August 2011 (live broadcast via phone, Roman Midnight Music Podcast Episode #26)
Question: What do the following bands have in common - Lizzy Borden, Missing Persons, Lita Ford, Tommy Tutone, Michael Schenker Group, Steve Vai, Derek Sherinian of Dream Theater & Las Vegas's Raiding The Rock Vault show? Answer: They all share rock keyboardist Michael T. Ross as a member, guest or touring band member. What more needs to be said of one of the more in demand rock keyboardists on the West Coast whose name might not be household, but amongst his peers his resume grows longer by the year. He is currently performing in Vegas with the Raiding The Rock Vault show.
I interviewed Michael as one of my special guests for the month long first anniversary celebration of my Roman Midnight Music podcast. Other guests were Sophie B. Hawkins & frontman Charles Canedo of NYC band Tired Wings. Technical difficulties meant I was unable to get Michael on the air when he called in, so I gave an extra detailed opening while fixing the problem which is mentioned at the beginning of the interview. I connected up in Michael in an uncanny way deserving re-telling. I was starting my work day & picked up a random CD to listen to which happened to be Lita Ford, out of literal 100 CDs on my desk. Getting on e-mail there's a letter from her keyboardist, Michael, who had heard about my show through an interview I'd done with Lizzy Borden's ex-guitarist Chris Sanders. It was a small coincidence. I then researched Michael's bio, finding he was with Missing Persons with Terry Bozzio. That day I'm walking down the sidewalk in NYC & see a t-shirt in front of me featuring a supergroup with Bozzio's name on it. This is not a name I see regularly. Second coincidence. Later Michael sent me an e-mail of his work which includes working with a Croatian musician. My then housemate was a pianist who had recently started learning Croatian music, which I didn't know until I mentioned the e-mail from Michael. Next coincidence. While I had also gotten at this time an e-mail from a Croatian guitarist who supposedly was the only Croatian to appear on MTV & looking for a review. Croatia? Of all countries! The last coincidence but it was too many to not notice. As for the doubters ... no, I'm not a diehard Lita fan always listening to her music. I hadn't listened to an album by hers in a year at least. While of all the musicians in the world to email me & for me to see it at that moment is rather small it would be a Lita alumni. Let's just say I knew Michael & I had to talk.
* * * * *
AJ: Thank you so much for joining me & I hope my introduction at least covered the main points of your resume.
MICHAEL: I appreciate that so much, going over the different things that I do.
AJ: Did I miss anything?
MICHAEL: I think you were pretty detailed there. I do work with a lot of artists. It gets confusing to me sometimes.
AJ: You've worked with so many people, but let's start with what you're doing right now. You're about to go on the road with Lita Ford.
MICHAEL: Right now, I just got back from the Musician's Institute here in Hollywood. I performed all day today. It's a live workshop program with guitarist Ken Steiger. I always participate there, because I really like to play with the kids. They're our next generation of metalheads. A lot of times they don't get the opportunity to see a rock keyboard player coming in there & playing. We played "Mr. Crowley" [by Ozzy Osbourne] today. You know, it's back to the basics & the rock'n'roll that we grew up on. I just love giving back to the kids. Ken is actually a 14 year instructor there. I work with him & he brings me to the school, so today was actually a really nice day for me. It was a day to give back to the kids. But, yeah, I'm here in L.A. right now. I live in Las Vegas. I come back & forth. I'm visiting friends here & doing this gig. I fly out early next week for Lita's shows. We're all over the place.
AJ: You said something now that I was thinking about today. You said you're playing with the next generation. I guess we should mention that Jani Lane [of WARRANT] passed away today.
MICHAEL: Yes, what a loss for us.
AJ: Absolutely. You & I grew up on his music. I realized we've lost a lot of great musicians, like Ronnie James Dio, while others are getting older & not performing as much. Being that you work with youth, would you comment on how you see the future of rock'n'roll, heavy metal & the music you play?
