XYZ and Great White singer Terry Ilous talks about the L.A. rock scene, his bands and more

XYZ and Great White singer Terry Ilous talks about the L.A. rock scene, his bands and more
September 18, 2011 | By More



Terry Ilous is one helluva singer and performer.  He made a big impression on many with his band XYZ who debuted with the MTV hit “Inside Out” and self-titled debut album.  Other albums followed of course and the band is still active today and will be performing as part of the big upcoming “MONSTERS OF ROCK” cruise along with many other Legendary Rock Interview alumnii.  Recently, Terry has been putting permanent smiles on the faces of the people coming to see him sing with legendary rockers GREAT WHITE.  We had the pleasure of a phone call from Terry recently to talk about his recent work with the big fish and he also answered a lot of my questions about XYZ.  Read on……


Q:  You are out on the road singing with Great White and you played around here in the midwest this summer.  My jaw was on the floor after seeing you guys, it was as if there was no passage of time whatsoever, Great White is STILL great!  Are you having as much fun as it it seems like?


A:  Absolutely!  This has been so great and I cannot overestimate how amazing the Great White guys are to play with.  Total professionals and so much fun to be around.  I’m usually spending each and every night grinning and so are the other guys.  I took over for Jani Lane who did a PHENOMENAL job of filling in for Jack Russell before I did.  Those performances with Jani were really special and the band is really proud to have had Jani fill in and do such an amazing job.  He was a really talented guy.  It’s not easy to come in and sing in place of someone like Jack Russell.  Jack has a really unique and special voice and of course really connected with the fans. I talked to Jack recently and he said something to me to the effect of how good it is that I’m with the band doing a good job on the songs and all I could say is “Thank you…what a PLEASURE it is to DO your songs Jack”.  It’s no secret that Jack has been a part of some pretty incredible songs in Great White and to be able to get up there and sing them myself is an honor.  I hope people are enjoying it as much as I am.


Q:  You worked with Don Dokken on the debut XYZ album, how involved was he as a producer and what was that like?


A:  How involved???  A little TOO involved (laughs).  I love Don as an artist and he is really a good producer but that album sounds a little too Dokken-ish for me.  I mean, he did ALL the background vocals on the entire album.  I think some of our sound as a band was lost in the translation.  We worked really hard and a lot of people like the album but I do wish it didn’t have so much of a Dokken, Metal sound to it.  We’re kind of a groove band and have a bluesy feel that maybe isn’t reflected as much as it could be.  I’ve run into Don several times since and I’m friends with him and have a lot of respect for him but I’ve told him “A little too Dokkenish man!!”  He’s said that’s just how he was at that time and he understands how I feel.  On the other hand it was something that may have gotten us in the door and gotten us a lot of attention so I can respect that.  It’s hard to say, people ask whether it helped or hurt us, it’s really hard to say.


Q:  Was it a good time doing the video for Inside Out?  I seem to remember it being shot in the desert.


A:  Yeah, it was shot out in the desert….some beautiful girls and it was fun.  I remember it being far too expensive.  Nowadays a band could shoot a clip like that for 10 grand.


Q:  That’s funny, that’s the exact same thing Jason from Dangerous Toys said about their video clips….and Mick from Bulletboys…They just pushed and pushed for the big budget clips and milked you guys dry huh?


A:  It’s just the way it was.  Jason is right….he’s a great guy, great singer too and he’s dead on.  They take the money out the band’s budget too.  A lot of people don’t realize that, you know a band ends up getting stuck with the bill for all of those expenses.  I remember going out to dinner and Don Dokken calling us to go out to dinner and being like “Wow, this is great we had this awesome dinner that was like 300 bucks and all that”.  What I didn’t know was that Don was charging it to the label who was charging it to the band’s account.  That’s how bands end up having no money at the end of the day.  XYZ sold something like 2 million albums in our career and I haven’t gotten a dime from it.  I’ve made money by being a smart cookie about other things like publishing and t-shirts and stuff but as far as record sales forget about it.


Q:  Well, if it helps all those record companies are out of business now….


A:  Good, most of them were nothing but crooks anyway that used all the bands they worked with.  Unless a band achieved a massive amount of success most never see a thing from record deals.


Q:  The album did break the hot 100 here….did it do well overseas?


A:  Yes…we did do very well over in Europe I think because we’re basically a European band they could relate to us and we have a lot of fans there.


Q:  You toured with our local fellas here Cheap Trick and Enuff Z’Nuff.  What was that like?


A:  Oh it was great.  Donnie and the Enuff Z Nuff guys are great guys and Cheap Trick is such an amazing band.  I mean we got to watch them play and what they were doing was just amazing.  Great songs, great band.


Q:  The second album HUNGRY was released by Capitol instead of Enigma….was that a good or bad thing?


