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INTERVIEW: MARK KENDALL of Great White, August 2014

| 28 August 2014 | Reply

Great White is a band that has had its share of ups and downs over the years.  From the tragedy at The Station in Rhode Island to the multi-platinum records and sold out tours, the band has over come even lawsuits regarding use of the band name and carried on and proudly waved the flag of rock music from an era gone by and made it fresh and exciting again, with the addition of Elation to their catalog in 2012.  As the band prepares to hit the studio later this year, they are out honing their craft on stages across the country, including a show this week here in Detroit Rock City.  I was able to get guitarist extraordinaire Mark Kendall on the phone to discuss many things Great White related and more…


Toddstar: Mark, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule for us today. We really appreciate it.

Mark: Not a problem at all.

Toddstar: Let’s talk about your upcoming show.  In a couple of days, you’ve been here in Detroit Rock City playing DTE, or as I like to call it Pine Knob, with Queensryche. How excited are you to be back in the Motor City.

Mark: I love it. It’s one of my favorite places that we play. We have a lot of great history there. We’ve always done well in Detroit. It is a Rock City, like it’s called, for a reason. I know now it’s the DTE Energy Music Theatre you know whatever, but it’s still kind of Pine Knob to us. You envision a certain place when you hear Pine Knob. We’re excited. Every time we play somewhere we have some kind of history, it’s always usually a family reunion every time we play it seems like.

Toddstar: Very cool. It’s fun to see you guys come through because it has been a couple of years since Elation came out. First let’s talk about that. How is it playing out with you guys? Are you mixing the newer stuff into your set list? Are you still able to play some of the new stuff from Elation?

Mark: Definitely. Yeah. The fans have been accepting to the record. We’re looking forward to getting a studio in December of this year. We are writing a lot, so we are really pumped because we are proud of Elation and everything, but it’s the first time we’ve ever gone into the studio with literally no material. We really came with everything on the fly. Never really done it before, but the energy was really electric anyway in the studio and I had a lot of riffs and Michael had a lot of riffs. Just because that’s kind of what we do. I call my riff like my sound check riffs. Ideally, during a sound check and I’ll just play something and kind of look at the guys and see if they respond if you know what I mean? Are they going to jump in and play, or are they going to say “What is that?” I always have a lot of that stuff. We were able to go in the studio and we had to do a couple songs because the record companies wanted to hear us with our new singer, so we did write two songs.  I don’t think they knew that is all we had. When we went in we wrote about 10 songs on the fly.  We just would get in the morning with acoustic guitars and see what we had to work with.  I would ask Michael what he had and I would throw stuff out and say, “I’ve got this. So let’s work on that. That’s a cool riff.” By the end of the day, we would have a musical base and then we would all kind of write lyrics together and talk about things like that. It was really fun, but I think it is going to be a little bit more prepared this time. We’ve got a lot of riffs.  We are going to get together and maybe have a little rehearsal before we go in or whatever, but you know I joke with Michael but it would’ve been nice to have a little bit more time because we are on this deadline with the record company. If we did not have the album finished at a certain time it would delay the release by 3 months. So we were kind of up against the wall with the time allotted. We were happy for the most part, but I think we can always get better.

Toddstar: Elation is top 3 from your catalog for me. I love the feel of the disc itself. You guys just seemed to be into the sound.  In listening, it sounds like you guys are happy. You are happy to be putting this down on vinyl or plastic or whatever mode we listen to these days.

Mark: Yeah. I’m really happy to hear that. I’m really happy to hear that because we really were.  The way everybody was working together and the energy in the room was electric and we were happy and we felt really super free. We were just having fun and we were coming up with something, and it was coming out good.  We put the rules aside and let ourselves be free and for that we are really happy with everything. We’re going to do something probably a little different next time, but we are always trying to come up with that song or want to try to improve. I think that is what has kept us going for so many years; that we are always trying to come up with something new.

