INTERVIEW WITH JACK RUSSELL OF JACK RUSSELL’S GREAT WHITE
Date: September 11, 2015
Interviewer: Metal Headz Media
JACK RUSSELL IS A PRIME EXAMPLE OF SOMEONE SURVIVING, PERSEVERING, APPRECIATING AND LOVING WHAT THEY STILL HAVE. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH RUSSELL ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE ROCKTEMBER FESTIVAL IN HINCKLEY, MINNESOTA TO DISCUSS EVERYTHING FROM RUSSELL’S PAST STEROID ABUSE TO HIS FAVORITE GREAT WHITE ALBUM.
Sleaze Roxx: I remember I saw you and Whitesnake…
Jack Russell: No way man! That’s awesome. That was a great tour. I have so many fond memories of that tour.
Sleaze Roxx: Excellent! Speaking of which, you are still going on. You are still performing live and in tonight’s performance, you showed a true love for your fans and for the music. Besides that, what else keeps you going?
Jack Russell: You know, [when] God gives you a gift as big — well, when he loans you a gift as big as mine, it would be a travesty and a slap in the face not to use it. Trust me, if I didn’t love what I do, I wouldn’t do it. When I’m able to change people’s lives in a positive way — when somebody comes up and goes “Awe man, that was our wedding song” or “This song got me off drugs” or “This song helped [keep] me from committing suicide.” You know, we’ve had our dark days but I mean, all you can hope for is like Einstein said “Every man should…” I’m paraphrasing here “Should put back more into the world then he takes out of it when he leaves.” That’s — I’m trying desperately to do that. I want to put more back in then I take out.
Sleaze Roxx: You said wedding song. I got to talk about it. I married my wife eight years ago next month and “If I Ever Saw A Good Thing” — that was our wedding song!
Jack Russell: You know, thank you. That was my second wife’s matron of honor’s wedding song and I got conned into singing it at the reception with this band, and they were the worst band in the world! They slaughtered this song. I was like “Oh my God!” Thank God I was singing it because it was so bad. I was going “No. No. We go here! We go here! Follow me! Shut up [and] keep the beat! Don’t think, just play.”
Sleaze Roxx: The first time I played the song for my wife, she started crying in the car.
Jack Russell: Awe!!
Sleaze Roxx: I told her that hopefully I would get to interview you and thank you for the song.
Jack Russell: Thank you for using it! That’s such an honor to me.
Sleaze Roxx: We… definitely, the tears roll down when that song plays — every time.
Jack Russell: Have you heard the ‘For You’ album? It’s my second solo album.
Sleaze Roxx: I know you had released a single but I didn’t see anything about a press release about a full album.
Jack Russell: It is a full album and it’s probably the most beautiful record I’ve ever done. Tony Levin plays the bass. [We] got to play with Peter Gabriel. You know, he played on “Imagine.” I’m like, “Stop rehearsing and just tell me John Lennon stories!” He’s my favorite you know. I was so excited!
Sleaze Roxx: When was that album released?
Jack Russell: In like 2000 or 2001. My father had just passed away and I dedicated it to him. There’s a song on there I wrote called “Don’t Know Why.” It’s about Alzheimer’s and watching him decline. It was the last month of his life and I was like, I got this to look forward to. Wow. I’m sure I’ll kick off from something else before then anyway. You know what I mean? I haven’t been very kind to my body over the years.
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of health stuff, we see you up on stage, and you’re still going! How’s your health been?
Jack Russell: Overall, good! My kidneys are great, liver’s great. Heart… you know it is what it is. I don’t have any serious problems with it. You know, I‘ve got a little calcification of the aorta, which is [from] smoking all those years. My biggest problem is with my bones. They’re weak from abusing steroids all those years. That was an ego thing. I got to a point. You know they were supposed to be for emergencies, [for] my voice if I couldn’t sing — stuff like that. There are two kinds of steroids: anabolic steroids and corticosteroids. The anabolic steroids are the ones that all these muscle guys usually use. The corticosteroids are the exact opposite; they shrink. They’re like a super gnarly steroid on steroids (laughs). They’re like an anti-inflammatory. Let’s say your voice is really trashy [in a raspy voice] “I talk like Don Corleone” [so] you take some steroids and the next minute, you’re like [sings falsetto], you’re a Pavarotti. So if I ever got to the point where I was sick, or something like that, and I had to perform the next night; I would go get a shot [and] then I’d be fine. Then it got to the point where we wouldn’t rehearse before the tours. So I had to go out cold after not singing for months. I was always afraid that my muscles weren’t strong enough. So I’d just started off taking steroids swearing I’d wean off of them after the first couple weeks [when] my voice got stronger. But [I] never did, because along with the shrinking of the swollen parts comes the muscle atrophy. So vocal chords being a muscle… So my [vocal] chords got weaker instead of stronger and it was just a vicious circle. It cost me 4 ½ inches of my height from my back — degenerative disc disease. All of these broken bones because my bones are so weak but now I’ve had a bone density test and everything is normal.