MICHAEL: Things are moving so fast & there's so many different styles out there, they're inter-changing with each other. It's not that music is territorial, but we had Seattle rock & then Orange County. I'm really into a lot of the European rock music that has bled into the American market & that are doing very well for themselves. I think Finland is a really great breeding ground for new & up-comers. Look, I grew up listening to the greats. I just recently saw a DEEP PURPLE concert & watching Ian Gillan up there & Roger Glover & seeing them still do it today. I'm in my early 40's so I didn't really get to catch those shows back in the day, you know. So, it's great to see them come back. I recently saw Ted Nugent. That's the advantage of being in L.A. & Vegas. They come through here in time & you get to see your idols. But, at the same time, I'm living in today's market & I'm out to sell tickets, CD's & all that stuff, & you gotta be in tune to what the kids are doing today, because they're influencing what we all listen to in general. So, I don't know. I don't have an answer for that really or an opinion about it. I don't know. It just all kinda comes together. You play with the kids during the day & at night you watch Ian Gillan, you know. He's still going for it.
AJ: Basically, just worrying about the present, worrying about selling tickets & looking forward to what the kids are going to see tomorrow, right?
MICHAEL: Absolutely, but I think, maybe, the influence of the children & then growing up & being musicians themselves & then you have situations like Darrell Dimebag getting shot. The kids have to deal with that, because they are in love with him still. Even today we pay homage to Randy Rhoads. 17 year old kids are learning his leads. It's awesome. But, what does the future hold for them? Jani Lane passed. A lot of these kids know who QUIET RIOT is. They know Kevin DuBrow passed on drugs or whatever it was.
AJ: Another one.
MICHAEL: Another one. Things can look bleak, but at the same time, they make their own choices & hopefully they do good for themselves & we keep rock'n'roll going. We don't want to lose these guys. We don't want to lose the music they left for us. Jani Lane got my attention, amongst many other bands back in the day, because of his lyrics, & I'm not even a lyricist. I like playing instrumental music. I like shredding. But, once in awhile there's a band that has these lyrics that really stick with me & he's definitely one of them. There's a couple songs it's like wow, this is magic this guy speaking. It's great.
AJ: That's a good answer, Michael. I threw you a tough question. Obviously we're doing this on the day the news went out about him & it was going to come up, I'm sure, somehow.
MICHAEL: Of course, absolutely, Aaron, & to pay homage to Ronnie James Dio, as well. That threw us all back & we all have to pay our respects. That's why I'm doing rock'n'roll - to keep it alive. We've all got to get together. You're doing it. You're taking tonight out to talk to me. Everybody getting together to do their little part & it makes one big rock'n'roll world that we live in, that we need. I need it. I know you're addicted to it, too.
AJ: I wouldn't do this otherwise.
Michael: Yeah, we're addicted to music.
AJ: Michael, I actually have someone on the line whose been waiting very patiently. Hello, you're on the air.
CALLER (KADDIE): Hi, Aaron. Can you hear me?
AJ: I can & this is the voice, Michael, of a Miss Kaddie Champion.
KADDIE: That's right.
AJ: I appreciate you calling up & I know you're a supporter. You are actually a ticket holder of a forthcoming Lita Ford performance.
AJ: So, we have someone on the line who is going to be seeing you very very soon.
MICHAEL: That's awesome.
AJ: Kaddie, what would you like to share with Michael?
KADDIE: Yes, there were some technical problems. I couldn't log into the chatroom & I actually had 31 people call my house tonight that had the same problem.
KADDIE: So, I just want you to know.
MICHAEL: I was one of them. I was having trouble getting through, too.
AJ: It's out of my hands.
KADDIE: I know. It's the system. I'm trying so hard to listen to Michael T. Ross because I just love him & he's just a superstar. I just wanted to pass that along to you & let you know.
MICHAEL: I want to mention this, we all have technical difficulties. Even down to ... playing today I did "Mr. Crowley" & I used a pedal. These things have a mind of their own. It was acting like a hold pedal, so when I was playing everything was blending together. I had to pull this thing out. I kinda choked for a second. You know, it happens.
KADDIE: Right, exactly. But, I just wanted you to know that you have a lot more supporters than you see in the chatroom.
MICHAEL: Great, thank you.
KADDIE: No problem. I'm just super excited. I'm super excited that I get to see you next weekend. I was at M3 Rock Festival & you performed. Michael is just a brilliance. He's just a genius. I'm just super excited. I would like to know ... this is a private joke, but when are you going to pick my trash up? But, really, when did you first get interested, I know you've performed all different kinds of venues, but when did you first get interested in the rock scene?
