By Jeannette Madden
The 1980s hard rock band Great White has moved into the new millennium with their most recent album, “Rising,” on which they blend blues-hued roots with an innate sense of rhythm and melody. They will be appearing in Fargo at The Hub on Friday, June 18 in celebration of twenty-five years of making music together, and as I spoke with guitarist Michael Lardie about how things are going for the band, I knew from the beginning that it was going to be a good conversation.
High Plains Reader: Are you ready to get started?
Michael Lardie: We can rock it!
HPR: Alrighty then. How about we start with a history of Great White and how you got back together?
ML: I think it’s pretty well documented as far as where we came out of Los Angeles in the early 80s and stuff and went through the 80s and early 90s. I think that obviously, when it was time to get back together, it’s like you miss your family. When you go through so many things together it’s just part of your history and you have a certain bond with a group of people that you are creative with. I think that everybody that knows people in bands, there’s just some kind of bizarre connection that occurs between people that make a certain sound of music and I think that what everyone realized is that there was a sound that was missing from trying to play the songs out there with studio musicians. It just didn’t have that intangible thing about the band and that was kind of the start of the reasons for getting back together. I think in a way, after taking a breather from being together and doing it pretty much nonstop for twenty-two years, it’s like ‘Hey, I kinda miss my buds…’ and that really came to fruition in ’06 when we all went to a party for Jack’s birthday in December of ’06 and got past the ‘hey man, I’m sorry I said that about you in the press’ and ‘I love ya, it’s all good…let’s make a record…let’s go do a tour.’ We got back in the studio and it was literally like no time had passed at all. The connection, the energy, the vibe was all pretty much still intact as to how we did records…we are all amazed, blessed and feel just so warm from all our fans in the fact that people still want to see us and a lot of our contemporaries have not been so fortunate. We think between the work ethic we have and our fans really wanting to see us, that’s the fuel that’s driving us this year and there’s no plans to stop in the immediate future. But we’ve always said that when it’s time to take a break we’d know it at that time and it will be on our terms.
HPR: Someone else I interviewed recently told me that losing band members or breaking up is like going through a divorce, that you are that close to these people.
ML: Yeah, Jack has always said in interviews that you’re that close and you’re like brothers and it’s even deeper than the husband and wife thing.
HPR: Is it different, or even harder, to tour now that you are older? Or is it still good?
ML: Oh no, it’s still a blast. It’s still the same thing even though we fly out on a Wednesday and usually play Thursday, Friday and Saturday. There’s a mixed bag of things we get to do when we do the weekend warrior thing. We get to do a little bit of everything so that part is the upside to it and I would say the only downside is its more difficult to deal with the travel being that you’re not responsible for getting yourself from point A to point B…you have to rely on the airlines, which can sometimes be a little bit taxing (laughs) but we do the best we can.
HPR: Tell me about the thought process behind “Rising” and what made you do things on it differently than you did on (2007’s) “Back to the Rhythm.”
ML: One of the biggest things I’ve always wanted to do as a producer is to go into a studio and not have an entire record written and just see what came out of it when we were all in there. We never had the opportunity to do it like that…we had three songs that were completely written before we went into the studio so I said, ‘Let’s just start it. Let’s set up things, let’s cut some bass for those three songs and just see what happens.’ Basically everybody was there every day, which was also unusual. There was that thing of freshness for me to go in and actually go in and compose material on the fly. I think it got us back to our roots more so than ‘Back to the Rhythm’ because ‘Back to the Rhythm’ was kind of an amalgam of songs we all continued to write in the separatist time. We all brought ideas together and formulated them into the songs and a lot of the songs were finished. This time it feels more like a band effort when you have everybody in the studio everyday all day. That had never happened before so that was a treat for me.
HPR: Tell me a bit about each of the band members.
ML: Jack, our singer, is a fantastic front man and certainly one of the best voices in rock and roll. I think a lot of that had to do with his study of Robert Plant when he was a little guy. You develop your own style after awhile but the guy can emulate Robert Plant like nobody ever heard before. Having those chops in his arsenal makes him unique in the way he approaches his melody. He’s a typical lead singer—they all have ADD but they’re always a lot of fun and they always keep it entertaining. Our lead guitarist Mark is a quiet guy. It’s all about give him his guitar, get out in front and that’s how he communicates with the world. He’s one of those guys who play so much from his gut and his soul, when he plays the notes you really get a sense that he’s putting himself out there. Audie, our drummer, is just a crack-up as a human being, very much a pounder as a drummer, a mischief/trouble maker…you have to watch him from time to time. He loves what he does and he’s solid, a solid guy. Scott, our bass player, one of the loveliest human beings I know. He will do anything for anybody and he never bitches, never complains. He’s one of those stand-up guys that will do whatever it takes to get it done and I try really hard every night to say two or three things to him onstage to make him crack up so much that he drops a note or two. Scott’s only been with us about a year or so but he has that energy that he brings to the table being that this is a dream come true for him so he has that excitement when he’s onstage so because of that it reminds us of the songs that we play for the people and the songs that we’ve written have a sense of value…that they’re still fun.
HPR: What can Fargo expect from a Great White show?
ML: With Great White we’ve always been the world’s biggest backyard party band.
HPR: (Laughing) Being from California I can totally understand that!
ML: Yeah, when people talk to us at a meet and greet afterward or see us leaving the venue they say, ‘We connect with you so much because when you’re up there you look like you’re having more fun than anyone should have.’ That is the greatest compliment that I can imagine because it is that much fun for us as musicians to play for people and to feel their energy back, so I’m not going to stand up there and look at my shoes and act all depressed about doing something that I’ve wanted to do since I was five years old. I’m blessed that I have the opportunity to do that. Expect a great time, straight ahead rock and roll, to make your body move and a massing of excitement and fun. If it’s not that then I don’t think we should be out there.
If You Go
What: Great White
Where: The Venue at The Hub
When: Fri, June 18, 9pm
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