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Feeding Frenzy: An Exclusive Interview With MARK KENDALL Of GREAT WHITE

By Krishta Abruzzini, Pacific Northwest Writer
Wednesday, April 6, 2016 @ 2:25 PM


"when we first went to England and played, it was dead silence after a couple of songs, and we weren't used to that. They had the attitude like, ďImpress us, Yanks"

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Live Photos By Krishta Abruzzini And Larry Petro

GREAT WHITE has been together for over three decades. Thatís a very long time in terms of any relationship, let alone the ups and downs, successes and tragedies, addictions and personnel changes this band has endured. Yet the band is still together and able to set out what they always intended on doing, which is writing and performing their songs for their fans, who they consider family.

I recently got to chat with founder Mark Kendall. Having seen this band for the past 30 years, and all the incarnations throughout, I am amazed at the strength Mark has to have overcome his own addictions and become a solid player, bringing GREAT WHITE into the next decade, playing with a polish and soul unrivaled in years prior.

KNAC.COM: Howís it going Mark?

KENDALL: Doing great. This is kind of a busy time of the year when we start really going. I'm excited to get out and start playing.

KNAC.COM: Probably the most important subject I'm going to talk about during this entire interview tonight is about your adorable grandson. He's one of the cutest little boys I have ever seen.

KENDALL: Heís incredible. His name is Noah. We've got to enjoy this kid on a daily basis, so it's been really cool for us.

KNAC.COM: I get to see pictures of him on your Facebook page, and let me just say, heís ridiculous cute. What a little rocker.

KENDALL: Heís 11-months-old. We bought him this little guitar and he just went crazy watching the videos of me and jumping all over the place. God man, this kid loves the music.

KNAC.COM: Tell me what's going on with GREAT WHITE as of late.

KENDALL: We've actually been rehearsing. We try to not go out and play the same show every year. Our catalog is so extensive. I don't think we've ever played a show where a fan didnít come come up and say, ďHow come you didnít playÖ?Ē So we try to switch it up and go to songs that maybe we haven't played in like 25 years even. It keeps it fresh for us as well. We have extended jams we do on stage that are never the same. We just just go with it and try to bring the crowd into the show. Weíre looking forward to playing live. We start off our season in Arizona; the fans are super loyal there.

KNAC.COM: Do you find that they're not loyal in other areas? It seems like youíve got a lot of good support from your fans.

KENDALL: Yeah, well, East Coast vs. West Coast, it's easier for us when we're on the west side, but it makes us play harder when weíre not. For instance, when we first went to England and played, it was dead silence after a couple of songs, and we weren't used to that. They had the attitude like, ďImpress us, Yanks.Ē

KNAC.COM: Kind of like Portland, Oregon. [laughing]

KENDALL: Yeah. We just kept going back and once they saw the loyalty, then they started to like the band, and we kind of won them over. It eliminated us from just going out and entertaining. We started to go for higher goals and really play hard and impress people. Weíve always had to prove ourselves more on the East Coast, but the fans ended up just as loyal as anywhere in the long run.

KNAC.COM: You guys released your album Elation in 2012, and youíre working on new material. Are you going to be releasing something again soon?

KENDALL: Absolutely. In fact we were on the Monsters Of Rock cruise recently. Michael and I have been writing a lot of new music and the other guys have been contributing riffs and stuff like that.

KNAC.COM: Do you think youíd do it organically, as he did before the digital world took over? Without all the bells and whistles of all the new technology?

KENDALL: Well, weíre pretty straight ahead rock band, and weíre still old-school with our thinking. Like, for instance, if something sounds good to us by listening to it, we donít judge, because you can look at the computer screen and see that the base notes that everyone is hitting perfectly with the kick drum or whatever, instead of nixing all that and making it machine like, we keep the imperfections in our music. To me, if you listen to music and it sounds good to you, then what a better judge? Just because the computerís not saying itís not perfect doesnít mean itís not good. So the human element we never lost. When we get together and we play in a room, and it makes a certain sound, nothing that a machine could ever do, we keep it. Weíre still old-school even with modern technology.

KNAC.COM: I remember seeing Mason Williams perform once. He was pretty much a one-hit-wonder, and was known for the instrumental, ďClassical GasĒ. Anyway, he had all this new material he was performing, and I guess he wasnít getting the reaction he expected, and stopped the show abruptly as he crankily said, ďAh, screw it, Iíll just play "Classical Gas", because thatís what you all came out to hear.Ē Iím always curious about new material for bands and how receptive to new material their fans may be?

