This article is written in two parts, the first part was completed Sunday September 30th after speaking with Michael Ross. The second part is an album review of the new Gypsy Rose album from FnA Records “Poisoned by Love”, completed October 8th, 2012. Enjoy.
When I was preparing for this interview I put on the “PREY” album from Gypsy Rose and it got me to thinking. Just what is it that makes an album truly great? Many would argue sales numbers (Gene Simmons included) and although it seems sales is most often how success is measured, sales certainly has nothing to do with quality. I mean Nicki Minaj and Justin Bieber sell a lot of records but that doesn’t mean they aren’t crap.
So here I was listening to this album, absorbing it like music should be listened to, with no distractions and I have to say that the songs found on this lost treasure are as strong as anything that Bon Jovi or Def Leppard ever recorded. Now of course art is purely subjective and this is all just my own personal opinion, but thats what music is all about. I love Def Leppard’s “Hysteria” album which sold about a gazzillion copies and I love Gypsy Rose’s “Prey” album just the same. Both albums move me, making one just as important and valid as the other. I will also go on record and say that “Don’t Turn Your Back On Me Now” is quite possibly the most gut wrenching rock ballad ever written and recorded. Sorry for the news Mr. Bon Jovi.
Now, twenty plus years later Gypsy Rose are back with some new material. Michael Ross, lead singer and the founding member of the band was cool enough to call me and got me up to speed on just what is going on.
DBG: So Michael, lets go right back. What got you into music in the first place?
Michal Ross: I was a hockey player and I am from a small town of Petrolia Ontario and anyways I was a hockey player and one of my best friends Brad was a guitar player and had a band with his three brothers. So in grade ten there was a teachers strike for about three months and one day Brad and his band were rehearsing and the Cars had just released “Let the Good Times Roll” and I asked the drummer if I could sit in. He let me sit in and I had never really played drums before but everyone was like “oh my god!” and that was how I got started. So “Let the Good Times Roll” was my very first song.
DGB: Very cool, I was unaware you began on the drums..
Michael Ross: Oh yeah I am a drummer, actually I toured a good part of Canada when i was 18-21 and I was a drummer/singer and everyone would say to the band “your drummer should be the singer” kind of stuff. So I just decided, I had toured with a band out of Hamilton called Vehicle and one day at rehearsal I had just had enough, couple of the guys were moody and I left to start my own band. That became “Shattered Heart” and we won the Q107 Homegrown contest.
DBG: So was Shattered Heart what evolved into Gypsy Rose?
MR: Yeah like Brian Joyce has been with me since my very first band, Shattered Heart was my first lead singing gig where it was my songs and vision and such. After I quit Vehicle as the drummer and put Shattered Heart together I think we only had like 12 weeks before the deadline of the Q107 Homegrown. They had over 800 bands enter that year and we made the top 12 and made onto the album.
DBG: Being the huge Kiss/metal geek that I was, I found out about you guys when I heard you had signed with Simmons records. That was all the endorsement I needed, how did the whole Gene Simmons connection come about?
MR: That’s actually an interesting story, OK let’s take it back a little bit to Shattered Heart. We won the Q107 homegrown and that band was doing good. I was like 22 and was love sick and home and it was my first “I Quit” to be at home. Well after about a month of that I was like “What am I doing?” I started a whole new band, got the old bass player “John Fennerty” he had played with Honeymoon Suite and our new band was called Secret Affair and that’s the band that evolved into Gypsy Rose.
When we got signed we were called Secret Affair, so what we did was this. We didn’t have the Internet or anything so I went into the record store and Sam the Record Man had this “Canadian” section and I started looking at all the albums writing down who’s who.Who were the management people, who was the agent who basically cleaned their clothes , you know what I mean? So what I did was take cassettes and the band drove me around, I was all done up and went into every office and dropped off a cassette inviting them to a showcase gig at Spanky’s in Brampton Ontario.
So the only person that showed up was Tom Treumuth who worked with Honeymoon Suite, Helix and Autograph and he basically just signed us on the spot. So Tom started doing demos with us and taking them to New York because his friend was Bob Buziak who was the president of the New York RCA office at the time. So they were playing “Poisoned by Love” in some executive’s office and Gene was walking by the office and was like “What the hell is that?” and that’s how we got the Gene connection.
DBG: Very cool, so you basically went from playing clubs in Canada to being in a recording studio with Gene Simmons of Kiss?
MR: Yeah, and we had to do a private showcase for him, he had recently signed a deal with Bob Buziak for his own Simmons Records through RCA and he already had House of Lords. So anyways he kept making appointments to come and see us and we had a rehearsal hall to play for him but he kept having to postpone and reschedule because at the time Shannon was pregnant with Nick. So long story short he finally ended up coming and I will never forget when he walked in the door, you know I mean I was Gene Simmons every year for Halloween. To have him walk through the door and sit there and watch me in this little rehearsal hall was just a little intimidating. So anyways he signed us.
DBG: Anything specific you remember from the recording of the album?
