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INTERVIEW – Ross The Boss, Death Dealer – June 2013

| 29 June 2013 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

ROSS THE BOSS should need no introduction to any rock or metal fan. From his days with garage punk legends The Dictators, through to the heavy metal band that took the music and imagery in a completely different direction, Manowar.

Over a career spanning 40 years and some 30-ish albums, Ross still plays with alongside Handsome Dick Manitoba in The Dictators, tours his eponymous metal band Ross The Boss, and makes guest appearances left, right and centre, as well as playing the blues for fun when the mood takes him!

Now he has a new band, lining up alongside Aussie guitarist Stu Marshall (Empires Of Eden, Dungeon), singer Sean Peck (Cage), bassist Mike Davis (Halford, Lizzy Borden) and ex-Manowar drummer Rhino in DEATH DEALER, and their new album War Master is Heavy. As. Fuck.

I call Ross at his sports facility business in Queens, New York, and get right down to business, finding him talkative, quick to laugh and share, and – as always – passionate about music.

100% ROCK: Hey Ross, its Shane in Australia. Thanks so much for your time. How are you doing?

Ross: It’s a pleasure.

100% ROCK: Let’s talk about Death Dealer man, fantastic album: Heavy. As Fuck.

Ross: [Laughs] Yeah. It really is.

100% ROCK: How did you originally get in touch with Sean and Stu?

Ross: Well honestly the story is, about a year ago, a little more than a year ago now, Sean contacted me via Facebook. It was before the election and we were talking about it and we’re pretty much on the same side of things. Sean was going “Blah, blah, blah, oh and by the way, would you want to play on our song?” I go “Sure.” I really didn’t know much about Sean [at that point] and he told me about himself and then that evening I did some research on him. I saw his band Cage, and I heard him sing, and I said, “Oh my goodness! So why haven’t I really heard of this band Cage?” I’m just a musician in the business, but man, he sounded great.

Then the next day Stu Marshall gives me a call on Facebook. He goes “Ross, I’m a real big fan of yours, blah blah blah. I heard you talked to Sean and everything like that and I grew up on your music. I really like you, and your style, and everything like that.” I said “Oh thank you man, thank you very much.” He goes, “Yeah were going to send you a song.” I go, “Oh you’re working with Stu, okay.” So things started like crystalizing for me in my head. So I go, “Yeah that’s great.” So they sent me a song and I mean, it was unbelievable. Great song. “Okay that sounds great.” I say. Then Sean calls me again and he goes, “Oh by the way, I have a concept for a band.” I go “Really?” He goes, “Yeah, it’s me, it’s Stu, it’s you, it’s this guy Mike Davis on bass, and Rhino on drums.” I go “Rhino?” He goes, “He’s my boy.” I go, “He’s the best. Is he in the band?” He goes “Yes.” Then I said, “Count me in.”

100% ROCK: Oh, cool.

Death Dealer 01

Ross: So then they were sending me songs, and then we went on and started working on the record – but it was just unbelievable.

100% ROCK: Fantastic. It’s incredible the way things come together sometimes. How was the process of working on the music when you’re all in separate locations? Was that easy or a little bit unusual?

Ross: Yeah, we basically worked the basic tracks together – when we were together and then we went home. We kinda got the beds together, got the foundation together and then when we went home, but the Internet really helped us. Without it, it was impossible. It was the first Internet, super heavy metal band!

100% ROCK: Absolutely. So they had some of the songs originally, is that right?

Ross: They had written some of the songs and then we all did, Sean did. Yeah.

100% ROCK: Fantastic. Well look, it sounds incredible. I mean just the sheer heaviosity, if that’s a word (and if it isn’t, it should be a word!). It’s just a magnificent album really. Were really loving it at the moment. Do you think that this project might be the one to get you back out there on the world’s stage again?

Ross: Well you know what, I kind of think so. I think the whole world is needing right now a band like this, in my opinion. I have with my own band Ross the Boss, we’re on a major label in Europe – you know those records right?

100% ROCK: Yeah of course.

Ross: Yeah, so I haven’t been dormant you know, but I kind of think this band has the ability and the charisma to really be the next one. I really would be amazed if that didn’t happen. It will start slowly, but I think it’s going to happen, I really do.

Death Dealer - War Master CD

100% ROCK: So is the plan to get out there and do some dates and start touring?

Ross: Absolutely. We’re looking into real possibilities. You know how things are in the beginning. People are, you know, “Oh, well what is this?” We’ve got to go out there … especially in the metal world. I’m going to give you the thing about heavy metal, which I’ve been doing all my life: It’s a dinosaur. Heavy metal is a dinosaur. It moves slow, you understand? Then once it starts moving, it doesn’t stop. You can’t stop it.

100% ROCK: Excellent.