MICHAEL: I have an older brother & I just basically followed his footsteps. My mom bought a piano. I was 7 years old & for one year I just picked at my brother wanting to play, too. Finally my mom gave in. I continued to play on. So, my brother is 6 years older & was already in rock bands. So, by the time I was in junior high I used my brother's keyboards & I was playing in bands that were older than me, because they were my brother's friends. So, I got an early start & being in the L.A. area I had the resources to support it. It wasn't far-fetched to say I want to play music for a living.
MICHAEL: So, I had opportunities. I just went for you. I just took every opportunity that I could. I just wanted to play. I started as a piano player & it turned into keyboards. I like playing other styles as well, but as I got older my love for AOR music & melodic rock, JOURNEY & you know all that stuff that we all love. I just found myself wanting to be just a keyboard player that's out there rocking out &, you know, enjoying music.
MICHAEL: You know, to meet so many people & to make so many great things happen out of that it's gone so much further than I ever would have imagined. You know, I kept my day job for a long time & everybody around me is like "You're ridiculous." It's like that threshold in your life. You leave your day job & your comfort zone & go do this. Or, are you going to screw your life up because you have something good now. You're solid. You've got your apartment or your house, you've got your car. All that goes out the window once you sell your soul to rock'n'roll, I think. Touring & stuff I don't see my cat that often. My little boy is on the screensaver of my phone. I stare at him.
KADDIE: Your cat's name is Lynot?
MICHAEL: Yeah, why not? Because, I love THIN LIZZY, like I'm sure you both do. I named him after Phil. Yeah, so, it just came about because of my environment & everybody supported me along the way & I like to stay busy & just keep rolling with the punches. I started playing on as many records as I can & try to do as many gigs as I can & keep that going.
KADDIE: Who is your favorite artist that you've performed with?
MICHAEL: Well, I have different meanings to certain people. Like Alen Brentini [a guitarist in Croatia]. It means the world to me to go on the other side of the world & perform with such great talent.
KADDIE: Yeah, he's awesome.
MICHAEL: We're in the middle of a new record & have a video out called "Voice Like An Angel". It's a single that we did. When I was out in December we recorded it.
KADDIE: That brings tears to my eyes.
MICHAEL: Really? Great. Thank you. It's a ballad, yes. Like the world needs another ballad, but we felt it. Then on the other hand I have my idols that I grew up watching live & listening to. Getting to work with them means a lot to me. It's on all different scales. I mean, I've played with TOMMY TUTONE & we've obviously been listening to "867-5309/Jenny". That song reminds me of an old girlfriend in high school. So, [lead singer] Tommy Heath means a lot to me when I jam with him on that song because it reminds me of the past. Then you have Lita. Around 1989 she was the supporting act for Yngwie Malmsteen on tour & he was really in his prime & I was liking his music a lot. She opened up & wow. I was going there thinking Yngwie, but my mind was settling in on Lita & thinking it would be so awesome to play for women of rock. I love supporting women & especially in the music business. It's rad, to me. So, getting to play with Lita & then Dale Bozzio [of MISSING PERSIONS]. I grew up listening to the MISSING PERSONS songs & all those synthesizers & New Wave. Like she's the queen of New Wave. Dale Bozzio has even commented on Lady Gaga today, saying "Kinda reminds me of me 25 years ago." It means a lot to me to play with her. So, it's in all different levels, but I get a lot of love out of each one of them, really.
KADDIE: Wow, that's awesome.
AJ: Kaddie, I have someone else on the line, so I have got to let you go. But, I want to ask you a quick question first. Is there a song that you want to hear Lita & company do? Is there a favorite song from them? & maybe it might make it to the set list?
KADDIE: Not really. "Kiss Me Deadly". My favorites are really with Michael like with HARD LINE & with Alen Brentini. I'm going to see Lita, but specifically to see Michael T. Ross, because he's just a superstar. That's the main reason I'm going. I've got about 20 friends that are going with me. He's my main reason. I mean, he's just a super talent. He's just amazing.
MICHAEL: I appreciate that very much. We're going to put on an amazing show for you. Lita is all fired up. She's just ready to rock, I'm telling you. It's gonna be nice. Oh, you & I have one little connection here you haven't mentioned to everybody, right? You even followed up on me.
KADDIE: That you're my trashman?
MICHAEL: I own the dumptruck & pick up your trash. What is it, on Tuesdays or Thursdays?
