Many of us first heard of Terry Ilous and his highly underrated voice back in the 80s when he founded the band XYZ. The band was together from 1986 through 1992 and released two albums. Their self-titled debut album on Enigma Records was produced by Don Dokken of Dokken and contained the hits “Inside Out” and “What Keeps Me Loving You.” The band toured with Enuff Z’Nuff and Alice Cooper before disbanding in 1992. Ilous also has a part of his extensive fanbase that first heard of him when he took over the lead vocalist duties in Great White in 2009. The band toured extensively and released a total of three albums with Ilous. 2018 saw Ilous suddenly out of Great White and a new chapter in his journey was about to be written.
Although formed while he was in Great White, his solo band Terry Ilous and the Vagabonds never really had the chance it needed to gets its feet wet. The band’s blend of classic rock with Latin/Flamenco music is rather unique and quite addictive. The band recorded and released its debut album Gypsy Dreams in 2017. That album saw Ilous and an ensemble of very talented Flamenco musicians take several classic tracks from artists such as Peter Gabriel, Don Henley, Chris Isaak and even Black Sabbath and Rainbow and gave them his unique twist and touch. It deserved a bigger push, but never truly received it until now. Ilous is now able to give it the time and attention that it really deserves. We recently sat down with Ilous to talk about the album, the possibility of new XYZ music and much more.
There’s so much that I would love to talk to you about today, so I will jump right into your Gypsy Dreams album that you did with The Vagabonds. I’ve heard artists reinvent songs and put their own spin on them, but I don’t think I have ever heard anything quite like this before. This album is amazing and a thing of beauty on so many levels.
Terry Ilous: Oh wow; thank you.
These tracks are so beautiful and they are all songs that have been a part of the soundtrack to my life and so many other people. With that being said, I was cautiously optimistic when I was about to push play because these songs are very important to me and near and dear to my heart. I have to say that you guys really knocked it out of the park.
Wow, thank you again. You know, I never thought that I would be able to do better than the original artist. You mentioned Peter Gabriel and he’s an amazing artist and songwriter. When I decided to re-do those songs my way, I decided to give those songs a twist. I wouldn’t say reinvent them because that is a very strong word, but I took what was there and I rearranged it in my own humble way. I know some people will accept those songs the way they are and others will say they suck or whatever. What’s important is the way that I feel about it and hopefully someone else like yourself will feel it to. Then, I have accomplished something positive. I meant to please myself; whenever I make music I want to please myself. That may sound selfish, but when I do music I do it to please myself first. I still have the love of music, the stage and stuff like that. If someone like you ends us liking the songs, then I am really blessed, honestly. I don’t think an artist should do music for money or anything else like that. If you’re blessed, then the money and fans will come along. First and foremost, you join the music scene because you are an artist and you want to create. You’re doing it for yourself and for the art, not for the money, girls or cars.
I totally get it and I agree. If you’re creating something and you don’t connect with it, then how do you expect the fans to?
How long had you wanted to do something like this?
For many, many years; I came to this country in the 80s. Let me go back; I grew up in Europe. My dad was Spanish so we would go to Spain quite a lot. I used to see those Flamenco musicians and when I saw them playing I was really touched. My dad was a guitar player as well; he was a jazz/wannabe Flamenco guitar player. Seeing all of those players brought out something inside of me and I was so excited. I came to America and I became a rock singer because there was really nothing else. I know you’re going to laugh, but I wanted to be a crooner like Tom Jones or Michael Bolton. That didn’t happen for me and I became a rock singer. I think I took the easy way because I was lazy. It was good and people liked my voice, so I was being flattered. Then, I joined Great White and while we were touring I saw some musicians doing this kind of rock/flamenco thing. I had always wanted to do that so I spoke with the guitar player and told him that I had this idea to mix classic rock with flamenco and I asked him if he’s like to try it. He said yes, so one afternoon while we were doing the Monsters of Rock in 2012, we jammed in front of a crowd and they loved it. I was so busy touring the next few years with Great White that I didn’t have the time to really focus on that. Slowly, I pushed towards that and we eventually went into the studio and recorded Gypsy Dreams.
I know you have a much more extensive setlist when you perform live, so was it tough to narrow it down to the songs that ended up on the album?
