The Rebirth of Terry Ilous and Great White: Terry Ilous Is Bringing Something To Others
The Rebirth of Terry Ilous and Great White Interview By Nicole Hanratty
Sometimes you meet someone and you think, no one can be this real, this down to earth, this honest. And then the interview unfolds and you realize they are that real, that down to earth and that honest. They wear their heart on their sleeve and hold nothing back. I had barely sat down for a moment with Terry Ilous—new lead singer of Great White—when Terry began espousing his views. "Society is experiencing a rebirth. How will people connect in this isolated world?"
It's difficult, especially when you are trying to connect with a rock star.
It took Terry and I a few weeks of emailing back and forth just to carve out an hour of time at a central meeting point. Rock stars don't sit still.
I had sixty minutes to get to know the real Terry Ilous before he had to fly off to France on tour and my driver carted me off to game four of the Stanley Cup. We knew we had a time constraint, so we got straight down to business.
The first question was his: "What can I get you to drink?" Rock stars with manners rock. This very low key inconspicuously dressed man in a plain red tee-shirt, simple rope necklace and jeans pulled out his Gucci wallet at the register of The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and insisted on paying. Then he held the door for me. Be still my heart. Let's be honest, when a man is half Spanish and half French, it's really difficult not to notice how attractive he is, especially when he is chivalrous on top of everything else.
"My dad gave me a passion for music by showing me different kinds of music." Terry's dad has passed away, but he talks about him as if he still lives in his heart. "He was a jazz guitar player. At an early age I was exposed to music from an entire continent. I can adjust as a songwriter because of that."
"It's just like martial arts. I have studied many different styles of martial arts, so I can adjust. In life you have to adjust."
Terry Ilous has adjusted just fine. Previously the lead singer of the heavy metal band XYZ, Terry has performed and worked with a list of music icons that is jaw dropping: Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Whitesnake, Stevie Wonder, AC/DC, Mariah Carey, and Guns N Roses amongst others.
"Water adjusts," he explains, "and takes the form of the river that it's flowing through. That's what life is all about. That's what music is about for me."
Years ago, Terry suffered through a ten year bout with depression. He credits who he is today with how he dug himself out of that period in his life. "Life goes so fast. Before we know it, we are old and outdated. We have to make the best of what we have, the time."
After first allowing himself to be medicated, Terry decided he was done with the anti-depressant prescription meds he was taking. He quit cold-turkey. Then he turned to studying Buddhism and Khabbala. He also began jogging and learning martial arts. He started looking at depression "as just a mountain" to get over. He decided to stay away from women because he rationalized, "I'm only going to wind up with the wrong one."
As he got better, Terry says he slowly returned to the music world.
He credits Bruce Reiner with transforming his life. Bruce Reiner, (Columbia Records, Capitol Records, Universal Music Group's MCA Records), has been the marketing and promotional music man behind over 20 platinum and gold records by artists such as Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige.
"I was living in my car. I had no money. Bruce said, 'stay with me.' He told me, 'You are doing music to be a star, you should do music for the right reasons, not to become a rock star.'" Terry says that Bruce tried to convey to him that music is about creation. It's about bringing something to people and feeling emotions.
So Terry Ilous started climbing his mountain and creating. He began doing voiceovers. He sang for animated cartoons and movies. "I quickly became the go-to guy in the industry because I could sing in three languages. I was fluid like water." He adapted.
Slowly, Terry went back to singing and working on another album. He regained his passion. "Time that was lost, I cannot get back." But there is no doubt that Terry is certainly trying to make up for it. "I did an XYZ show the other day and I sang three times at M3 [the Rock Festival] the same day which is unheard of."
What about family life? "I want to raise my daughter right. I want to leave an impact on this world as a musician, an artist and a humanitarian. Not as a rock star. I will always have women around me. But will I have the right woman? The right friend? Bringing something to others is bringing something to me."
Who do you respect? "I really respect U2, Bono. He is a true humanitarian utilizing his power to bring help. He's one of my heroes. He did something better. We have a duty to work for the world."
