boss. They’re maybe early 30’s and they just went absolutely crazy for the show and they’re telling me how much I shred and all that stuff.
That’s always a great compliment.
There’s definitely different generations, we see a lot more of that now. It's a case of us not being so corny, like with our parents. With our parents our stuff was so far removed from what we were into and what they were listening to that you couldn’t relate at all. They’re listening to more of the old classic singers like Frank Sinatra, who’s great in his own right, but he isn’t exactly what you’d call rock. But with our stuff even if they're into death metal or whatever, were not so foreign it can be related to.
Yeah I think a good party tune is a good party tune, and Great Whites got some great party tunes so I think that's where it’s at. So we’ve talked a little bit, it’s been more than thirty years since Once Bitten, Twice Shy. I think that’s arguably your most iconic album, arguably your most iconic song. Do the people come out craving that song and do you give it to them?
We’re eternally grateful for the hits that we’ve had over the years. We play all the big songs, for the most part, and people seem to enjoy that. We still love playing them, it’s a different audience every night. I’m not tired of it yet, we like to keep coming with new stuff as well to keep it fresh for us. We play the song pretty much like the album but we extend parts, kinda bring the crowd into the show and do things like that and that keeps it more exciting for us as well. We have little intros and different endings and stuff like that. Its still a lot of fun, maybe people out there in other bands might get burned out on playing their songs. I think the reason we don’t is because we’re constantly coming up with new albums and that keeps us motivated. We'll add little things and little jams, kind of bring the audience into the show more. We do whatever we can to eliminate going through the motions. We really try to enjoy ourselves, and we do, we have a blast. We love to meet the fans and we really look forward to playing, we still love to go out and play, it’s a lot of fun.
It sounds like everybody leaves happy. You guys get to do what you love and put a new spin on it everytime and sounds like the fans get exactly what they want too.
Yeah we switch it around, we have fourteen albums, so we can take this song out and grab this one so there’s plenty.
Always great to have plenty of material! Well Mark Kendall from Great White it has been excellent talking to you, hope you rock out, have a great time in Biloxi and on the Monsters of Rock Cruise! Thanks so much for chatting with me!
Thank you Jennifer, look forward to the next one!
interview by Jennifer Kessinger; photos by Barry Parker at the Hard Rock Casino Biloxi