Great White still rocking three decades later
Michael Lardie, Terry Ilous, Mark Kendall, Audie Desbrow and Scott Snyder are the current incarnation of Great White that is going to rock the faces off Charleston on April 12.
Guitarist Lardie spoke for a few minutes with Graffiti to give us the low down.
Graffiti: Hello Michael. Thanks so much for talking with us today. I guess we’ll get right into it.
Lardie: Great. It’s no problem at all. Happy to talk.
Graffiti: So, what’s going on your way at the moment?
Lardie: Well, we’re getting ready for the Monsters of Rock cruise coming up in a couple of weeks. There’s a show in Omaha the day before we fly to the cruise, so that’ll be a busy week and weekend for us. Literally, we’ll be playing a show at 9:30 at night, and then we’ll have to get up at six in the morning to hop on a flight to Miami, and then get on the boat from there. It’s better to be busy than to not.
Graffiti: Will Omaha be a kind of ‘warm-up’ for the cruise experience then?
Lardie: Um, I don’t know if it was intended that way, but that’s when the availability presented itself. We’re playing a Harrah’s casino property with Slaughter. I’m happy to announce that we actually sold that show out, so we’re all pretty psyched about that. Slaughter’s on the boat as well, so we’ll all be a bunch of miserable guys rolling to the airport at 4:15 in the morning [laughs].
Graffiti: Has Great White ever done a rock ‘n’ roll cruise? Those are becoming so popular lately.
Lardie: We actually did our first one last year, and it was great. What’s cool about it is that you have the ability to interact with the fans on a much more personal level. It’s one that you don’t necessarily get to at a regular venue. I mean, you night do a ‘meet and greet,’ hang out for a bit, maybe a merch signing for a hundred people or so. But on a boat you’re amongst 3,500 fans. It’s really a lot of fun because you can hear all of their stories – where they were at when they heard a song or something like that. It’s really great to be able to hear their connection to your band and your music. To realize that you’re a part of the fabric of their lives is really a compliment.
Graffiti: How long does one of these cruises last?
Lardie: It’s about five days or so.
Graffiti: How often will you guys get to play on the cruise? Is it just one set or is it several for the duration?
Lardie: Each band is required to play two shows. For us this time, we’re actually playing an acoustic set on one of the islands that we’re stopping on. After that, we’ll be doing a pool side performance from the top of the deck, which we actually did last year. There are the gigs you’re required to do, but then we’re doing a meet and greet, so anybody can come out and do that – take pictures, get autographs and such. I’m actually doing double duty this year. The Vixen girls asked me to do keyboards for them, so I guess I’ll be doing four shows instead of two [laughs].
Graffiti: So, is it the fans that determine who they want to see during these vacations?
Lardie: The fans have a big part in the selection process. When they order their tickets, they’re asked who they’re coming to see, so they do have a say. That’s great for us because we’ve always been a band who loves to meet with the fans. We’re laid back and just love to hear what the people have to say. After all, they’re the ones who have allowed us to have a career. You know?
Graffiti: Oh, absolutely.
Lardie: I mean, our fans are some of the greatest people in the world.
Graffiti: So after the Monsters of Rock cruise, will Great White hit the ground running and set out on a full tour or is there going to be some time between the shows? What’s going to happen there?
Lardie: Well, we’ve actually got the lion’s share of our dates (to play) from late May to October. But over the rest of the year we’ve actually got somewhere between 60 to 70 shows planned. Right now I believe that there are about 38 on the books, so far. Our agent will call us up and say ‘Hey, can I approve this show?’ and we’re like ‘Yup! Let’s do it!’ We use January, February, March, and April to book the shows we’ll have all year. You know, this year it’s like we just said ‘work, work, work all year round,’ and so, we’re happy to go out and play.
Graffiti: You guys are out on tour through the summer, so does that mean that you’re still doing the tour support for the latest album, ‘Elation,’ or are the dates just something that you wanted to do extra?
Lardie: We’re actually still supporting the record. We’re getting ready to release the final single from the album called, ‘Complicated.’ We just did a really cool video for it – it’s just kind of outside of the box, like nothing we’ve done before.
Graffiti: How was the video shoot for ‘Complicated’?
Lardie: Well, it was interesting because we used a lot of green screen work, a lot of computer generated stuff. It’s different, but you’ll still see us performing in a live setup. Not in front of people, but there’s an actual storyline to it. Visually, it’s way more advanced than we’ve ever done before, so we’re pretty excited about it.
Graffiti: So after this video, that’s the end of that kind of promotion for ‘Elation’?
Lardie: Yeah, but plans to do another record are always in the pot. One thing about being a songwriter is that it’s something that you do all year round. You don’t just get together and say, ‘OK, let’s write ten songs,’ [laughs]. I don’t think really good ones come out that way. Every now and again they do, but it’s usually at the end of your writing sessions after you’ve been at it for a couple of months. But we come up with riffs all of the time, and jam a few out at sound checks. That’s a good time to categorize them and see how they’ll work for the future. As far as rehearsals go this time, we’ve already gone through about six songs.
