Most people were introduced to MiG Ayesa six years ago on the show “Rockstar:INXS”. An accomplished performer with a strong, clear rock voice; MiG exuded both a calm confidence and an electric stage presence during the show. While he could command the stage with a manic, almost reckless abandon; MiG still managed melt hearts and turn in one of the best performances of the season with his restrained and nuanced piano rendition of “Baby I Love Your Way”. It was that performance that made me a MiG fan.
Born in the Philippines and raised in Australia, MiG started his music career long before he appeared on “Rockstar:INXS”. He worked on both the stage and in TV in Australia, before moving to London in 2001 to pursue his dream of being a recording artist. While in London he appeared in “Rent” and played the lead in “We Will Rock You”. It was that show he left to take a shot at “Rockstar:INXS”
If you haven’t kept up with MiG since “Rockstar:INXS”, you’ve missed a lot. He was signed to Decca/Universal and released his debut album, the eponymous “MiG”, in 2007. After a stint in Los Angeles, he and his wife decided to move to New York. MiG toured with the international company of “We Will Rock You”, appeared in “Handel’s Messiah Rocks” and made his Broadway debut last year in “Burn The Floor”.
These days, MiG is busy with the national touring company of “Rock of Ages” playing the part of Arsenal front man Stacee Jax. I had a chance to talk with him last week. We had a great conversation, covering everything from the tour, his upcoming album, the inspiration for his characterization of Stacee, his plans for the future, zombies, and some of the things you just can’t do on Skype.
The Word Zombie: How did you get involved with the touring company of “Rock of Ages” and how is the tour coming so far?
MiG Ayesa: Well, I auditioned for the show in New York actually. I saw the show off-Broadway a couple of years before it went on Broadway. It was at the New World Stages Theater, and I had the best night ever. My wife and I went to see the show, and we said, “This is awesome. What a great place to go. What a great thing to do with some friends.” We had a wild night. What I remember of the show was a guy called Will Swenson who played the part of Stacee Jax. For my money, he stole the show. When the show came up for auditioning purposes for Broadway, I went for it. I thought I did a great audition, but I never heard anything. It was like – “Maybe I wasn’t that good.” You don’t know what happens backstage. Apparently it was already being offered to someone else, so the part wasn’t available. I thought they hated me.
When I found out there was chance of doing a tour of “Rock of Ages”, I went in again and I obviously did a good job, because they offered me the part. I was thrilled to get the phone call. In fact, it’s not very often that you actually do an audition and that same day you get the job. That’s what kind of happened with this. I did the audition, I came home, and I wasn’t really sure how it went. I got a call from my agent saying – “Dude, they want you”, and booked it. I was like – “What?”
It’s been really, the most amazing experience and it’s been a fantastic tour. It’s been a real blessing in so many ways. The touring company is phenomenal. We have Constantine Maroulis, the Tony nominated actor who created the character of Drew. He’s here touring with us; his voice is phenomenal and he’s a great actor. We have a cast that’s been so beautifully put together, they’re really phenomenal. Everywhere we’ve gone, the tour’s been a fantastic success and people have raved about it. They say it’s as good as, if not better than, the Broadway show. For my money, it’s actually better than the Broadway show – but that’s just me. This company is kick-ass and we have a fantastic Arsenal band as well. It’s been probably the best experience theatrically I’ve ever had. It’s just so much fun to do.
The Word Zombie: The character that you play, Stacee Jax, is the stereotypical, prima donna, front man rock star from the 80’s. He thinks he can leave his band, Arsenal, and have a solo career – he’s a bit of a jackass – but he also provides some of the funnier moments in the show. Who have you drawn inspiration from for this character, and what have you done to put your own stamp on him?
