Mark White Of Spin Doctors: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview

Mark White Interview

Feature Photo: courtesy of Mark White

With a bass in hand, Bronx-bred funk veteran Mark White played a massive role in the Spin Doctors ’90s ascent to greatness. Chops aside, the polarizing bassist’s prickly attitude and cantankerous nature have seen him weave in and out of the industry throughout a 35-year career. Indeed, White has shared the stage with Blues Traveler, The Robotix, The Heavy Pets, and Corky Laing, but hell or high water, White always seems to find himself on the outs.

Most recently, White was back in the Spin Doctors’ inner circle, preparing to tour and record a new album, but suddenly, without warning, the band’s founding bassists was fired, much to the group’s fan’s surprise. In short order, the Spin Doctors pulled back the curtain, revealing White’s refusal to comply with COVID-19-related restrictions. As a result, the band forged forward, with former Lenny Kravitz four-stringer Jack Daley coming aboard as White’s replacement.

As he continues to mull over his next move, Mark White beamed in to recount his origins, shed some light on the Spin Doctors’ tumultuous history, and give his side of the story as to why he was fired from the Spin Doctors.

How did you become interested in music?

My next-door neighbor was playing drums, and I went over there one day, and there were some girls. So I was like, that’s a good way to meet women. I got a guitar for Christmas and started playing, but my drummer friend next door said I should get a bass because I was only playing the low strings.

So I got a bass and learned how to play through a huge effort because I am not a musician. I don’t have that same mindset. I get along with very few musicians. That whole dressing up, drugs, drinking, and partying wasn’t my thing. I’m only good at playing bass because I just practice all the time. I had to overcome a lot of things. Like I had a terrible time, I had a terrible ear, I couldn’t remember songs, and I was super uncomfortable on stage.

How did that lead to playing the bass?

It’s just like I remember watching my daughter walk. She went from not walking to walking. And I realized if you do something all the time, you’re just going to be good at it, even if you don’t want to. I don’t have any talent-oriented gifts other than I can sit down and play the same thing a billion times and not get bored. I mean, some people have great pitch, and some people have a naturally good time or whatever, but you can get those things too if you just practice 24/7, which is what I was doing.

Who are some of your influences?

I was listening to everything, but I was mostly into funk and disco. I was very closed-minded about everything else until somebody gave me a Jaco Pastorius record. That basically changed everything, as it does for most bass players. Later on, much later, in fact, I’m listening to music from all over the world. I have 10k plus songs on my iTunes, and I’ve listened to almost all of them at least once.

There were a lot of local cats. And then Bernard Edwards from Chic, all the Parliament bass players, and whoever was playing bass on those disco records at the time. Prince greatly influenced my bass playing because Minneapolis funk is completely different from anything else. That was all in the ’70s going into the ’80s.

You played in a band called Spade with Aaron Comess before joining the Spin Doctors, right?

Spade was this all-black band. But the drummer wasn’t working out, or they weren’t happy with him. So, they were trying to get a new drummer. At first, we were looking for a black drummer, but we decided to scrap that and become an equal-opportunity employer. We had 50 people show up, and then Aaron showed up, and it was just like, “Wow, who the hell is this dude?” And this guy shows up, and it’s just unbelievable. He’s so tight and everything – we just clicked. That’s how I got into the Spin Doctors eventually.

What are your enduring memories of touring with Blues Traveler?

It was great. All that stuff was good, but there was a lot of jealousy, which was just ridiculous. Blues Traveler and Spin Doctors used to do this amazing thing where we would just trade spots on stage one by one. The drummer would come out and start playing; the other drummer would leave, and so on. We would segue from one set to the next set. It never crossed my mind that those two bands would just drift apart as they did.

Did you have much of a say in the Spin Doctors’ altered sound after its initial success?

That was incredibly stupid. I was an outsider and had no idea why these dudes couldn’t play together; it was super annoying. These guys all know each other. You would think that if you had this great musical thing happening, you would want to keep that going. The fans loved seeing us together. The whole thing is insane to me why they drifted apart like that. If we had stayed together, it would have forced us to stop being a fake MTV band and go back to doing the improvising stuff like we used to do.

So, you feel Spin Doctors was miscast as a mainstream band, then?

Yeah, that’s exactly right. That was ridiculous. We were totally out of our element, sucking up to the mainstream. We were actually opening up for Pauly Shore, who I happen to like, but that was a total mismatch. We went from having fun on stage to counting the minutes to get back on the bus, at least for me, anyway. Actually, in order to feel better, I would watch Pauly’s show because he was funny.

Were those issues what led to Eric Schenkman leaving the band?

We had another huge tour, and we had a sound woman, Michelle Sabolchick, and she was amazing. But Eric had a guru he decided he would bring on tour who was also a sound man. Now we have Michelle, and we have Eric’s dude. Of course, they’re not going to agree on anything. Eric’s dude made everybody miserable.

Finally, he went too far, and I was completely at the end of my rope, so I found that dude and screamed at him like a drill sergeant. He packed up his bags and left. Now I was going to kick Eric’s ass and go home. But he ran away and hid. Sometime later that day, I remember seeing Eric and Chris having it out, and the next thing I knew, Eric was gone.

The strange thing is, I wanted to quit because I couldn’t deal with Eric anymore, but Eric ended up leaving. Another funny thing is, if Chris hadn’t gone over there and started flipping out, I think we all could have survived that.

Anthony Krizan replaced Eric, but he didn’t last long, either.

They just didn’t like him. As a matter of fact, me and Anthony got into it because I didn’t think he was funky enough. I wanted to teach him the finer points of funk, just like those guys taught me the finer points of blues. I don’t play blues and learned how to play blues in the Spin Doctors. I called Aaron and said, “Hey, man, do me a favor and talk to Anthony because I don’t think I can get through to him.” He says, “Well, don’t worry about it. We’re firing him anyway.” They had already decided that they would fire him, and I was never even informed. I wasn’t happy about that, but I let it go.

Following Anthony’s departure, the Spin Doctors released Here Comes the Bride. That record doesn’t really sound like a Spin Doctors album. Were the issues coming to a head by that point?

Yeah, because Aaron decided he would be a producer, and they started treating me as if I was a side man. I hated everything about that record, and having Arron on my ass about what to play was the last straw, so I quit. It was totally outrageous how all that went down. After that, I quit.

Mark White Interview

Feature Photo: courtesy of Mark White

You hooked back up with Eric and Corky Laing of Mountain shortly after that, right?

Yeah, man. When I quit the Spin Doctors, Eric was still out of the Spin Doctors. We got past all the drama and did some stuff together with Corky Laing of Mountain. But me and Corky instantly did not get along. I can’t play with drummers who are playing all over the place. I need a solid beat. And that cowbell, yikes. Here’s Corky complaining I wasn’t playing things right. So, I said, “As soon as you start playing, your timing ain’t right; I’ll play whatever your song is right. Don’t get on my case.”

Pushing forward, you were recently jettisoned from the Spin Doctors due to non-COVID compliance. Is that true?

In a sense, yeah. In the beginning, they were all on my side. They were like, “Well, if you don’t want to get the shot, then we’ll postpone stuff.” So I said, “Why don’t we get Jack Daley to play bass? And when it’s over, I’ll just come back,” because all these venues came up with COVID policies.

Everything was going great, except I did notice that I wished everybody a Happy Thanksgiving during Thanksgiving, and nobody responded in the little group chat we ran. Then a couple of days or weeks later, I talked to John Popper, and he said, “Chris just told me that they’re going to the studio with another bass player.”

So, I called our manager, and he started screaming at me, “Well, if you want to play music – if you want to go to the studio, then you need to get vaccinated.” And that was it, just like that. So, they didn’t officially say, “You’re out of the band,” but here I am, out of the band.

Do you see yourself re-joining the Spin Doctors?

The only thing that happened was a mutual friend passed recently, and I don’t think Chris knew, so I emailed him. I haven’t heard back from him. So, the only way we are ever going to have a reunion is if they’re going to apologize. All I did was not take a vaccine that I did not need because I had already caught COVID. The stupid vaccine doesn’t even work anyway.

Do you feel your political views factored into your being fired?

Definitely. Because they were worried about getting canceled. These guys aren’t woke. They just have to act like they are because they don’t want to lose all their friends. What they don’t realize is nobody gives a shit what I’m saying. I have 4000 followers on Facebook; I’m lucky if I get 30 likes on something.

With you being a free agent of sorts, what’s next?

I’m working with this singer friend of mine. It’s not really a band. It’s just me and her and some other producers. We do dance music, techno, and basically electronic music. We are mulling around with that, but I’m not doing much else for obvious reasons. We’ll see what happens, I guess.

Mark White Interview

Feature Photo: courtesy of Mark White

Mark White Of Spin Doctors: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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