By Todd Houston
Exclusive to TRRT
Rockford Rocked Interview: Hi Ian and good morning.
Ian Serrano: Good morning to you as well.
RRI: Let’s dig right into it shall we? In a previous conversation you told me you have always had a passion for music. Who or what inspired you to become a singer in a rock band?
IS: I really didn’t figure out that I wanted to be a musician, until I was well into my 20s. Hell, I wanted to be a big league baseball player first off. When that didn’t pan out, I tried school. Couldn’t find my niche. I had a friend back home in Maine who had all these Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Black Sabbath albums that we used to sing along with. As far as influences, growing up there was Elvis, The Beatles, Three Dog Night, etc. Music that made you want to move your feet. When you’re a lonely, hyper-active 7-year-old boy it became a release of sorts. I spent a lot of time sitting in front of the record player with my 45 rpm records.
RRI: You’re originally from Presque Isle, Maine. What made you think coming to Rockford would be a good idea?
IS: It was a friend who lured me here to Rockford with the promise of loads of bands to join. After arriving in Illinois in 1986, it took most of that year just to get my bearings straight. Rockford Isn’t that big to the locals, but for me it was Metropolis. I got a job as a local DJ, spinning tunes in bars and bowling alleys. I had never been involved in live music before, other than church choir, so I wasn’t really sure how to go about it. A friend of a friend helped me get a foot in with a local band here in the area. I just kind of needed to step up and show them what I could do from there.
RRI: Who were some of the bands that you played with here in Rockford early on?
IS: I was in several different rock/metal bands from 1986-1988. There was Rose, Mirrored Image and Midnite Angel. They were all cover bands and I was still trying to find my voice.
RRI: You took vocal lessons from the great Ralph Nielsen early on. What was that like?
IS: A friend (Jim McDowell) suggested taking voice lessons from Ralph. The Music Box Gift Shop was right across the street from the bar I DJed at so it was very convenient (laughs). Little did I know the impact Ralph would have on my vocal future. Even today, I still hear his training advice in my head at times while singing.
RRI: What do you remember the music scene here in Rockford being like during that time?
IS: The music scene was exciting, fun, hectic, sexy, dirty and very dangerous at times (laughs)! The screaming riffs and booming bass drums would rattle your brain when we played live. Crazy fans in the front row screaming your name is something you don’t really forget. Smoky bars and drunk girls too. I don’t really remember there being a lot of rivalry between the local bands. Not to say we didn’t have our moments.
RRI: Do you remember the first song you ever wrote by yourself?
IS: I can’t remember but there have been hundreds since then. My latest one is called ‘Let It All Hang Out’.
RRI: You eventually joined the Rockford band Ript who were already established as one of the premier rock bands in the area. There was even speculation of the band being on the edge of a record deal at one point. What happened?
IS: Yes, from 1988-1994 we played relentlessly and worked very hard to get where we were at. In 1994 when we came off the road we were going to take a break and then hit the studio. That was the plan. As far as our live show went in my opinion we were ready for arena tours. But then our drummer (Wally) had a wicked health scare and went down for awhile. One of our guitar players (Greg DeCarlo) had already left the band and things had changed. After a few months it just kind of unraveled. Shortly after that I received an offer to go to Florida with a band from Chicago called Dogjaw so I did. Looking back, who knows what woulda, shoulda, coulda happened. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains were big and grunge was king. Ript was leather, tattoos, screw you, party, get laid, etc. Ript didn’t fit the mold. We missed our window.
RRI: You got involved in acting a bit a couple of years ago. What was that all about?
IS: The acting was a bit of a farce. My solo label was attached to a production company who did “B”movies. Nothing impressive. Fun. Very fun to do. But pretty cheesy. My daughters Gracie and Skylar were involved as well. The movie was called Jezebeth 2 if anyone is interested.
RRI: I understand you have a new band that seems to be turning some heads around the area lately.
IS: Yeah, I’m working on a couple projects right now. One is a grunge-cover band called Jam Pilots. It’s a tribute to the ’90s rock scene. The next project is an all original show called Boneshaker. I’m very proud of this project. We have taken several song that I’ve written over the years on acoustic guitar and put some meat on them so to speak. Pretty heavy at times, but very melodic with scorching solos. It’s hard rock, metal, grunge and blues all rolled into one. Anyone who enjoyed Ript is gonna love this. In your face and real.
RRI: I’m going to say a word or phrase and you answer with the first thing that pops into your head. Ready?
RRI: Favorite classic horror movie.
IS: I don’t watch horror movies, but I like Rob Zombie movies. How about Devils Rejects?
RRI: The Chicago Cubs.
IS: Go Cubs go. Go Cubs go! Love ’em!
RRI: Heavy Metal Stew.
IS: I love Cowboy Heavy Metal Stew. Pork ‘n beans, hamburger and maybe an onion. Just what every growing boy needs.
RRI: Mick Jagger or Steven Tyler?
IS: That’s a tough one but the “Screamin-Demon” gets my vote.
RRI: What do you sing before a show to warm up?
IS: I just do the basic vocal exercises. MA>>MAY>>ME>>MO>>MOO. In lower registers, to all up and comers. A shot of Jack never hurts either.
RRI: What’s next for Ian Serrano?
IS: My wife and kids are my heart and smile, and it’s always an adventure. A lot of heart and soul is going into writing and recording music. This new material is very important to me and at my age it’s kind of a last shot. Check out our Facebook page!
Photographs by Tom Leu