Toddstar: Talking about videos a bit, you guys launched your most recent one, “Complicated,” about 5 months ago. Then you also launched your own TV channel on YouTube, Great White TV. How is the feedback been?  As we both know, videos are not what they were back in the 80s and 90s?

Mark: Well our attitude is like we don’t have MTV anymore for the most part VH1 plays just like the radio. They just play the old hits. The old Tom Petty and then you might hear “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” every once in a while, but there are some stations and definitely markets that play the new material. We do what we can to use the Internet in a way to get our music to people, to our fans, and one of those social media with making videos and stuff. We are just treating it like it is 1987 again and we just do videos and everything just like we did way back when but obviously everything has changed.  We are no longer on TV every 5 minutes like we were back then, but we just deal with it the best way we can. We love to make videos basically for our fans. We saw some windows of opportunity to do that and, as far as the newest video, something fun that we would have done before with a lot of graphics in modern-day technology things flying around in the air. We talked about this actually. Every video we’ve ever done has been just kind of live in studio with two girls. We thought it would be cool to do something a little different and got a pretty good response.  Live and on the video channel, we usually play the couple from the newest album Elation or whatever, and then we would kind of go through the catalog and grab different things and give the audience some different songs.  We have some jams that bring the crowd into the show that are not repeated every night. We kind of do not know exactly what is going to happen when we do these things so that keeps it fresh for us.


Toddstar: That’s cool. Speaking of touring, I understand that you put on the tour manager hat during the day now. How’s that working out for you?

Mark: Not so much the manager hat. Kind of in-house management style, as most bands are doing this right now. There is really no need for us. We have an agent. We have a publicist. We have people that set up tours for us. There is no reason, like back when we had it was warranted for us to have a big management team because there was a lot that went on with a record company. There was just a lot that we could not handle ourselves. The way it is today, it doesn’t really make that much sense to have a manager and pay 15% of the gross, when we could handle this stuff ourselves.  We do have a brand manager, which is somebody that works social media for us and stuff like that. We have a publicist and proper agent. Over in Europe we work with another agent.  As far as this having a manager like Alan Niven, that is somebody that doesn’t really exist anymore.  A lot of bands are dealing the way were doing. All I’m doing is a little extra work in advance of shows.  It’s not very much work to make sure we have water at the show. We won’t pay somebody 10% or 15% to get us water. We just don’t do that anymore.

Toddstar: You guys aren’t kids anymore either. You are an experienced musician who is a road traveled now so it’s not something where you go to get snowed by any promoters anymore that point.

Mark: Yeah. We’ve been down the road and were not expecting to be hustled or whatever. Yeah. Like you said, we are experienced and we’ve done it more than once. The good thing is everybody’s really happy in the band and we all get along well and we are enjoying ourselves and our shows have never been better. We’re really out to impress people. We love bringing the audience right into our show and get the maximum.

Toddstar: Yeah. Well I’m looking forward to the show. My schedule always seems to be jumbled up when you guys are in Detroit. Last time I saw you guys was actually back in 1992 when you guys open for Kiss at the Palace.

Mark: Oh really? I remember that tour. They didn’t have the makeup and stuff.

Toddstar: Right. Yeah. I can’t wait to see you guys again.  You still have you and Michael back there, but you also have Terry on vocals and Audie on drums and Scott on bass. This is the tightest lineup you have had. Talking about going out on the road a little bit more, are there any bands out there that you would like to share the stage with? You have played with Kiss. You have played with Queensryche. You’ve essentially played with the “Who’s Who” of 80s rock back in the day. Is there anybody still want to play with?