KADDIE: Thursday. You forgot & haven't picked it up in a few weeks.
MICHAEL: The MTR dumptruck is going to pick up your trash, remember that?
KADDIE: I never forget. Did you get the picture that I sent you by e-mail?
MICHAEL: I sure did. We met on facebook ...
KADDIE: I sent a picture of my dumptruck & I did artwork on it & did Michael T. Ross dumptruck & put "Outside of 77 Shred Street."
MICHAEL: Let me say real quick, when we first met I offered her my services because I have an MTR dumptruck that can come pick your trash up on Thursdays. She e-mailed me the following Thursday & said "I didn't see you. Where's your truck?" Anyways, I wanted to throw that in there. Thank you.
KADDIE: You're awesome, Michael.
MICHAEL: I'll see you soon.
AJ: I'm going to let you go & bring on our other caller now. I appreciate you calling.
KADDIE: Can't wait to see you, Michael.
MICHAEL: Me, too.
AJ: Thanks. Alright, we have a caller online. I apologize for keeping them waiting, but welcome to the show.
CALLER (STEPHANIE): Hello. Hi, I'm Stephanie. How are you?
AJ: Hi, Stephanie.
STEPHANIE: Hi, Michael T. Ross.
MICHAEL: Hello. Thanks for calling in to the show.
STEPHANIE: Thanks. Also, awesome that you mentioned Jani Lane & your thoughts on that. Let's hope that future musicians are in it for the right reasons. Michael, I never technically met you, but you were performing on the east coast & staying at a hotel I was. Actually, I found Michael T. Ross through his piano playing & I was quite compelled by this man with curly dark hair & green eyes playing like all this classical music. It was like wow. I don't know if I remember me, Michael, but I talked to you & you told me you were in Lita Ford. I thought you were amazing. So, I kept in touch with you on facebook. I don't know if you recall that?
MICHAEL: I don't, but I appreciate that.
STEPHANIE: I just called in to say I love Lita Ford & you're amazing. I would equate you to Jonathan Cain from JOURNEY. You have so much talent the world has yet to know, really. I didn't have much chance to talk to you, but did you have classical training?
MICHAEL: Yes, I did, for the first 10 years, with my brother. My mother wouldn't let us have a synthesizer until we were very well into the classical music program. & each summer I would go to a music summer camp & continue studying. I had a private teacher who taught me so much. Bless her. She recently passed. I lost touch with my piano teacher for so many years. It was a weird situation, because her husband was like sabotaging our relationship, because as I grew older he didn't want me around. So, it was sad for me, because when I finally start to get to the point of my playing where it was sounding good she got cut out of my life. So, my piano teacher, Caroline, she had to deal with all the ups & downs of my playing & when it finally came together I couldn't share it with her. Her husband always kept her away from her. Finally, about a year & a half ago she contacted me & said he said it's okay now because she was dying of cancer. I wrote a song for her & immediately went over to Newport Beach & played it for her. It meant a lot to me to do that. I just recently lost my mother a few months ago. My mom really believed in me & my playing. She said that when she was a young child she had a dream that she had a son who played classical piano.
STEPHANIE: I'm sorry for your losses.
MICHAEL: So I carry on & classical music means a lot to me. It represents all that I talked about.
STEPHANIE: That's a big reason that I called in, because when I saw you at that piano bar you were playing classical & when I heard Lita Ford I went "Wait, how does a guy who is amazing at classical end up in a rock band?" I think you were playing "Love Story" or something like that. I was just blown away by you.
MICHAEL: Thank you.
STEPHANIE: I know you're in the rock world, but I really hope to see you do lots of things. I think in time I could see you putting out a solo album, just for you. I really wish that for you with all your other successes. I think you deserve a lot more acclaim than just that. I actually got to witness that in the lobby.
MICHAEL: Thank you so much.
STEPHANIE: & you're actually a real gentleman. I gotta say you're really friendly to everyone. I'm glad I was able to connect with you here. I just don't know if the rest of the world knows what I saw that day. Here's this long haired rocker & he plays classical music. You're one of the few, Michael, & I just want to wish you the best & God bless.
MICHAEL: I appreciate that very much.
AJ: Thank you for calling, Stephanie, & sharing.
STEPHANIE: Thank you for allowing me to talk to Michael.
