Ross The Boss interview
Ross Friedman – aka Ross The Boss – arrived in 1973 as a member of New York punk pioneers The Dictators. But besides spells as the guitarist of Shakin’ Street, Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom, The Pack, The Spinatras and the Brain Surgeons, Friedman will always be known for co-founding – and being sacked by – metal warriors Manowar. Now, with the help of a German tribute band called Men Of War, twenty years after that dismissal, Ross The Boss seeks revenge…
INTERVIEW: DAVE LING
After being a part of so many different and varied bands, the focus is on you at last.
After Kings Of Metal [1988, the last Manowar album to feature Ross The Boss] I always wanted to make another true metal record. It took me a long time to figure out that direction. Metal is so factionalised these days. I just needed the right bunch of guys and the right situation.
Does it seem strange to have hooked up with a Manowar tribute band?
It does. But they have their own careers; they have a band called Ivory Night that’s on its fourth or fifth record, so they’re schooled musicians. It just so happened that they sent a tape to a promoter that wanted me to do a night of old Manowar material.
And the first time you heard them play, your expectations were exceeded?
Yes, very much so. They’re not babies. They grew up listening to my music, and the music of people like me.
After Manowar famously committed to Megaforce Records in their own blood for the Into Glory Ride album, how was the contract with AFM Records signed?
We used ink this time [chuckles]. So far they’re doing a good job for us; the label is run by metalheads, they’re very dedicated. Everything they said they’d do for us, they’ve done. Then again, everything I said I’d do for them, I did it.
Your album’s title of New Metal Leader isn’t exactly modest?
No. But I love that. And in these days of shrinking record sales it’s getting me a lot of attention. Do people consider me a leader in this sort of music? And did I help to start the genre of power-metal? To both of those questions, the answer is ‘yes’.
And is it new?
[Laughing]: Well, the band is new, but I’m old. But, truthfully, the whole thing about this band is one-upping Manowar.
Well, the sticker on the sleeve – ‘The best Manowar album since Kings Of Metal’ – looks suspiciously like a gauntlet being thrown down.
That quote came from a review, not from me. But listen, I could’ve done this 20 years ago after being dismissed from the band.
So it’s all about payback?
You could say that, yeah. I pull all of this down for a while – I kept myself very busy in a musical sense, and I concentrated on being a good father – but it’s about reclaiming a little of what’s mine.
Has there been any feedback from Joey DeMaio and company?
Not a word. And the silence is deafening.
I wouldn’t like to have been in the room when DeMaio saw that sticker.
[Laughs]: No. You know Joey, right? But here’s the thing. We were partners when we started Manowar. But as the years went by he became so over-the-top; he took over the band. Then it was, ‘Ross, it’s time to go’. I’m hoping to bring some street credibility [back] to Manowar.
That’s a bold statement.
Well, it’s true. There was all that stuff; ‘death to false metal’, “we’re loudest band in the world”, “nobody wants us to open for them”. And look what happened. No-one did. No-one let us. And who suffered? Us, that’s who. I wanted to look at all of that and say something new.
Back in 2005 you played with Manowar again for the first time in 17 years, at Germany’s Earthshaker Festival. That must’ve been emotional?
Oh, it was. There was also a fan festival three days beforehand. I was truly touched but when a grown man falls to his knees and kisses your hand, you just wanna say, ‘C’mon, get up, I’m not The Pope’.
During the encore there were three drummers and three guitarists on stage?
It was loud, believe me. I felt good for Donnie [Hamzik, original Manowar drummer], who kinda stole the show. Like me, he’d gotten the raw end of it all, too.
Did Manowar offer you the chance to rejoin?
If they did, would you entertain the idea?
No. The past is the past. I know Joey and it could never work.
But isn’t going back to the past what you’re doing with this album and band?
People will see the album cover [of an eagle wielding a hammer whilst battling hordes of armoured warriors] and the logo, so I know what you’re saying. This isn’t Manowar, and I want to make that clear, but I want my fans to know what kind of an album it is. As a grown man I know that to some this will be seen as kind of juvenile, but it’s all about metallic symbolism. What would you expect if Kerry King [of Slayer] made a solo record?
Whilst talking of reunions, you seemed to be enjoying yourself with Shakin’ Street at Sweden Rock this summer?
[Non-commitally]: Yeah. I love Fabienne [Shine, singer], but they’re such an odd band to work with. We did a reunion in Paris for years ago with Nono from Trust [as second guitarist]. I wanted to make a record but nothing happened.
Fabienne’s still pretty sexy. She still wears the leather.
She is, and she does. She’s a great girl. But four years later I get a call from them to go in and do a record. I was in the middle of my metal comeback record. I was like, ‘Do you know who bad your timing is? Where were you four years ago?’ So I’m on about six tracks of their record, but I don’t think I can tour with them.
What’s going on with the Dictators?
We’re just about to do four shows in Spain, but the band is heading towards another hiatus. After that, nothing is planned.
Obviously, the priority is your own band. When will there be some UK gigs?
To be completely honest, when the record company heard that Classic Rock wanted to speak to us, they couldn’t believe it. I’m told it was the first interview they’d gotten from an English magazine. So if we can get some press going, we’ll definitely come over and play. As everyone knows the UK is such a difficult territory for a band like us, but we’ve got very aggressive management, so it would be great to make that happen early next year.
To be fair, Manowar are in the same boat. We keep seeing footage of them headlining to enormous crowds on the continent, but the last time they played Britain, in 1994, their London show was at the Marquee Club.
My explanation for that is that English-speaking audiences just don’t like them. They can understand what they’re saying… I dunno [voice trails off]. We had a pretty big buzz in England at the start, but somehow it frittered away.
So what can you tell us about your band’s live show?
We’ll play the whole [Ross The Boss] record, every single song. But there will be some of my Manowar classics in there; Gloves Of Metal one night, The Secret Of Steel on another. Also something like Hail And Kill – the ones that people want to hear. There might also be others, but this is not a Manowar show. We may even include Johnny B Goode [by Chuck Berry], who knows? We’re all fans of rock ‘n’ roll.