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Interview with Michael T. Ross

Michael T. Ross (Angel, Hardline, Accomplice) and more!
Keyboards, Angel, Hardline, Accomplice

Michael T. Ross

Interviewed by Brian Rademacher
Date: May 2008

Michael T. Ross: Hey what’s going on Brian, thanks for calling.

Brian Rademacher: No problem glad you agreed to the interview.

Michael T. Ross: Thanks. I play in New Jersey every once in a while, but do spend most of my time here in Los Angeles.

Brian Rademacher: Tell me a little about your childhood and upbringing?

Michael T. Ross: I have an older brother, six years older then me who started taking piano lessons and then started a magazine. I followed along with all his endeavors. As he got more serious with the magazine and the music business, I continued on with the goal of getting on stage and performing. It worked out well for both of us. All that work we did as children playing music and working in the music biz is exactly what we still do today.

Brian Rademacher: You both went to Scripps College for Music?

Michael T. Ross: Yeah that’s where we studied with a music professor for ten years. After we stopped studying there, we joined the professional world. I did continue my studies with DIXIE DREGS keyboardist T Lavitz and after that with Derek Sherinian from Billy Idol/DREAM THEATER.

Brian Rademacher: When you worked with your brother Shael at Mean Street Magazine doing interviews and stuff what was your position.

Michael T. Ross: I stayed with the magazine for five years and then my music career took off. So I stayed working part-time. I did many tasks from bringing in advertising to doing interviews to cleaning the fish tank.

Brian Rademacher: The first interview you did was it by e-mail, phone or in-person?

Michael T. Ross: The first one was by phone with Mike Varney of Shrapnel records. It was interesting to pick a record company owner as my first one, but because I was such a big fan of his work, I went for it. In the mid to late eighties Mike was such an innovator of progressive rock. I thought it was important at the time to help promote his artists. I did interviews of various artists on his label once a month from Tony McAlpine, Marty Friedman, to Billy Sheehan, Yngwie and Paul Gilbert.

Brian Rademacher: How does it feel being on the other side of the spectrum from interviewer to interviewee?

Michael T. Ross: Well it gave me a different perspective, but that experience was over ten years ago. Things have changed; you can ask things now that were considered inappropriate fifteen years ago to ask. Today you can ask how was your show and how much money did you make, when fifteen years ago you wouldn’t ask that question, but today you can. Now working as a full time musician looking back it’s a whole new situation.

Brian Rademacher: : I understand that, our site basically has no censorship. We have the right to ask what we want and you have the right not to answer it. So we did our second interview with this artist called THE GREAT KAT. She’s a pretty wild girl and back in the day she was on covers of magazine and things like that, she’s pretty out there. Her answers are stunning. I asked her since you dress so provocatively with a G-string and like a bathing suit top; I asked her would you ever think about posing naked. Her answer was would you ever think about bending over and let me sticking my heal in your ass. (Michael laughing). People loved it because it was entertaining.

Michael T. Ross: Sure you never know if the interviewee is just saying things to get a reaction or if they are talking about something that the fans really love. Yeah when I did our interviews we stayed to the technical side and informative question, but I sure did want to ask some funny questions, but tended to leave them out. (Michael laughing).

Brian Rademacher: What was the first band you played in?

Michael T. Ross: Right out of high school, I joined a band called RO who were based near Los Angeles, which included bassist Doug McRoy from the famed band BOOGIE KNIGHTS and played on Jeff Scott Soto’s Prism record. We basically were not that serious but I got to play the L.A. Strip at an early age. I really did not shop myself until my mid twenties. I was playing with Shrapnel artist Joey Tafolla who had Paul Gilbert and Tony McAlpine play on his debut solo record. As time went on, I wasn’t sure if I was going to play AOR melodic rock with vocals, or instrumental shred music. I never knew how good I was going to be with just instrumental music. I knew I had to also be a performer and entertain the crowds and decided that I wanted to work with good vocalists if I’m going to sell records. I knew by then I wanted to play more melodic rock and more radio oriented music.

