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DailyBoom Your Old School Music Authority

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Exclusive Interview: Great White's Michael Lardie on New Music in the Works and the Pure Joy That Still Comes from Playing Live

Great White
Photo: Neil Zlozower

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I think that most people believe that once you "make it" in the music industry you're sort of set for life if you handle your money properly. The actual truth is that the music business is at best, a harsh place to try and exist. You could be at the top of the charts and playing sold-out shows now and in six months you're back to waiting tables or washing dishes. The only solid guarantee is that every star eventually falls from the sky and then it takes talent, timing, and unshakable determination to get back up again. That's why I love to see a time-tested, old school band with a great catalog still selling out shows and Great White was doing exactly that before the world as we know it came to a screeching halt.

The band (Mark Kendall- lead guitar, Michael Lardie- rhythm guitar, multi-instrumentalist, Audie Desbrow- drums, Scott Snyder- bass, and Mitch Malloy- lead vocals) first found itself in heavy rotation on MTV back in the late-80's with songs like "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" and they never really looked back. Sure there have been some major bumps in the road. Among other things, people have come and gone (including lead singers), but Great White has not only survived, it also continues to thrive. 

I had an opportunity to catch up with the Michael Lardie, the band's rhythm guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, who was in great spirits in spite of being pulled off the road due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Michael's kindness, intelligence, and positive energy flowed as we bounced through all sorts of topics. Check it out for yourself.

Photo: Ralph Arvesen

Michael Lardie on being under quarantine:

"We're closing in on six weeks inside now in California. When I'm normally at home I'm pretty low-key and usually working in my studio or something. I don't go out too much anyway unless it's to see a movie or grab dinner so it's not a really big change for me. Not having the option to do anything because of lockdown really mentally pushes you against a wall though. Every time I think of an errand to run it's followed by the thought, 'oh you can't do that or at least you shouldn't do that' so that's the primary change for me.

When being in the studio is your joy for the day, I think times like now can make you even more laser-focused. Like on a normal day I might want to work for a couple hours and maybe come up with an idea, now I'm finding myself demoing entire songs (laughing) so in that respect, it's a positive. Also, the guys and I are sending little voice notes of ideas back and forth too, just trying to stay focused on what it is that we do and part of that is writing new material. Right now I'm breathing, I'm healthy, I'm being smart and staying home. I'm finding the joy in being creative and at this point, I'll just go with it (laughing)."

Michael on Great White's plans for new music:

"Well, because of the way that people absorb music now, one of the thoughts that we've had is to put out smaller doses of music more frequently. Maybe putting out two or three songs at a time and then, in the end, we'll compile it all and make it into a product that our diehard fans can pick up. We've been in the model of making full records for our entire career so it's a little strange for us to be thinking outside of the box, but that may be how we need to do it now. One of the things that makes Great White the band that it is, is that we don't record separately and send files to each other. For us to be making music, whether it's a two or three-song EP or whatever, our best experience is always when we're in the same room actually cutting the track with all of us playing. When you're building a house the vibe is different when you're building it together rather than piecemeal and recording is the same for us.

There are five people that make a sound different from everyone else on the planet. Individually we sound a certain way but once we're all together there's this sound that is so familiar and feels so good that it inspires us to keep performing. You want to keep making that sound with that particular group of people. The vibe is always far stronger when we're all in the same room. It's going to be interesting for us to actually do that again when we're able to schedule real-life things. We're looking forward to it because the best things happen for us musically when we're together as a band."

Michael on how the band has remained successful even with three different lead singers:

"When I was first coming up older people would always say to me songs, songs, songs. That is what is most important because a band's catalog will define its longevity. In that respect, I'm very proud of the material that we've come up with over the years and that material has allowed us to continue even with different singers. We've had three very different sounding singers and no matter who you put in there it has worked because of the strength of the material. Mitch (Malloy) has worked out great for us. Sonically he is a little more like Jack (Russell) than Terry Ilous was and I think people are getting it now. Every time you make a change there's an adjustment period but as people have heard Mitch sing the songs and watched his performances I think they've started to really embrace him. We've had really great attendance before everything shut down, I think five out of our last eight shows were sold out and that just makes us really grateful. Again, it's all because of the strength of the music and the catalog of songs that we've created."

