2017 holds so much promise regarding new music, new tours, and new music. One of the first discs out of the gate is the latest collection from Jack Russell’s Great White – He Saw It Comin’. This disc packs a wallop with songs that fall back to the classic Jack Russell sound and into new territory with an acapella track. The music ebbs and flows from good times to love and even wades into darker water such as addiction. With the new disc ready to launch, Jack was able to jump on the phone and talk about the new material and so much more…
Toddstar: Jack Russell, thank you so much for taking time out for us today. We really appreciate it.
Jack: No problem. My pleasure, man.
Toddstar: There’s a lot going on in the world of Jack Russell right now. Let’s start with the biggest thing – in a couple of weeks, you’re releasing some of the best new rock and roll out there. Jack Russell’s Great White has He Saw it Comin’ dropping January 27th.
Jack: Thank you very much. I appreciate the accolades. It really is a good album, you know? I’m very proud of it, something different but still a rock and roll record.
Toddstar: It definitely is. I want to start with the name, because when it was first rumored way back in October that this thing was going to come out, you had the working name The Gauntlet.
Toddstar: You shifted gears and named it He Saw it Comin’. Why the change of heart?
Jack: The Gauntlet – most people, well maybe not most people but some people would understand what that was about. Basically it was like a challenge, throwing down the gauntlet to the other band. I thought, “Why do I want to do that?” They had their big Elation thing, and that was a stab at me. I thought, “You know what? I don’t need to do anything that’s a stab at them or even have them involved.” I just need to worry about what I want to put out. Having nothing to do with them or where I’ve been, this is where I’m at. I wanted to keep it to that. I didn’t want to do something cheeky or cheesy or having anything to do with where I’ve been. The title, for me, it starts back when I was six years old. I was given the information from God, the Universe, whatever that I was going to be a rockstar instead of an archeologist. I took that information, and I acted on it. There was a day I looked up, and I was sitting across the street from the Forum in Los Angeles and it sold out the next night when we were playing there. I was like, “Wow. You pulled it off.” That’s kind of what the title’s about. It’s very much about manifest destiny, visualization, and that kind of stuff and the power that has. Seeing the cover art, it is me and Robby when we were kids looking into a crystal ball seeing us years later on a big stage with thousands of people in front of it. That’s kind of the story of the song, and the story of the song obviously starts out with me where I’m at now. “You say my time is over. You look at me and shake your head. You say I’ve had my day, and you can’t believe that I’m not dead. I’ve fallen down a thousand times, a thousand times I’ve risen. You watch me agonize in pain, but still I stand and deliver.” That kind of says it all. I’ve been through a lot of stuff. A lot of people counted me out a lot of times, but I’ve always bounced back. Here I am again, and I’m not planning on falling down again.
Toddstar: That’s good news for anybody who loves what you’ve done over the years, Jack. You’ve released, as far as I know, three singles from this. It started with “Blame it on the Night,” and then you jumped into “She Moves Me,” and just recently is “Love Don’t Live Here.”
Jack: Those actually weren’t singles. Our first single comes out in a couple weeks or a week, which is called “Sign of the Times.” Those were just kind of little teaser tracks the company threw out just to get people excited about the record. We’re going to really actively work this next single.
Toddstar: Cool. I was going to say, “Sign of the Times” jumped out as classic Jack Russell as Jack Russell would do it in 2017. It has that classic bluesy voice that you’ve always thrown at us with the rest. It’s not rehashed rock and roll.
Jack: Thank you. I appreciate that.
Toddstar: Looking over these songs, Jack, are there any songs that really fought you tooth and nail as you were trying to write them or finish them up, when you and Robby were fitting these songs together.
Jack: “Sign of the Times.” That was the one song that we had the melody for, we had the music, and we could not figure out the chorus. We tried singing this to it, “Nah.” We tried singing that to it, “Nah.” We just couldn’t find the lyrics. One day, I was sitting at an airport with the band. I’m looking around the airport, and this is no exaggeration, I was the only one that didn’t have a phone or something in their hands that they were pecking at. I thought, “Wow, man. We’ve totally lost the art of communication, the art of conversation.” I see this guy and his wife, they were sitting next together texting each other. I’m like, “You’re right next to her. Just talk to her.” You know what I mean? It’s like has it gotten that bad to where… I get kind of ticked off when people text me. It’s like, “Why don’t you just call me. What, I’m not worth a phone call. What, I’m going to take up too much of your time?” It’s like you just get text after text, “Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas.” It’s like, “Okay, I’ll text you back a Merry Christmas. How do you like that?” I don’t know. It’s just so impersonal. Then we had the idea for “Sign of the Times.” It just came out. Then the lyrics came after. Once we had that, it was just a cake walk. You know? That was the only song that was really hard. Everything else just came out. “My Addiction,” I literally wrote that lyric with one long streaming through, from start to finish. I came up with another line and another line until it was done..” I had no idea what I was going to write about. I generally don’t. I don’t like to pre-plan my songs. I rather have the music tell me what it’s going to be. That’s exactly what that song did. It was so glaring. It’s the darkness of the tune, the melody. It was just so easy. That’s all that came out. I was like, “Wow. Okay. That was cathartic.”
Toddstar: I’ve been lucky enough through the years to have been able to see you perform live. The last time I saw you in the 90s was when you were out with KISS on their Revenge tour. I got to see you when you returned to the stage at Rocklahoma in 2008 or 2009. I’ve seen you highs and lows, ups and downs. To listen to you now, you’re as strong as ever. Not only in your vocal quality, but in your conviction behind the lyrics. Is that something that you actually have to work up to when you’re going to start recording, or do you really feel that good about what you’ve got going on now that you know in your heart you’re doing the right thing?
Jack: That’s exactly it. It’s always been… If I’m on point, if I believe in a song, then I’ll sing it. If I don’t believe in it, I’m not going to sing it. It’s going to sound overly emotive or not emotive enough. When I believe in something, it just comes across. I want people to believe what I’m saying because I believe it. Some people, they have a tendency to be over-emotive. To me, that just turns me off. It’s like, “Dude you must not really believe in the song. You’re trying to sell it to me, trying to get me to believe that you really believe it,” if that makes any sense. For me, every song on this record I love. There’s a meaning behind and there’s a reason behind every song. Mostly, it’s autobiographical. I did do one song on here that wasn’t. That was “Spy Vs Spy.” That was from the old Mad Magazine. There was an episode of Spy Versus Spy where these little bird-like things, if I can call them. They were the black one and the white one. They were always trying to kill each other off in these really Rube Goldberg kinds of ways. I always loved that cartoon. I’d been watching a lot of spy movies lately, like the one Melissa McCarthy did. It was hysterical, just hysterical. That gave me the idea, I go, “You know I’d love to have that song in a spy movie.” I kind of wrote something along those lines with that in mind. Whether it ever gets in one, who knows, but that was the idea. I kind of had to put myself in that space and try to think about what it would be like. It was fun. I love the song. I love the music. I love the intro on it, the solo and the beginning of that is just awesome. It’s such a fun song.
Toddstar: You’ve mentioned fun and you’ve mentioned dark, like with “My Addiction” and “Sign of the Times” being very introspective of where we are as a society. One of the songs that really kind of caught me from the side, but it’s the one I go back to the most, is the closer, “Godspeed.”
Jack: “Godspeed,” I knew you were going to say that.
Toddstar: Man, I can’t get enough. It’s not just the lead vocals, and it’s all vocals.
Jack: It’s all vocals, yeah.
Toddstar: It’s such a cool a capella track. I mean there’s just something about the song that is fun. For somebody who grew up in the era of hair metal, and I know some guys hate to hear it called hair metal these days, but if we grew up with that LA music in the 80s man, this takes you back without all the squealing guitars and the pings and the thunder drums. This just takes you back to that fun era. This song could have been done 30 years ago, how did you pull that out, man?
Jack: I have to give most of the credit to my guitarist. This was his idea. We actually wrote the song with a guitar and a vocal. He goes, “Jack, I want to take this and make an a capella song out of it.” I said, “What? Are you serious?” He goes, “Yeah.” I go, “I don’t know, man, an a capella song on a rock album. I can’t see it. But you know what, I trust you enough to let you go ahead and have a shot at it. Just blow me away.” A month later he comes back, and he goes, “I finished the song.” I go, “What song are you talking about?” He goes, “The a capella song.” I am, “You’re kidding me, really?” He goes, “Yeah, I got it here.” He was all ready for me anyway. He goes, “Okay, I got it up right now,” so we’re sitting in the studio, he pushes play, and the minute I started hearing it, I started laughing, just gut laughing. The next thing would be kicking your feet up and on the floor and stuff and pissing myself. It wasn’t because it was funny. It was because it was so good. I couldn’t even believe what I was hearing. I go, “Dude. The arrangement on that, the time it must have taken to do all those parts and figure out all the parts, it just boggles my mind.” I realized what an incredible… I already knew, but that really, really confirmed to me what an incredible musician he is. Not just being an incredible guitar player, but what a great writer and arranger and musician he is. I was just, “Wow. That is a great song and it’s gotta go on the album. I don’t care who thinks what of it, but I got a feeling that people are really going to like it.” Since I’ve been playing it for people, it’s been the same response. “Oh my god. That is incredible.” I just start laughing, because it’s like, wow, the song that was totally not going to work or able to pull it off, has become one of the most talked about songs on the record, if not the most. I’m very proud, and I’m very proud of my band. They are just great musicians and wonderful human beings. They’re giving it their all, all the time. That’s all you could ask, you know?
