The Ultimate Jan Night Interviews: Terry Ilous and Carmine Rojas
Ultimate Jam Night brought to life the music of Bohemian Rhapsody in a grand and epic way, unveiling an all-star salute to the music of Freddie Mercury and Queen. Taking place on November 6th at the world famous Whisky A Go Go on the Sunset Strip, the long running Ultimate Jam Night presented yet another event to be remembered for a lifetime. Prior to the explosive presentation of Queen classics, Highwire Daze Online caught up with Terry Ilous of XYZ backstage at The Whisky to chat about the charismatic Freddie Mercury, the current happenings in his own brilliant career – as well as a special guest appearance at the end of the interview by renowned bassist Carmine Rojas from the David Bowie band. Read on…
We are here at Ultimate Jam Night – Bohemian Rhapsody saluting Queen with Terry Ilous of XYZ. What does the music of Queen mean to you?
Terry: It’s beyond the music, to be honest with you. I love the music of course – especially Freddie. I think Freddie was the ultimate rock singer – and I’ll tell you why. He was an amazing performer – he was fantastic – but he was also an amazing singer and songwriter. Very often you have one or the other. You have a great performer, but you don’t have a great songwriter or singer. In his case, he was the best – as far as singing, writing songs and performing, he was an entertaining. He was IT! Freddie was IT was for me. There are a lot of great singers – let’s not forget that. Ronnie Dio was a wonderful heavy metal singer. But when it comes to rock in general, Freddie was number one for me.
And what are you going to performing here at Ultimate Jam Night tonight?
Terry: I am going to be performing a song called Who Wants To Live Forever. And I chose it for the lyrics, because I have a very dark point of view when it comes to love. I really don’t believe in love – at least not for me – maybe for others. Love, I think for some people, is an eternal thing – people get really lucky and fall in love forever and ever. Seriously – and these are the lucky ones. It’s very difficult to find love – and when you find it, you want to hold on to it for as much as you can. And I think that nobody wants to live forever if you’re alone. If you think about it, if you’re alone in your life, if no one loves you, then why live forever? But if you fall in love, and that person disappears, how sad it is to spend all that time alone as well.
Is this your first time playing Ultimate Jam Night?
Terry: It’s my third time actually. The first time I was called to do a Robert Plant song – which I did and it was a lot of fun. And then I was asked to do a Paul Rodgers thing – and I love Paul Rodgers. Paul is another one of these wonderful singers as well. You have Robert Plant – you have Paul Rodgers – you have Freddie Mercury – of course you have Steve Perry and Lou Gramm as well. But Freddie was for me – I’m sorry guys – above everybody else. He was such a wonderful showman. I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing him live – never – except for in videos and things like that. But I was fascinated by his stage performance and the fact that onstage he was a different person – offstage he was a really shy person – introverted a little bit. But onstage, he was a master – he owned the stage. It was just an amazing performance. And his voice, his range – it was unique. There’s only one Freddie Mercury, my friend. And the music of Queen – it’s really complex – it’s not like your regular rock and roll band three chords blah blah blah – which is fine as well. What I like about Queen is the complexity behind all those songs. And I’m a little bit nervous tonight actually.
What is going on in your career right now?
Terry: Well, I’m no longer with Great White, as you know. It was a big surprise. I had nine wonderful years. I co-wrote many, many songs with the band. It was wonderful experience. I thank the band and the fans – no animosity – no anything. It’s time to move on. I don’t know why to be honest with you – but I would not even get into it. The most important thing is now I have time to do other things. I have a solo project – kind of a classic Rock/Latin/Flamenco project that I want to bring to Las Vegas. And then of course XYZ as well. Then I’m also working with Greg D’Angelo from White Lion – we’re going to be working on an album together and also some songs as well – and also doing some shows together just for the fun of it. We’re working on many things. I’m also working on a blues album. So I’m busy. I’m busy. I was not very busy when I was with Great White except for Great White. Great White was my priority. Now that I have more time, I’m able to do other things – which is great! I think as a performer, you need to think outside the box and you need to push yourself and push the limits. If you don’t do that – if you don’t try to push yourself and go forward and forward in life, you become boring and you become irrelevant. And you become irrelevant to yourself and to your fans – and I think that’s a horrible thing as an actor or an entertainer in general. So we owe it to ourselves and we owe it to the fans to always try to push ourselves to be better – better musicians, better actors, better whatever – even as a person – you know what, a better person in general.
