INTERVIEW – Michael Lardie of Great White, December 2012

Every once in a while I get the opportunity to do an interview that is absolute fun and nostalgia at the same time.  Speaking with Michael Lardie was definitely both fun and nostalgic   Who else can say they got to speak to one of their favorite musicians?

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ToddStar: Okay, great. First of all I’d love to say I was probably enjoying the same weather here in Michigan that you are but I understand you’re a former Detroiter?

Michael: Yes, we are most recently a transplant from Livonia to Nevada.

ToddStar: Oh, so Livonia? Okay. I actually live in Farmington Hills, so not too far.

Michael: Not far at all.

ToddStar: Well Michael, thank you so much for taking time out for us today, we really appreciate you clearing your busy schedule for us here. Let’s talk about Elation for a minute. It’s been out a little while and those of us who have heard it have definitely fallen in love with it. And if you’re a Great White fan… you can’t call yourself a Great White fan without having it in your collection. But listening through it a couple of times, what is something or even a couple of things about the album that you could tell us that a fan might not know on the surface?

Michael: Well a couple of things that might not know on the surface is we had a very small window to finish composing, recording, editing, mixing and getting it out to the general public. In fact, it was almost an insurmountable task to accomplish. We had a total of 36 days to do all that. We had enough material going into it to make a big dent in all of that but as we were in the studio in the morning, starting with acoustic guitars and coming up with ideas, they kind of eclipsed, for the most part, what we already had. We ended up in a very fresh way, just composing a song. Everybody was there during the time that we did that so it was just a very natural progression for Audie to go into the drum room and sit down and have us lay scratch guitar down and know pretty much what he was going to play because he knew the song already. So that was different than we had done before. Usually we would demo the songs at home either by myself or Mark by himself or us together, then show it to the band and work it out from there. This was just very much in the moment and for me it was a freshness in the tracks that was a result of everything happening at that blinding pace. And the other thing obviously kind of in conjunction with that is the first record… that every band member was at the studio every single day, even if they weren’t working on their parts that particular day, the mind set was to cheer each other on to get the best out of each other that we could, every day, and it was a wonderful experience as a result of that.

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ToddStar: It sounds like it was truly a band effort. Do you find that that’s come across in other facets of Great White, meaning the live performance? Do you find that just that whole cohesiveness of band effort really comes across live as well?

Michael: Yeah, I mean you hope it does, that’s what we’re shooting for all the time. One of the best comments I get on a regular basis having people see us perform live, “You guys look like you’re having a fantastic time together and you almost look like you guys got your own secret that you’re sort of letting us in on, but not really.” [laughs] That’s the greatest compliment because they are seeing that we’re enjoying ourselves and there’s nothing arduous about the task. You look across the stage at your band mates and spur them along and they do the same for you and it’s just that thing where music does have that powerful yet spiritual connection to what you give out, you give back and it’s just reciprocal in that nature; I hope it comes across that way. And from the balance that we get, we’re lucky enough to see that it does actually come across that way.

ToddStar: Well having seen you guys way, way, way back in the day, I’m not going to deny the fact that you and I are over the age of 29, [laughs] but having seen you guys back in the day…

Michael: Well Todd it’s very simple, you just call yourself “plenty nine” now.

ToddStar: There you go, I love that; I’m going to use that! [laughs] But having seen you guys back in the day and having seen you guys now, I would agree with that, that same exuberance that you guys had on stage back in the 80s is still there. Though there have been some changes in the faces and even in the sound… I mean sonically, you guys are the same but in some of those components you’ve kind of kept the same… with the exception right now, especially of the different vocalist over the last few releases. In your opinion, other than the vocalist, how does the way the band is performing and sounding and recording now, how does that differ from 30 years ago or 25 years ago?

Michael: Well what we try to do is play on our strengths as a band. The core of the band with myself, Mark, and Audie, to me that’s a big part of the sound just in as much as the vocals. You have the drummer and two… the main writers and the guitar players, and I think a lot of that has to do with defining what the sound is. Even in the way we handle all the additional technology, we try to do records with an analogue sensibility. Now, you know… explain very simply that you know, I go in there and do a complete shakedown for the entire song. If we need to fix bar or two, we’ll do it but let’s get a performance. And I think the performance thing is the most important, what we have always tried to capture in the studio. And you really literally had to do it back in the day with analogue tape, even though you could cut and splice here and there, you pretty much had to play in real time. You know, there was no cutting or pasting, and that’s what I try to do at all costs and I think that’s the analogue sensibility about the performance.