Toddstar: That’s the thing. Gene Simmons was wrong when he said rock was dead.
Toddstar: Rock music is still very much alive. As long as guys like you and your band are out there doing it, it can’t die. Like you said, you mentioned Robby. You’ve been with Tony for a long time, and then you’ve got Dicki with you. I know I’m missing…
Jack: Dan McNay.
Toddstar: Dan McNay, who is actually the new kid on the block.
Jack: That was the final piece of the puzzle. He’s the final piece of the puzzle. When he got in the band, that’s when I finally said, “Okay, we’re ready to do an album now. All the pieces are there. There’s no weak links. I think we can start recording,” and that’s what we did. You listen to the bass, just like on Silent Times, the bass is just incredible. I realize what people laugh at the bass like, “Oh, it’s two strings short of a real instrument,” you know what I mean? If you think about it, it is one of the most difficult things to play. You not only have to play along with the chords, but you have to interweave your melody lines along with the vocal melody lines and not step on them, or not do something that’s dissident. I have a lot more respect for bass players now than I ever did. The stuff he’s put down is just amazing to me. Plus, he sings real well. He was the one doing all the low parts on “Godspeed.” We kind of kept it like, “You’re the bass player. You sing the bass.” Robby, the thing I like with Robby’s guitar solo, it was just so good and then he breaks into that (singing). I love that tune. Sorry. Kind of went off in my own world there.
Toddstar: Dude, I’m telling you, every song. Even going into “She Moves Me,” that’s a song that sets me off. I love it.
Jack: I love that song too. It was written about a time where I fell in love with a hooker. She was actually a porn star, but they’re all hookers in this life. She just showed me such a great time. She told me she loved me. I moved in with her, and then I was the guy at home waiting. She’d come home from work, and I’d be like, “All right. Just gonna have this great sex,” and she’d be like, “Oh, I’m too tired. Man, I’m too tired to do that. I’ve been doing that all day long.” I’m like, “Oh, okay. So I don’t get any unless I pay for it, right?” That didn’t last long. I’m like, “Okay.” I’d get better sex, more sex, or any sex if I was a client instead of her boyfriend.
Toddstar: Hey, onto bigger and better.
Jack: My wife now is amazing. She’s just amazing. She’s 43, and unfortunately the poor thing’s been really, really ill for the last three years. She’s disabled now, and we don’t really know what’s going to happen. I just say a lot of prayers and write a lot of songs for her. Hopefully, she’ll outlive me if God is good, not me outlive her. I just can’t imagine being able to be here without her. That’s what “Anything For You” is about. [Jack is getting noticeably emotional about the subject]. Sorry.
Toddstar: No, dude. It’s good to know you still got that in you, man. It really is. I knew about your wife from reading interviews and press releases, you mention her. You talk about how she saved you and brought you back. Who’d have known all those years ago when you were singing “Save Me” that you were talking about this woman in the 2000’s who brought you back from the edge, man. Don’t ever apologize for that.
Jack: I look at life like there’s no coincidence. Everything happens for a reason. It makes life a lot more interesting, and it makes it make it make a lot more sense. If you think about it that way, it kind of pieces it all together. You can kind of come to terms with a lot of stuff that maybe you weren’t before. Sometimes you can’t figure out the reason. Why would a horrible tragedy happen? They’re just all life’s lessons. Some of them are painful unfortunately, but that’s the world we live in.
Toddstar: That’s true. Listen, I know you’re busy. I know you’ve got these things lined up all day. I’ve got one more for you. Possibly two depending on your answer.
Jack: No problem, man. No problem.
Toddstar: Looking over the songs on here, and again, for me I could put together a Jack Russell’s Great White set list just from this album. Obviously, you’ve got to play the classics. Your fans want to hear them. You wrote them. What songs from the new album do you think fit best amongst some of those classics that you’re so well known for.
