Terry Ilous was born the son of a French mother and a Spanish father, in Europe. His father, who played Jazz guitar, imbued Terry with the love of music he nurtures to this day. He settled in Los Angeles, and then became the lead singer for XYZ, a melodic metal rock band that was promptly signed with Capitol Records to enormous fanfare. With XYZ, he toured the world in the early 1990's and sold over 2 Million cd’s worldwide. He has worked with members of diverse rock bands such as Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Whitesnake, Stevie Wonder, AC/DC, Mariah Carey, Guns and Roses, Rod Stewart, David Bowie and many others. Shortly after, Terry's father passed away and getting in touch with his Spanish roots again, He decided to work on a Latin rock cd, due out early next year. Terry has appeared on soap operas (He has been a regular on NBC's “Passions”), television commercials and actively participating in the voiceover field (“Rug Rats”, “Stuart Little 2”) and doing jingles, to name a few, EBay, Levy’s, Wrigley’s ETC. Terry is the new singing voice for Dr. Pepper ad jingles. He is also a renowned songwriter and has written and published over 300 songs for other artists, films and TV.
I met Terry years ago while he was touring with the Acoustic Outcasts (Ron Keel, Kelly Keeling, Charlie Wayne Morrill and JK Northrup) and we’ve remained friends to this day. He is one of my favorite vocalists and my photos have graced the liner notes on his cds. Terry is now the vocalist for Great White and took some time right after sound check at the Hard Rock Casino & Resort in Biloxi, Mississippi to catch up on his life, his career and how “Bend Reality” in order to make things happen in your life.
The Entertainment Nexus- So how have you been, man?
Terry Ilous- I've been great actually. I've been touring a lot with Great White and so far so good!
TEN- How is your little one?
TI- My girl is wonderful. I'm blessed for sure.
TEN- How old is she now?
TI- Five and a half.
TEN- How did you get the gig with Great White?
TI- I have known the guys for a very, very long time and we have the same agent, Sullivan Bigg. When Jack (Russell) got sick they needed a singer right away meaning the next day! Sullivan said to them: “So, I’m handling Terry, it would be a good idea to bring him on board.” He called me and asked me if I could do it? I said “Yea, I think so” but I didn't expect them to say; “Ok, we’ll see you tomorrow! I was expecting something like: “Okay, see you next week” or something like that. This is a true story. I'll tell you the true story… you want to hear the true story? I was in San Diego in August and I had literally just arrived to spend vacation with my family. I was about to go to the beach but there was an announcement that none of the beaches were safe that day because they had just spotted a great white shark. I was like: “Wow, a great white shark and I wanted to check it out! They said “It's around here so you have to be very careful and bla…bla…bla” so I decided to stay by the pool. Seriously a few minutes later I get a text message from Mark Kendall and the name on the text message is greatwhitekendall so I'm like; “That’s kinda weird.” He asked me what I was doing and I replied: “I'm on vacation with my wife and kid.” He said; “Can you do some shows with us?” And I said: “Yes, of course I would.” He said: “Okay, I'll get back to you.” I get a text message 5 minutes later from him that said: “Okay, see you tomorrow!” I told him I didn't even know the songs and he said: “It doesn't matter to show up on stage. They love you!” True story, I went on stage … I told the crowd that “I had not rehearsed with the band, I have no clue, I just heard the songs a few times and let’s see what's going to happen.” They went for it and I have been with the band ever since. We had some changes. At one point Jani (Lane) (see Jani Lane interview 6/07) I think he did eight or 10 shows. He did a very good job, but ultimately they decided to call me back.
TEN- Did you ever get to meet Jani?
TI- Oh yeah. I have known Jani for many, many years.
TEN- What's one of your fondest memories of Jani?
TI- There is so many of them. Ya know Jani was a very funny man with a really good sense of humor. He was a very bright guy. So many times we hung out in the same places. Something I can say about Jani, is sometimes people remember him as a drunk but the truth is there was something else behind this guy. The guy was a great songwriter, a really good songwriter and a great musician. He played guitar, drums, bass, sang. He was an accomplished musician so people have to remember that. People shouldn’t remember the guy that was drunk toward the end of his career. I think it's wrong. I think we should remember the artist. I had the pleasure of working with him many times and I was very impressed always.
TEN- Do you think that you will be doing an album with Great White?
TI- (Smiles) I can't say that. I'm not allowed to. There are a lot of things going on and I'm not allowed to talk about that. All I can say is I'm here today and I'm having a blast. That's all I can say.
TEN- Is Jack doing okay?
TI- He's doing better I've been told. I know Jack and I talked to him a few times on the phone. I really don't know how well he is doing or how bad he is doing for that matter. I'm assuming that he's doing better. Jack is definitely a great singer and definitely an icon in this business. It's an honor to be singing his songs. I'm not trying to be a copycat. I'm not trying to be a “Little Jack Russell” but I definitely honor the songs and melodies on stage and I just give them my little touch.
TEN- You have a different style of singing than he does.
TI- We both have a bluesy style together but I have an even more bluesy style or maybe more metal than he is. It's not a good way or bad way. I have the utmost respect for Jack and for what he has accomplished. You can only admire that you know…
TEN- You yourself have a lot of accomplishment in music. Will you be playing any of your songs?
TI- No, although a lot of fans asked me: “Are you gonna do “Inside Out?” And I have to say; “No because I’m doing Great White and I think it would be disrespectful to do something else.” If we were to jam somewhere else other than a Great White concert we would probably do a couple of my songs of course. When I do Great White… I do Great White and nothing else because their fans really want to hear Great White. They don't want to hear anything else so I respect the fans and respect the band and the legacy and do Great White only. It's very important.
TEN- What other projects are you involved in when you're not doing Great White?
TI- Wow, my big project right now is a song that I have written with Jeff Paris. It's called: “Once Family” and a lot of people are actually singing on that song…Eddie Money… the guys from Survivor…Bobbi Kimball from Toto…Don Dokken…Phil Lewis from LA Guns. A lot of players, guys from Ozzy…Whitesnake… a lot of players. We are donating the revenue from that song to the Red Cross. The Red Cross has agreed to make a song their new anthem and they've never had that before. Nobody has ever given them a song. We did a video of course and the song is coming out in October. It's pretty large for me and more and more things will happen so that's my big project right now. I'm probably also going to do another album with special guests… You know a lot of rock musicians. I have a lot of players in mind. I'm going to start doing that probably in November. I have written the songs already, I just have to put the package together and see what's happening with the players.
TEN- Is there any chance of a new XYZ cd?
TI- We've been talking about that for a while. We have about six or seven songs written. We were never ever able to get together correctly, meaning everybody at one point and sit down and make the arrangement, do the arrangement and all that stuff. Patt (Fontaine) is like my brother and I know eventually it will happen. We are doing a bunch of shows next year and we would like to have the album ready for that. Thank God I have a very busy schedule between Great White, the thing for Red Cross, I’m producing another artist and being a family man. I'm a dad and that takes a lot of time. I spent a lot of time with my daughter. I'm trying to be a good dad not just a touring rock 'n roll dad which never shows up. When I'm in town, I'm in town and I take care of my daughter, I take care of the judo; spend time with her teaching her martial arts. We go to swimming classes and all that stuff so I really, really try to be a good dad.
TEN- You’re a dad first…
TI- A dad first.
TEN- You are also involved in “Monsters Of Classic Rock…”
TI- Yea, yea, with Chris Slade on drums from AC/DC, Greg Douglass from the Steve Miller band, Mario Cipollina from Huey Lewis and the News and Sam McCaslin. We have a show coming up that Chris can't do so Vinnie Appice is going to replace him. Sometimes when one of us can do it, it will be somebody else. We have a lot of shows lined up but there's only so much I can do between touring and stuff, ya know? I sleep an average of about four hours of night and I don't do drugs, I'm a clean guy so if I get six hours I'm happy. I try to do a power nap whenever I can.
TEN- You mentioned martial arts, how long have you been doing that?
TI- I've been doing martial arts since I was 12…Japanese jujitsu. Judo comes from jujitsu; judo is a nonviolent way of doing jujitsu. Jujitsu is violent; it's self-defense to its highest degree. You cannot get more violent or more to the point that jujitsu unless you get a gun that's it. Judo comes from jujitsu and I’m an assistant teacher at the YMCA. There is a great teacher there and I am assisting him. My daughter is of course one of my students. She just got a gold medal for the first time. She's been doing it for a year and a half now. She started when she was four. She is very determined. Martial arts have always been my passion besides music. I've always been involved in either judo or jujitsu or Thai boxing… Anything related to martial arts for me is good as long as you have a good teacher.
TEN- Is there a ranking system like in karate.
TI- Oh Yeah.
TEN- Where are you as far as ranking?
TI- I’m up there.
TEN- Are you a master?
TI- I am not a master. I train with masters but I'm not a master. I am high ranked that is for sure. The belt system is something that always makes me laugh a little bit. It doesn't really mean anything to me and I'll tell you why. I have done competitions where people have come to me with a black belt…second degree, and I knocked them out within 30 seconds! My point is belts don't mean anything. In fact I remember meeting my Grandmaster, who was wearing no belt and I said: “This guy’s not wearing a belt. How do I know that he's the real deal?” I've been doing martial arts for like 26 years and within a few seconds I realized that he was the real deal! (Laughs) He was laughing and he said: “Terry, belts don't mean anything. It's good for saying that Terry’s a black belt…great…fantastic… and so what!” I see kids that are like 14 years old and are black belts look at them and I'm like; “You’ve got to be kidding me. You're a black belt and you're 14 years old. You don't know shit yet!” People who come to our dojo are from a different system. They're like second and third degree black belts but in my jujitsu system there like blue belt at the most. They don't have the proper training. They may have the belt, that's great. But it's just something that somebody gave you. The true thing is when you really express yourself and can you really defend yourself? Not only that but also being a martial artist needs much more than just hitting somebody...it’s a way of life. It's a discipline, it's a way of life and you have to apply that. It's not because your second degree black belt that you have to hit everybody, in fact it's just the opposite. It's because you have a second degree black belt you should not hit people. You should actually be gentle and find a way to not fight. This is what I way say to people: "I’m not going to fight you, you insult my mother if you want, I don't care, but if you touch me I’ll break your arm!” I mean that. It's up to them. It doesn't matter how big you are, I will find a way to break something. I believe the more you know, the less you should apply and be gentle and avoid confrontation. I've been in situations where people insult me and I just walk away. As long as they don't touch me, they can say whatever they want I don't care. I know the implications and I know what's going to happen after that. You know, hospital, lawsuits and everything, cops and you know what? I can get hurt too. When somebody has a knife you know you're going to get cut. It doesn't matter how good you are you're going to get cut. I would just walk away from it if I can.
TEN- Tell me a little about “Bending Reality.”
TI- Sure. I am working with this guy named Michael Stevens and Michael is like a, how can I describe him? Michael is like a guru. He studied psychology; he's got a sixth sense when it comes to human beings. Take this like an example, the theory behind the book “The Secret.” That's Michael but multiply that by 1000 times. Michael is really, really strong. He can change your life. I met Michael a couple of years ago and I didn't want to talk to him at first because I was kind of, “Eh, that guy’s probably a phony.” I had a bad attitude about it. Then I started talking to him and realized that this guy is the real deal. We had just met a few minutes ago and he's telling me things about me. After talking to him for an hour or hour and a half he asked me if I wanted to do an interview with him. We did an interview and he started asking me questions about my fears in life and what I wanted to do in the future. He pushed and pushed and pushed it to the point where I was almost in tears. Bending reality is basically pushing your reality, pushing your life, trying to be better and try to accomplish things that you want to accomplish but you don't think you can because you have barriers. You have set yourself certain goals but you say to yourself; “Oh, I won't be able to do it, it's too big.” Well Michael was telling me that you can do anything you want but you have to believe in it. Not only do you have to believe in it but you have to feel it. It's easy to say: “Oh yea, I'm gonna be a rock star!” Anybody can say that. But in order to be a rock star you have to feel that. You say: “I’m gonna be a rock star why? Because I can see myself on stage. I can do this and I can do that.” This is what bending reality is all about. It's basically pushing the boundaries and try to acknowledge things that we hope we can accomplish but we don't accomplish because basically we are our own worst enemies. If you think about that, we all have issues. We want to do things but we don't do them because we are afraid. I remember my first martial arts tournament I thought: “Oh my God, I don't think I can do that. This is so big and a lot of people are around me.” I lost because I didn't believe in myself enough. I lost within a few seconds because I didn't see myself win. That's “Bending Reality.” I've been working with Michael for a year and a half- two years now. I remember another band was asking me to sing with them…another famous band actually. It didn't happen and I was really crushed. I didn't believe I didn't get the job. I thought: “Who else are they going to get?” I was thinking about my competition…okay this guy, I know that guy and I was really bummed I called Michael and he said: “It's no big deal something bigger and better’s gonna happen. You'll see.” I asked him “How does he know that?” and he said “You’ll see. I already know it it's out there, wait and see.” Literally a few weeks later I had a bunch of phone calls to do this and to do that, to do this project and to do that project. He said: “You just have to believe.”
TEN- You gotta believe…
TI- If you want to accomplish things in life not only do you have to believe, but you have to feel them. You have to have them in your hand. If you want to be rich okay you got a dollar to pocket. You really believe it and it happens. The universe works in a very interesting way. It's all frequencies and everything and what you start believing in everything then everything lines up correctly. Then at one point everything lines up correctly and then things happen.
TEN- Is there any connection between that and your song “Got To Believe?”
TI- I wrote the song before that but I have always believed in that theory. I just didn't know how to apply it. It's not about just thinking positive because thinking positive is great. I am a Buddhist so I believe in thinking positive. But with Michael it is much deeper than that. It's bending reality. It's your life. It’s you're perception…whatever you see, you can bend that and make it better. It's like you have no money today, a shitty job and an ugly wife…well, we can fix that. Hire an attorney and get rid of the wife! (Busts out laughing)
TEN- Okay, tell me something disturbing about yourself that you never revealed before in an interview.
TI- I think I am a very insecure person.
TI- Yeah. I'm a very, very insecure person. A lot of people don't know that. That's why I go to the extreme and I do things that are very extreme in order to push myself. I do things in the martial arts that I don't believe I can do. I'm scared of the confrontation or because I'm scared of the fight. When I train I trained with the biggest guy possible. I never train with a guy my size, never. I go for 200 pounds and up always. I'm very insecure and that's my biggest problem ‘cause it has stopped me from achieving certain things in life. That's why I'm working with Michael because were all insecure. Michael was like: “Okay, you’re insecure, what's gonna happen if you don't succeed? You're still going to be alive to think you're going to be successful. Think that you are going to succeed.” It's changing my life slowly but it's not easy. We all have issues. Some people do drugs.
TEN- I have known you for years and you have been all over the world and play with big bands. I would've never guessed.
TI- Yea, I'm very insecure. It's okay to be insecure as long as you do something to overcome that. It's not easy, believe me. I remember when Great White called me and said: “You gotta do the gig tomorrow” and I’m like “There’s no way I’m gonna do it. I don't know the songs.” I was freaking out and Michael said to me “Of course you can, you’re gonna do it. You’re gonna be on stage and it is gonna be fine. Just go and see whats gonna happen.” That was a year ago and here I am today…
For exclusive photos of Terry and Great White, please visit the Showing Some Love For TEN gallery.