ToddStar: Excellent. Now do you find that you kind of take that attitude yourself, even to a higher level? Because as a lot of people know, you’re very comfortable on both sides of that board. Both as a…

Michael: Yeah, that’s the obvious approach to it. We try to do… you know, let’s make records the way we’ve always made records. It could be 94% perfect but that turnaround into that part wasn’t an absolute perfect performance right there but man, it was full of feel. And that to me… those moments where you just go, “That reminds me of the records I grew up on.”

ToddStar: Right, which for me is Great White records. [laughs] And that’s what I loved about Elation: you saw the growth, you saw the way things changed but you get a song like Resolution or Complicated and that to me is just a perfect vintage Great White track. You know, I would hold those two tracks especially, up against some of the classics. Are you getting that same kind of feel or sound or feedback from the fans? Are you getting that whole vibe?

Michael: Yeah. It’s interesting too.  It goes both ways. People have said this could be… during this period of time this song reminds me of that, and people have asked me, “Where did you think it fits?” And for me, personally, I think the record kind of slots in… would’ve been nicely placed between Hooked and Psycho City.

ToddStar: I would agree.

Michael: It’s got like the blues elements of Hooked but it has also got the edge of Psycho City.

ToddStar: But then you’ve got the kick off track, “Feelin’ So Much Better,” where it’s just… to me a good… for lack of a better term it’s just a balls out good rock song that again, Great White is just known for.

Michael: Well you know, we’ve been very lucky and very blessed to be known for a number of styles and that’s something I think we always set out to do. A lot of people understand that they want the rockers from Once Bitten… …Twice Shy. They know us for the very bluesy thing like House of Broken Love. They also know us for ballads as well. You couldn’t ask for a better way to be known for variation in what you can… what your output is as a writer. We’ve been very lucky to go after a number of the genres and have people accept us.

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ToddStar: That’s what’s so great and timeless about you guys. When performing live, especially… and we’ll get to the little stretch of dates you have coming up, but do you find that you’re mixing a lot of the material evenly from your earlier releases and then the more recent releases, especially including Elation? Or are you doing…

Michael: Oh we try to do. The most important thing is to obviously make sure to cover a number of your songs. For lack of a better explanation, the fans who buy the records and make your songs popular allows you to have a career 30 years later. There are other songs that you’re always going to want and need to play, at the same time you want to get some of the new material in there. So what we try to do is we do a couple of songs from the new record and pepper that with stuff from earlier. We’re doing “On Your Knees,” so it goes all the way back to that. We try to cover at least a couple of songs from every record, that way everybody gets a little bit of a taste. There might be some guy that really likes …Twice Shy that doesn’t like Psycho City, so he’s going to want to hear a couple of songs from …Twice Shy. So you just try to keep it a balance as best you can.
ToddStar: Okay, well that makes sense. As far as an ideal tour, if you had to pick an ideal possible perfect match that you think would well complement Great White and Great White would also complement, who would be the ideal tour mates for your guys, sonically?

Michael: Well you know, I think it would be a really great thing to re-do a tour that we did in 1989 with the band Tesla. I think going out and doing a co-headlining tour with them would be fantastic, just like we did back in the day. Their whole sonic, the two guitar approach, a very bluesy singer, you know, song driven bands, I think it would play as well today as it did back then.

ToddStar: I would agree with that. They’re another one of those bands that just, like you said, they just kind of hit the mark. Now as far as Great White, you guys are out on these dates: the End of the World Parties and… how did this whole thing come about? When I think of end of the world, I definitely want Great White there [laughs] but how did you guys get involved? How did that come off?

Michael: [laughs] I suppose that’s a blessing and a curse at the same time. It’s great to be asked to do that. The promoter decided to put together a couple of these packages: Vince Neil, Queensrÿche, ourselves and Slaughter. And we’re actually doing a couple out in LA just prior to the Detroit show at the Masonic with the same line up. It’s always great to be asked and I think that that’s pretty damn good evening for rock and roll.

ToddStar: It certainly is. Now are any of these bands that you’ve toured with in the past? Any good stories, any good…?

Michael: Well we’ve been doing a lot of events with Vince Neil, his solo thing this last year and we’ve done the occasional date with Queensrÿche, a couple actually over in Europe.  And Slaughter, we seem to do a lot of dates in casinos and stuff over the last couple of years. So it’s all family; we’re all very familiar and it should be a great night of rock and roll.

ToddStar: It’s definitely a combination that is not to be missed. You know, especially for us who are plenty nine… [laughs] you’re getting a lot of hits from our past and our history. As far as Great White now, again, it’s been about seven months I think… seven or eight months since the album dropped. You guys are touring, what’s next for you guys? Are you starting to think about the new record or…?

