February 21, 2008
Terry Ilous “I Am Still Here!”
By Christi Broekemier
Photos by Heidi Horvath
Terry Ilous of XYZ can only be described as kind, passionate, and determined. We spent almost a month on the telephone, e-mailing, and being very candid with one another, so that we could bring the readers of All Access Magazine an inside look at Terry Ilous’ life that very few have seen.
Terry came to this country with nothing and created the hard rock group XYZ in the late ‘80s. Now rising from the ashes like only the strongest of the strong can do, Terry pours every piece of his soul into what he is doing. He has his little girl, music, and martial arts to center him. Realizing that mistakes or even changes in trends of the past can’t be undone or erased from your memory or life, you just pick up and move on. Along with working with the band members of Accomplice, he has his eye on other projects as well, including promoting his latest song, “Got To Believe.” Believing is what Terry has done throughout his life: He has always believed in himself, other people’s word, kindness, and that in the end things will turn out the way they should.
To sum Terry up in a few short words is difficult, but a quote I found pretty much covers what Terry is all about, and what he strives to do and be: Gail Devers said, “Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.”
AAM: You performed with Accomplice at the OC Pavilion after the NAMM show on January 19th, for the All Access after-party concert. Do you find it exciting and stimulating performing with other musicians now?
Terry Ilous: Oh yes. I love to learn from others. Every time I share the stage or co-write with someone I learn something. We all have a different approach and that’s what makes us who we are. I also have an all-star band called Monsters of Classic Rock that features Chris Slade of AC/DC, Greg Douglass of the Steve Miller Band, Mario Cipollina of Huey Lewis and the News, and Carmine Rojas of Bowie/Rod Stewart. I am telling you one thing: Talk about a great learning experience! Those cats are older than I, but boy they rock, and sound amazing. Greg Douglass is like the guitar player I would have loved to be! He is simply terrific. These guys are so humble. I love them!
AAM: Having done so much with AAM over the years, can we look forward to seeing you at future charity events, award shows, or getting another treat seeing you perform again sometime in the near future?
TI: You can always count on me for any charity events! Be it helping the kids or the homeless, I guess it’s because I relate to their causes. Remember, I went from being a rock star living in BH [Beverly Hills] to being homeless living in a car! Yep, that’s right. I am not ashamed to admit it. I fell pretty hard. That is why I don’t like it when someone looks down on the homeless. They have their stories, they have their reasons, and it’s not always related to drugs or alcohol, but many times to depression. I guess if everyone would have healthcare coverage they would be able to seek help when they need it.
AAM: When you were with XYZ back in the day, what was life like at the height of glam rock/heavy metal’s popularity? Guys in bands like you were so idolized that you really lived in world that was an altered reality. How bizarre was it?
TI: Life was purely AMAZING! I was a little kid alone in a candy store! People were always ready to party and have a good time. It was in a way a continuation of the ‘60s – lots of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. For me it was mostly sex! I was never much into drugs so I focused on the latter. But it did not start that way for me. I came to the USA with $500 dollars in my pocket, lots of dreams, and I did not speak English. I only knew French and Spanish. Trying to get signed was very difficult and most bands would not want to deal with me...so I formed a band around myself. Amazingly, it paid off. It was like a dream come true. And as far as being idolized, it was funny and a bit ridiculous sometimes. People were thrilled to have us at their parties and they’d send a limo to pick me up…with inside as a gift a girl more than willing to help me enjoy the ride, if you know what I mean! One guy asked me if I wanted to do his wife, as he was such a fan it was an honor. I think I was a bit overwhelmed by all that. Coming from Europe I was not used to the American lifestyle of “bigger is better" and “let’s impress our neighbors.” Eventually it got to me and that led to serious isolation and then depression. I did not know how to deal with fame, groupies, and all that. I prefer the company of true friends and lovers so that lifestyle was not for me.
AAM: When that time period was winding down and simpler times were rolling in, did you as an individual have to reevaluate, and readjust to the new direction your life was heading yet again?
TI: Yes and no. It caught me off guard, and like many of us, I thought the good times would last forever: money, fame, girls, etc. The record biz was changing a lot and so was the mood. People went from being happy to depressed when bands like Nirvana showed up. The miniskirts with no underwear – my favorite – gave way to the flannel shirts and hiking boots…icky, horrible. The labels got rid of all rock and hard rock bands so we all lost our deals, and the money was gone. I was not ready for that and it was a shock. At the same time I was dealing with depression and the loss of income, fame and everything else that came with it. I lost my home, my girl, and my self-confidence. For a very long time I was very suicidal and it’s amazing that I pulled through. I guess I believed I could still make a comeback but did not know how. It is amazing that I am still here today. I got myself a job at a bar. Talk about humility! I went from being a rock star to being a dish washer. Yep, that is right. And every night I had to close out the place and clean toilets too. You know, I always say, “Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain.” And in my case it was pouring. But I made it through, I am here today!