Brian Rademacher: Did you get into the glam era at all?

Michael T. Ross: : Because of keyboards it took my playing into styles like DEPECHE MODE, SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES, THE PIXIES and music like that. I got signed to Paisley Park when I was twenty-six on Prince’s label with a band called THREE O’CLOCK who were apart of the glam scene back then. At the age of thirty, I started to get into more glam rock like HANOI ROCKS, MURDERDOLLS and NEW YORK DOLLS.

Brian Rademacher: When did you join ACCOMPLICE?

Michael T. Ross: I started with ACCOMPLICE from Orange County in 2000. It wasn’t until I was introduced to Johnny Gioeli and brought him to the project where things started to really take off. The band did have a first record out on Adrenaline records in Italy. The music was more progressive rock in the style of QUEENSRYCHE and DREAM THEATER. Even when I wanted to go in the direction of melodic rock, I played a lot of progressive rock. When I joined ACCOMPLICE, we decided to switch to melodic rock and in 2001, we brought Johny into the project to sing for us, during the time I joined HARDLINE.

Brian Rademacher: When you joined HARDLINE and ANGEL did you have to audition for them?

Michael T. Ross: For HARDLINE, I went to Johnny’s house and played the piano for him, which was like an audition. (Laughing). I did not have to audition for ANGEL l. I got a call from their tour manager Danny Stanton from New York and got the gig. After that, I remember going to a music store here in L.A. frantically looking for ANGEL CD’s a week before my first show with the group. It was a challenge.

Brian Rademacher: What was the first song you learned to play with ANGEL?

Michael T. Ross: “The Tower”.

Brian Rademacher: That’s a friggin great song.ANGEL’s working on new material now right?

Michael T. Ross: Yes we are. We are just about finished writing all the material. There is almost enough for an album now. Guitar player Steve Blaze and Frank were in New Orleans and wrote four or five songs, while Barry Brandt and I worked in a Burbank studio and wrote a handful of songs too. Barry and I worked one on one for about two years. Steve and Frank’s tunes are more on the heavier side than what Barry and I wrote. Frank wrote the lyrics with some contribution from Barry.

Brian Rademacher: Will it be out this year?

Michael T. Ross: I sure hope so. We do have some labels that are very interested in working with us to get a new release out.

Brian Rademacher: Can you give me any titles?

Michael T. Ross: We do have some working titles. “The Fortress”, “The Chosen”, and “Falling” which is a very heavy dark moody melodic tune.

Brian Rademacher: Is the new ANGEL album heavily oriented keyboards as in the past?

Michael T. Ross: I would say there are many heavy keyboard parts in the new material. I’ve been told there are many PINK FLOYD type moments. There’s an old ANGEL influence that comes out for sure. I wrote a lot of the material with influences like DEEP PURPLE and YES. This will definitely be a keyboard influenced recording.

Brian Rademacher: Have you heard anything from Gregg Giuffria?

Michael T. Ross: We have not been in contact with each other but it would be nice one day to talk, as I’m a big fan.

Brian Rademacher: Have you heard anything from Punky Meadows?

Michael T. Ross: From what we understand Punky does still play but is not involved with us. He has been approached in the past to do some special guest stuff. I wouldn’t rule it out.

Brian Rademacher: How was it working with LIZZY BORDEN?

Michael T. Ross: It was great especially working with the other band members Ira Black and Martin Andersson, which is where the relationship started. Lizzy loves ANGEL and he and Martin came to the last ANGEL show in Hollywood. They asked if I would play keys on their new release “Appointment with Death”. I said yes and they came over to my studio and we started tracking. We did it pretty quick in a two or three week period.

Brian Rademacher: How was it working with Bobby Rock?

