Terry Ilous Retelling the Classics!

By Jeb Wright

Terry Ilous is the current vocalist for Great White.  He got the gig after a career with melodic rockers XYZ.  Now, in addition to promoting GW’s killer new release Full Circle Terry is touting his solo effort titled Gypsy Dreams.

Ilous can sure sing.  And he knows his rock ‘n’ roll history as well.  Gypsy Dreams sees the talented singer paying homage to his idols…in a Flamenco sort of style.  Yes…you read that right.  This is one of those albums you’ve got to hear to really understand.  Terry sings Flamenco versions of songs by artists as diverse as Black Sabbath and Christopher Cross!

Read on to learn how Terry came up with this idea.  Of course we also discuss XYZ and the new album by Great White…and pizza.  He’s a rock star so of course we talk about pizza!

This is a cool chat with a very cool dude!

Jeb: I want to know how one even has the idea to do a covers of rock tunes in a Flamenco style.   Who was the influence?

Terry: I would say my father was one of my biggest influences. My father was Spanish and a guitarist. He really instilled in me a love for music in general, including Flamenco. And, I had always wanted to do something with Latin guitar, but just never had the time. So when i first heard guitarists Luis Villegas and Ben Woods play, i knew we had to do something together. We ended up playing “Heaven and Hell” on the Monsters Of Rock Cruise and the fans loved it. From there the project started to evolve.

Jeb: Before we talk about the songs, and the new awesome Great White album titled Full Circle, tell me how you decided a song could make this list on Gypsy Dreams

Terry:  Well, i think we all have favorite songs, and songs that reflect specific moments in our lives. That's ultimately how we chose the songs. And of course all of us are big Dio and Zeppelin fans, so incorporating them into the album seemed quite natural.

Jeb:  Did you try other songs?  Were there any that didn’t make the cut?

Terry: There were two other songs that were on our list, which were “Rainbow In the Dark” and “Kashmir.” I think both songs would have been great, but of course we can only do so many by the same artist. If we decide on doing a second album then those will definitely be forerunners on our list.

Jeb:  Some had to be challenging. “Whole Lotta Love” how did you approach this?  It is hard to mess with this song without making a mess of things!

Terry: Honestly, we didn't really try and tackle any of the songs. There was no writing sessions, no 'How are we going to make this work'. We all just sat in the studio and started to play. We did discuss a general idea of where we wanted to go. Luis, Jose, and Ben Woods would throw a few ideas around and try switching chords here and there. Our percussionists Al Velasquez, Chris Trujillo and Mike Bennett would go off on their own for a minute to and try different variations of the music.  But it was pretty much just a group of musicians all sitting around in one room playing. No retakes, no separate rooms. We just pressed record and played!

Jeb: “In Your Eyes” to me is the best of the bunch.  Tell me how you arranged this one? What was the vision?

Terry: Thank you. I personally love how “In Your Eyes” came out, but i was not sure if it would be received well by the fans. My intention was to really have a diverse amount of rock, classic rock, and some really good ballads. I wanted to expose my audience to something they may have never heard before. I took a chance and have been lucky enough to receive an outpouring of positive response from fans, media, and other musicians.

Jeb: “Wicked Game” and “Ride Like the Wind” were brave.  Did you worry these songs might hurt your reputation as a hard rock dude?  I mean…Chris Isaak?  Christopher Cross?

Terry: No, I wasn't worried. Anyone who has followed my career has heard me play soft rock, classic rock, and pop. That is the difference between the U.S. and most other countries, especially Europe and Asia. While sticking to one genre is common here, most other countries embrace diversity. You can see this with many European festivals…One moment Slayer will be on, then Bob Dylan. Since i grew up in France and Spain, to me, it is quite natural to embrace all forms of music. And as a musician I think i can appreciate them more on the technical end. To me, if you don't try to go beyond your bounds, then you become stagnant. And an artist that just repeats himself will eventually become irrelevant.

Jeb:  Also, you have balls…taking on DIO is scary enough if you’re in a hard rock band.  But to mess with “Heaven and Hell” and “Kill the King.”  There are hardcore fans that will flip!

Terry: I've actually been singing “Heaven and Hell” for many years. I sang this song at the last Dio memorial for Wendy Dio. And let’s face it, no one can replace Ronnie. We never at any point tried to compete with his version. To do so would be foolish. We did our own take on the songs. Ours is a completely different animal all together. I think if the fans sit down and listen to the album they would see that these are not covers. These are totally unique retellings of classic songs. Most people forget that Dio himself didn't start in rock. And having met Ronnie, I honestly think he would have appreciated our take on the songs.

Jeb: “Love Bites” works well.  Tell me about that one. 

Terry: Thank you. I appreciate that. That one actually almost didn't make the album. I had a bad cold just a few days before going into the studio and I pretty much just stopped talking until the session. We ended up being in the studio really late as I kept re-recording the vocals, and I almost dropped that song entirely at one point. But once we went back and added our background vocalist Natalie Gelman and I heard the finished product I was like, “That's it. We really have something here.”

Jeb:  Tell me about the band.  How did you find them and what was their reaction to such an adventurous project?

