GREAT WHITE Guitarist Talks Station Nightclub Tragedy, Working With JANI LANE

James Wood of GuitarWorld.com recently conducted an interview with GREAT WHITE guitarist Mark Kendall. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

GuitarWorld.com: Jack Russell had been touring as a solo act when he asked you to play some dates with him as JACK RUSSELL'S GREAT WHITE in 2002. It was during that tour that the Station nightclub tragedy occurred. Can you take us through the events leading up to that?

Kendall: Jack was out doing a solo tour, and I was doing my own solo thing. His material was so far removed from GREAT WHITE that I got a call from his management asking me to come out and perform so he could do some more GREAT WHITE material and include songs from his solo record. He could also then change the billing from "Jack Russell" to "JACK RUSSELL'S GREAT WHITE" because I would be with him. At one of the early shows, they fired up this sparkler thing [a pyrotechnic gerb, a device that releases a jet of sparks], and I was concerned because the places we were playing were pretty small. I remember at one point seeing Jack standing right in the middle of them. I asked him if it hurt, and he said they didn't; they were just cold sparks. That night [at the Station] after they had gone off, I felt heat on my back and immediately knew that something wasn't right. I turned around and noticed that a small area of the foam behind my amp had caught fire. We later would find out that the foam they had used on the walls of the building was very flammable, and they shouldn't have allowed the pyrotechnics. But once they opened up the doors [to evacuate the venue], the place went up like a matchbook. After it was all over, I came home and didn't know what to do. I was counseling with people, and my pastor and I were talking every day and praying. After a few months, we heard that there was a way we could help, and that's when I got in touch with the Station Family Fund people and the whole relationship started. [GREAT WHITE began a benefit tour for the Fund that ran from July 2003 until 2005.] It's been 10 years now, and I think the best part of the healing process for everyone has been the fellowship — the love and hugs and sticking together. It helps us all get through it. When these anniversaries come around, it's a tough thing, so we try to stay close.

GuitarWorld.com: [Former WARRANT vocalist] Jani Lane sang with the band for a while. What was it like working with him?

Kendall: Jani was always prepared and professional, and I was in close contact with him. I really want people to know that before he died, he and I would have long conversations and he'd say to me, "People don't realize but I want to be sober more than anything. More than anything!" [Lane died in 2011 of acute alcohol poisoning.] Unfortunately, the demons just kind of overcame him. When he was busy and touring with us, it really validated him. But it was when he was at home and not doing anything, that's when the alcohol lights went off in his head, and he couldn't control them. I went to his memorial because I wanted people to know that he cared about his family and really wanted to be a sober man. The thing is, you never know what's going to happen or what may be that fatal blow. That's why if you're someone with a substance problem, you really need to identify and get out of it.

Read the entire interview from GuitarWorld.com.

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