Ross, Michael T. (December 2003)

Playing A Key Part

Michael T Ross (photo: Frank Armstrong; courtesy)You may not recognize the name just yet, but you will, because it will be popping up all over the place in the coming weeks and months. Michael T. Ross is keyboardist with Southern California band Accomplice, who will release their second album soon with new vocalist Johnny Gioeli. Ross recently joined Gioeli in the reformed Hardline, appearing on the comeback album Hardline II and on the recently released Live At The Gods 2002. They, too, have a new album coming out. He's also joined the 70s classic rock group Angel and will be playing with them at next June's Bang Your Head festival in Germany. And Michael will soon be releasing his debut solo album, Deep Freeze.

Among many other other projects that Ross is involved in, you'll also find him on Shock And Awe, the new album from Guitar Institute Technology instructor Ken Steiger, along with Virgil Donati, bassist Tony Franklin and keyboardist Derek Sherinian, all from Planet X. Ross lists Sherinian among his mentors and has taken private lessons from him for several years, and Sherinian and drummer Simon Phillips will co-produce the next Accomplice album.

Ross co-launched Mean Street Magazine with his brother Shael in 1987, giving Michael the opportunity to interview some of the big names in rock like Steve Morse, Frank Gambale, Joe Satriani, Pat Methany, and T Lavitz - another of his mentors - among others. Visit Ross' website, and you'll see why soon we'll be hearing his name, and hearing his keys, everywhere.

I recently had an opportunity to talk with Michael about all this and what lies ahead for him.

Stephanie Sollow: Having been a guest on a number of others' albums, you're getting set to release a solo album. What was the impetus?

Michael T Ross: Even though it is a privilege to play with such fine players on these records, my solo record really displays my playing on a whole different level that could not really be accomplished playing on someone else's record. So, since I am on several new releases, I felt it is time to put out a solo keyboard record.

SS: How did you come to work with respected drummer Atma Anur (Journey, Jason Becker) on this project?

MTR: I performed at Musicians Institute with GIT instructor Ken Steiger with his band Project Steiger and Atma was in the audience.? After the gig, Atma really dug on my playing and we agreed to work together.

Accomplice - Accomplice (European edition)SS: Accomplice was a going concern in 2000, how did you come to join them?

MTR: I was originally in a band called Possumdeth in Orange County, California and we played with Accomplice. Since guitarist Sean Michael Clegg was so keyboard friendly, I new this was a band I could really get into, and when they got signed to an Italian label [Adrenaline], I joined. Highlights in the band are opening for Van Halen, Rush, Savatage, King's X, and covering "Pull Me Under" on the popular Voices CD, a Tribute to Dream Theater.

SS: How did Johnny Gioeli come to join the band?

MTR: When Accomplice was recording the new record, I played it for Johnny and he agreed to do the vocals, which we are very thankful for, because in my eyes, this is some of his best work yet.

SS: How did Simon Phillips and Derek Sherinian become involved in project?

MTR: I studied with Derek and interned for him for three years.? He introduced the band to Simon and he agreed to engineer and produce the drums, while Derek produced the rest of the record.

Michael T Ross (photo: Frank Armstrong; courtesy)You've recently joined Angel, how did that come about?

MTR: I was at a Jeff Scott Soto concert a few months ago and met vocalist Suzee Rock and she introduced me to tour manager Danny Stanton, who represents Twisted Sister, Thin Lizzy and Angel. After a brief discussion, I was picked to join the band.

SS: You've already played a few lives dates with Angel, are you looking forward to next summer's Bang Your Head appearance?

MTR: Of course, especially sharing the stage with UFO, one of my favorite bands. The German fans are the best - Wild and Crazy!

SS: Busy as you are, you're also part of Hardline II with Gioeli, with a new album coming out? This would be the group's third?

MTR: Yes, I'm waiting to be called to record my parts but I don't think that will take place for a little while, because Josh [Ramos] and Johnny are working on the material at this time. I do have a ballad that I'm going to pitch them, otherwise, I'm not a part of the writing process.

Rattleface - Freak Of NatureSS: Some of the projects you've been involved in are Ron Sach's Rattleface CD Freak Of Nature, Josh Ramos' debut CD, another "supergroup" in Kry Freedom, and working with Andy Johns ... can you talk a little bit about each?

MTR: Ron is an amazing guitarist and I used to be in a UFO tribute band with him.? He also is my producer for my solo record. I played on Josh's solo record recently released on Frontiers Records with Stu Hamm on bass and Atma Anur on drums. I did an EP with Andy last summer and it was such an experience working with him, knowing that he recorded "Stairway To Heaven." After a few sessions, he made me feel very comfortable. He's really a great guy and a lot of fun to work with, especially hearing all those Jimmy Page stories.

SS: Back to Angel, it looks like you'll be part of a new album from the group, how's that going?

MTR: I'm getting with drummer Barry Brandt this month [November] to start collaborating on new material, which will include a lot of keys.

SS: And then touring in the new year, I see. When is your solo album due out and do you plan on playing live shows to support that? What about Accomplice or Hardline II?

MTR: I doubt I will be touring with my solo material because I'm just too busy playing with my bands.? The keys are done and all that is left is for Atma Anur to record the drums, because this is a keyboard/drum record only. But don't be fooled, there will be some chunkey monkey on the record, thanks to Korg's kick ass sounds.

SS: [smiles] What or who inspired you to take up keyboards?

Michael T Ross (photo: Frank Armstrong; courtesy)MTR: My older brother Shael. When he started piano lessons, I had to do the same when I was 8. At that time, he took me to a Kansas concert and played Styx and Yes records growing up, which put the prog keyboard bug in me I guess.

SS: It seems like every interview eventually comes around to some corny questions? and this one is no different? Age old question: if you could work with anyone who would it be and why?

MTR: That is any easy question actually - Yngwie J. Malmsteen because he is the next best thing to Mozart.

SS: You were raised in SoCal - what's your favourite place to hang out (if you have time to "hang out")? What place, anywhere in the world, would you most love to see.

MTR: Living in Hollywood does give me access to most happening things out here. I would have to say hanging at "Club Vodka" put together by Joe Sutton is my favorite place to hang these days, which is usually at the Key Club and the Pink Pussycat here in Hollywood. He really knows how to throw a party.

SS: Thanks for your time, Michael, and we'll be sure to follow up when the solo CD comes out.

MTR: Thank you so much, Stephanie, for the privilege to interview with you and great questions by the way.

Michael will be performing various clinics and shows throughout Europe and Asia in 2004; watch his website for dates.

[2011 - Michael emailed me recently; of late, he's been working with Lita Ford...]

Various - Fireworks - Vol. VI (comp.)
Project Steiger - Defiance (2003)
Various - Rock-It Hear It - Vol. III
Rattleface - Freaks Of Nature (2002)
Ramos - Ramos
Accomplice - Accomplice (2000)
Kry Freedom - Kry Freedom
Hardline - Hardline II (2002)
Hardline - Live At The Gods 2002 (2003)
Deep Freeze (2003)
Ramos - Living In The Light (2003)
Accomplice - She's On Fire (2006)
Hardline - Leaving The End Open (2009)
Lillian Axe - Sad Day On Planet Earth (2009)

Added: December 15th 2003
Interviewer: Stephanie Sollow

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Language: english

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