AAM: Besides your family, what takes up most of your time these days? Do you do any producing or other industry activities besides performing?
TI: Yes, a lot. I write music all the time. I make sure to spend anywhere between 8 to 10 hours per day writing or producing. I write themes for TV and films. I still do voiceover jingles. Last year I scored 2 major gigs so my voice was everywhere. Music is my passion and the way I make my living. It’s not always easy and sometimes times are rough too. Many times! But every time I score something I feel like I hit the jackpot. I have passion and passion is everything in life.
AAM: You are not the average musician or person. We see men like Bono and Bob Geldof using their fame to make the world a better place, and you have done things like that yourself. Do you plan to do more in that direction to better the world’s condition?
TI: Thank you. I am flattered and honored. I would like to help orphaned kids. It’s so sad to see all those abandoned children who will grow up without the love of a mommy and daddy. Unfortunately, it’s very expensive to adopt a child, so fewer people can adopt. All the red tape of agencies, regulations, and laws makes it so that it is very complicated. I guess they also want to protect the little ones, but still it’s too expensive to adopt, and that needs to change. I recently adopted a little girl from China, and oh my God, she is the love of my life! Only a parent can understand. Nothing in my life, not even being a rock star, brought me the same joy and happiness. All she has to do is say, “Papa!” and suddenly I feel like I am Superman, which is an amazing feeling. I am changing her path in life, and she is changing mine as well.
AAM: What do find enjoyable? And most tedious?
TI: Enjoyable: Martial arts. I love to practice, even if the next day I am so sore! Oh man, those bones are getting tired, ha! Fun also would be to take my daughter to the park, something I do about 4 times a week. I love it. Tedious: Learning new music software. I suck at it, but like my music associates tell me, "It’s part of what we do for a living, music, so we have to learn how to use the software.” But boy, I am slow!
AAM: What would you like to do that you haven’t already done?
TI: I would like to become a better man – a better father and a better husband. I had to sacrifice relationships because of my lifestyle; it brought my marriages to an end a few times. I am always on the road or working here at the studio. And I understand that being married to me or being with me is not always fun for the other person. Maybe it’s because I don’t think I have achieved all I wanted to, all I dreamed of. I am still like a kid although I am older. It’s not over yet, and that is the problem!
AAM: How do you divide your time between working in the music industry and your daughter and other personal relationships?
TI: I spend too much time doing music and not enough taking care of my wife and daughter. That’s why I lost some of my best relationships. It’s very sad, but the love of music and the desire to succeed have taken over me. As I have said, I’m learning how to become a better man, so since my daughter Lily has arrived I’m spending more time with her. I have realized that my life needed many changes.
AAM: You are in martial arts; would you consider putting your daughter into some form of martial arts when she gets a bit older?
TI: Are you kidding, she’s already learning front kicks and back kicks! No kidding, of course I would. It’s a tough world out there, especially for a little girl. I have already spoken to my teachers Shian Dai Vince Cecere and Grand Master Leo; in a few years she will be able to join my dojo. I think martial arts teaches you discipline and respect. And respect is EVERYTHING in life, respect of ourselves and respect of others. Because of my love and devotion for martial arts I was able to stay focused, and it is a way to stay away from drugs. Even now when I don’t feel good, going to my dojo and talking to my teacher helps me. I guess it’s a form of therapy. You know, before Lily Melody (that’s my little girl’s name) came into my life, my whole world centered around me. ME ME ME! I lost few loved ones because of that. I was too selfish. Now I’m no longer #1, she is #1. I have to think about building a better future for her and the people around me. By helping her I am helping myself. Does it make sense?
AAM: Yes. Where do you expect to be in the next four or five years with your career?
TI: Wow, that’s a good question, and a scary one too! I don’t know where I will be. Frankly, I am hoping to still do music. But now the baby is here and depends on me, so I think I will be more focused than ever before. But more focused does not mean more selfish, it means that I will get better results! I’m releasing a new single called "Got To Believe" and working on my Spanish CD, “Sigo Aqui.” The English translation is, "I’m Still Here." I’m sure I will get some good results out of it. And I love that sentence “I am still here”! It was the last scene of the movie “Papillon” with Steve McQueen, when he escaped off that island after being a prisoner for 30 years. He’s on a little boat that he has built with few branches and some coconuts, and finds himself in the middle of the ocean, miles away from any civilization. And although one would believe the odds of making it are not that good, he still has hope and he believes. And that’s me! That’s what I am! That’s right! “I am still here, you bastards!”
AAM thanks Terry Ilous for being so generous with his time and sharing so much with us and his fans. We wish him the best in his many endeavors. Find out the latest on Terry’s multiple music projects at www.terryilous.com.
Story and Interview by Christi Broekemier
Photos by Heidi Horvath