Michael: As I explained to a friend the other day, he was like, “What do you do when you’re not touring?” I said, “Well, you know, you go to the studio and you sit down at a piano and you write something, because it’s what you do. It’s part of who you are as a musician.” It’s your craft, it’s your life so you continue to do that. Writing songs, we’re always coming up with ideas. Cataloging the for when it’s time to do another record. At the moment with Elation, we’re actually on our second single that’s getting a radio push, the ballad, Hard to Say Goodbye, and actually we just did the video which just came out as well. It’s one of my favorite videos we’ve ever done because it’s a concept  for the whole idea, it’s hard to say goodbye. We travel all the time, we do what we do, we can’t always be home so it’s absolutely what it’s about. You love to do what you do, but at the same time the pull of family life makes it hard to say goodbye. And actually, its had some good movement on the charts, so we’re pretty excited about that.

ToddStar: Excellent, excellent. Now how do you feel about the mood of Frontiers? It was a risky move for you guys.

Michael: Yeah, well we actually did the last three records with Frontiers and domestically we had done Back to the Rhythm and Rising on Shrapnel Records. This time we did Frontiers on a worldwide release. They’ve been good to us and also the fact that they have such a staple of the 80s artists. I mean they’ve got Night Ranger, Styx, Journey. The label found the markets the music of the plenty nines, if you will.

ToddStar: [laughs] There you go. That’s going to be the coin phrase of 2013, I’ll give you credit.

Michael: Excellent. [laughs]

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ToddStar: [laughs] Are there bands out there other than the metal scene that you’re so involved with… are there bands out there releasing music or touring that you’re into?

Michael: Well you know, one of the bands that I was turned on to last year was Halestorm. Lzzy is an incredible talent, as is her brother Arejay on the drums. They’ve got great songs and obviously they got nominated for a Grammy this year so we’re obviously going to be hearing more and more from them. I’ve gone out and seen bands like Pop Evil; I’ve seen Nickelback this year. Just getting a sense of what’s out there. So I’m not only just stuck in this classic rock band, trying to be aware of what is out there currently, because on some level it’s all cyclical. We find out that there are bands that know about us today and say “You were an influence for us” and we come back with “Well we think it’s pretty cool what you’re doing right here.”  You know, so ultimately it’s good, I think, to stay abreast of what is happening now and to get something out of it.

ToddStar: Okay. What was the last CD or MP3 you listened to, Michael?

Michael: You’d be absolutely shocked and surprised but we are… it’s Christmas season so the last CD I listened to was Josh Groban.

ToddStar: Oh, okay. I’m actually not surprised at all. You’re listening to it for the production quality, I’m sure.

Michael: Well yeah, the guy’s got an amazing voice and you know, David Foster as producer is absolutely incredible so. You know, it’s Christmas time man, you’ve got to hear Christmas carols!

ToddStar: Certainly. I don’t want to take up all your time so… other than the obvious Facebook and you know, the website, the Facebook, the Twitter, any other things you guys would like to promote or make sure we point people to at this time?

Michael: Well you know, our main website, greatwhiterocks.com is going to be extremely up to date. Tour schedule, what we’re up to, we post interviews, videos from live performances that we do. Obviously everyone in the band has a Facebook presence singularly and the band has a couple of Facebook pages: Great White The Band and Great White Shark Tank Elation, it’s like a group that talks about the new record and… we’re around and people can absolutely find us.

ToddStar: Again, to wrap up. We’re nearing the end of 2012 and other than you guys making it through the End of the World Party and coming into 2013, do you have for yourself or the band any resolutions or goals for 2013?

Michael: 2013… our resolution is to obviously be true to ourselves and continue to have a career career as a musician and play Great White shows out there and make people happy. I think that’s what my resolution is pretty much every year.

ToddStar: and I’m looking so forward to your show at the End of the World Party on December 21st in Detroit, the Masonic temple, along with Vince Neil, Slaughter and Queensrÿche. When you see the guy who’s plenty nine years old with the camera in the  pit, make sure to smile pretty and we’re going to make sure that we push Great White all we can in 2013 and beyond.

Michael: Well thank you so much for your interest and your love of the music over the years, and that we’re all still here and still breathing. Isn’t it amazing?

ToddStar: [laughs] It is, it is. They all thought we would disappear once 1991 hit, didn’t they?

Michael:[laughs] You know, they didn’t know how strong we were.

ToddStar: Exactly, exactly. Well again, thank you so much for your time, Michael, and enjoy it out there until next Friday.

Michael:[laughs] I will, thank you Todd and you have a great day.

ToddStar: You too. We’ll see ya.

INTERVIEW - Michael Lardie of Great White, December 2012

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