MiG Ayesa: I’ve based my characterization of Stacee Jax on an amalgamation of several different people. Stacee is kind of a blend of Bon Jovi meets Bret Michaels meets Axl Rose meets Keith Richards – with a little bit of Austin Powers in there I think. What I inject in to it is – I try to make him a bit more likable. It’s very easy to let him be the asshole and treat people like dirt, but it’s really more that his ass has been kissed for so long, he believes his own hype. He’s lost in this whole world of fantasy, which is not reality, and he thinks that he can make it out on his own. That’s when things go pear shaped. I call him the “weapon of self destruction” because, when he starts to believe his own hype, that’s when things just go horribly wrong with him. He’s a lovable guy, I mean – I love Stacee. He needs to be loved; he needs to find love. He eventually finds love in the guise of a llama, but hey – love is love, what do you know?
The Word Zombie: One of the things I love most about the staging of the show was the decision to put the band on the stage as opposed to having them down in the orchestra pit. It really makes them a part of the show. Have you enjoyed that?
MiG Ayesa: I love that. That adds so much to everything – you can feel the music coming from on the stage. The band (they make up the character of Arsenal), they seem to be the star of the show, as far as I’m concerned. They really rock out. We have an amazing band. We have people who have come from all walks of life, from all different types of experiences. Our drummer played with David Bowie, Julian Lennon, and Rod Stewart. We have people who have had gold records out with different bands. They come together and all of sudden make this amazing sound. To have them there, it’s very special – very cool.
The Word Zombie: I grew up on 80’s metal music. It was the soundtrack to my high school and college years. One of the reasons I want to get my wife out to LA to see the show is – it’s LA. Is there any added pressure bringing the show to LA, the epicenter of 80’s metal?
MiG Ayesa: “Rock of Ages” going to LA is like the show coming home – they started to develop it in LA, and it’s set in LA. We’ve basically done the last six months fine tuning the show to this point. I think it’s going to be the climax of the tour. I’m not nervous about it, but there’s certainly a lot of pressure that we can’t fail this week. It’s got to be kick ass. I’m very confident that we’re going to do just that. There’s pressure, yes, but I welcome it, I relish it. I’m more excited than nervous about it because I think it’s just going to be a phenomenal season in LA. The Pantages Theater is awesome – it’s the center of Hollywood. The people that have already said they are coming to see the show – it’s going to be ridiculous, let’s put it that way.
The Word Zombie: When I first saw the show, I didn’t know much about it beyond the broad overall theme of 80’s metal music – that’s what drew me too it. I was very pleasantly surprise by one, the humor of the show and two, the heart of the show. The ending paid homage to that era of the 80’s without being condescending and without becoming a caricature. How do you see it?
MiG Ayesa: Yeah. The show, with all the silliness and frivolity of the script and of the jokes and everything (it’s very self deprecating humor), it’s actually also got a lot of heart to it. The message is the age long message – the fact that love conquers all and in search of ambition and your dreams, you’ll suddenly find a life of your own for yourself. You see that all that matters at the end is love. It’s a very heartfelt thing. Everyone has these dreams and aspirations of making it big, especially if you go to Hollywood – everyone’s got stars in their eyes. Very few people actually make it; that’s the reality of it. Being in Hollywood, it’s a very, very tough town to make a mark; very seldom do people succeed. The fact that at the end, love triumphs over all – I think that’s the message that you take home with you. It’s really a celebration of life. It’s awesome.
The Word Zombie: It’s a great message. I know you’ve had a long career in the theater, but I would hazard to guess most people were introduced to you on “Rockstar:INXS”. After the show, you released your debut album, “MiG”. I know you’ve been working on a follow-up to the album. Can you tell me about it?
MiG Ayesa: I’m actually doing this album independently. It’s a chance for me to basically do something that I’ve always wanted to do, which is be in total control. All artists want to have total artistic control of their stuff and unfortunately, when you get signed to your first label, especially if it’s a major label, you’ve got to follow a bit of a corporate line. They kind of tell you what they think is best for you. That really never works, or it very seldom works. This one, I’ve recorded a lot of the stuff in Sydney, Australia with a producer friend of mine. I even have a song that I wrote and recorded in London with my band, and also one in Brooklyn with my band in New York. It’s kind of like this album’s taken a long time to get together, and it’s sort of been put together in three different continents. It’s being mixed right now – I’m very excited. I don’t know if it will be ready for the physical product for LA, but it will hopefully be available on iTunes very soon.
