The Storm - Ron Wikso (1997)


Ron Wikso is a busy man. Not only is he the drummer from AOR supergroup 'The Storm', featuring Journey bassman Ross Valory and ex-Journeyman Gregg Rolie (and Steve Smith initially), but he is also the drummer in a revamped Foreigner. Add Cher and David Lee Roth to his resume, and I would say that would make him an essential gentleman to talk to! Here goes...

So Ron, how long have you been playing drums, and how did you get started?
This year marks 30 years! I started when I was REALLY young!! Basically, I just started with a neighbor of mine showing me some stuff on a practice pad and then my mom got me private lessons from the local elementary school's band director. Then, a couple of years later, when I was old enough, I joined the school band and kept it up from there.

What was you're first big gig?
If you mean my first big tour, that would have to be the Cher tour that I got in 1989. We did the MTV Music Awards, Prime Time Live and lots of other major TV stuff in addition to the arenas and amphitheaters that we were playing at on tour. Prior to that I had worked with a lot of other people that you would probably consider to be fairly big but, not in quite the same capacity.

How did you get into the role as The Storm's drummer?
I was initially referred to The Storm by Pat Torpey (drummer for Mr. Big). Mr. Big was being managed by the same guy as The Storm...Herbie Herbert.
Pat heard that Steve Smith was leaving and reccomended me for the job. After that, I learned that I had also gotten a reccomendation from Steve and from Deen Castronovo (drummer for Bad English, Hardline etc.). I also happened to mention to Mickey Curry (drummer for Bryan Adams) that The Storm might go on tour with Bryan and that there was a chance I might check out the gig.
Well, he immediately (with no prompting from me by the way) got on the phone with Bruce Cohen (Bryan's manager) and called Herbie on my behalf!!! I was blown away that all of these guys would do that for me!!
Anyway, even though I had all of those referrals, I still had to audition (along with about 15 or 20 other guys) and, after meeting the guys and playing with them on 2 separate occasions, they asked me to join the band.

How does the band go over live? I have never read a review for one of their live performances.
When the band was out touring, we did very well live. I have some reviews laying around here somewhere and, perhaps I'll dig them out and have them posted on The Storm's Web Page.

You are working with some great musicians, has it been fun to work with Gregg Rolie, Ross Valory and Kevin Chalfant?
I have had the very good fortune to work with many of the best musicians in the world, and the guys in The Storm are certainly among's been a blast!!

You were saying you stepped in right after the first album was released, for touring....and now you are a full fledged member with co-writing credits etc. Did it take long to fit in?
I must say that the guys in the band, particularly Gregg, made me feel at home virtually right away, so I guess the answer would be no, it didn't take long at all!!

What was the band doing in between albums? I know there was record company difficulties etc. How did you keep busy?
We have all kept busy in our own way but, for me, it's been by working with as many people as I can on various projects and by continuing to tour. In 1994 I toured with David Lee Roth and since 1995 I have been touring with Foreigner. Unfortunately, The Storm was forced into a bit of a state of limbo waiting to see what we could do with the record that was already in the can. It took a while but, at least we have finally gotten it out there!

So what happened to finally get the second album out, besides the fact that MFN signed you in the UK.
Well, there were some legal issues that needed to be settled but, basically our managers had to negotiate with Interscope Records so that we could take the record elsewhere. Once that was taken care of (and that's what took the most time), Scott Boorey (our manager) was able to make the deal with Music For Nations in Europe and Avex Trax/Bareknuckle (EMI) Records in Japan. We're currently looking into having it released in the U.S. and the rest of the Pacific Rim.

When was the second album actually recorded? I heard it was right after the first!!
It was recorded about 2 years after the first one. Pre-production started in February of 1993 and tracking began in March of 1993. The album was mixed and mastered by July of that same year so, as you can see, it took about 3 years from the time it was recorded for it to see the light of day.
That was very frustrating, especially because we all thought we had made a great record. Oh well, you can't cry over least it did see the light of day!

The band had a great debut album, but the second was a much more cohesive and balanced effort. What do you think about the second album?
Well, first of all, thank you! Second of all, I would have to agree with you.
I think that the songs are better overall and that the album plays pretty well from beginning to end. You might say I'm a bit biased though!!