Michael T. Ross: Bobby is awesome; I worked with him in 2002 with HARDLINE. The last I saw him he was rehearsing at Third Encore in Burbank. Bobby has such a busy schedule, doing shows with SLAUGHTER and doing clinics. I really wanted to work with him more but he was always on the run. As a keyboardist I would like to do instructional stuff like Bobby does with his instructional drum clinics. It would be an honor to work with him again someday.

Brian Rademacher: Tell me about your standing up for animal rights?

Michael T. Ross: I love them and even promote my cat on my site. Where I live, I’m surrounded by dog lovers all around but prefer cats more. ACCOMPLICE was on a TV show “Focus in the Mix” with Denise Ames and she’s into animal rights. She really has influenced me this last year to get more involved with the spading and curb all these animal problems here in L.A. There are animals running around all over here. There is like 50 cats living under the Hollywood sign here, it’s kind of scares you. I love cats but not when their wild like that. I have a lot of friends that are animal activists.

Brian Rademacher: Was there anyone that you worked with that you were star struck over?

Michael T. Ross: Yes ZAKK WYLDE, when we were working on keyboardist Derek Sherinian’s solo record. I got to work with Zakk, and at that time Dolores Rhoads gave him one of Randy Rhoads’ guitar. He brought it over to the studio and we were all in awe of seeing Zakk playing it. I am a big fan of Randy Rhoads and Gary Moore.

Brian Rademacher: I do have one collectable of Randy’s, A company called Knucklebonz put out a limited edition Statue of Randy, I got one of those that I think is numbered, it’s still in the box. They are all sold out.

Can you tell us about Markonee?

Michael T. Ross: They are a rock group out of Italy. It’s one of the many projects I’ve done in that region. They opened up for a lot of major acts this past year and got a new singer. They have a new record coming out soon and I’m playing keys on it and maybe live shows in the near future.

Brian Rademacher: Give us an example of an artist you are working with right now in Los Angeles?

Michael T. Ross: I’m also working with Taka Minamino, who just recently won a Guitar Player Magazine ‘guitar competition’ in San Francisco. We are tracking right now finishing up his debut solo record, which features Kevin Jones (RATTLEFACE) on vocals and also Jeff Bowders (Paul Gilbert) on drums. The music is very neo-classical rock style with lots of shred.

Brian Rademacher: Do you feel a keyboard player is more versatile then a vocalist?

Michael T. Ross: Well keyboard players in general are a little bit different then anybody else in the group. We are not mic’d, we can provide more variety of different sounds then a guitar or bass. We tend to do different tasks like trigging sounds and sampling music, while we are playing our keyboard parts. Most vocalists who can sing blues, rock, and ballads, do it very well, but a keyboardist may come from a classical background and have a different style that he is good at. So, as far as musical styles, it’s all in your own preference.

Brian Rademacher: What do you think of Eric Ragno?

Michael T. Ross: I do know Eric and it’s nice that we have some cool nice hearted musicians out there that are good people. He lives in Los Angeles near me. Being another keyboardist it good to have mutual respect for each other. Eric is a good example of that, especial when we work with the same artists like Josh Ramos. Eric and I were just recently together hanging out at a popular Italian restaurant called Miceli’s and I played the grand piano for him. Good times.

Brian Rademacher: Would you like to talk about anything thing else I missed?

Michael T. Ross: I wanted to talk about our latest release by ACCOMPLICEcalled “She’s On Fire” that we’re promoting right now, we recorded at Simon Phillips and Derek Sherinian’s studio. Our guitar player Sean Clegg is writing material for the new record now. We have approached John West (ex- ROYAL HUNT) to sing on the new release not titled yet. It would be an honor to have him record with us. I’m also playing keys with Jonny Sculls, a vocalist/guitarist from Hollywood who has an awesome new release coming out.

Brian Rademacher: Michael It’s been great talking with you would you like to say anything in conclusion or give any plugs to different projects and friends?

Michael T. Ross: I would like to thank you guys for giving me the opportunity to tell my stories and thanks for helping out and supporting the rock industry. Come check my MySpace out . Thanks a million and rock on!!!


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