By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
We are only a few months into 2017, and already, there have been some very impressive new rock music releases. Perhaps, the most surprising one, is the new release by Jack Russell's Great White, entitled, 'He Saw it Comin.' The legendary vocalist, Jack Russell, along with guitarist/songwriter, Robby Lochner, have orchestrated one of the greatest comebacks in music history with this stylistically diverse 11 track album.
Robby Lochner can be given much of the credit for the resurrection of Russell's career. His attention to detail, amazing guitar tone, and natural songwriting ability, coupled with Russell's strong and stunning vocals, have combined to create perhaps the most spectacular and musically satisfying release of Russell's 35-plus year career.
In addition to Russell and Lochner, Jack Russell's Great White also consists of Tony Montana - guitar, Dan McNay - bass and Dicki Fliszar -drums.
What follows is an exclusive RMS interview with one of rock music's MVPs - Robby Lockner.
Rock Music Star: Robby, thank you for taking time out to chat with us, here at RMS. Let's begin by discussing your work on the new, Jack Russell's Great White release, 'He Saw it Comin'.' The one unique aspect of this release is its musical diversity. Was it a conscience effort from the start of the project, to utilize different musical styles, or did it just develop that way?
Robby Lochner: It wasn't conscience from the beginning, it happened naturally. There are two song ideas that come to mind that we started to work on that sounded similar to other tracks. We quickly noticed, and promptly dropped them. We didn't want to do an album with one great track, and nine others that were lesser versions of that track. We also didn't want to rehash the old hits. What's the point? If you want to hear the old hits, buy the old records! We do have some songs that are in the vein of the classic, "Great White" sound, though all the songs are based in our roots, and have a retro modern feel.
RMS: 'He Saw it Comin',' has received many great reviews. How gratifying is this to you and the band?
RL: It is always good to hear and read great reviews; definitely better than the alternative. We do believe, and feel this album is special, and anytime anyone gets this and feels it, it is a blessing. It seems like they become a part of it with us! Of course, not everyone will give it a chance, and some just won't like it. With the CD being eclectic, there is bound to be something most people would like if they give it an honest chance.
RMS: What was the writing process like for, 'He Saw it Comin'?' Did all of the members of the band contribute to the songwriting process? How long did the entire process last, from start to finish?
RL: Jack and I are writers on every track, and nine of the 11 songs are written by myself and Jack. Tony, Jack and I wrote, "Sign of the Times,” and our former bass player was a writer on "My Addiction.”
I brought Jack six song ideas four years ago. Two of them were more developed than the other four. Those two ("Don't Let Me Go,” and, "Crazy") made the CD. “Don't Let Me Go,” was the first song I played to Jack, and the first one we wrote together. It, along with, "Blame it on the Night,” "My Addiction," and, "Hard Habit,” were on the four-song demo we did three years ago.
We were so busy with touring, we just weren't writing for long periods of time. Then, last June, Jack signed a record deal, and we had a deadline to meet (we were late by a month). That June, Jack and I wrote six songs; five of which made the album. The sixth wasn't completed in time (it is now); maybe it will go on the next release!
As for our writing together, it is a true collaboration like neither of us has experienced. It's become this magical thing, where we find what a song needs by intuitively bouncing all ideas off each other. Jack may come up with rhythm guitar ideas or parts of a guitar solo, and I'll come up with lyrics and melodies. We both believe the song is already written, and it's just a matter of stirring the pot until we have that “Eureka” moment! We are comfortable writing together to where we don't try to force our ideas on each other. We are being guided as what to write, and always end up knowing together when something is right!
RMS: Were there any outside songwriters involved in this album?
RL: No, early on, Jack had entertained the idea, but ultimately it made no sense. I discussed with Jack that it was important that he is a writer on every track. I said, "We are songwriters, and we can write what fits best for us!" We are, after all, "Jack Russell's Great White,” and are forging our own path!
RMS: Is there a certain member of the band that takes on the role as the musical director?
RL: That would be me. Everyone in the band is a pro, and it is a rock band. So, my thought is, come in with your parts learned, and there will be little to direct. We all work with each other when it comes to what should be played and sung live. We all want the band to sound as good as possible, so it makes it easy. As for the studio, being a writer and producer, I already have an idea of what I want. I am always open to hear what someone will play, and usually like what they do. That being said, if there's something I'm wanting or is missing, I will express what it is I need. Producing Jack’s vocals has really become special.