KENDALL: One thing we've never done, even back in the 80s, we never bombarded people with a new record. We never got out there and just played all new material. Weíd play our stuff from the past and we included a couple new ones. Thatís the way weíve always done it. Weíve never changed that format. After a while, people get familiar with the record and then we might add two other songs. Iíve seen bands, that I wonít mention their name, thatíll go out and play their entire new record and not play all of the hits, and itís not like people are mad, but they just have this question mark look on their faces. So, weíve always given into what people want. It keeps it fresh for us. One thing weíve always wanted to eliminate was just going through the motions. We never wanted to be like this oldies band that just goes out and plays the same show, another day at the office or whatever. So to keep it fresh, we need to be doing new things in our show, or it would become boring.

KNAC.COM: Now for yourself, your sobriety is a big part of life now. Youíve been through several incarnations throughout your musical career. How do you stay healthy and sober being out and traveling in a rock band?

KENDALL: The way Iíve been doing it lately is that I have a trainer. Iím in the gym a lot. Lifting weights, doing cardio. In hotels they usually have at least a treadmill. I try to eat the best I can. You canít always eat great. The main thing thatís difficult, and itís always been the hardest part about being in a band, is the traveling itself, because of the sleeping. You do a lot of sleeping sitting up. Seats on the airplane. Iíve even heard this saying, ďYouíre in a band and we play for free, but they pay us to travel.Ē Thatís really the hardest part of it. Itís not so much staying healthy. We do try to treat ourselves well, like nobody drinks or smokes or anything. Itís mainly not being able to sleep like normal. When you donít get enough sleep, youíre grumpy, you donít feel well.

KNAC.COM: Personally, how do you manage your sobriety? I mean, shows are predominately a party atmosphere. Quite a few fans are out there drinking. For someone recovering, that has to be somewhat tough? I know youíre quite the advocate for helping people with sobriety.

KENDALL: Iím going on eight years of sobriety. I started my own support group. I belong to a lot of foundations like MusiCares and stuff that deliver the message of sobriety. I work with people. I sponsor people, even some that are in the industry. So Iím constantly, even on the road, involved in being of service of someway on a daily basis. I say prayers for people every single day. I have like 88 people on my online support group. We celebrate time. Some guy may call me really late at night saying heís in a really tough spot. So Iím always being reminded of it no matter what or where I am. I really take the ďOne Day at a TimeĒ thing super serious. Every morning when I get up, I just pray to God that I keep sober today, and then I thank God when I go to sleep. I just keep my guard up and I never get cocky, and itís just working well.

KNAC.COM: Do you follow the 12 Step?

KENDALL: Yeah. You know, Iíve been getting sober since Ď91. So I finally started to listen to people who had a lot of success. I worked through the steps and took some inventory of myself. Now Iíll go to a meeting every once in awhile. I finally decided to get both feet in the door, if you will, of a program of AA, and listened to people with a lot of years of sobriety and learned to be more of a listener and not do things my way so much anymore. It was the seed of doing things the right way. When I had a couple of years under my belt, I started to reach out. The way it started was I just reached out on Facebook. I said, ďHey if thereís anybody out there struggling, trying to get sober and sick of the pain, Iím available to be your sober friend.Ē And that turned into this mountain of people that wanted to get sober. So I started this online support group. I send them meditations and prayers each day and everybody loves starting their day off with them.

KNAC.COM: If people wanted to get into your support group, how would they reach you?

KENDALL: Just go on my Facebook. Anyone that wants to message me, Iíd be happy to add them to the mailing list.

KNAC.COM: Speaking of sobriety, and itís kind of the white elephant in the room, have you had any communication with Jack Russell?

KENDALL: Not too much, since all the lawsuits and all that. I tried. You know, youíre not always successful. What I noticed is a lot of people I work with that start out well, but kind of end up backpedaling. Thereís not a lot I can do in that situation. Thatís kind of how it was with Jack. If a guyís not ready, I canít help him. They have to be fully committed and really want to make a life change. I can only be supportive, share things that Iíve learned that have helped me to sustain my day to day sobriety, but I canít make someone get sober.

KNAC.COM: I think thereís still a lot of bitterness for Jack. I talked to him a few months back. He honestly wasnít in great shape. He said he had tried to call you, and that he had a good deal to share with you, but you never called him back. He seemed very angry. I donít know if he even realizes the state that heís in, honestly. Michael Lardie said something with, of course, a lot of class, that with regard to the bandís name, thereís three original members still playing together. That you guys are not trying to prevent him from earning a living playing music, that itís just fair that the name remain with the majority. I think thatís an important aspect of the whole lawsuit. I think it comes down to professionalism. Personally, I absolutely appreciate that you have Terry (Ilouis) in the band. I think he brings an outstanding dynamic.