AJ: My pleasure. I'm glad to have him here & be able to talk to his fans. Thanks for holding on so long to share your thoughts.
MICHAEL: Bye & thank you. Please come out to one of the shows.
STEPHANIE: I will, I will. I promise. Bye.
AJ: Michael, I know it's always nice to hear from the people who are in the audience listening to you. I want to pick up with something Stephanie touched upon. What does Michael T. Ross want to do in the future? You've played in reunited bands, you've done little projects here & there, you've guested ... what is your heart really looking forward to doing someday?
MICHAEL: Having an animal rescue unit & saving cats & dogs all over the county whereever I live.
AJ: Okay, I didn't expect that answer, but that's a great answer.
MICHAEL: That's what I really want to be doing.
AJ: I love the answer.
MICHAEL: That's really what I want to do.
AJ: Any involvement with music?
MICHAEL: I'll play them my music as I'm adopting them. Anyways, it's a good question. It's hard for me to answer in one shot here. It's my life, you know. On a real basic sense, I've been doing this for many years & I'm constantly having to work & keep getting these gigs & keep going with it & feed myself. If my fingers don't play today I don't eat today, you know. It's a job. It's my life. It's my livelihood & I gotta do that. I love rock'n'roll. I love DEEP PURPLE. I love KANSAS. I love all that & I play it. I found that as I grew older there was a need, there was a void there. I couldn't stand going to a club & hearing "Easy Livin'" without keys. It was driving me nuts. Or "Rainbow In The Dark" & there's no keys. Like somebody get up there & do it or somebody learn a few riffs. Somebody has got to do this. There's too many of the other positions. We need to fill this spot. So I felt this crusade for rock keyboards. It's something I've grown to believe in. We hear it all. You can hear keys & everything, but when you go to a club all night often times you don't see a rock keyboardist up there shredding with the guitar player. I'm not saying doing the [guitarist] K.K. Downing thing like JUDAS PRIEST, but not sitting in a corner hiding behind a curtain & nobody even remembers you. Nobody remembers a darn thing that you did. The last thing I want to do is play a kick-ass show, get off stage & they didn't even know I was playing. "So, what are you doing tonight? What are you up to?" "Dude, I just played." I want them to remember me. So, there's a whole other character side to the rock keyboard position that I get to incorporate & that's me. I'm kinda goofy & I have Hello Kitty stuff on stage & I have leopard crap & I wear platform shoes. I have scarfs everywhere. I tie my keyboard with scarfs. You know anything goes. There's no rules for rock keyboardists.
AJ: It's interesting you'd say that, Michael, because, & this isn't a personal thing to you in the least, I know when I go to a show & I'm looking at all of the musicians up there. I see a keyboardist whose way in the corner or up by the drum riser, basically out of sight. I know you've worked with Derek Sherinian [formerly of DREAM THEATER & Alice Cooper], who at one point was with KISS behind the amps echoing all the lead guitar lines & singing back-up vocals. But, nobody saw him.
MICHAEL: Right, right.
AJ: The keyboardist, for me, in a rock band is like the most unglamorous instrument it seems like. You're stuck behind this thing that doesn't move, you're in the corner & as you said you walk off stage & people don't know you. That's how I'm often seeing your instrument.
MICHAEL: Exactly. I wouldn't have signed up for this if I was in those predicaments.
AJ: I'm curious, how does that effect you as a keyboardist knowing that sometimes your lines might be lost under the guitars or someone might say they want you up in the corner. Just in general, as a piano player, what's the psychological end of it?
