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| 19 September 2019 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

New Yorker Ross Friedman formed garage punk rock n’ roll hybrid The Dictators with Andy Shernoff in 1973 before playing in Shakin’ Street for a year in Europe. But it was with another band he founded – Manowar – that he is perhaps most well known for.

Friedman was a member of Manowar from 1980 through 1988, releasing six albums – at least three of them (Into Glory Ride, Hail To England and Sign Of The Hammer) indisputable classics – before going to on to work with a myriad of acts and solo outfits over the ensuing thirty years.

This November, Ross The Boss brings Manowar’s third album Hail To England to Australia in its entirety in what promises to be a heavy A.F. tour of true power metal glory.

When I called Ross this morning he’s at the sports store he owns with his wife, and in between fielding questions from staff, he’s happy to enthuse about the upcoming tour and reminisce about his days with Manowar.

100% ROCK: Australia – Hail To England! It’s really happening, man!

ROSS: Yeah!

100% ROCK: Is it exciting for you to revisit that time in your life? It was a long time ago and of course things a few years later it ended quite acrimoniously. But is it good for you to revisit that?

ROSS: Sure, why not? I’ve been doing it for a while now. We bring joy to people and people want to see it – people want to see me, people want to want to hear the new music and find my new record. It’s exciting. I mean, like, who knew – you know? So listen, we’re just happy to play!

100% ROCK: Let’s talk about the Hail To England album for a little bit. When Manowar went into recording that did you approach it differently to the way you’d approached Battle Hymns and Into Glory Ride?

ROSS: Actually… [pauses thoughtfully]… actually no. No, we were still doing everything, like, we’d just set up the drums, get the drum sound down, get the bass sound down, get the guitar sound – you know, that’s that’s how we did it. That’s how I did my last record – the old school approach, playing the rhythm tracks live in the studio, then of course, you know, you do your guitar stuff and the vocals. So, no, we just did it the traditional way – the first four albums we did that way.

100% ROCK: And they are the classic albums of course. Into Glory Ride was the big one for me – that’s when I discovered Manowar, and I still love that album today. Hail To England for me rounded out everything that was great about Into Glory Ride – it was such a pivotal album. Why do you think it was so important in the Manowar career?

ROSS: The record came at just the right time, I thought. I think it was a combination of the album cover – how striking it was, how amazing it was – it was the song itself, and the contents of the album. I mean, it just was a combination of everything.

100% ROCK: I wondered if maybe metal fans around the world were also catching up to what you were doing at that time. Do you think you were a little bit ahead of your time up until that point?

ROSS: No doubt about it. Manowar really was the first power metal band. People were catching on all over and it just swelled – the band’s popularity just swelled – and when we came out with that record, people flipped out, really.

100% ROCK: Absolutely – it was huge, it’s just a fantastic album. So it’s gonna be great to hear it live – Australia never got the experience of Manowar touring, obviously. And, I believe it was Ronnie James Dio himself who introduced you to Joey DiMaio, a meeting which resulted in the formation of Manowar – is that correct?

ROSS: Yes, that’s correct! I was on tour in England, supporting Black Sabbath – I was playing in Shakin’ Street. And Ronnie Dio came up to me and said, ‘you know what, I think you should meet Joey’ – who was on the crew. And I said, ‘Yes, sir, yes, sir, yes, sir.’ The rest was history.

100% ROCK: [laughs] Yeah. How did the concept of Manowar develop when you guys were putting the band together? I mean, was it immediately we’re going to wear the Viking gear and the swords and all that, or did that evolve over time with the music?

ROSS: You know, the concept really came together, once we… we knew what we wanted to do with the band. We knew what kind of band we wanted. We wanted a three piece with a singer. You know, we just wanted that super sound [where] each guy was a titan, kind of a band. We didn’t have a name though, but then when we finally found our name – we could just go anywhere with that [name]. Yeah, so that’s what basically how it happened. It was just the combination of things. And I’m such a super fan of history, a super fan of Norse mythology, German mythology, Roman and Egyptian ancient mythologies – you know, the whole deal. And classical music – Wagner, Conan comic books, Marvel, the whole thing. We could just go anywhere with it.

100% ROCK: Did it feel at the time that you were breaking new ground and doing something amazing that no-one had done before?

ROSS: Yeeeeeeahhhhhhhhh [he says in a yes/no voice]… I kinda thought that they’re going to love us or they’re going to hate us. I mean, look at the band – because some of the band pictures were pretty outrageous. And people are going to either get what we’re trying to do, or fucking hate our guts for it! And that’s what we got – we got both sides of the reaction!

100% ROCK: You’re also very closely remembered for your punkier work, like The Dictators and Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom. When you’re playing those different sort of songs, do you alter your own playing style, or is it all just Ross The Boss, get in there and play some riffs and let the songs work around you?

ROSS: Yes, that’s exactly right. I kind of change the mode down a little bit. The Dictators are obviously more rock and roll based, but Manowar has some rock and roll songs too. You know, so, you can listen to The Warlord and you can listen to I’m An Animal. Even the solo in Manowar is [based on] a Chuck Berry solo. So I mean, I really don’t change that much, I just sculpted it, I just shaped it.