Ross: That’s what I think. That’s my opinion. You know, you try to move it. You try to change heavy metal – it’s hard! Try to break into it is hard. Try pushing it is hard, but once you push it, and once you start getting it going, it isn’t stopping! As you can see on the other [big] heavy metal bands. There’s no stopping them.

100% ROCK: Absolutely.

Ross: You know, they keep going and going.

100% ROCK: You’ve been involved in a lot of bands over the years. You’ve released something like 28 or thirty records at last count…

Ross: Yes that’s right. Yes sir.

100% ROCK: Do you find it easy to adapt to working with different people and different musical styles?

Ross: Well, to be honest with you that’s what I think I’ve done the best in my life. Like – I still play with The Dictators, we just played last week in New York. I still play with the first band I’ve ever been in, in 1975. I still play with that band and still play those songs. Then at the same time I’ll go play Blues, and I’ll go play super heavy metal and I’ll play power metal. I was down in Argentina two weeks ago and did two shows down there. Played all my metal records. So I think it’s benefited me to play other things.

100% ROCK: Yeah.

Ross: To stay playing one thing … I’ve never done it. Even when I was in Manowar I was playing in other bands.

100% ROCK: The Dictators were kind of a garage of hard rock with a little pinch of punk in there.

Ross: That’s right.

100% ROCK: Whereas Manowar, of course at the time were the heaviest metal band on the planet. Knowing how fractured the punk and metal world was back then in the eighties, did you get much backlash from the headbangers about that punky background?

Ross: It’s crazy but I never did. It was like The Dictators were too punk for the metal and too metal for the punk guys back then. It’s crazy! Then all of a sudden everyone loved it. Metallica said “Ross is the metal guy in the punk band.” It’s just the way it was – but I never got it. The Manowar fans and Dictators fans, they’re two different groups. You have a bunch that jump the fence right, you see a few Manowar shirts at our Dictators shows and Dictators shirts at Manowar shows, but they kind of stay apart for the most part.

100% ROCK: I remember being age 16 or 17 and getting into Glory Ride, and as a result of that I ended up picking up The Dictators records. Yeah it was a bit of a head fuck for a 16-year-old. Trying to get my head around these two different things.

Ross: That’s right.

100% ROCK: I certainly got into it and a big fan of both now, definitely.

Ross: Good. Listen, to me good is good. That’s all that matters.

100% ROCK: Yeah, I don’t know if I couldn’t agree more with you on that one. When you’ve had the extreme success and then tension that you have at various times in your career, can it be difficult to find the right bunch of guys to work with in a new project, due to them either being too inexperienced or so experienced that they’re very set in their ways?

Ross: Yeah it can be hard, it can be hard. Let’s say, I didn’t go that way with the Ross The Boss band. I met those guys in Germany. Those three German guys were much younger than me, not too much younger than me – I’m still pretty much a spring chicken [laughs], but you know. It’s kind of hard being … I mean finding four other guys like me, would kind of be hard, but at the same time and if they had my same attitude, it wouldn’t be hard at all. I know guys that after a while it’s too fussy for some of these guys.

100% ROCK: So you formed The Dictators in, I think it was 1973. Are you planning to celebrate …?

Ross: Late 1973.

100% ROCK: Yeah, so are you planning to celebrate the bands 40th anniversary of rock and roll, or even your own 40th anniversary of rock and roll?

Ross: Yeah. I guess it’s in the plan and I guess we will do it. The first record – The Dictators Go Girl Crazy – is hanging in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Lester Bangs’ copy, of course. Its 25, 35 … 38 years old that record.

Dictators Go Girl Crazy CD

100% ROCK: Wow.

Ross: In 1975. I guess we’ll celebrate the 40th in two years I think.

100% ROCK: Awesome. So you’ve made something like 30 albums in 40 years. You’ve played to hundreds of thousands, probably millions of people. You’re enormously influential in heavy metal and guitarist circles. Do you think you get the respect you deserve?

Ross: Thank you. I kind of think, not… I don’t know. In some circles I do for sure, but then a lot of people, they never heard of me. So you never know. They’ve heard of the songs or they’ve heard of the band, but they don’t put the guy, they don’t put me in that whole thing. I mean, a lot people, they do. To people that know really what’s going on, I definitely get the respect, but there’s a lot of people that still don’t know me. Maybe that’s good to an extent.

100% ROCK: Okay so were going back to Manowar for a moment. That imagery of those first few Manowar albums and the imagery and the sort of protometal sounds that were coming out were massively unique and influential. Like I said earlier, you were like the heaviest metal band on the planet for a while there. When it came time to dress in all the furs and the swords and all that sort of thing, was that a band idea, or was that a management idea?

Ross: Well that was a band idea. That was Joey and my idea I think. That was definitely us. That came from the band.

100% ROCK: Excellent. Well that was revolutionary, because it paved the way for Viking Metal and all that sort of stuff which followed on.

