By Chris Shapiro:
Jack Russell, a founding member of the Grammy nominated rock band Great White, did what most musicians only dream of doing. He traveled one hundred feet.
The roots of his journey go back to his first concert, Blue Oyster Cult, at The Forum in Los Angeles.
Russell recalls the event, “I remember sitting there on that twenty-second row seat and I was telling my friends, ‘I’m going to be on that stage one of these days.’ And they’re going ‘what’ and I go, ‘swear to God I’m going to be on that stage one of these days.’”
Russell’s prophetic words came true several years later.
“One day I was sitting there at sound check, at The Forum, and I walked up to those seats, I’m not sure if I was in the exact same ones but I kinda figured out the general area you know. I sat down and I said, ‘Jack you sure come a long way man, about a hundred feet,’” Russell laughed.
He remembers dreaming about playing at The Forum as a young teenager and calls the whole experience a “mind blower” and compares it the Foreigner song “Juke Box Hero.”
“I remember the night before I was sitting in my hotel room and I look out my window and there’s the Forum across the parking lot and I sat there and I just looked at the Forum and go, ‘God, I actually pulled it off,’” Russell said.
Russell explains that Rock ‘N Roll is a “celebration of life.” He says that there is a shared loved between the band and the audience that allows the two to “connect” and celebrate the medium.
“It’s a really beautiful thing when you watch it happen and you see the audience and the band really get in sync with each other. It’s just amazing the power that’s in that room, at the time, you can feel it, you know, it’s electric,” Russell explained.
His first musical influences came from the Beatles and the Beach Boys. Later, he says a large collection of bands drove his musical style including Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper and Elton John. Yet, Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin were always his two favorite.
Russell started his band Great White in the 1970’s but it wasn’t until the late 1980’s that music exploded for him and the band. His albums Once Bitten… and …Twice Shy both became multi-platinum selling records with several hit singles. The latter also received a Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance.
The albums bring back pleasant memories for Russell.
“I remember sitting there at night, I kinda lived at the studio on and off when I wasn’t down on my boat, I’d stay there at night when we’d work on the albums. And the place would be dead and I’d put up a song and listen to it like the playback. I remember, I was listening to ‘House of Broken Love’ and I was thinking, ‘man what a great song that is this is going to be a really great album too,’” Russell remembered.
He goes on to say that, “when you’re sitting there all by yourself, you’re just really listening to the song, as if it’s not really your song, you know, and I’m thinking, ‘people are going to like this,” He said.
Recent, Russell sang at the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp. Russell says he was invited down to perform during the opening night at the guitar center and then the closing night at the mansion.
The basis behind the camp is fans, after breaking into groups, work side by side rock legends and learn to play songs. Then, the groups compete against one another in a battle of the bands fashion. Russell calls the camp “a really great concept” and hopes to be involved again in the future.
“I mean it’s a neat experience for a lot of the younger kids and the older people to, you know go out and live out their Rock ‘N Roll fantasy. And I tell ya what, if it was available when I was a kid, I’d be thrilled to be on it,” Russell said.
“I love it man,” Russell says in response to the second generation of fans coming out to see his shows.
“I think it’s amazing that the music stood the test of time and it’s transferred through generations. You know it’s incredible to me. I never, you never think about that when you’re young,” Russell said.
Russell goes on to say that, “pretty soon you’re fifty-one years old looking back going ‘holy crap the last twenty-five years went by in a blur.’ And you realize you have made impressions on people’s lives and some very positive ones and it really makes you feel good, like what you’ve done, you know, has been important.”
Currently, Russell is on tour under the banner Jack Russell’s Great White. He said he missed being on the road, touring the country and had the desire to get back out.
“I love being on a tour bus, I love traveling, of course I miss my wife like no body’s business,” Russell said.
What he loves most is the bond the band establishes throughout the duration of the tour.
“You go on the road and you start off with a new band and the guys, we know each other, we’re not like best friends yet, you know what I mean, but you come back from a tour on a bus and you’re so much close because you’ve lived with each other you know for a month or two and you really bond over that time,” he said.
Russell says the current line up is working on new material and has future plans of releasing a live CD. He says the live CD will be released for free for their fans. “They’ve heard the music already so why not, you know what I mean,” Russell said.
When Russell isn’t living in the studio recording hit albums or on tour across the nation, he’s living on his 54 foot yacht. “She’s a beautiful boat man,” he said.
The ocean has always been a passion of Russell’s. He says he’s been in love with the open water since his first shark fishing days when he was five.
“It is the life man you’re like living at Sea World,” Russell’s says about living on the water.
It’s an enjoyable and now sober life for Russell.
“Well I’ll tell you what,” Russell explains, “when I woke up out of my last surgery on August 11th, my wife told me Jani Lane had just died and that was kind of an eye opener. And then Steven Tyler called me a couple days later.”
Russell says the combination of the two made him realize it was time for him to “get it together” and for the past eleven months he has been.
For future musicians Russell’s advice is blunt. “I think you should go get a real job,’ he jokes.
It’s the changes in the music industry and how music is now distributed that has Russell skeptical about careers for musicians in this generation.
“It’s such a weird thing now, music, I don’t even know what’s going on with it. I mean, I don’t see how you could make any money at it you know. Most bands, what you’re selling one song on an iPod or something like that. I don’t understand how it even works it’s beyond me,” Russell said.
Another element gone from the music industry that Russell misses are the record stores.
“It’s sad to think there’s no more record stores, you know, there no more places you can go buy records, CDs, cassettes whatever you know. The whole media changed and not for the better especially not for the kids trying to make it from the ground up.
Russell told a story that he was recently in a Borders browsing though the CD collection for an Aerosmith album. He was stunned when they didn’t even have a card marker for the band.
Yet, for those musicians who are bound and determined to make music their life, Russell suggests two things, “as always man, just find the group of people you really like,” and the second is, “stick with it, don’t keep changing bands because you haven’t made it in a week. Find something you really love, that you feel passionate about and stick with it. Don’t take no for an answer. If you know your good, believe in yourself, and that’s all you need.”