Terry: Well, we really have some spectacular artists on this album. After initially meeting guitarists Luis Villegas and Ben Woods, and discussing a future project, Luis came to me and said he had some amazing musicians in mind that would be perfect to join us. Luis Villegas really has an ear for talent. All the musicians on the album were truly amazing and blew me away with their professionalism. When I met the band it was like we had all known each other for years. They instantly got the vision of the album and we all just sat down and played together like we had been doing it for years. It was a truly amazing experience, and something that is hard to come by in this business. The album features Al Velasquez, Luis Villegas, Jose Garcia, Mike Paganini, Chris Trujillo, Natalie Gelman, Ben Woods, Jesse Stern, Mike Bennett, Chris Flores. And was made with Chris Flores, and the amazing Tony Phillips and Latin Grammy winner Andrés Mayo. Everyone on this album has an amazing resume of music and artists they have worked with, and I really hope we can all continue to work with each other in the future.

Jeb:  Will you ever be able to play any LA area club gigs?  Live this may be very interesting and entertaining. 

Terry: I would love to do some dates and I’ve already had several requests. But my main focus right now is my summer tour with Great White. If I can fit in some dates on my off time I would love it. And as soon as I am able I will.

Jeb: Talk to me about the new Great White album Full Circle. That album is the best this band has pumped out in literally decades!

Terry: Thank you very much. We all worked really hard on this album and I think all the time and effort really shows. Mark Kendall & Michael Lardie had the brilliant idea to just go back to the band’s roots for this one. So we ended up renting a house in Nashville, and it was just us writing and arranging music for almost two months. I think the fans will really hear the genius of Marks playing on this album. Audie and Scotty were just monsters; they would work through breaks, and stay as long as they had to until they were satisfied with their takes. And most people don't know that Michael Lardie is quite the renaissance musician. He not only plays guitar and keyboards, but he also sings and worked alongside Michael Wagener to bring out the very best possible sound out of every session. I have to say, as a musician the entire experience was very gratifying.

Jeb: Discuss what it was like working with the producer…he’s kind of a big deal ya know!

Terry: Michael Wagener…brilliant ...period! In this business, especially in the ‘80s, you work with a lot of people who try and impress their vision of your sound upon you, or that of the labels. But Michael Wagener allowed us to be ourselves. He has this amazing ability to really bring out the best an artist has to offer and guide you to places you never thought of before. Not all musicians have had the opportunity to work with the caliber of producer like Michael Wagener, and I am grateful to have had the experience. I have been really lucky in my career to have worked with some amazing producers, and engineers. I've worked with George Tutko who really believed in XYZ, Giorgio Moroder, Don Dokken and Tony Phillips, Andres Mayo, and Chris Flores for Gypsy Dreams.


Jeb: There is a documentary that can come with the CD.  How do you order that?

Terry: You can order the CD through www.officialgreatwhite.com and get the CD with the DVD as a bonus.

Jeb:  Was it distracting to shoot that while trying to create and record?

Terry: No, after all these years in the business we're use to cameras and photographers following us around. It's part of the job. But the cameras were not on all the time. If it was on for every session, then yes it would have been distracting. There are certain times when we needed to really focus that the cameras were not on.

Jeb:  Tell me your favorite new songs?  I know that is unfair but what tracks really get you going?

Terry: "Cry of a Nation", which was an idea by Mark Kendall was an amazing piece to work on. And "Movin' On" and "This Is the Life" with help from JK Northrup who is a dear friend and an amazing writer.

Jeb: How proud are you to be a member of Great White?  They have really done well considering where their comeback started from.

Terry: I feel really blessed to be doing what I love for a living and to be working with whom I believe to be one of the hardest working and most dedicated bands in the business. Not everyone gets to do what they love every day, and I appreciate the guys and the fans for letting me get on that stage every night and sing these songs.

Jeb: Before I go I have to ask a couple of XYZ questions.  Are there are any demos, or unreleased tracks that were recorded by XYZ that have not seen the light of day?

Terry: Possibly! I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of said tapes!  But for the all the XYZ fans out there I did just re-release XYZ's third album Take What You Can Live [U.S. version] at the end of last year and in my opinion it is one of our very best albums. It can be found on my website at www.terryilous.com

Jeb: Do you know why Marc and Paul have not been involved with the current shows like ROK, Monsters of Rock Cruise?

Terry: Marc and Paul both decided to focus on other things than music a while back. While they are both immensely talented musicians, i have to respect their choices. This is a very tough business, and if your hearts not in it anymore then it's time to leave.

Jeb: This is a tough one…do you feel that “Souvenirs” would have been a better pick to release as a single instead of “What Keeps me Loving You”?

Terry: Yes, absolutely! “Inside Out” was our first single, and was the perfect choice. But i definitely believe that “Souvenirs” would have been a better choice for the second release. It's always hard to choose singles. You can venture a guess on what you think will be a 'big hit', but in the end you never know what the fans will love. I mean look at Queen and how many of their B-sides turned into their biggest hits. And honestly back then bands didn't really have that much of a choice. Often the record companies pushed for one song over another. That was just the nature of the game.

Jeb: Anything you want to say about the solo effort, the GW album or the tour?  This is your last chance!

Terry: Gypsy Dreams' and Full Circle are both amazing albums. Both albums were a labor of love and I really appreciate the fans and all their support and messages throughout the recording process. They both were a lot of work and I hope everyone enjoys them and gives them a chance. I ask all the fans to please support the music scene and buy directly from artists so we can continue to bring you music in the years to come.

Jeb: Last one…I met you backstage at Wild in the Streets in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  I am buds with Mark.  You actually gave me and my buddy a pizza.  So…thanks! It was delicious!

Terry:  You are welcome. Anytime you want to come backstage I will feed you. I think it's the Jewish mother in me. I hate wasting all that food. Pat and I had many times where we had no idea where our next meal was coming from, like many of the bands in the 80's, so I have learned to appreciate what I have!