Sleaze Roxx: Well, thank you for coming out and performing and putting on a great show!
Jack Russell: Yeah! Yeah! I just had foot surgery! That’s why I’m limping a little bit, you know. They found [that] I had a really bad callous on the bottom of my big toe. I was picking at it one day and all of a sudden this whole thing comes off and it was like a hole! Like a half inch deep… I was like “Whoa! I’ve just discovered a mine!” So I went to the podiatrist and he goes “Oh, it’s just because you had your Achilles tendon torn and you were putting so much pressure on that one. It’ll heal over. Just go to a wound care specialist.” So I spent a year going back to this wound care specialist. Well, she couldn’t do anything. It would heal and it would open up. She kept saying “Well, it’s because you’re going on the road and you’re running around.” [And I thought] that makes sense… Then after a while [I started thinking], that doesn’t make sense! So I went to another podiatrist and had an MRI and they’re like “You’ve had a broken off bone spur floating around in there and that’s why it won’t heal, plus you have a really bad bone infection now which could go septic if you don’t have surgery. You may have to lose your toe.” I’m like, “Well, if it’s [between] my life or my toe, take the toe! Take half the foot!” Fortunately, they didn’t have to do that. They just scraped a lot of the bone off but it still hurts like a bitch! Because I’m on it a lot — but whatever, as long as I’m ok!
Sleaze Roxx: Absolutely! So reflecting on all the albums that you’ve done, I know you mentioned the album ‘For You’ that you did with your solo band. But of all the Great White records that you did, what is the album that you’re most proud of?
Jack Russell: ‘Can’t Get There From Here.’
Sleaze Roxx: That was a great album.
Jack Russell: Thank you. That was my favorite. It really was. It was a collection of songs as a production you know what I mean. The other productions on records, I always thought were weak. I wish we would’ve hired a real producer as opposed to letting my manager bully us into letting him and Michael [Lardie] produce it. Sure, it saved money and the stuff didn’t sound bad but compared to our contemporaries, you put it on the CD player and you’ve got to turn ours to twelve to get the volume they had at three. I was like, “What’s going on here man? Why is it like that?” But, whatever, you get what you pay for, right?
Sleaze Roxx: Right! One more question here. If you could have your ultimate tour line-up of bands, who would be on that bill?
Jack Russell: Aerosmith, us — my new band when I say us, Alice in Chains — if the great Layne [Staley] was still back in existence, [Led] Zeppelin… Are we talking a huge festival thing or…
Sleaze Roxx: If you could share a bill or stage with any band, who would that be?
Jack Russell: Oh, Aerosmith for sure. That’s the only band I’ve never played with just about.
Sleaze Roxx: Really? You’ve been around since the late ’70s / early ’80s and Aerosmith has never been one of them?
Jack Russell: Nope! Never played with those guys.
Sleaze Roxx: I heard Brad [Whitford] is going to be around tomorrow you going to stick around to see with him.
Jack Russell: Naw. We’re going to be in Canada. I know Steven [Tyler]. I mean, he helped me get sober for the first time back in 1992 and I stayed sober for almost eight years. Went out over a nasty divorce, you know.
The interview got cut short due to Jack Russell’s manager informing him that people are waiting at the merch booth for a meet and greet. But Jack still went on how great the guys in Aerosmith are and I did bring my ‘Can’t Get There From Here’ album, and he proceeded to tell me all about the cover art and how they hired someone to paint it and all the little things that are hidden on the cover. What a great and talented musician Jack Russell is! I want to thank him for his time that day.