I actually loved the final Great White album you did – Full Circle was solid.
Terry: Thank you. It’s funny, because I had a message from Jack Russell the other day. After the incident, he emailed me and he said “I’m really sorry what happened to you,” and I said “oh great.” And he said and I quote, “Terry, I wanted to hate you, but I realize you had nothing to do with what happened.” And I said “no, I didn’t, I was just there and somebody asked me to sing – that’s all. I would have never done anything to harm you.” And he said “Yeah, I understand. But I really like your album. It’s you! It’s you! And Big Time – that song is you! I love that song. You respect Great White. You respect the idea behind Great White.” And I said “Yeah! And you know Jack – you are the original voice behind Great White. And I will always respect that. I have so much admiration for your sound and for your voice. I’m not a clone – I did not try to clone you. But I always tried to respect you and respect the songs the way the band .” Mark and Michael and Jack – wrote those songs. I always tried to respect that and please the fans. But I also gave those songs my little twist. Again 9 years of great fun – a great experience.
And what’s going on with XYZ?
Terry: XYZ – we’re preparing right now. It’s too late to do a show for this year, but we have Monsters Of Rock next year already booked we’ll have Rocklanta – we’re booking a lot of big shows. We really haven’t been available – really since I joined Great White nine years ago. And before that, we were not even touring at all. So there’s a lot of promoters that want to see us – there’s a lot of fans that want to see us. We’re turning into a cult, which is kind of strange – and I say that in a good way. People want to see us because they haven’t seen us live – they want to see the band – they’ve heard those songs and have heard my voice on the Great White albums – and they’re curious – and then they listen to XYZ and they’re like HOLY SHIT! I’m very, very excited about that! And do you know my buddy Carmine Rojas? Carmine Rojas was the bass player for so many great bands! First of all, he’s a dear friend of mine. We go way back – him and I. But second of all, he was the bass player of David Bowie for many, many years. Also John Waite, Stevie Wonder, Rod Stewart, Joey Bonamassa for the last 10 years…
Carmine: And Terry Ilous…
Terry: And Terry Ilous now. Yeah, him and I go way back! He’s an amazing performer. He’s not only an amazing performer, he’s a musical director. And when you work with him, you actually work with somebody who has knowledge. He knows what an instrument should be doing. And that’s pretty impressive. We just rehearsed last night, and I was listening to him, because I always want to learn – and I want to learn from the best. From Carmine Rojas.
Carmine, what was it like working with David Bowie?
Carmine: Absolutely amazing. Absolutely amazing!
Carmine: It’s not what you expect. There’s some heroes you meet, and you go like “Oh, what a pain in the ass!” Not him. Completely opposite. You see him – he’s big as life – but he comes down to Earth and hangs out with everybody. It doesn’t matter if you’re a trucker, a roadie, the catering company – he hangs out with everybody and talks to everybody. He was a very flexible, wonderful guy. He liked absorbing a lot of stuff for his own material. Because he writes for himself – he doesn’t write for the people. So whenever you hear his songs, it’s always written not for the public, but for himself. He was a very cool guy.
What was your favorite David Bowie album?
Carmine: Oh geez, there’s too many of them. The trilogy albums for the experimental stuff. I still love Ziggy Stardust. I love the last one. When we played a combination of it all live, it was pretty amazing. I still love performing it – which I’ll be doing in January. We’re leaving for Europe and America with alumni – it’s called A Bowie Celebration. So if you get all your friends to go on A Bowie Celebration, you’ll see the list of all the alumni’s – all of the guys who actually played with David – Earl Slick, Mike Garson, Gerry Leonard – we have them all – from the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s to the 2000’s – guys who played with David. We’re all in the same band together – which is something David always wanted, but we could never work out our schedules. It’s beautiful! Go on the Facebook Page A Bowie Celebration.
Be sure to check out Ultimate Jam Night, every Tuesday at the world famous Whisky A Go Go on the Sunset Strip!
(Interview and Photos by Ken Morton)