orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

August 11, 2013

Great White member talks band, record and tour ahead of Beaumont show

Tommy Mann Jr.
The Orange Leader

BEAUMONT — Shark Week is happening now on the Discovery Channel, but a shark sighting is looming just ahead for Southeast Texas.

Rock band Great White will perform at Ford Arena in Beaumont on Saturday, Aug. 17 as the main support act for Motley Crue vocalist Vince Neil. The doors open at 5 p.m. and opening act is Slaughter. Local rock band Hear N Ade will perform pre-show.

Tickets are $18-$38 and are on sale now at all Ticketmaster outlets, the Ford Park box office, Beaumont Civic Center box office, Lake Charles Civic Center box office, H.E.B. location on Dowlen Road in Beaumont, online at www.ticketmaster.com or charge by phone at 800-745-3000.

Great White, which still features core members Mark Kendall, guitar; Audie Desbrow, drums; and Michael Lardie, keyboard and guitar, is touring in support of its May 2012 release, “Elation.” The band, which parted ways with original vocalist Jack Russell a few years ago, now features Terry Ilous of XYZ-fame as its singer.

The band, which last performed in Beaumont in the early 1990s, has never stopped writing and recording new material, one of the few bands from the hard rocking ’80s to maintain that work ethic. The group still tours, albeit a bit more business conscious.

“We do a lot of fly dates now, which means we fly-in and fly-out for our shows,” Lardie said in a telephone interview. “It just makes more sense. We can fly out on Thursday and do three shows and come back home on Sunday. It really has become more popular with bands of our genre and age. It’s definitely more cost effective.”

Although the voice of the band has changed, Lardie said fans have been very receptive of the addition of Terry Ilous.

“It’s been great having him. Terry came in as a substitute for us on a show back in 2009,” Lardie explained. “He has a reputation in the music industry as a go-to-guy when someone needed a fill-in vocalist for a show because he is a quick study. At the time he helped us, we had no idea it would eventually become a permanent thing.

“He is a good, solid, strong songwriter as well,” Lardie continued. “Mark (Kendall) and I had already written the next album, but when Terry sat down with Mark and I and we started playing around on the guitars we came up with some stuff that away our other stuff we had put away for the record. Ten of the twelve songs on the new CD are part of those writing sessions.”

“Elation” was recorded, mixed and produced by Lardie and Kendall in just 35 days, a brutal schedule for any band.

“It was a Herculean task,” Lardie described it.

Not only does Lardie continue to write and record music for Great White, he is a man of many other hats as well. He serves has produced, recorded and mixed the past three Great White albums and is the tour manager too.

“I’ve been an engineer on our records from as far back as ‘Once Bitten...’ and it is something that I really enjoy,” he said. “It was a very organic movement for me into those shoes. Being tour manager is pretty simple really. I just have to deal with stuff like hotels, transportation, payments, backline for the show and that kind of stuff.”

Great White is best known for songs such as “Once Bitten, Twice Shy,” “Rock Me,” “Lady Red Light,” “Save Your Love,” “The Angel Song,” “Call It Rock and Roll” and others. However, the group is also known for a tragic event which happened approximately 10 years ago.

On Feb. 20, 2003, Great White performed at The Station night club in West Warwick, Rhode Island. At the opening of the band’s set, pyrotechnics ignited foam sound insulation in the wall and ceiling and the fast moving fire engulfed the venue. A total of 100 people died in the blaze, including the band’s guitarist, Ty Longley.

A $1 million settlement was reached in 2008 with family members of the victims in the fire and due to legal constraints and requests from the families of the fire, the band is unable to comment on the event.

Despite the adversity of the situation, Great White has continued to tour and make new music and, according to Lardie, the band is very thankful for that.

“It’s hard to field a set-list when you have as much material as we do,” Lardie added with a laugh. “You always want to play one or two new songs, but you don’t want to inundate fans with too much new material because they want to hear the hits too. The fans are the ones who bought those records and helped make songs like ‘Once Bitten, Twice Shy,’ and ‘The Angel Song’ part of rock history.

“On occasion, we will find a way to squeeze in a song we haven’t played in a while or we’ll change out a song or two every now and then,” he continued. “It’s a lot more looser for us with songs when we are headlining, so that helps.”

The band will continue to tour throughout the remainder of the summer and into the fall before taking a break. “We’ll hit the conventions and start lining up shows for next year. We will also start working on new material,” Lardie said. “We’ll get together around the holidays and see where things stand and take it from there.”

Visit www.greatwhiterocks.com for more information on the band.