Jack: I would say “Sign of the Times.” “She Moves Me,” I could see the other band playing that. You know what I mean? I would do the same thing. I would’ve written it, the music too. I don’t know if they would’ve… No, I know they wouldn’t have arranged it or played the same chords or all the interesting things that Robby did. I can see them doing that song. It would fit. You know what I mean? “My Addiction,” I don’t think that’s something that we would have come up with. Maybe I could see “Don’t Let Me Go” in that band. Pretty much if… Well, you can’t really say because without the music, without Robby, none of this stuff would’ve been created the way it’s created. I would’ve written some songs, written some music, but how it would have been interpreted would have been a whole different way. You know what I mean? I can hum chords. I can’t hum a chord, but I hum notes to Robby, and then we just figure out what those notes translate into as far as chords go. He’ll take it and, as I say, Lochnerize it and make it way more interesting. I’ll come up with a basic part and a melody. For example, the song “Love Don’t Live Here,” that was a song I sat up at the Beverly Hills Hotel. My wife and I took a night just to go spend the night by ourselves in a place that has a bathtub. We have a shower on our boat. We don’t have a bathtub. She goes, “I want to take a bath.” I go, “Okay, we’ll go get a room and we’ll just have a good night.” We went there and had a good time. She was talking to a bunch of people, so I went upstairs. There’s a little balcony and I came up with this idea. You know what I mean. I pretty much wrote the lyrics and everything and the melody in my head. I had to keep repeating it over and over and over and over again so I wouldn’t forget it. Finally I go, “Hey, wait a minute. I got a recording thing in my phone.” I hummed it on to there and as many lyrics as I could remember. The next day I went home and finished it. I left it to Robby, and he took it from there. It came out really good, just the way I wanted it.
Toddstar: That’s awesome. Jack, if you had to look back over your career and pick one thing, it doesn’t matter what it is, but just one thing you’d like to redo, is there something and if there is what would it be?
Jack: Redo or relive?
Jack: Redo, I would like to redo the Hooked album. I would like to take that album, and I would have liked to have done an album like Can’t Get There From Here in its place. I think if Alan our old manager hadn’t pissed off the label so much, it might have been a different story. Everything happens the way it happens. I would have loved to have that as a follow-up to Twice Shy because I think that is probably the best record that that band ever did.
Toddstar: Can’t Get There From Here is one of my favorites.
Jack: That disc is just loaded with great songs, but that album is just, to me it’s amazing. The song “Silent Night” was written about my girl in high school, who I have a son with. I left her because I was 18 years old. I just told her, “I can’t. I would not be a good father.” She got pregnant. She stopped taking the pill without telling me, which was kind of unfair. I just said, “Look, I’m not going to be a good father. I’ve got to do this rock and roll thing. It’s going to keep me away. I’m not going to get a regular job because that’s really going to mess up what I need to do. I’m going to be out a lot of times at night, and I can’t say that I’m not going to cheat on you. I’m being honest.” We came to an understanding. She ended up marrying a good friend of mine who took really good care of my son and their two step-children. We still all talk. My son has turned out to be just a wonderful kid. We’re been in contact for the last quite a number of years now. We always try to hang out as much as we can. He’s very much like me. That’s what I would like to redo. We should put that album where Hooked is.
Toddstar: Fair enough. Well listen, Jack, I know you’re busy. I want to thank you so much for the talk. I’ve been a fan for decades, man. This is truly a high point for me to be able to speak to you.
Jack: Thank you.
Toddstar: I can’t wait to see you take this to the masses, especially when we get you in Toledo at Savage Arena for one of those big metal shows here soon. I can’t wait to see everybody experience Jack Russell’s Great White in 2017.
Jack: Thank you so much. People that haven’t seen the band are just going to be blown away. The energy, the musicianship, the songs. With all humility, I’m saying I’ve never been better. There’s a quality to my voice now as I’ve gotten older that makes it a little warmer, but I still have be able to maintain all those highs. By the grace of God, he allowed me to keep borrowing this talent. I’m just happy when I hear stuff like, “Well, we went and saw so-and-so and when we saw you guys it was like wow.” I feel very blessed. I’m very excited about the new year. I’m very proud of the record. I want to thank you for taking the time to listen to it and really listen to it, and for your feedback. It’s always nice to hear good things from somebody that’s around music so much.
Toddstar: Thanks for keeping rock alive, Jack. We’ll see you at Rock the Arena in Toledo in March. I can’t wait to see this album go up the charts when it comes out in a couple weeks.
Jack: Thank you. Make sure you find me and we get to say hello.
Toddstar: Definitely, brother.
Jack: All right, man. God Bless, and we’ll talk to you again. Have a great New Year, bro.
Toddstar: You too, brother.
Jack: All right, bye bye now. Thank you.
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