100% ROCK: Nice. You’ve played with a lot of bands over the years and some incredible musicians, of course. How do the guys in your current band stack up?

ROSS: My current band is probably the finest band out there right now. I mean, as far as as far as bass players go, Mike LePond [Symphony X] – I rate him as probably one of the best in the world, [along with] Billy Sheehan and Geezer Butler. Mike LePond is a combination of Geezer Butler, John Entwistle, Jack Bruce and Lemmy. He is so tremendous, Mike LePond is an absolute monster, a monster bass player. He’s… I mean, you’ll see if you come to the show, you’ll see – he plays Joey’s picking parts with his fingers. I mean, he is an animal, a total animal, and a great songwriter, great onstage, great friend of mine, a really great lieutenant, and a tremendous solo artist.

Steve Bolognaise [Into Eternity] on drums, he’s just a fantastic drummer, amazing, you know. He’s a Berkeley School [graduate], he knows how to play with groove and feeling, because that’s what I demand. He knows all the music. He’s very, very, very, very, very modern, but he can play anything old too.

And of course, our singer, Mark Lopes [Let Us Prey] is it an ultimate frontman, ultimate entertainer, gives 150% every show. He cares so much about his show, it’s like, I don’t have to tell him anything. He knows what to do. And he’s grown into the job, and people love him on stage. And that’s my band – you know what, I wouldn’t trade any of these guys for anyone on the planet. People come and see the band and they don’t even like Manowar – they just come to, you know, just to see us play! They don’t care what we play, they just wanna see us play. As a matter of fact we’re actually going into the studio Saturday to start working on a new record. We had the By Blood Sworn album last April [2018], and now we’re gonna have a new record next April.

100% ROCK: That’s great. And it segues nicely into my next question, which is: you’re playing the whole of Hail To England. What comes next? Is it just the best of Manowar, or are you going to be playing some of the newer tracks that your band has done?

ROSS: Well, I think people expect the Manowar thing, you know, obviously, that’s why we’re down there. Hail To England, Manowar classics, and maybe a couple of Ross The Boss songs. I think that’s all we’ll have time for. People have been requesting RTB songs, a lot actually.

100% ROCK: How are you as a boss – obviously this is your band, you are the boss, but you said earlier that these guys are friends of yours. Is it a pleasant environment traveling with these guys, or do you have to be like the band leader and have to be a bit strict and separate yourself a little bit?

ROSS: No, actually, this is a band of brothers. Of course I’m the leader, you know – I’m the boss. But I take care of these guys, I’d rather them be comfortable than me be comfortable. It’s my band first. You know, and that’s the way I am. So It’s just great to play with them – I look forward to hitting the stage with these guys, it never fails, never, never.

100% ROCK: Manowar were kind of a larger than life thing. It must be nice to take these songs back to basics and just play without all the props and the costumes and the extended bass solos and all that sort of stuff.

ROSS: That’s the freshness and the appeal of the band – we come onstage and just rip. There’s just no downtime, there’s no talking, there’s no explaining, there’s no fist pounding, there’s no, you know, telling people we’re the best band in the world and if you don’t like us, you know, you’re not into heavy metal. You know – let them tell us that, let the fans tell us that after the show, if they think that, we don’t have to tell people anything they already know. We’re giving them the message of true metal, they’re reacting to it.

100% ROCK: All metal no bullshit, right?

ROSS: That’s right. That’s right.

100% ROCK: Top stuff. All right. Just one quick question, then I’ll let you go, Ross. Could you have imagined, way back when, when you first picked up a guitar, that you’d be 65 years old and touring the world?

ROSS: Honestly, I didn’t even think I’d be alive. But you know, that’s how you think when you’re a young kid. It was just, it was impossible. No way you’re going to be 65… yeah, yeah!
Especially when I was like, 20, you know, 21/22, bouncing around CPGB’s, meeting every girl I could meet, being cool. You never think that you’re going to be 45 years old, that you’re still going to be playing [then]. But my goal was to always be a better guitar player every day. I wake up every day and try to be a better musician. It’s a great thing, you know, it’s a really great thing. I feel great. I’m very happy. I think stage performance and my rapport with the fans – I love meeting people and shaking people’s hands – that’s what it’s all about for me.

100% ROCK: I just thought of something else I wanted to ask you, actually, I hope you don’t mind. You’re obviously at work at the moment at the sports store. Do you get people just coming in asking for autographs and all that sort of stuff?

ROSS: ALL the time. People come in here, they bring a bag, they come back with their albums and t-shirts, jackets – it’s like a show in here! People come, they know that I’m here – it’s not hard to find out where I am – but they’re very respectful.

100% ROCK: That’s good – and hopefully they’re buying some gear while they’re there, right?

ROSS: [laughs] Sometimes they do!

Ticket link here:


Ross The Boss November 2019 Tour Dates
Friday 15 November – Whammy Bar, Auckland
Saturday 16 November – San Fran Bath House, Wellington
Sunday 17 November – Club Tavern, Christchurch
Wednesday 20 November – HQ, Adelaide
Thursday 21 November – The Zoo, Brisbane
Friday 22 November – Max Watts, Melbourne
Saturday 23 November – Metro Theatre, Sydney
Sunday 24 November – Rosemount Hotel, Perth

Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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