Interviews / Presse
|Titel: ||Ross The boss - Kerrang 1982|
|Interview with Ross The Boss|
Published by : KERRANG MAGAZINE #22
Interviewer : Steve Gett.
Published on : 1982
While the airwaves of American radio are dominated by the clean, polished
sounds of such acts as Foreigner, Journey, and REO Speedwagon (and countless
others!), it's interesting to observe the emergence of a band like Manowar,
whose musical approach adheres to a far more basic Heavy Metal format.
There are plenty of good hard-rocking combos on the bar and club circuits in
the States, but few actually manage to break higher ground. The bottom line
though is that record companies are loathe to sign groups whom they feel may
have limited attraction to the radio networks. Manowar have been lucky and
secured a major recording deal, however guitarist Ross the Boss is clearly
dissatisfied with the state of the US music business.
"Everyone's scared!" he proclaims with a heavy tone of disgust. "The record
companies are scared and so are the radio stations. But at the top of the
list are the bands themselves. They're the ones doing all the damage and I
don't think today's generation has enough chance to find out the great buzz
of rock n' roll.
"We're not scared---we just don't give a shit! It's a cockiness for sure
but we feel that we're taking more of a stern direction. It's our mission!
The original buzz I got from music, when I listened to bands like Cream and
the Yardbirds was incredible. And somehow those moments have to be related
to today's generation.
"But the problem is that so many musicians have got lazy and are prepared to
play safe. If your sound is smooth, inoffensive, and runs into all the
other songs played on the radio every day, then you're safe. The end result
is this 'faceless' music played by all these 'faceless' bands who've got no
identity and no balls!"
Stong words, indeed. But then again, Ross the Boss is a campaigner who's
fought hard over the years to fulfill his musical ambitions. During the
seventies he played with New York rockers The Dictators and by the end of
the decade he'd joined French group Shakin' Street. Some of you may well
have seen the latter outfit when they supported Black Sabbath in the UK.
However, like The Dictators, they never enjoyed widescale success and no
doubt Ross soon became frustrated.
It was during that British tour that the axeman began to formulate the ideas
for Manowar with bassist Joey DeMaio. At that time, the bass player was
working as a pyrotechnic operator.
"He was the only New Yorker around and we got on well straight away,"
recalls Ross. "I then found out that he played bass. I heard him in the
dressing room one day, and thought Holy F---in Shit! This guy's
unbelievable. And so eventually we made a plan that I was gonna leave
Shakin' Street and work with Joey. I'd always wanted to put together the
ultimate power trio---a musician's band. Let's face it, my other groups
weren't like that and I always thought I stuck out a little, especially
The pair were soon hard at work on their new project and before long they
settled on the moniker Manowar. "We felt we had to make a statement with
our name," Ross explains. "If we didn't it just wouldn't be right. Once we
heard Manowar we knew it---it was us. It describes the way we are."
The next step was to find a singer for the band and eventually the vacancy
was filled by former butcher and meat cutter (!!!) Eric Adams. According to
Ross: "We just felt his voice was so incredible that he was the right man
for the job. His voice is really a tool, just like our playing, and so we
felt it was on par. He could carry such a strong musical band because he
knew how to sing. Eric's from Joey's home town and they'd worked together
in a few bands in the past."
Having settled on Donnie Hamzik as the skinbeater, Manowar then set about
recording a demo tape. Once completed, this caught the attention of
EMI-America. "It was a crude tape. We did it for 250 dollars but it was
enough to show the songs and create a bit of interest. Finally we got a
demo budget from EMI and went back to the studios. And then they agreed to
Our conversation, by the way, is taking place high above street-level in the
plush offices of Aucoin Management. This company was (until recently)
responsible for handling the affairs of the mighty Kiss. How did they come
to be looking after Manowar?
Ross: "Well, Bill (Aucoin) was given our demo tape and liked it a lot. We
had offers from other managers but in the end we chose him because he's
really into Heavy Metal and he knows about it. He has the knowledge of how
a band should be marketed and I respect him for his business expertise. I
think he was attracted to us because of our originality and our statement.
The overall concept we had."
At what stage did Bill become involved with the group?
"He came in during the recording and did a lot for the cover and graphics.
What's happening now is he's taking care of our whole production, the way
we'll be approaching things, and of course all the business matters."
Bill Aucoin's track record is highly impressive. The way he built Kiss into
a megaband was a brilliantly masterminded operation. People have often
scoffed at the masked wonders, but regardless of how you feel about their
music, it's not hard to admire the manner in which they were marketed.
Indeed, within less than half a decade they became one of the richest
outifts in the world. Aucoin is doubtlessly keen to give Manowar the
necessary direction and it would seem his intention is to herald the act as
HEAVY METAL with absolutely no frills.
A swift glance at the cover artwork on the debut 'Battle Hymn' LP is the
irrefutable proof of this. While the cover depicts an awesome condor, with
wings spread majestically, the reverse shows a macho multi-veined arm
holding a sword. You know exactly what's in store---this is hardly likely
to be the latest Bucks Fizz album!
But what about the music? Well, as mentioned earlier, Manowar's style is
straightforward Heavy Metal. With titles like 'Death Tone', 'Shell Shock',
and 'