In the spring of 2006, I caught wind of an upcoming reality show on CBS called Rockstar Supernova that would a feature a group of unknown singers who had been selected from all over the globe to live in a LA mansion together over the summer and perform weekly in a competition to become the lead singer of a new supergroup. The three men choosing the singer to complete their new band were Tommy Lee from Motley Crue, Gilby Clarke from Guns N’ Roses and Jason Newsted from Metallica, and as anyone who’s ever met me knows, I wholeheartedly believe that those three groups are the greatest bands to ever grace the world with their musical presence. So needless to say, I was stoked.
As the first episode was about to come to a close, my two roommates and I were glued to the TV popcorn-in-hand and I watched as they commented on who they liked and thought would win a few months later…but I was not impressed. That is until the last singer took the stage to perform Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell. Decked out in a white blazer, tight pants with enough wallet chains to attract a herd of muggers, hair that looked like he had just rolled out of bed, dirty make-up all over his face and a swagger that was reminiscent of some sort of freakish combo of Freddy Mercury, Mick Jagger and Scott Weiland, was Lukas Rossi from Toronto.
As he finished his performance I pointed at the screen and confidently stated to my roommates, ‘That’s the guy.’ Apparently I was right, as Tommy Lee later said he thought the same thing at the time. So after a few grueling months of competition, cameras filming his every move, typical reality show-infighting and the pressure of millions upon millions of people watching and voting online for their favorite singer every week, Lukas took home the ultimate prize.
Lukas, who spent some of his youth living on the street while working shitty jobs and playing in dive bars trying to make ends meet, was then thrust in the spotlight as the new supergroup recorded and released an album, embarked on a sold out world tour and then to the disappointment of many (including Lukas himself), suddenly disbanded. I shared in this disappointment (especially after having attended their Vancouver show and loving every second of it) but it didn’t matter, because I had become a full-fledged Lukas fan regardless of who he was playing with.
Fast forward to last month, when I heard that Lukas would be coming to Montreal to play a show at a small club with his new band Stars Down. A couple of us decided to go check out the show, and I figured I would take it one step further and see I could score an interview with Lukas. A quick email to his manager was met with a quick response saying that Lukas would be stoked meet me. So this past weekend I had the chance to sit down with him to talk about his rags to riches to rags-type experience with Supernova, what he’s been up to since the split, his plans for the future, and course, what he thinks about skiing…�
So for the people out there that have never heard of you, give everyone a brief intro...
My name’s Lukas Rossi, and I was on a television show a few years back called Rockstar Supernova that was basically an audition to become the lead singer in a band called Supernova with Tommy Lee from Motley Crue, Gilby Clarke from Guns N’ Roses and Jason Newsted from Metallica.
And before that?
Before that I was in a band called Rise Electric out of Toronto with a native Montréaler named Dominic Cifarelli.
After you won the Supernova gig you guys recorded and released an album, toured together for about a year and then eventually everyone went their separate ways. Describe that experience as a whole and what ultimately lead to the split.
The whole Supernova experience was a blessing for me man. I learned a lot and saw a lot of the world but I lost myself in the whole experience, because is was a lot to throw somebody into and a lot to handle when you’re not use to that sort of thing. I mean I had never toured for more than a couple of weeks prior to that and I was playing in small clubs and then all of a sudden I was on a six-month world tour playing stadium shows for 20,000 people. So it was a little scary at times but I’ve gotten myself back down to earth and began to realize after that tour was over that my career and my journey has now kind of just begun. I was bummed when the Supernova thing ended because it felt like a real band, but the guys wanted to go off and do other things like DJ’ing, and obviously Tommy is back doing his thing with Motley, and in the end it’s just more money for them so I can’t fault them for that. But I feel truly blessed to be where I am right now because I still get to play every night with my new band and not have to get up every morning and go to some mundane job.
You recently reunited with Supernova for a night to play a show for Tommy Lee's project Battleground Earth. How'd that go?
It was cool. It was pretty crazy being on stage with Slash and Ludacris and all those guys, and they asked me to be the lead singer for the last song the night before so I was like, ‘What? Shit, I better learn the lyrics for the song (laughs).’�
Looking more to the present, after Supernova, you toured a bit on your own doing solo shows before forming your new band Stars Down. How'd that all come about, and how's it going?
It’s great man, we just finished our record and now we’re touring and it’s cool seeing how the fans react to certain songs. And you know the more we play the better the songs evolve. So it’s been great. I mean going from stadiums back to playing smaller clubs has been humbling, but it’s very satisfying for me to be able to see the crowd as opposed to them being up in the nosebleed section. It’s a different beast but it’s a beast I love to be around. I think being impersonal with the crowd is pretty arrogant. You know the whole concept of security guards being between you and the people that love your music. I mean I know people can be crazy…but we’re all crazy.
What are your plans for the immediate future?
Actually I’m going to be doing some writing with Jimmy Gnecco of Ours so I’m looking forward to that because there’s a lot of stuff that I don’t think will suit what I’m doing right now, because it’s going to be really dark. Jimmy and I have a lot in common so I think it’ll be an awesome duet so to speak.
This next one's a bit of a cliché question, but where do you see yourself in say, 5 years?
You're originally from Toronto. Where are you living now?
In Los Angeles.
Think you’ll ever move back? I remember being at the Supernova show in
Vancouver and hearing you say that you ‘can’t wait to come back home.
Fuck California,’ and Tommy and Gilby seemed to look at eachother and
raise a bit of an eyebrow (laughs).
Oh well they can cry if they want (laughs). I’d like to come back but I
live in the States right now and they treat me really well and I have a
family there with my wife and my animals. Wherever I put my hat is my
home though, but mainly Canada is my home and that’s why I tour here a
You're really mellow in person and but you've got a very powerful and energetic stage presence, as anyone who's seen you play can attest to. Were you influenced by other front men growing up?
Not really. To be honest I never really listened to a ton of other people’s music growing up and I never had posters of bands on my wall, because I always wanted to be on the poster you know. So I guess in my own freakish way I’m my own animal, and kind of turned myself into myself. I mean we all have our influences but I don’t think there’s anything specific I could put my finger on, although you can never go wrong with David Bowie (laughs). �
You eluded to this a bit earlier, but just how different is the experience of playing smaller clubs with a group of old friends compared to the stadium rock shows you did with Supernova? Do you ever miss doing that?
Yeah I miss the big shows but I’m much happier doing this because this is organic and more real. It’s all my own material and I wanted to build a fan base because of my music, not just because Tommy Lee is in the band. And that shows who my real fans are to be honest. The real fans come out on a rainy night like this and stay up till 12 o’clock at night when we go on stage, and who cry when we play certain songs, and who write me to tell me my songs have changed their life. That’s the epitome of music for me and as soon as that stops, then so do I.
What would you say has been your favorite moment in your career thus far?
I’ll be honest, I think meeting Jimmy, because I’m a huge fan of Ours. So when I found out that we were going to tour together I thought it was the coolest thing going. He’s probably one of the only guys left in my opinion that writes true music, and he has an amazing voice. So it’s good to see someone who takes pride in that and who’s worked their whole life around that. �
Your story is a true tale of a struggling musician trying to make it, with having lived on the street when you were younger, working dead-end jobs, never catching a break, etc and now you've got this amazingly strong fan base that follows you around and gets excited about everything you do. Because of those fans, and as opposed to the money, the cars and the houses that many people would judge success in the music industry by, would you say that you've made it?
Well first off, fuck the money, fuck the cars, fuck the houses. But absolutely man. If you can change one person’s one life with music then you’ve done your job. But there’s millions of people out there, so I don’t think I’ll be done for a while (laughs).
What advice would you give to anyone out there who has a dream and is having a tough time making it come true, and is thinking of throwing in the towel?
Well you gotta break a sweat before you throw in the towel. Believe in what you’re doing, even if people say you suck and tell you that you’re never going to be anything. Every day is a new day and the greatest thing about being a human being is that we’re all individuals and we do things individually that are totally different from the guy next to you. And you being special in your own way in this world is something that no one else can duplicate.�
So lastly of course, do you ski?
Oh yeah man, I love skiing. I don’t want to sound cocky, but when I was growing up I always found it kind of easy to ski on two skis so I use to take one off and try to make it down the hill on one ski (laughs). But I do suck at skiing moguls, because I almost smashed my face one time on one and it was terrifying, so I don’t go into the moguls anymore (laughs).
Where did you use to ski growing up?
In Milton, Horeshoe Valley and a couple of others I can’t remember, because it was quite a while ago.
When was the last time you went?
Way too long ago. I use to shred with my Dad like 15 years ago. I gotta get back out there!
Well just give us a call anytime. Thanks a bunch Lukas.
No problem man. My pleasure.