Mark: There’s a couple of bands that we haven’t played with that I think would be like bucket list bands.  We have never done a show with AC/DC. It’s kind of unbelievable because a lot of our peers have done tours with them. I don’t know how it’s possible, but even in all the Monsters of Rock tours we did over in Europe, they were never on the bill. It’s just a freak thing that we never played with them. It’s one of my hopes.  I really love the band and so that would be fun. They just seem like very down-to-earth people. So I think that would be really fun. I grew up with Van Halen and I cannot believe, actually Michael Anthony is a friend of mine – I played at a wedding with Michael Anthony before, so it’s amazing that we never not even one show Van Halen. That’s really weird because I actually saw them as far back as when I was like 16 years old at a backyard party where I grew up right down the street from my house. That would be cool to do at least to do one show. For the most part, we play just about everybody, ZZ Top and Cheap Trick, Judas Priest, Whitesnake, Scorpions, etc. Pretty much we’ve covered everybody, but those are the couple that come up off the top of my head.

Toddstar: Well they are good ones. Everybody has that one legend or icon that made him want to play or made them want to change how they play or really affected the way they played guitar.  When you listen to Mark Kendall play guitar, it’s hard not to draw the similarity between your playing in the sound of a recently deceased legend Johnny Winter. Did you ever get a chance to play with Johnny or share the stage with him?  Ever get into the studio or just jam?

Mark: I never got a chance to. He almost played on one of our albums in the past believe it or not.  He is a hero of mine. I sat and talked to him heart to heart a couple times. He was a beautiful man and he’s my favorite guitar player. I was able to explain to him how important he was and he was very humble. Between him and Carlos Santana, when I was 14, nothing in the world of music existed for me except for Carlos Santana.  Then I started to discover other guitar players and the first one I discovered was Johnny Winters so it just blew me away. There was one song we had on an album, so we went down to talk to him at a show he played in Los Angeles and he goes “Yeah, I’ll play on it. When we can go record it?” We said it’s already recorded, we just need you to play a slide part. He goes “Oh, it’s an overdub? I’ll jam with y’all but I don’t over do overdubs.  I hate overdubs.” He tells us his producer tries to get him to do them too, and he ends up doing 40 takes and they always take the first one. I was happy that he simply said no and that did not bother me that he wasn’t going to play, because I was so impressed that he does not overdubs. I talked to Rick Derringer about this not long ago, maybe 2 years ago, we talked about the making of Still Alive and Well because it was my favorite record ever. He said that Johnny does not overdub guitar. All the overdubs on that album were done by him [Rick]. So in other words Johnny gets in front of a mic and plays solo, rhythm guitar, everything in one pass and just prefers to play totally live and I just think that when you’re playing with a bass player and a drummer and you do that, your really making a statement. He had to be a very accomplished musician to play that way. He’s the one that really made me want to play.  I got the feel thing all from Carlos Santana, the way he squeezes notes and everything, at a young age. So those are the guys that made me want to play out of the gate. Obviously, I discovered many other guitar players that played with a lot of feel as well.


Toddstar: Sure. Well, I know you’re busy And I know you’re getting ready for this big show in a couple of days. I’ve got one more for you before I let you go if you don’t mind.

Mark: No. I’m good man.

Toddstar: You are still riding high from Elation. You are even still putting out videos 2 years later like the recent “Complicated” video. You are touring the thing like you mentioned getting ready to hit the studio of December, everything is just looking up for Great White and from Mark Kendall, So at this point in your musical journey, What is the meaning of life for you now Mark?

Mark: You know, being around so long and everything, you start to appreciate more things like your family and the smaller things. Nothing about family is small, but you understand I took a lot for granted when I was a younger man and I don’t do that anymore. I try to get the maximum amount of family time and get the maximum am out of things I do when I’m away from music. I think I’m just a little bit more appreciative these days. I make myself available to be a sober friend to addicts who suffer and I just do a lot of things I didn’t do a lot long time ago. That’s really the difference is a lot more giving and caring may be then I was when I was 25.

Toddstar: I think we’ve all grown up a little bit since 1987.

Mark: Yeah. Sure.

Toddstar: Hey man, I appreciate you taking time out today and I personally cannot wait to be standing in front of that stage Thursday when you guys rock Pine Knob once again in a way that only Great White can do.

Mark: Thanks so much. We are really looking forward to the show and thanks a lot man.

Toddstar: All right Mark. We’ll talk to you.

Mark: Okay buddy.

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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