The Word Zombie: So, you’ve got a new album coming out and you’re on the “Rock of Ages” tour right now. What are we going to see from MiG Ayesa after the tour is completed?
MiG Ayesa: I don’t know. I mean, I live in New York now, so I would love to continue to do this show for as long as possible. The show is about to reopen in New York at the Helen Hayes Theater. When this tour is over, I would love to be able to get a chance to go to Broadway and live and work in the same city for a change. I mean, touring is great fun, I love touring – it’s great when you’re single – but after a while, you kind of long for the fact that your wife is at home, by herself, and you’re out touring. It’s not ideal, let’s put it that way. I’m looking forward to actually starting a family with my wife, we’ve decided to do that pretty soon, and there’s certain things you just can’t do on Skype – and that’s one of them. So, that’s what I plan to do. I want to continue doing “Rock of Ages” because I believe this is a show that will go on forever. It’s just so engaging and it’s got such mass appeal – it’s a show people come to again and again. It doesn’t have a short shelf life at all. So, I plan to be doing this show for quiet a while; at the same time I’ll keep writing and keep producing some stuff – and making babies.
The Word Zombie: Sounds like a full dance card.
MiG Ayesa: Absolutely. It’s a plan, and it’s something that’s taken a long time to get together. Doing “Rock of Ages” has been a really great thing for me to get established in the theater community here in the States. I’ve done a lot of work in London and Australia, but to actually show the people on Broadway – they don’t really care too much what you’ve done overseas – it’s more a Broadway credit that they really take notice of. So, this is something that I really needed to do, and I’m so glad that I’ve done it with “Rock of Ages”. I just love this show.
The Word Zombie: Taking a bit of a left turn, I have two final questions for you. When the zombie apocalypse happens – and I think we can all agree it’s a question of when, not if – are you going to be going it alone, or will you hook up with a group of survivors? And when dealing with a zombie, do you prefer longer-range weapons like flamethrowers and shotguns, or do you prefer more traditional melee weapons like baseball bats and chainsaws?
MiG Ayesa: I’m like this – I’ll definitely follow a tribe, because it means if the zombies come, they can eat some of those other guys before they get to me – which is kind of good. On the long distance, flamethrower thing – I don’t want to get close to those guys. You never know when someone will bite you in the ass. Then you’re done. If I can torch them and incinerate them from afar, all the better.
MiG is one of the reasons that I’m hopping on a plane this week to go see the show in LA. I’m anxious to see what he brings to Stacee Jax. He’s definitely got the chops to front any band you could put together – including Arsenal. (Go back and watch his blistering performances of “Walk this Way” and “Lola” from “Rockstar:INXS” if you need a refresher.) But what I’m most looking forward to is the subtle likability he wants to bring to the role. That’s the kind of thing that gives a character depth, and takes a good performance and makes it great. I’ll let you know how it goes.
In my conversation with MiG, I found him to be both gracious and engaging. He has a quick wit and an infectious charm – and I’m happy to report, it looks like his plan is coming together rather well. Yesterday, producers officially announced that an all-star cast would be reopening “Rock of Ages” at the Helen Hayes Theater in March. Among those all-stars – MiG Ayesa as Stacee Jax. A show on Broadway, living at home with his wife, and getting to wear spandex every night – sounds like the stuff of dreams to me. With Skype out of the picture, the only thing that could make it better would be the addition of a mini-MiG to the family. I wish him well.
If you want to learn more about MiG, you can find him online at mig-music.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MiGAyesa, and on Twitter at: @MiGAyesa.
“Rock of Ages” opens at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles on Tuesday, February 15th, and runs through Sunday, February 27th. You can get information about the show, all of the remaining tours dates, and the Broadway show at www.rockofagesmusical.com.
You can read my review of the Broadway company of “Rock of Ages” here. I will have a review of the touring company posted next week, after I attend the show.
© 2011, The Word Zombie. All rights reserved.