Ross: Yeah, in our mindset, we had Judas Priest, right – great band, an awesome great band, and Iron Maiden, look at the other bands at the time: Saxon, Motorhead, they all had this look. They all had this denim, leather, studded look, which is great and I love it, but it didn’t catch to us you know. To us, we wanted to be one step wilder than that. Now what could that possibly be? It’s not leather, well leather you have to use leather, well maybe animal skin. You know, something like that. Then when we saw early on when the Conan movie came out and we saw Swarzenegger in that and the way he looked we said, “Man that’s just bad ass there. If we could look a little bit like that, and with our songs, I don’t think no one would look like that. I don’t think no one’s doing things like that!”

100% ROCK: No, no one was. Lots of people do now. No one did then.

Ross: Yeah, lots of people doing that now, that’s right.

100% ROCK: So now on a slightly comedy note, was there any irony involved with Joey standing there with what basically amounted to a pair of rabbit fur underpants, and an oil-wrapped torso and everything? I mean it’s quite homoerotic imagery if you think back on it…

Ross: [A little uncomfortable] Mmmmm yeah, well, you see… [laughs] Yeah you see, I was kind of uncomfortable with it, to be honest with you. It was him and Erik were in the middle there. I thought we looked pretty normal. On one hand he goes, “We’ve got to shock people – I’ve got to shock people. We’ve got to do something. We’ve got to be outrageous, we’ve got to be crazy.” And Joey says, “Well, we’ve got the bodies. Let’s do it.” I’m like “But Joey, it does kind of look homoerotic a little bit you know…”

100% ROCK: Exactly.

Ross: I hate to say it but I found it disturbing, but you’ve got to go with the guys. You’ve got to go with your emotions about things. I mean – I didn’t hate it enough to say “Hey, fuck this. I ain’t doing it.” I had my pants on – I had my pride! I was never going to look like that!

100% ROCK: There’s a quote right there Ross – “I had my pants on” [Laughs]

Ross: I mean, my son to this day looks at those shots and finds it most disturbing. [chuckles] Either you’re going to think it’s great or you’ll think it’s just sleazy, but there is a definite sleaze aspect to it, right? I’ve got to say that.

100% ROCK: Did Manowar have much of a gay following as a result of that?

Ross: [Laughs loudly] Not that I knew of!

100% ROCK: I not implying anything untoward – don’t worry!!! [laughs]

Ross: [Laughs] No, I’m sure we had our admirers but this was back in the eighties at the time we were doing that stuff… We had a very very big female following, I can tell you that. No doubt about that.

100% ROCK: So when Death Dealer does start touring is there a likelihood that we will get to see you guys Down Under?

Ross: Well you know, I think with Stu’s hookups, and especially if we come to Japan, we definitely have a record label in Japan. We have Rubicon and its coming out very soon. They’re very delighted with the band, and they’re very delighted with the review we just got in Burn. So, I can imagine if we’re in Japan, we’re not too far from Australia.

100% ROCK: Oh, cool. To the best of my knowledge you’ve never toured Down Under have you?

Ross: I did tour there one time. That would be excellent to go. I loved it when I was there, are you kidding? We played in New Zealand and we played like four or five shows in Australia, and Sydney. It was great.

100% ROCK: Oh, I guess you have been over here, yeah right. Now you see we’re over on the West coast in Perth, so we don’t get as many bands over here. So when you do come make sure you come and say hi.

Ross: I can imagine. Yeah definitely. I mean there would be no doubt about it. I want to go live in Australia personally. I’ve had it with New York personally. Stu says its great mate, so I think, you know what …

100% ROCK: Come and check it out Ross, you’ll love it! There you go.

Ross: Definitely.

100% ROCK: So last question mate. If you could magically go back in time, and be a part of the recording of any one record throughout all of history, which would you choose?

Ross: If I could be part of recording it? Ooh, that’s a good one. That is a good one … Yeah, I’ve got to be honest with you. I change my opinion, I change what I like. Every week I have a new favorite record. I’ll have, like, Live At The Regal by BB King, or this record or that record, or a blues record or a rock record, but this week I’m fixated on Masters Of Reality by Black Sabbath.

100% ROCK: Oh nice, a classic. I’ve just got their new record yesterday and I’ve only just listened to it…

Ross: I listened to that today. I listened to that this morning at low volume, and I love it – Jesus Christ. That record is just unbelievable. It’s so dim, it’s so brutal. It just says everything about heavy metal I think.

100% ROCK: It does, it’s great. Well mate, thank you so much for your time. It’s been wonderful and as a long-time fan it’s been a bit of a thrill too. So good luck with the record and I hope to see you Down Under soon.

Ross: Shane, it’s been an honour to talk to you and I definitely hope to see you when we get down there.

100% ROCK: Thanks very much, mate. Have a good day.

Ross: Okay, thank you.

Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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