Graffiti: That are new?
Lardie: Well, five of them we haven’t played for a long, long time now. In fact, right now we’re opening with a song that we haven’t played since the Whitesnake tour back in ’87. We’re pulling some old stuff out, and of course we’ve got ‘Complicated’ in the mix now. We try to do a good cross section of all of our albums. With 12 studio albums, it’s difficult to put together a set. Especially when you have the bulk of our radio hits off of ‘Once Bitten…’ and ‘…Twice Shy,’ and then from ‘Hooked’. You have to cover songs from those records pretty well, but for the die-hards you want to make sure that you please them as well with songs off of older albums.
Graffiti: Yeah, because I’m sure that you’re still seeing loads of fans from those days.
Lardie: Oh yeah. I mean, we have some of the most loyal fans that I’ve ever encountered in the world. I would say that we’re extremely blessed to have such great fans.
Graffiti: So Great White has been at it for 30 years or so, with the first album that came out in ’84?
Lardie: Um, yeah. We recorded it in ’83 and released it in ’84.
Graffiti: OK, so coming up on 31 years. How does that feel, to know that songs that were crafted from your creativity are still alive and standing the test of time some three decades later? Songs like ‘Rock Me,’ ‘Save All Your Love,’ ‘House of Broken Love’ still mean as much to some fans as they did when they were the new singles. That’s got to be a hell of a feeling for you guys.
Lardie: It’s pretty amazing when you think about it. Obviously, as a songwriter you hope you have success in the business doing what you’ve always wanted to do. That alone is an incredible feat. But, again, as a songwriter you want to create something that will stand the test of time. I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t the case. But having people coming to the concerts 25 and 30 years later singing these songs back to you is amazing and is beyond my wildest imagination, you know?
Graffiti: I’m sure that the changes in the way music is recorded and released isn’t lost on you guys as a functional band. Now anyone with a computer and a program can ‘create’ something and put it out there. How has this changed the way that you proliferate the music you make now?
Lardie: Obviously technology has moved forward and those who don’t learn about it will be left in the lurch. What I’ve tried to do as a producer and engineer is approach digital recording with an analog sensibility. You know, go for dynamics, go for performance. Don’t record one beat section and then paste it in 16 times. Don’t record one chorus and use the same one for the entire song. It’s all about performance. You know, punching something in to fix is one thing, but I like doing true analog performances true to the world I grew up with. I’ve been doing recordings since there were one-inch 8-track machines. That’s how long I’ve been doing that [laughs]. We absolutely miss two-inch analog tape because there’s a certain sonic thing that occurs when you get it recorded to an actual tape as opposed to a hard drive. It makes a big difference. So in a Pro Tools world, I still try to do it as close as possible to the way we prefer by picking the right mic, the right compression, whatever it is that you use. You can use analog circuitry to get it into the digital realm.
Graffiti: So that’s the way you attacked the recording of ‘Elation’?
Lardie: Oh absolutely! No matter what kind of project I’m working on, I do not believe that the producers make the records now. I still think it’s wholly upon the artist to make the record.
Graffiti: Switching back to the touring now, Great White is going to be rolling through Charleston as a part of the Rockstock celebration.
Lardie: Yes we are.
Graffiti: What can the fans expect in terms of performance and the show itself? Also, can you let us in on what all might be played while you’re here?
Lardie: Well, getting back to what we were talking about earlier, we’ll be playing all of the tunes that the audience is familiar with. But we want to cover material from records that might not have been as popular. Energy would be a fair description of what we’re all about. It’s so much fun to be playing and look at what you’ve done and realize that we’re in our 50s, and you go, “WOW! This is awesome!” There’s just this unspoken communication while we’re onstage where we all seem to realize how great this all still is. Hopefully, it translates to the audience because we all still absolutely love what we’re out there doing and we love doing it for our fans.
Graffiti: I’m sure that a 100 percent performance can’t help but be something special for the fans, so I’m positive that the local populous attending the show here will really be looking forward to this then.
Lardie: We will be, as well. I know that I’m really looking forward to it.
Graffiti: Well Michael, I want to thank you again for taking some time to speak with us.
Lardie: No. Thank you so much for the interest and support, because we always believe that it takes the whole village to put on a show, or to talk about what we’re doing to keep going. You know, for you to be able to do the interviews, and so on. It’s all this big circular thing and it all connects somehow. It keeps music and creativity moving forward, so we appreciate your time and energies on our behalf just as much.
Graffiti: It’s not a problem at all, Michael. It’s my pleasure.
Lardie: Well, thank you so much. We’re definitely looking forward to the opportunity to play for you guys in Charleston in April. It should be a lot of fun.