Former GREAT WHITE singer Jack Russell, whose pyrotechnics ignited the deadly blaze on February 20, 2003 at The Station in West Warwick, Rhode Island, killing 100 and injuring hundreds more, says that he is "still in therapy" because of the tragedy.
Russell's bandmate Ty Longley (guitar) was one of the people who perished in The Station blaze, which became the fourth deadliest fire in U.S. history.
In 2008, Russell's GREAT WHITE agreed to pay $1 million to survivors and families of the victims of the fire. They then launched a multi-year benefit tour for the Station Family Fund.
The fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick began in an overcrowded club when pyrotechnics from Russell's GREAT WHITE ignited illegal soundproofing foam lining the club's walls.
Asked how he feels about the incident now that fourteen years have passed since the tragedy, Russell told "Trunk Nation", Eddie Trunk's show on SiriusXM channel Volume (106): "I never forget about it. I mean, I lost of a lot of friends — people that were there that I didn't even know [were there]. A friend of mine flew in from Sacramento, of all places. Why would you fly across the country for a little dinky show? It's just bizarre. And a lot of people I knew personally. You play a place twenty-something years, and you meet a lot of people, and you get to know a lot of people, and they become your friends."
He continued: "It's still really hard for me. I'm still in therapy over it. It's something that's never gonna go away — nor should it, out of respect. I still cry over it. I still have days where I just bawl my head off. 'Cause… [Weeping] Some days when the sun comes up, and I'm sitting on the back of my boat, and I realize there's a hundred people that won't ever see that again, you know? And that was the inspiration — that and my wife's illness — for 'Anything For You' on the [debut JACK RUSSELL'S GREAT WHITE] album ['He Saw it Comin'']. And also a prior song called 'How Far Is Heaven?' [on GREAT WHITE's 2007 album 'Back To The Rhythm']. That was the genesis of that song."
Russell told the 105.9 The Brew radio station in a 2015 interview that the Rhode Island concert incident was "like the 9/11 of rock and roll." He added that he had "this survivor's guilt, like, why did I get to live when so many other people didn't? I feel guilty for people coming to see me play and losing their lives. It's really hard to deal with it."
The singer went on to called the tragedy "just a horrible accident. It was a lot of weird things that had to come into play to make that happen. Like, the fire inspector didn't do his inspection. Or he did his inspection, but he did a faulty inspection. He okayed the foam on the ceiling that they had, which was mattress foam. And that's not legal, to have that up on anything. So the fire marshal didn't do his job right, but you can't indict a public official in the state of Rhode Island, so he didn't get in any trouble. They had a back door where there was a double door. They had a lot of sound complaints from the neighbors behind them, so what they would do is, during the inspection, they would take the second door off, so the push-to-exit door, in case of an emergency, that would open. But when they had concerts, they'd put the second door on, so when you push the emergency bar, the door wouldn't open; it pulled inward instead of pushing outward. And how anybody would know that. It says, 'Push to exit,' so you've got a hundred people in the hallway trying to push on this door, and it ain't going nowhere."
In a 2012 interview with Vegas Rocks! magazine, Russell dismissed any suggestion that he should bear the responsibility for what transpired nine years earlier. "When something like that happens, people always have to have someone to blame," he explained. "There are still people out there who think I murdered their kids. And that's horrible to live with. I know better. But if that makes them feel better, I guess I have to handle that. I mean, what am I going to do? It's a horrible tragedy. I don't know why it happened. It's like an airline disaster; there's a lot of different pieces of the puzzle that [are needed] for a disaster to happen."
JACK RUSSELL'S GREAT WHITE's debut album, "He Saw it Comin'" (originally titled "The Gauntlet"), was released on January 27 via Frontiers Music Srl. The disc features Jack Russell alongside former GREAT WHITE bassist-turned-guitarist Tony Montana (as a guitar player and keyboardist), Dan McNay (MONTROSE) on bass, Robby Lochner (FIGHT) on guitar and Dicki Fliszar (BRUCE DICKINSON) on drums.
JACK RUSSELL'S GREAT WHITE is not to be confused with the current touring and recording version of GREAT WHITE, which features Mark Kendall, Scott Snyder (bass), Audie Desbrow (drums), Michael Lardie (guitar, keyboards) and Terry Ilous (lead vocals).