Terry practices what he preaches. Touched by the tragedy of the tsunami that hit Japan, Terry wrote a song with Jeff Paris and mixed by Beau Hill called "One Family." It was performed by a coalition of rock stars brought together by Terry (whom also performed) and included Eddie Money, Bobby Kimball (Toto), Jimi Jamison (Survivor), Don Dokken (Dokken), Rudy Sarzo (Ozzy Osbourne / Quiet Riot / Whitesnake), Robin McAuley (McAuley Schenker Group / Survivor), Phil Lewis (LA Guns), Richie Kotzen (Poison / Mr. Big), Paul Shortino (Rough Cutt / Quiet Riot), Brian Tichy (Whitesnake / Foreigner / Billy Idol), Jeff Paris (hit songwriter for Mr. Big, Vixen, Lita Ford), Robert Sarzo (Hurricane) and session player Michael Thompson (MTB). The song sales benefit the American Red Cross.
Terry also planned, organized and played a benefit concert with UNITED ROCKERS 4U at the Hard Rock Café in Hollywood this past December. "We collected cash. And it was all in this paper bag. I didn't even count it. It was like a mafia deal.” He laughed. “I just handed this paper bag full of money over to the woman from the Red Cross. She said thank you for the money, but also for bringing awareness. It was a moving moment. There was a melting pot of musicians in the room. Fans were ecstatic. Art Alexakis (Everclear) was there."
Reflecting on his motives he said, "I know those people. They are just like me when I went through hell. I just wrote another song in December called “Right Family.” It's a great rock song that can be used and recorded with new artists to benefit other causes as needed."
Terry talked for a bit about rock stars giving back, how they make choices to acknowledge the power they have or ignore it. He has seen both, but he strongly believes that, "power is used to go somewhere else and you have to do good with it."
Another way Terry Ilous does good? He assists in teaching Judo to kids who can't afford it along side Olympic coach Sensei Rey Tinaza.
Terry is passionate about martial arts and the effect they have had on his life post-depression. "I credit Shihan Dai Vince Cecere with my life. He's like family to me. Such a wise man. He comes from a harsh life and I look at him and tell him he has changed my course. He brought hope and desire back into me."
I tell Terry that I have watched a clip of his "Bending Reality” show and ask him: Why do you think you are afraid of success? He looks almost relieved that I have brought this up. “I’m glad you asked. Michael Stephens is another person who helped me deeply in my life. He saw me playing with Chris Slade (AC/DC) and approached me after the show. He told me he could see my energy and see me pushing success away. I had all the tools to make it, but I was pushing success away. I was always walking away from good women. I was self-sabotaging like crazy. He could see I was afraid. I asked him, 'What happens after I reach my goal?' He said, 'You'll have another success. Things will happen if you believe.'"
"Change your perception of yourself," Terry says, "and how you think people view you. We all want to be better but we're afraid to show what we have to the world. Michael Stephens helped me tremendously. We're working on a show now to help others to not self-sabotage. It's about being naked and exposing fear. And saying I'm gonna make myself happy and someone else happy."
"I was afraid of failure as a kid. Michael Stephens said to me, 'failure is when you don't try.' But I've conquered my fear of doing things and that to me is a success."
How did you get the job with Great White? "I was the first one they called but I was not the only choice. There are many singers that were more successful than me. I was a small guy. I won because I was tenacious. I was a team player. I was good. I wanted to help them. I want to bring something to Great White."
He went on. "Because I am from Europe, people did not think I would get it." But Terry Ilous with his phenomenal voice did get the job and Great White’s new album Elation is making waves. "When we go on stage, we have a chemistry,” he says with passion in his heart. What is it like to replace Jack Russell? "I only have respect for Jack Russell. One can only admire one who has a successful career. But I'm the singer now. The king is gone."
As we both gathered our things and were rushing off, I grabbed my pen one last time to write down something Terry Ilous asked me as a side note. It overwhelmed me. "Nicole," he said, "you measure success by how someone has touched someone's heart. How many hearts have you touched?"
Watch Great White’s new music video “(I’ve Got) Something for You” from their new album Elation: Statement from the band: “Re-charged and re-focused, Great White channels their raw, sweet and all-at-once dangerous sound into their [recently] released collection. From Frontiers Records, Elation is the band’s 12th studio album.” Watch a clip of Terry Ilous on “Bending Reality”