Michael on the band's writing process:

"It's interesting because back in the day we would be sitting in a rehearsal room bouncing riffs off of each other and figuring out the arrangement- that's one way that we did it. As time went on and we started to have different rigs at home we've been able to come up with parts of songs and share them, so it's kind of done in the same way from remote now. We rely on each other to remind us of how we sound at our personal best and things often come to us in pieces. "Rock Me" for example, was a guitar riff that Mark had and when we sat down and started to mess around with it before you knew it we had this great song. One of the best things about the band is how we really look forward to each others' input to make that special sound that I was talking about earlier.

So many songs have come at the last minute too, like the day before you go to the studio or the first few days that we're there. "All Over Now" is the last thing that we wrote for Once Bitten and "Mista Bone" was the last thing that we wrote for Twice Shy. There's always inspiration in the end because you're in the vibe of pre-production and running through stuff and you're playing like a band every single day. When you're playing off each other that much just jamming can turn into something so now we try to leave that space open at the very end. Good stuff comes up when you're working together day after day."

Great White
Photo: Neil Zlozower

Michael on what keeps that desire to play live burning:

"The joy of playing music with other people and making our particular sound is one of the bullet point reasons that always comes back to me. Everything for us is fly dates now which can be challenging at times and it makes you a little sleep deficient. But the upside to that is that you may leave on Thursday and then play all weekend, come back on Sunday and it gives you three or four days to have some semblance of a normal life. So I get to do the thing that I still love the most and then enjoy that normalcy.

One of the other things that I think of while playing a song is that this group of people has never been together before. This exact show has never happened even though there are fans that have come and seen us on multiple occasions over the years, at that moment that group of people has never been 100% present together. We're still playing 100% live so no matter how you feel you've got the challenge of making it sound as great as you can every single time you go out. Those things make it fresh for us in the moment.

Getting people to smile back at you when you're up there doing this thing that you love is always amazing to me. When you get that energy back it's just amazing and when you see little kids out there on their dad's or grand dad's shoulders singing along to "Rock Me" it's really something. The multigenerational thing always gets me because it's incredible to think that our music is what these parents saw fit to pass down to their kids. One of the greatest compliments that we can get as songwriters and performers is to have our music go from generation to generation. When I think back to when we were young we just hoped that what we did would somehow make some small difference that could maybe even live on. Having it be passed on from one generation to the next is the highest compliment we can get.

It still blows my mind when I'll be driving in my car and "House of Broken Love" comes on (laughing). We didn't think all that much when we were creating it but when I hear it I can still put myself in a time capsule and zap myself back to the very moment we were doing it. The very moment that I kept Mark in his seat for ten hours doing all of the soloing on that track and the fact that his fingers were bleeding by the time it was done. I can remember every aspect of that. It's amazing how you can hear a song and all of a sudden you're transported back to the beach in 1989, nothing is a better time machine than music."

Michael on other projects that have kept him busy:

"Last year I mixed a live performance of Sheryl Crow's from the Capitol Theatre in NY that was released in the fall. That kind of project would be perfect for me to have right now (laughing). It was an eight hour a day thing, 22 songs, and I had to mix it in surround so it was just awesome. I'm a fan of hers so it was like a gift, just a complete joy to do. Something like that would be perfect for right now and you never know something could come along.

In the meantime, I've been working on material of my own that someday I'll finish up and put out there. I've never really set a timeline for it I'll just know when it's the right time to share it with the world. It's also good because if I'm stuck on something for Great White I'll flip over to my own thing and find the joy in doing that, which frees my brain. Then when I look at the Great White stuff again I'll find a way around that wall that I felt like I kept hitting."

Mitch Malloy, Mark Kendall & Michael Lardie
Photo: Eric Sherman

Michael on what's next for Great White:

"So far most of May and early June dates are postponed but we're actually really lucky because we've only completely lost one show. It was part of a summer series and they weren't able to push it to another date because the whole season has already been booked but we're lucky because about thirty other shows have been rescheduled for later in the year. We're grateful because so far we're still holding on to shows and not only that but the other day we booked a new one for November. So somewhere out there at least one person is still scheduling new gigs (laughing).

We're hoping to get back out there in the late summer or early fall and be able to finish out our year safely. Having the ability to perform taken away has made me just a little more inspired, so if I was thinking even a tiny bit about maybe wrapping this all up in a few years, this time off has energized me. Now I think I'm just going to keep on doing this music thing until it doesn't make sense anymore. Knowing that we will have the opportunity to do this again after this lockdown ends is really something. When the first level of success happened when we were younger I appreciated it but now I have the intelligence and experience to really appreciate it so much more. Grateful doesn't really even begin to describe how I feel right now."

Check out Great White's Official Site for updated tour dates, news & more!