Inquiring Minds

Spin Doctors' Houstonian Bassist Talks Grooves, Kryptonite

Though they've often been unfairly characterized as strictly a "jam band," The Spin Doctors were in fact one of the more underrated acts of the '90s, particularly as a live unit. The group's 1991 debut, Pocket Full of Kryptonite, proved a commercial smash with songs like "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong," "Two Princes," and "Jimmy Olsen's Blues" on the charts and their fun, frenetic videos in constant MTV rotation.

And though subsequent albums like Turn it Upside Down and You've Gotta Believe in Something didn't deliver the same numbers, a dedicated fan base (which you might also encounter at shows by Blues Traveler or the Black Crowes), followed them through lineup changes, periods of inactivity, and singer Chris Barron's bout with a rare vocal-chord paralysis that might have prevented from talking - much less ever singing - again.

The four original members - Barron, guitarist Eric Schenkman, bassist Mark White, and drummer Aaron Comess - are back together as a unit, touring to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Pocket with an eye towards recording new material. When Rocks Off discovered that White actually lives full-time in Houston, he seemed like the right Doctor to place our house call to.

Mark White: Houston Press! What's up!

Rocks Off: I could ask you. How the hell did you end up in Houston?

MW: My father came down here in the '80s, and it was the only place they would give you a house and a gun at together. In New York City, you're only allowed to have a butter knife and an emergency phone that dials 911. Plus, it's freezing in New York City.

And we did a gig in Houston one Halloween, and all the girls were dressed in jeans, or as Princess Leia, or Jungle Jane. In New York, they were all dressed as gorillas because of the cold! So I knew I had to come here. My uncle was also a sheriff here. So I lived in Katy, and now I'm in downtown Houston.

RO: So you don't have to travel far for the gig this Friday?

MW: No. And I love Rick Springfield!

RO: What's the band up to these days?

MW: It's the 20th anniversary of the record, and they're going to be re-releasing it with bonus tracks. We doing a tour this fall, and we just came back from England where we played the whole record from start to finish and just jammed it out. We may play the same songs, but they're never the same. I just prefer playing live than in the studio.

RO: When you put together the set list, do you have to balance playing all the familiar material with deeper cuts?

MW: Naw, we just play what we want to (yells away from the phone to someone) Hey, I'll talk to you tomorrow! We're going to Dallas then New York. Hey, I'm doing an interview with the Houston Press right now! I can't talk to you!

RO: I didn't know that this paper wielded such power for you to diss your friends.

MW: No, he's the owner of [Houston music store] Rockin' Robin. I give bass lessons there, and also in my home. I don't really play with anyone here.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero