A Conversation with Land of Gypsies singer Terry Ilous

Terry Ilous has built a strong career while seemingly flying under the radar. A strong, distinctive voice that punctuated albums by XYZ, Great White, and his own solo work. He’s back now with a new band, Land of Gypsies, and their fantastic self-titled debut record.

Please press the PLAY icon below for the MisplacedStraws Conversation with Terry Ilous –

On how Land of Gypsies came together – It was really Mario and Sarafio from Frontiers who actually contacted me and ask me if I wanted to put a band together. I said, “Yeah”. I explained to them my concept of a very organic, I would say organic, not over-produced CD in a 70s vibe, early Foreigner, early Whitesnake, Bad Co., Humble Pie, all that kind of thing. I said, “This is what I wanna do”. They said, “Okay, we have the perfect guy for you, Fabrizio Grossi”. I’ve never met him before, I knew who he was but never really worked with him. We immediately hit it off and we had a great connection. He is a wonderful producer, wonderful human being. I explained to him, I said, “This is my idea, wanna go there?” He said, “Oh, I got you. Because I come from the same background”. Basically, he and I have the same music taste. So it was very easy to get together and work. He was there to produce, I had a bunch of songs written, Serge (Simic, guitar) had a bunch of songs also written, and we combined all those songs together and Fabrizio produced the album, and it was a very easy process. The biggest hurdle we had was during the covid. It was kinda difficult to sometimes get together and things like that, but other than that, it was a very easy and enjoyable process. 1:04

On the history of the songs on Land of GypsiesSome of the songs, I had written a long time ago, actually. For example, (one of the songs) I wrote 10 years ago for someone else. I’m a songwriter, so I write songs for other people. I sent the song to the guy, he liked it a lot, but there was an issue with the label, so we didn’t work together and I kept the song. Some of the other songs I wrote during my time with Great White, actually. I was about to give them the songs, but I never get to that point because things happened. Some of the songs I had to write basically on the spot, especially sometimes you write a song and you listen to it, and say, “You know what? That verse doesn’t do it for me, so I gotta rewrite the verse”. So Fabrizio was very easy to work with because many times I would hear something and say, “I’m not convinced, and if I’m not convinced then they will not be convinced either”. He would say, “Alright, What do you hear?” So again, it was a really painless process to work with Fabrizio and Serge and AJ (Morra, drums) and Eric (Ragno, Keys), a very, very easy process. 3:37

On if he had to convince Frontiers on the style of the record – Well, I don’t know about convincing, but Fabrizio was the mastermind behind that. I was pretty adamant about that, I said, “I will not do an ’80s album like I did back in 1999”. That’s what they want. I totally respect that. I respect Mario and Sarafino, the highest respect for what they’ve been doing all these years. But I’m not gonna do that. So I’d rather say, “Thank you very much, is your money back? Goodbye”. But it never came to that point because I think they trusted Fabrizio and they had a little bit of faith in me. Faith is very important in someone’s life, so they have faith in me and Fabrizio and we delivered an album. They were at first questioning it, I think they were taken by surprise. I don’t think there was any negativity in their answer, they were just surprised because it doesn’t sound like the big backup vocal, like Journey, nothing like that. But he accepted the CD and they sent it to a bunch of people as a test, and I think they got a pretty, pretty good response. So they said, “Well, this is great”. So here we are. 5:39

On if Land of Gypsies has gotten to play together yet – Nope. The process was simple. I would go to the studio, we would set up a click track, and I would set up the pattern for the song. For example, for the song “Shattered” or for the other song “Rescue Me”, I pick up my guitar and play. (Fabrizio) says, “Okay, that’s gonna be the verse. Okay, that’s the pre-chorus”. So we had a pattern and we sing a melody, I didn’t have the lyrics yet, just the chorus. We would have a pattern and then you say, “Okay, where are we gonna put this part, right there, perfect”. Okay, we got the song basically, now let’s send it to Serge in Europe, and let’s send it to Eric who’s in Los Angeles and AJ in Nashville, and I’m gonna send the melody to JK (Northrup) for lyrics. That’s the way it worked, it was really an interesting process. I didn’t expect that at all. The easiest album I ever recorded in my life. I recorded and produced so many alums in my life. This was a very painless process. Actually, it was very fun because Fabrizio being Italian and myself being European as well, so we talk mostly about soccer and food, and we wanted to call the album Prosciutto & Camembert, but we didn’t think Frontiers would go for it. That’s the idea, talk about food, talk about coffee, talk espresso, the best soccer team in the world, “Don’t get me started on the French, fuck you, the English are better, the Italians suck”, “Oh, let’s write a song real quick”. He would say, “Do you have anything?” “Well, I have something on my phone”, and I would just play it. And he would say, “Wow, okay, I like it, or, No, I don’t like it”. 7:13

On if the plan is to tour with Land of Gypsies – Yes. At first, no. At first, I thought, it’s just a good project. But now I realized there’s a very strong potential because a lot of people seem to be liking that CD. I’m realizing that there’s potential because a lot of people ask me, “Are you gonna play those songs live?” I didn’t plan on it, but yes, I’m okay with that. 9:54

On XYZ’s upcoming plans – We have two shows signed up so far, we have the Monsters of Rock in a few weeks, leaving out of Fort Lauderdale, and we have M3 out of Maryland, and we’ve other dates, but they will be concentrating on really seeing the new album. The album is really pretty much ready to go. It’s just a matter of who’s gonna carry the album, who’s gonna basically be selling it, so we just started talking about that. But other than that, the album is ready to go. I’ve written the songs, and Pat (Fontaine) has written the lyrics with me and we’re ready to go. 10:41

On how he became involved with Great White – I knew the guys for a long time, we were on the same roster. I was doing an event, M3 in 2009, XYZ was playing and Great White was playing the same day somewhere else, a different venue, I think about 1000 miles away. Jack (Russell) got ill, and my agent says, “They don’t want to cancel the show, is there any way you can fly after M3 to do another show with Great White?” I said, “I don’t know their songs, I just know titles”. (He said), “It doesn’t matter, just be there to sing something and see what you can do”. I did the show at M3 and I had a plane take me right away to a different city, the same day, the same afternoon actually. I arrived, I did what I could. I had lyrics on the floor. I was looking at Mark (Kendall) saying, “What’s the next line?” I did what I could. I said, “Look, I’m just here to replace, and the singer who is ill, unfortunately, I am by no means the singer”. They said, “Okay”, people accepted that. Then Jack was still ill ad they had some legal issues, which I’m not going to talk about, but I was asked to stay in the band for a few more weeks, which I did to help them tour, nothing else. I remember Obi Steinman, their agent said to me, “Don’t forget you just a Band-Aid, nothing else”. I said, “Alright, I’ll be the Band-Aid”, I did two weeks. After two weeks, Jack was not coming back ’cause he was very ill. They tried a different singer actually. They tried Jani Lane, they tried (Paul) Shortino, they contacted so many singers, but apparently came back to me. Then when Jack and them had an issue, they ask me if I wanted to join the band, and I said, “Yeah, I’ll join the band”. I think people were nervous, promoters and people were surprised somewhere happy, some were very disappointed, of course, and I understand that. Replacing a singer is a very, very difficult thing. So I did what I could, I did it in my way, I did not cheat, meaning I did not try to become a clone. Jack is a friend of mine, so I didn’t try to be his clone at all. In a way (our singing) is similar, but it’s not exactly the same, but the fact that we are both bluesy singers, rock, bluesy singers, was a plus. I did what I could, I respected his singing and the melodies and everything, but give the songs my own twist. After a few months, the fans started to warm up to me and promoters said, “Yeah, it’s working”, and I ended up staying with the band for nine years until I got fired. 12:00

On adjusting from singing his own songs in XYZ to someone else’s songs in Great White – I think you have to realize that you’re just a guest. You have to respect the melodies, you have to respect the songs, and you have to respect the fans, which I did by the way, and you have to respect your previous singer also, which I did as well. I always had a great admiration for my friend Jack, so there was no problem here. Jack and I had a different way of singing. I have a different technique, I use a different technique, I don’t know if people can understand that, but I am more of a chest singer, so I used a lot of power, like a Ronnie Dio, I used that kind of power. Jack has a different way of singing, it is a little bit lighter, it’s beautiful by the way. It’s a different way of singing so I had to adjust to that, which was a bit difficult for the first few shows. So it was a difficult thing at first. I even called a friend of mine who’s a vocal teacher, I said, “How do you place your voice like that?” He explained to me, “It’s back in your throat”. Once I got the technique, I was okay. But also, there’s a thing where replacing a singer is very, very difficult. Some people will never accept you. I totally respect that and understand that. When they try to replace me in XYZ they brought in some great singers, and I remember one of my friends saying, “I’m not doing it because it is suicide”. He was right. It’s very difficult to replace a singer. So you have to adjust and you have to stay humble. You have to remember that you’re just a guest and you have to go by the rules, the band has been established for a long time, they have their own ways of doing things that are not your ways of doing things, and you have to respect that, which I did for nine years. I’ve always respected the fans and the band, and to this day, I had to highest respect for both the fans and the band. I have no animosity. I never thought it was better than anybody else. Things ended up and it is what it is. 16:16

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