MICHAEL: I fight every night for my levels. The house guy is my best friend. For Lita for a certain leg of the tours we were using George Marshall, whose the house guy for TWISTED SISTER. As we were on the road, at the hotel I would go over the set list with him & say "Look, on the fourth song I'm going to bring in these really raunchy organs & I really want that to pop." So, you work with them & as you go on the road they take care of your levels. But, when I went to the school today & played it's like immediately the monitor guy up on stage I became friends with him. I already know ahead of time I'm in for a battle each time. You may have noticed in my pictures I don't use keyboard stands. I use Marshall half-stands & build up with boxes, anvil cases, old bar stools. I drape it. I fix it up & make it nice. So, every single night, every single photo you see I'm using something different. I'll use a trashcan. Plastic trashcans, upside down, 2 of them & put the most beautiful leopard silky tarp over it & its killer, you know. I'll go simple. I'm not trying to recreate something here or save the world of keyboards or anything, but I'm really just like having fun with it & noticing that for a lot of the other players around me that's not an importance, but it is for me. I remember joining MISSING PERSONS through Chip Z'Nuff [bassist of Enuff Z'nuff]. I've known him for years but I was never buds with him. He would put a white jacket on & a scarf & glasses. He's got this character about him you will remember forever. He influenced me a lot. In MISSING PERSONS I got to wear scarfs & again platform boots. Have fun with it. Get a little glam. Who cares, you know. I'm not trying to be Joe Cool. I'm just trying to put on a good show. I don't have any tattoos. I don't have any piercings. I just keep my hair long, because it's just thick Hebrew Jew lock hair. I don't even have a heavy metal hairdo. I like what I do. Look, there's a lot of people that need it & they want to hire me & I'm just blessed.
AJ: Of all the folks you've worked with, big & small, really famous & really not, have there been a few who have just been like a teacher to you? Like you learned so much that you didn't expect you were going to learn when you walked into the gig?
MICHAEL: I have 2. T Lavitz. He was my first teacher. I started with T Lavitz & for 3 years I worked with him in Santa Monica. He was in DIXIE DREGS the whole time with Steve Morse, Dave LaRue & Rod Morgenstein. I came from that camp & T taught me a lot. I was born in Mississippi, but I didn't have much blues & soul. I don't know, I was more like neo-classical shred, the Yngwie era, that got my attention because it was classical. T brought me back to the roots. After him I studied with Derek Sherinian for many years, like you mentioned. It was an honor for me to be co-engineering his Mythology record in 2004 & getting to work with [guitarists] Zakk Wylde & Steve Lukather & [drummer] Simon Phillips. Through those connections I hired Simon to produce my record in 2007 with a band called ACCOMPLICE, who I grew up playing with in orange county. So, I got to work with great people. T. Lavitz is my first one. The second one I have to give it to Derek because he showed me the way. He let me close into his life & show me how its done, because he's a rock icon keyboardist of our time.
AJ: Alice Cooper, DREAM THEATER, KISS, a solo career, he's done a lot.
MICHAEL: When he left DREAM THEATER I was right there. It was May 1999. I was right there. I went "This guy is like the future of keyboards." I started taking lessons off him & he later told me that he had taken lessons off T. We lost T last year. That was a big blow to the keyboard world. Those were the 2 guys that helped me in my life & my career.
AJ: You're on the road a lot so that might affect how much new music you hear, but do you pay attention to let's say a new rock keyboardist that might come on the scene? Do you keep your eye open on your peers out there or folks just coming into the spotlight to see what they're doing?
MICHAEL: As much as I can. There is a whole new breed of rock keyboardists that have come out of Europe for the last 5 years, 7 years solid. I gotta tell you, stupid Americano, I try to be international but the names are a little difficult for me, like FIREWIND's keyboardist.
AJ: I don't have a clue.
MICHAEL: I know who he is & his guitar player, Gus G., is in Ozzy now. I've been watching FIREWIND for awhile now & listening to them because they're awesome. Then you have a band I love, PAGAN'S MIND of Norway & I love the keyboardist in that band too, but I couldn't say his name right now. No fault of theirs. I'm sure in their country & abroad people may know their name. I'm aware. I like today's music. For me, the pop music that's out, like the new Britney Spears ... & I'm not saying it too loud ... but the keyboards are really kick-ass. For me, there's a lot more involved than in rock music. Usually I'm hired for organ, piano, strings, but some of this pop music has a lot that's layered with bitchin' keyboards.
AJ: I think that a lot of us forget just how prominent the keyboard is in so much music that we enjoy. That might be because when you see a band on stage the keyboardist, if you even see them, is stuck up in the corner. Like the ROLLING STONES. One of my favorite albums is <u>Goats Head Soup</u> & the keyboards on that, if you know the album, almost dominate the album at times, yet nobody ever thinks of the keyboardist in the ROLLING STONES.
MICHAEL: Like keyboards are treated like a step-child at times.
AJ: Exactly, that's what happens, but yet, like you said, Lady Gaga is a pianist or all these other people are using heavy synthesizers in so much of their music, but somehow the instrument kinda gets lost in the shuffle a little bit. It's uncool or something. I don't know.