KENDALL: Thank you. No doubt. You know, Terry really takes care of himself. He doesnít smoke or drink. Heís a blackbelt in Judo. The guyís like a human machine and he sings perfect every night. Thereís never any drama, and I just donít miss all that. Iím not bitter either. I have no resentments, or bitterness. Thatís not the way I live. I never take it personal when someone canít get sober. I never have. I just call it putting them in prayer mode. I really hope that Jack gets well one day. Iím never offended personally because someone is refusing to get well. It makes no sense. I really do wish that Jack will get well one day, and start jumping around, but I canít make it happen.

KNAC.COM: Honestly, it kind of makes me angry seeing other musicians playing with him, as it feels somewhat enabling, if that makes sense? Or that theyíre taking advantage of what once was?

KENDALL: There are people out there that will accept any behavior when theyíre coming from cover bands or whatever, you know? Theyíre seeing it as an opportunity. This guy was in a big rock band and theyíre probably thinking, ďWe get to play with him. Honestly weíll deal with whatever, we donít care.Ē

KNAC.COM: Do you think if Jack ever got back to being sober and at 100 percent youíd ever reuinite or do a show?

KENDALL: You know, itís nothing I even think about. Weíd have to see it happen and then deal with it. Itís just his body is in such poor shape. He was in a walker and a wheelchair and now he kind of wobbles around. I wonít go into any dirt. Thatís not an area where I want to go. I just need to stay away from it and I just hope that he does get well.

KNAC.COM: On a positive note, are there any bands that you do want to share the stage with?

KENDALL: Weíve pretty much played with everybody. Apart from like AC/DC, weíve played so many festivals in Europe and stuff, and pretty much covered from A to Z. Oh yeah, we even played with ZZ TOP before [laughs]. I just remembered we played with them twice. I met Billy Gibbons for the first time and it was so exciting. Itís so funny because Iím such a geeky fan. My jaw drops. We played with BLACKMORE'S RAINBOW and I was like five feet from Blackmore and I couldnít think of anything to say, so I didnít say anything [laughs]. Iím such a fan of my heroes. I get so nervous. With Billy Gibbons, it was literally set up to where Iíd meet him one-on-one in his dressing room. So when I walked in there I was so scared, but I just said, ďYour music has created so many memories for me.Ē If ďWaitin For The BusĒ comes on, it immediately takes me to what I was doing at exactly the time I first heard it. So when we get fans that share those stories, I canít believe that the music Iíve written is even a part of someoneís life. Itís almost surreal to me. Itís such a blessing that we can actually make a song that would make a memory thatís real important to somebody. Itís unbelievable.

KNAC.COM: Wow. Yeah, there are so many songs like that across the board with so many bands that have created part of the canvas of peopleís lives. When you hear one of your songs, through the radio or another medium, do you hear the hit, or just the song you wrote?

KENDALL: I definitely still get excited. My wife will call me and say they just played ďRock MeĒ on KLOS. I get excited and ask her if it sounded okay [laughs]. Itís also exciting for my kids. Iíll get a call from one of them saying they played a block and that GREAT WHITE was in it. And Iíll be like, ďThatís cool!Ē Because with my parents, the difference is that my kids are into heavier stuff, but when they hear our stuff it's heavy enough and it rocks hard enough that theyíre not so far removed from what I do. With my parents it was like Lawrence Welk and these weird jazz things, which I can relate to, but not on the level that my kids can relate to me. One of my sons brought his friend to a show, and he says, ďDude, your dad totally rips, man. Thatís rad.Ē Itís cool because Iím like three generations away from these guys and theyíre saying we rock. Itís so exciting.

KNAC.COM: Speaking of kids, youíre also a big advocate for parental alienation issues.

KENDALL: Yes. Absolutely. Itís a wonderful thing that Lita Ford started (https://www.facebook.com/Lita-Fords-Parental-Alienation-Awareness-458574774195123/). To create the awareness as to the way divorces happen and two people not getting along, and when they involve the children and strip one of the parents away from their children to get back at their spouse, to me it needs to be looked into a little more. Thatís why Iíve been waving the legal fort on that. I was in a similar situation to Lita, and my children were used against me. I was fighting in court to see them. These lies are flying through the air, it was just crazy. I came out way on the short end of all of it. All I wanted to do was just love my kids. I was being denied that. Itís really frustrating and I think laws need to be put into place. One saying I heard, and I like a lot, is that, ďWhen you take one of the parents away from the kids, itís like turning the kids into half a person.Ē

KNAC.COM: Itís one that hits home for our family as well, and many others that I know.

KENDALL: I couldn't believe all the stories that came back at me when I was just posting about it. Everybody seemed to have some kind of story about it. It just loaded with like 400 messages of people relating. Something really needs to happen.

KNAC.COM: Unfortunately, the family court system is so flawed. I always say in family law, ďItís the judicial system, not the justice system.Ē Peopleís lives literally lay in the hands of a judge. Even then, thereís not much to enforce, such as in the case of parent alienation as far as penalties. There really should be a strong platform and I applaud you for stepping up with that.