It was very difficult because there so many songs that I wanted to do. You pick a song and try it out and for whatever reason; some of them just don’t fly well. I would think that a certain song would be perfect and it ended up sounding like crap. For some reason, it just didn’t translate into that format or groove. I knew some songs like “Whole Lotta Love” would work very well because of the minor chords and the Middle Eastern kind of vibe. “Kashmir” was a contender that didn’t make it to the album, but will probably be on the next album.
I would think that some of those, when played live in a club setting, would take on a life of their own which might not be easy to capture in a studio setting.
Oh totally; a song can be four minutes long, but we play it and it becomes six minutes long. We don’t prepare for that; we just call it. We set up onstage in a U shape and not all facing the crowd. That way, we can all look at each other all of the time. I don’t think we will end up on those big, big stages because we need to be close to each other so we can look at each other and give each other signals. We can improve with solos or extending the ending. I remember asking the audience if we had any singers who wanted to come up and help us with the part of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” that goes ‘in your eyes, the light, the heat” and we had all sorts of people come up to help us and even little kids. A song that should have been four minutes ended up being eight minutes. You look at bands like Led Zeppelin or some of the 70s bands and they used to improvise a lot. I don’t like the formula where you’re on the stage and its verse, bridge, chorus every time, every night. I like to improvise just like they did in the 70s.
I think there is a beauty in that and it’s lost in so much music today.
Music is so formulated today and so many artists are using backing tracks, not all but most. You can’t get out of that formula because if you extend a part, then what’s going to happen to that backing track? Zeppelin, The Grateful Dead, YES, Genesis and so many bands like that used to improvise like crazy. For me, it allows the artist to grow and for the audience to get something different every night. For me, Led Zeppelin was the best live band ever and they improvised each and every night making each show different. That’s beautiful and that’s what I want to see. If I want to hear the same lead every time, then I will just listen to the CD.
Speaking of Zeppelin, I have heard many bands attempt to cover their tunes and so many fall short. Ann Wilson of Heart can nail a Zeppelin tune like no other.
Ann Wilson is phenomenal; she’s amazing.
I have to add you to that very short list of vocalists because you are stunning on “Whole Lotta Love.”
Thank you so much.
The guitarist in that video is a beast and it is amazing to watch him play that acoustic guitar.
He has a passion that is truly amazing; those guys are truly special. It all goes back to their love of playing. They love to be on that stage, they love to please the crowd and they love to please themselves. It’s like when you’re in bed with a beautiful woman. You want to please them and please yourself as well. Music and love is the same thing to me.
You have definitely put together something special with this album.
I am so glad that you like it. I have to say that most of the reviews have been very positive and I’m just hoping to spread the word more on this. Honestly, I really didn’t promote the CD a lot when it first came out because I was so busy with Great White and it took a lot out of me. I was working so many dates with Great White that I just wasn’t free enough hen I would be approached to do some of these shows. I am very grateful for that opportunity and I met so many great friends along the way. It lasted close to nine years and it was great, but now it’s time to move on. Now that I have more time to do other things, I will be able to concentrate more on my solo career.
I do want to take a moment here to thank you for your eight and a half years in Great White and for all of the amazing music that you gave us with them. I had quite a few people reach out to me who wanted me to thank you as well.
Thank you so much; I truly appreciate that.
I am a firm believer that you can find something positive even in some really bad situations and occurrences.
This is what I go by; it’s not really what happens to us that make us who we are. It’s how we deal with what happens to us that truly makes us who we are. That’s what I truly believe, although some will disagree with me on that.
I know we have to wrap this up, but I will be kicking myself if I don’t bring up XYZ. I was beyond excited when I saw you tweet out the “We’re on a Mission” video clip. You must have a very special bond with Pat Fontaine?
He’s my brother, although he was sad when I stopped to join Great White because I couldn’t do two bands. When I was no longer in Great White, Pat called me and told me that he wanted to put the band back together. We did and we have a lot of shows coming up next year and a lot of excitement, so I am very excited about that.
On behalf of all XYZ fans out there, I have to ask if there’s a chance of new music from you guys?
We’ll see; I have a lot of songs ready, but we’ll see. We may come up with a new album and I think we should, but we’ll see.
Terry, it’s been an honor and I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with me today.
Thank you Johnny; I appreciate your support in helping us spread the word.
By I’m Music Magazine Owner/Editor Johnny Price
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