MICHAEL: Absolutely. Welcome to my world. I gotta tell you, I've been in a great home for the last 3 years with Lita, because, for many out there who have seen the shows, she really spotlights me. It's good being in a band where the leader of the band is very keyboard friendly & she lets me do a keyboard solo every show. I love that. Being in front of 22,000 people & standing up there alone & my boss is right behind me saying "Go get 'em." "Yes, Lita, you get it, awesome, let's spotlight these keys." I'm in a guitar infested world. No disrespect to my guitar buddies.
AJ: No, but it's true.
MICHAEL: GIT today is a breeding ground for guitars. I love them all. But, it's like I got to fight for my real estate in each situation
AJ: Absolutely. You're in this slot where your instrument has a large role to play but little recognition. I'm a bass player, so I understand a bit of this.
MICHAEL: True. Can I take some bass lessons off you?
AJ: Shit, my bass playing is not up to snuff. If you come to NY, Michael, please let me know. I'm happy to have you over to the house & show you.
MICHAEL: I'm actually going to be there next week. I've got 4 days off in between our shows.
AJ: You are?
MICHAEL: Where you at? I'm not joking.
AJ: In Manhattan. Kick me an e-mail.
MICHAEL: I'll be in Hoboken eating sliced pizza, so I'll e-mail you.
AJ: If there's a way you can get into the city please let me know.
MICHAEL: I will. I'll take the PATH train in.
AJ: I'd love to have you over or whatever.
MICHAEL: That's great. I appreciate your support, if I can plug that right now. You've given me nothing but positive light & love & consistency & detail oriented. I'm just blown away. I'm really happy to be here right now with you, because you've been good to me & I don't get that too often these days.
AJ: Michael, I grew up looking at musicians playing in Seattle coffee houses thinking I wanted to share them with other people. You're a far better musician than I'll ever be & I want to share your talent. So, I'm doing my best to bring you to the fans or fans to you. & we're all working for the same end, that is, sharing great music.
MICHAEL: Absolutely. You rock.
AJ: I try. I try, no matter what computer problems I'm having. I want to ask, how did you hook up with Lita Ford?
MICHAEL: Through Danny Stanton. He's a management company out of Long Island & he managed me with the group ANGEL, who I've been in for the last 7 or 8 years now. Lita signed up with him to start her comeback tour. I don't want to call it a comeback tour.
AJ: That's fair. It is.
MICHAEL: I mean, she wanted to do a new album & do a tour & get out after 15 years or something like that. She asked Danny to hold auditions in Farmingdale. He called me up & said I'd had the gig, take the red eye & go. I get out there & it's an audition. He didn't tell me that. I thought I'd gotten the gig. I get there & lo & behold Billy Squier. I was in diapers when this guy did world tours. So, I gave it my best shot. I went in there & they gave me a chair, like a cushion seat. I looked at that & thought "Really? I'm going to sit down & perform while I'm playing with Lita f-ing Ford?" I put the chair aside & I told the monitor guy "If that other keyboard player uses this chair, I got the gig." I got to go first. After I played everything was cool & I took the chair & moved it back in front of the keyboard. Sure enough, the guy came in & sat down. I was out in the parking lot & they called me back in. Lita was interested & I did a few more rounds of "Kiss Me Deadly" & stuff & she hired me.
AJ: Excellent. I think comeback is fair. I remember growing up seeing her on MTV & now she's returned with Winter Wonderland. You mentioned to me that there's actually another record in the works, is that right?
MICHAEL: Correct. She's in the middle of putting a new record together that she would like to get out as soon as possible. I don't know the time frame. We're excited to have guitarist Gary Hoey in the band working on the album with her. It sounds like he's doing some producing & writing. They're a great team & they're pumping out some great music. I'm to go back to New Hampshire next month & lay down the actual key parts.
MICHAEL: Yeah, we're excited. Are you going to mention LIZZY BORDEN or Chris Sanders or any of that stuff? I thought you were going to ask me first.
AJ: I was & I wasn't.
MICHAEL: That's cool. I don't want to open it up.
AJ: You have talked about those things with other people, so I was going with the flow. But, if there's something you would like to say I would love to, because those are all great bands.
MICHAEL: Okay. I appreciate that. I want to say I recently got wind of you & your love for Lizzy Borden.
AJ: I love the guy's music.