KENDALL: Even when itís demanded that you go into parenting classes. It doesnít have to work out. Itís sad because Iím not a deadbeat. Iím the one that went to court to fight for my rights. Deadbeats donít do that. Deadbeats disappear or go into another state. I was just fighting to just love my children. Thatís all I wanted. No hidden agendas here. I think my kids will come forward eventually, I keep sending a lot of messages. Iím hopeful. Itís obviously an epidemic when you hear so many people have gone through this.

KNAC.COM: The courts make money. Theyíre not vested in peopleís lives. Judges can have a bad day, or not really like one person and can literally change their lives with one decision. Thatís way too much power for any one person to hold in my opinion.

KENDALL: Not just family court either. Iím getting all wound-up around a lot of cases like with a couple friends of mine from Detroit who were in prison for like 25 years. These hardcore GREAT WHITE fans were falsely convicted of killing someone. Come to find out they didnít do it. They got out of prison. Theyíre the Highers Brothers, Tommy and Raymond. I invited them backstage in Detroit. The thing I wish would be changed is that when theyíre found to be 100 percent innocent, why does the justice system fight so hard to keep them in prison when they know theyíre innocent? The answer to that is that they donít want to compensate them and they donít want to spend the money on retrying the case. Itís just inhumane. For these guys to be in prison that long and they donít compensate them one penny, they just throw them on the street, theyíve never seen a cellphone before, the whole world is different, and not even given a dollar for 25 years stolen from them. Itís totally unfair. Thereís so many cases like that.

And the railroad jobs are insane. Iíve been kind of wound-up about that too. Another friend of mine was in prison for 12 years, one of the nicest guys youíd ever want to meet, for rape. He didnít do the crime. Actually Barry Scheckís innocence project got him out with DNA that matched another guy that committed like eight rapes from the same area. That Steven Avery case also has me all pumped. Theyíre saying that these two guys actually shackled [Theresa Halbach], slashed her throat and even raped her and thereís not one single drop of blood. No DNA. They even said they cut all her hair off, yet thereís not a single hair anywhere. Theyíre saying he cleaned it all up with bleach? Iím sorry. I have watched enough crime shows, you canít clean a mattress enough to make it look like it came off the showroom of Mathis Brothers. Itís impossible. Itís so dirty, itís insane. And theyíre in power. Weíre talking about sheriffs, prosecuting offices, DAs. Itís crazy. Hereís the problem: theyíre only producing plantable evidence. The blood on file? Then theyíre in Averyís garage, where Theresa was supposedly shot 11 times, and after four months they come up with a bullet? What they canít come up with is unplantable evidence which is her blood from the alleged crime scene. Not to mention, who would clean the blood up? The kid with a brain of a 9-year-old? All of a sudden heís a crime scene expert, cleanup guy?

KNAC.COM: A crime scene expert couldnít have cleaned all the blood that would have been there. Itís absurd.

KENDALL: Even forensic people have said itís a fantasy case. It doesnít match forensically. I will say that Iím really happy that [Avery] has Kathleen Zellner, who is the best attorney in the country getting wrongly convicted people out of prison. Sheís gotten more people wrongly convicted out of prison than any attorney in the history of our nation. Itís nice that thereís at least one person that cares. These kind of things, when somebody is so wronged, I donít know if it has to do with my sobriety, it really gets me boiling.

KNAC.COM: Well, maybe we can save the world.

KENDALL: One thing I will do is let my voice be heard even if it doesnít work. Iíll state my opinion. I know weíre getting way off the music here [laughs]. When I start talking about that stuff I get a little crazy. But Iím glad we got to talk about all of this, especially parent alienation. I think these are things even rockers can relate to.

KNAC.COM: Absolutely. Iím grateful itís one of your platforms. Knowledge is key and we need more of the good guys out there like you to make this a better world. In closing, letís step back into the music and talk about your cruise coming up in October.

KENDALL: This past cruise (The Monsters Of Rock Miami) we did a semi-acoustic show on the beach. We really didnít promote it that much. It was a slow part of the year for us, kind of a vacation. On this next cruise, weíre doing two full-blown shows on a big stage, so weíll knock Ďem dead. Itís really fun. The great thing about these cruises is that we get really close to the fans. Very different from a normal show that weíd do, where thereís a backstage and a structured meet & greet and all that, this is more like, Iím out in the crowd watching TESLA with my grandson. Stuff I would never do in regular situations. None of the bands avoided the fans. Weíre there to embrace all the dedication and loyalty and totally making ourselves available to everybody. Itís fun! Itís fun to talk to all the fans that have been around for 30 years and to be able to just hang out. Just for everybody to be human.


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