Former GREAT WHITE Singer JACK RUSSELL Says Upcoming Documentary About Fatal Nightclub Fire Is 'Very Cathartic'
September 17, 2017
Former GREAT WHITE singer Jack Russell, whose pyrotechnics ignited the deadly blaze on February 20, 2003 in Rhode Island, spoke to Psycho Babble TV about the upcoming documentary about the infamous fire that killed a hundred people and injured hundreds more.
"There's a movie called 'The Guest List', which is due to be out next year," he said (see video below). "What it is is partly my life story, as a kid growing up, and then it goes off into the fire, unfortunately, and the aftermath of that, and testimonies… not testimony, but… talks by the victims and their families and how it affected them."
Russell said that parts of the movie are especially hard for him to watch "because a lot of people blame me." He then corrected himself: "I wouldn't say a lot, but they're very vocal." Still, he said he understood why some believe he should be held accountable for what happened fifteen years ago. "I look at it like this: if it makes it easier for them to grieve the loss of somebody close to them, then my shoulders are big enough," he explained.
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.
"I've seen so many video tapes of pyro shooting off in that club with the foam — bigger stuff than we had — and it never happened," Jack said." Why it happened that night… Who knows? I mean, it's like a plane crash — it takes all these little things to fall in line for that one big thing to happen. So [the movie] gave me the opportunity to talk about how I felt and for me to apologize. Not a guilty apology, but because I just…
"I mean, I feel horrible that it happened," he continued. "I lost a lot of friends that night — a lot of friends. People that I didn't even know were even there. And people have said, 'Well, he's not remorseful.' And they've gotta understand, when all this went down, my legal team, they said, 'You cannot ever say you're sorry, because it implies guilt.' And I'm, like, 'But I am sorry.' [And they told me], 'But you can't say it.'"
According to Russell, at least one "really beautiful" thing came out of the tragedy. "There was a man named Joe; they call him 'The Lizard Man,'" Jack said. "He was the worst, most badly burned of all the people. And he met his wife in the fire and they had a beautiful son. And his comment was, 'If this wouldn't have happened, I wouldn't have met the love of my life.'"
The singer said that the documentary, which he hopes will help bring him some closure, is "really well done. The guy [making it]… He's done Disney movies. He's actually from that town. So he had to be really unbiased, which he really was — he just told it. And it's really, really informative, and it delves into people's lives."
Russell added that he is "glad" the film was made. "It may not be the best thing in the world for me, but it's very cathartic," he said.
Another project that is still in the works is Jack's autobiography, for which a release date has not yet been announced.
"I've been very open my life and about the things I've done, good and bad," the singer said. "And the reason being was I hope that people can listen to my story and either not make the same mistakes, or realize that if they do that you can always turn yourself around. You can always say, 'You know what? This isn't the path I wanted to be on,' and you can change that path. So there is no hopelessness, there is no excuse for not living out your dreams. If you're not living your dreams, it's because you're not trying."
At least one relative of a Station fire victim was angered by Russell's plan to make a documentary about the incident and discuss it in the upcoming book.
"I think it's ruining all the positive strides that we're now making to heal here in Rhode Island," Jody King, whose brother Tracy was a bouncer at the Station, told the Associated Press in 2015. "If he wants to help, stay away, shut your mouth."
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, the band agreed to pay $1 million to survivors and families of the victims of the fire.
GREAT WHITE guitarist Mark Kendall founded the band with Russell in 1982. At the time of the fire, the group that was on the road was called JACK RUSSELL'S GREAT WHITE. Kendall later said he was asked to join Russell and his solo band on the tour to help boost attendance.