There is a difference, from the early tracks recorded, to the last sessions we did. Now, he has complete trust in me, and I feel I know his voice better than anyone. On every track we've done, there are alternate versions of how he sings everything. After we finish a vocal session for a night, I don't have him listen to anything. I'll comb through the tracks the next day, and comp the lines that have something special to them. Then, I'll send Jack an MP3 of the final vocal and he always likes it. Though he has said, "I'm surprised you picked that line over another, the other way I sang it, but I really like it!"
RMS: You really have some impressive guitar throughout this release, especially on the intro for "Spy Vs Spy." How important was it to you, to be able to utilize your unique guitar skills for a major label release?
RL: My first thought is always to play for the song. If the song doesn't call for it, you won't hear it. “Spy Vs Spy,” leant itself to that intro and the main solo. In the studio, I don't tend to self indulge… Live… well...it does happen.
RMS: You've been in Jack Russell's Great White since 2011. What led to you joining up with Jack Russell?
RL: I met Derrick Pontier- former Great White drummer- at a NAMM Jam in January of 2011. Derrick and I hit it off right away.
Shortly after, he brought myself and Dario Seixas out to the desert, where Jack was living at the time. Jack was talking about putting a solo band together, so Derrick brought us out to meet him. I went back twice to hang out with Jack, but seriously, he was in no shape to be in a band. Fast forward nine months: Dario had kept in touch with Jack, and told him he needed me in his band. At that point, Jack was living on a yacht in Redondo Beach and doing much better. When I walked in, Jack says, "I kind of remember you!" In other words, he doesn't even remember me! He decided, that night, that he was firing his old band and starting his own version of Great White, and asked if I wanted to join. I was reluctant and skeptical, but said yes. Two days later, I'm reading on the web, I'm in the band and they actually spelled my name right! So, I'm thinking, "I guess I'm doing this,” and so it starts....
RMS: What is it like working with Jack? What type of leader is he?
RL: Our relationship, as band members and friends, has come a long ways, so I'll answer that from where we are now. It is amazing! Every step of our evolution feels completely guided by spirit! Ultimately, every final decision has to be Jack’s, but we discuss every detail of everything, and talk every day, several times a day. I have been doing the tour managing for two years now. I tracked the CD, produced and wrote (with Jack), and am involved in every aspect of our goals. We agree 90% plus of the time, but when we don’t, we are both open enough to listen to each other, and ultimately end up on the same page.
RMS: What are the tour plans to promote, 'He Saw it Comin'?' Any chance of getting an opening slot on a major tour?
RL: We will be out on tour, and yes, there is potential for an opening slot...I won't mention unless we get it.
RMS: In addition to being in Jack Russell's Great White, you were also a member of Fight, featuring the metal god, Rob Halford. What was it like working with Halford, and how long were you in that project?
RL: I replaced Russ (Satchel) when he left the band. I did the end of their first world tour. It was my first national gig, and what a rush looking out on stage seeing Rob singing! I was thinking, "Is this really happening?" Rob is a total pro and badass; every night flawless!
RMS: What other artists have you worked with?
RL: I've worked with Eddie Money, Herman Rarebell (Scorpions), Bobby Kimball (Toto), Alex Ligertwood (Santana), Don Dokken, John Par, Doogie White (Deep Purple), Tony Martin (Black Sabbath), Gary Barden (MSG), Barry Sparks (Ted Nugent,Yngwie,the Beez), Carmine Appice, Vinnie Appice, Alan White (Yes).
RMS: Who were your major musicial influences?
RL: So many. I'm a huge Richie Blackmore fan! Van Halen, Randy Rhodes, Keith Richards, Brad Whitford, Joe Perry, Albert Lee, Brad Paisly, Beatles, Boston, Pantera, SRV, Jimi, ZZ Top, Johny Winter, Ozzy, Metallica, Megadeth, TNT, ACDC, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Paganini, Schumann, Nazareth, Led Zeppelin, System of a Down, so many…I could fill this page!
RMS: What is your go-to guitar and amp?
RL: I use my Gelvin Guitar most of the time live, and my Baker on a few songs live. In the studio, I'll use one of my Gelvins most of the time, but will use my Les Paul, Tele or Strat when called for. Really depends on the track. Amp wise, I'll use one of my Fenders or Marshalls, depending on the track, and also use my Marshall MP1 modded by Voodoo amps
RMS: Thank you, Robby, for your time. I'm looking forward to seeing Jack Russell's Great White when they perform in Buffalo, NY, on May 11th.
RL: Thank you! See you in May!
Tickets for Jack Russell's Great White with special guests the Jim Crean Band, Buffalo, NY show will be available soon.
For more on Jack Russell's Great White, click here.
Google Play: http://radi.al/HeSawItCominGoogle