A:  I think it was a bad thing, we were just completely lost in the shuffle by Capitol.  They didn’t know us and they didn’t care whereas with Enigma it was clear that they were working the band and cared about us.  We had a great publicist in Lisa Gladfelter who ended up working with GNR.  You know in 1988 or 89 it was NOT cool to be on an indie label.  It is now and those are the only labels left but back then it was just frowned upon and wasn’t at all cool.  You know what though?  Enigma far exceeded what Capitol accomplished.  Better publicity, better visibility, better interviews.  Just overall better representation from the label.  I don’t look back very fondly on the time at Capitol AT ALL.


Q:  You worked with Neil Kernon on that album….bigtime Metal producer, but the album was released on Sept. 3 of 1991.  That was around the time grunge and alternative were really crushing hard rock.  Did that make things even harder for Capitol?


A:  I know that music was starting to become popular and regular rock and roll was getting pushed to the side.  Girls stopped showing up to the shows in miniskirts with no panties and started showing up in combat boots.  I was like “Whaaa???  What is going on here, were are the high heels and sexy dressing girls??”.  We did a great, great video for the song “Face Down in The Gutter” and MTV refused to play it.  They said it was sexist which it WASN’T!!!  It was SEXY (laughs) but we weren’t like degrading the girls in it by any means it was just a really great, dark sexy video.  It was directed by Michael Bay who went on to become a HUGE Hollywood movie director and if you watch our clip you can see that he had IT back then.  It was a really great video.  I ran into a girl who was a big deal at MTV and asked about it and she said well it was just really sexist and slutty. I pushed and kept asking her and insisted that it wasn’t and she was wrong and she finally just admitted that the hard rock bands were being pushed aside in favor of the more alternative bands and that was it.  Bands like WARRANT or XYZ had no chance on MTV after Seattle hit.


Q:  You guys played a gig on the second album tour up here at Summerfest in Milwaukee, do you recall those shows for the second album?


A:  Oh yeah, we did some great shows, people were still coming out and were into us.  It was a good time.  That show you’re talking about is actually up on our page and our Facebook page.  It was a really, really amazing show.  The crowd was phenomenal.


Q:  You guys split up after that but in recent years you’ve reunited and done some new albums as well correct?


A:  Yes.  We did an album in 2003 called Letter to God, it’s my favorite album of all of our work.  It’s real, it sounds like us, it’s a very personal album and very special to me.  I had just lost my son and I poured my heart and soul into that record.  It is the most honest sounding of all of our recordings.


Q:  What prompted you to fire XYZ back up again and reform the band?  You’re doing some high profile festivals like M3 and you’re going to be on the Monsters of Rock Cruise to the Bahamas.


A:  I don’t know.  I just love what I do.  I do it because I love it, I feel it and it’s real.  I thought maybe I’d do some of those things as Terry from XYZ but I started going back and watching all the old videos and live shows and realized that I love those guys.  Our band isn’t like a lot of bands where there’s a lot of infighting it was and is a pleasure to play with those guys and we really appreciate our fans and our relationship with the fans.  I called Patt Fontaine (bassist) and I asked him “Look, here’s the deal, we are being offered a great deal of money to play a 45 minute set at Rocklahoma, are you in?.  He thought about it and called me back and said yes.  We had a blast and it’s continued from there.  We have a new album’s worth of songs completely finished and ready to go.  It’s just a matter of finding the time.  I’m on the road and very busy with Great White and the other guys all have their lives and everything.  To answer your questiuon, we’re doing it because we love it and we miss it and we miss our fans.  These acoustic gigs are really special to me.  We’re doing one of those on the Monsters Cruise and it’s great to me because it’s just SO real.  It’s our voice, two guitars and a tamborine.  It’s us and our songs and we pour our souls into it.  I sing every gig, every night as if it’s my last performance, I said that to Mark Kendall the other night before a Great White gig.  You never know, anything could happen and it could be so I just put every ounce of effort into it.  We don’t cheat ourselves or the fans that love us.  We are so lucky to be able to do what we want to do for a living.  You know the feeling of coming home to your kids and them just pouring their love on you when you walk in the door whether youve had a good or bad day?  That’s how I feel about the time I get onstage.  I love getting in front of the crowd and feeling their response, whether it’s in XYZ or in GREAT WHITE.  To be able to see these people sing every word to all these songs and see the smiles on their faces is phenomenal.  I talked to Jack and he said something about how he was glad I was doing a good job and I told him thank you but it’s the fact that these songs are great songs they’ve written.  A singer can go onstage with all the technique in the world and talent and if it’s not real and the songs aren’t great it won’t matter.  It’s an honor to be doing these songs, Jack did an amazing job, he’s a great singer and I’ve always been a fan of his performance because he connected with the fans, they felt it and above all he had feeling.


Q:  At the end of the day what do you want people to remember about you or our band XYZ?


A:  Just the same thing that I’m talking about with Great White….that we’re real.  We feel the songs we’re doing and the audience feels them because we put every ounce of our being into them.  So many things in this American Idol era are NOT real.  So many things are done for fame or for money or for the wrong reasons.  I’d like for people to remember my performances and songs as honest and real.

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Category: Interviews