Was it great to be a part of the songwriting, with the two tunes on the 'Eye Of The Storm' album?
It was a very satisfying experience to be able to take my song ideas to a guy like Gregg Rolie and actually have him listen to them!!
Then we were able to work on the stuff together with Kevin Chalfant and I think the results were pretty good. When I first heard Kevin sing the demo for "Waiting For The World To Change" I was elated!!

Do you do much in the way of writing?
I have dabbled with it on and off over the years but, it's never been my main focus. I have been thinking of getting more into it again though. We'll see.

So dare I ask...where are the band at now? And what do you see happening next?
Well, basically we are all just living our lives. I'm doing the Foreigner gig, Ross just did the Journey record, Gregg has been putting out his solo stuff and the Abraxas stuff, Josh has been playing with some people in the Bay Area and Kevin has been doing his solo stuff back in Illinois.
As far as what I see happening next, I hope to see the record released in America and the Pacific Rim. I know that it's doing fairly well so far in Japan and we hope that, if it does well enough, we may be able to go over there and tour in the fall but, that's really a bit premature at the moment.
We would love to do that in other territories also but, it would have to be economically feasible.
We would also love to do another record at some point but, we have to see where things lead with this one first.

The record has just come out domestically in Japan, is there any chance of a U.S release?
There's a very good chance but, we haven't made any deals at this point.

I would have thought the album would be a natural hit in the states given half the chance!!
We think so too so, keep your fingers crossed!!

Okay Ron, here is where I dig for the dirt - tell us about working with David Lee Roth!!!
What do you want to know?!

Is the guy a real control freak or is he misunderstood?
Well, I really don't want to get into any particulars about working with Dave but, I will say that it was certainly an experience I will never forget!!

You know, I am a huge Van Halen fan, and a huge Sammy Hagar fan. But if they were going to dump Sammy, Dave seemed like a good alternative. When the band dumped him again, I thought he won a lot of fans from his dignified response, and exit...What do you think?!!!
I wasn't there so, I don't know what actually happened. But, as Don Henley said, there's 3 sides to every story...yours (Dave's), mine (Van Halen's) and the cold hard truth.

What about working with Cher? That would have to be an experience!
Working with Cher was quite an experience. Her gig was much different than what I do normally with bands.
There were so many other things to be concerned with...the timing of set changes, playing cues for dancers etc. It was cool but, in a much different way.

Now I am also curious to hear about your involvement with Foreigner. How did that come about?
I was referred to Foreigner by my friend Thom Gimbel, who I went to Berklee College of Music with. He has played sax and guitar with them on and off since about 1992 or 1993. He also plays, keyboards, sax and sings backup with Aerosmith.
Anyway, he had heard that Mark Schulman (who I also knew a little bit) was leaving the band and that they had listened to about 40 or 50 drummers and hadn't found one that they liked yet. I also knew Foreigner's managers because they had worked with David Lee Roth (until Dave fired them) in 1994.
Thom put me in touch with Bruce Turgon (Foreigner's bass player) and after talking on the phone for awhile (turns out we had a lot of mutual friends), Bruce arranged for me to go to New York to play with the band. After playing with them for a couple of days, they hired me!
As far as what we are doing right now, we are going to Japan on April 15th for about 11 days. I know that we are supposed to go out this summer (possibly to Europe) but, I don't know exactly what or when that will be.
We are also supposed to do another record at some point this year but, that has not been scheduled yet either. We should know soon though!

When did you join up with Foreigner? I saw them live in Canada in '93....awesome concert!
I joined the band in January of 1995.

Do you know what David Lee Roth is up to now?
I heard he's spending a lot of time in South Florida but, other than that, I have no idea.

And finally, what plans do you personally have for the future? Are there any projects that you would like to put together?
I'm not exactly sure how to answer that one. I just usually take things as they come. There are lots of projects I'd like to try and put together and lots of people I would like to work with but, it's hard to say what will actually come to fruition. Time will tell!!

Thanks Ron, I will be back to you for an update! Till then, good luck with everything.


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