MR: Yeah there’s a lot of things, I mean with the band Secret Affair I was more influenced by bands like Honeymoon Suite and Platinum Blonde so I wasn’t really a heavy sort of speak songwriter so Tom Treumuth had to mold me. It took a while and Wild Reaction was like the first real “Hard Rock” song that I wrote and “Poisoned by Love” was a 5 minute fluke. I was waiting for a train, I would take a train to Toronto every Monday and head back to Sarnia on Friday, so I was waiting for my train and had the acoustic guitar and was alone in the control room and I just started singing the “poisoned by love” lyric and Tom was standing by the door and he went “what was that? you ain’t going anywhere” so that song was basically written in 10-15 minutes
DBG: Well I have to say that the PREY CD is absolutely one of my all time favourite albums. “Don’t Turn Your Back On Me Know” is one of the most gut wrenching ballads I have ever heard.
MR: Thank you very much, I really appreciate that. If I can jump for a moment to the new CD. There is a new version of that song on the album. I wanted to figure out a way to make it new but keep it the same if you know what I mean so we recorded it on piano. I think it’s the proudest I have ever been of my music with this version of the song. Can’t wait for you to hear it.
DBG: So back for a moment, you guys released PREY and then what? I found it strange that I never manged to catch you guys live anywhere. What happened after the release?
MR: Well yeah geesh this is like one of those “it could only be my luck” story. I mean we were doing great, I remember we were like number one in Salt Lake City, number one in Milwaukee, I was like calling up the radio stations thanking them for playing us and stuff. That was going great and Bob Buziak, back to this president of RCA had a contract dispute and quit and they brought in Joe Galante from Nashville. They brought him in and apparently he didn’t like I don’t want to say who, the president of our label. So we went from being number one, being in Billboard magazine, Hit Parader, Circus, Rolling Stone even reviewed the album and all the sudden it was gone. I mean it was GONE, I think the album had only been out for like eight weeks and Joe came in and Simmons Records was dropped. So that destroyed me for a few years, I can only realize it now looking back but that’s part of the reason I have had my struggles and fighting some demons that thank god I don’t have anymore but yeah it was a hard blow man.
DBG: Wow, eight weeks! I didn’t know if it was just the timing of it all as the whole Grunge thing started rolling in.
MR: Well yeah that certainly is another reason, I mean after Simmons records was dropped Gene still wanted to manage me so he flew me out to LA and we worked on some stuff but yeah the whole music scene had changed because of Nirvana. So basically we were a year too late, if Prey had of been released a year earlier we would have gotten the second single out “Don’t Turn Your Back On Me Now” and who knows where we would have been right now but it is what it is, you know?
DBG: So I guess that brings us to the present, the new album is out. Twenty plus years later, what’s going on?
MR: Yeah, it’s wild you know, in this day and age the real “record deal” doesn’t really exist anymore. I mean very, very few and far between. I have to say Steve Lockett and his staff at FnA Records are fucking amazing and I am not just saying that. I had a couple of labels approach me but there was something about these guys and there approach really got me and I am so glad they did. I mean wait til you see the packaging on the new CD, They really hit it out of the park, its better than what RCA did with the Prey album.They let me do what I want musically and have also signed my solo CD as well, so I am really excited.
DBG: So with a new album I have to ask, what’s the next step here? Are we going to get to see Gypsy Rose live again?
MR: Well basically to call a spade a spade, it’s kinda sad a couple of the guys can play but they cant play all the time you know. They have moved on and got stuff going, Steve is a software programmer, Brian the guitar player has his own insurance business so I am the one kinda carrying the torch here but we are definitely going to put something together and get moving on some dates.
DBG: Ok Michael, last question for you. What song do you wish you wrote?
MR: Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen.
After the Prey album came out I kind of lost track of the band. Here we are a couple decades later and I sat down last night to listen to some new (well sort of new) music from this band of “missing in action” Canadian rockers.
“Poisoned By Love” the new offering from Gypsy Rose, released on FnA Records is a double barrel blast from the past literally! Vocalist/Songwriter Michael Ross has brought out and dusted off some long forgotten demos, some unreleased gems and also went in and re-visited a couple of the classic cuts from the Prey Album.
The new album delivers fifteen tracks. About half the album is comprised of complete demos that the band recorded back in the day. As is often the case with demos they vary in recording quality, but don’t let that scare you off. “Touch”, “Give It To Me All Night Long” and the booze soaked “Ride That Train” are all great tunes that given some proper studio time would have been great additions to the Prey album.
The album also includes two solo songs from Michael Ross that end off the album quite nicely. “Nothing To Loose But Each Other” continues to showcase the emotional side of Mr. Ross while “If Your Love Is Gone” ends the album with a pretty solid rocker. Overall, “Poisoned by Love” is a nice surprise from a band that never got it’s just rewards. The fact that two decades have come and gone shouldn’t be an obstacle as Michael Ross shows that great music is timeless. “Don’t Turn Your Back On Me Now” just might become the hit that it deserved to be.
Chase the Dragon
Don’t Turn Your Back on Me Know (Canadian Mix)
Free Me From Me
Poisoned By Love (Canadian Mix)
Give It To Me All Night Long
Ride On That Train
Bang Bang Boyz
Don’t Turn Your Back On Me Now (FnA mix)
Poisoned By Love (FnA mix)
Nothing To Loose But Each Other
If Your Love Is Gone
For more information or to purchase a copy of the new Gypsy Rose album,
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