MICHAEL: Right. That's the vibe I got & you did the interview [former LIZZY BORDEN guitarist] Chris Sanders. I just want to talk about him for a second & LIZZY BORDEN.
AJ: I would love to. Please do.
MICHAEL: He's a great guy & he's a got great band. He did make a contact to me in the past to do some work with him. I was in & out with shows & it just didn't come together. But, we've worked together before. Not in LIZZY BORDEN. As you know I did all the keyboards on almost every song on Appointment With Death. That was with [guitarist] Ira Black at that time. I've never performed live with Lizzy, just the studio album & hopefully on the new one, too. But, Chris & I have gotten together. We did like an acoustic jam with Terry Elous from XYZ. I'd always wanted to work with Chris, just so much talent. Then when he did that Randy Rhoads memorial. He got to play for Delores. That was a couple years ago out here. You know Randy was buried an hour from where I'm at. Chris got to play for that occasion & I just knew he was talented. I listened to the interview that you did with him. I was learning about you. Nothing particular, but I just wanted to mention that, because you & I had a little connection with that. The other connection that you & I had was when, you remember, I e-mailed you & you had just played ... you already talked about this.
AJ: I mentioned that at the beginning. We had these little psychic moments.
MICHAEL: Yeah, we had psychic moments that brought us together.
AJ: I've never had that. Some of the guests on this show have been really close friends. Some, like yourself, I've only spoken to on e-mail. Some I've never spoken to at all until we were actually on the air. But, it was so funny with you. I literally had picked up this Lita Ford album & I'm reading an e-mail from the guy in her band. It was too uncanny, you know. It was really funny. Also, I work at this record store & I replaced Sal Maida who played bass on most of the final RUNAWAYS album, uncredited, with Lita.
MICHAEL: I forgot about that. You e-mailed a story for me. That was cool.
AJ: The RUNAWAYS were all girls, but there's 2 guys who uncredited played bass with them. The first album featured the bass player from BLONDIE & the very last featured Sal who now tours with CRACKER & he replaced John Wetton in in ROXY MUSIC. He went on the road & I took over his day at the record store. But, of all the guys to know. That was the other connection you & I had.
MICHAEL: We should pick lottery numbers before we get off the line.
AJ: I don't know about that.
MICHAEL: You pick the first 3, I pick the last 3. Yeah, this was cool. That was great the way it all went down. I didn't have anything particular mentioning this.
AJ: No, no, I just go with it & Lizzy hadn't come up. Also, I've listened to other interviews you've done. I try not to ask the questions to my guests they've been asked one million & one times.
MICHAEL: Sure. I've had to think a bit on this conversation. That's good.
AJ: That's what I want. I want to give you a gift & my gift is the best value of your time. You're taking a lot of your time to create music & entertain people, so I feel as a listener & a show host, I owe you that by taking my time out & doing the best I can for you.
MICHAEL: That's beautiful. I appreciate that. For sure.
AJ: Michael, other than Lita Ford, is there anything on the horizon that people can look for from you, whether it's albums or other tours or activities?
MICHAEL: I've played everything I can play. I don't have anymore notes left. Neil Diamond for you next.
AJ: You know any Boz Skaggs?
MICHAEL: I'm just in the middle of the Lita tour for the summer right now. There's MISSING PERSONS shows coming up & I'm trying to juggle both right now, which I have been for a few years. I'm just trying to stay busy & just want to just bring light to what I do & the position that I'm in regarding rock keyboards & giving the keyboards a little more space on stage. You know, turn them up a little bit, give them a little more love, water them a little bit. Buy them a little Hello Kitty snowglobe or something & they'll be happy. What do I want to plug in? Donate to your local animal shelter. They need help. The one you've been driving by your whole life just stop in & give them 15 bucks. You know it'll feed a dog for a week. My roommate Leah Burnstein out in Vegas she's a great rock photographer & takes most of my pictures. She's turned me on to the No Kill Shelter Home in Vegas & we have 4 ferrets that we adopted, 2 cats. We released one turtle & got another turtle. We're all trying to do our part. If we've got room let's let them in for a little bit. That means a lot to me & if anyone sees it that way too I'm appreciative for it.
AJ: Michael, we're at the end of our time together. I appreciate you chatting & hanging with me tonight. It means a lot.
MICHAEL: Thank you so much for everything.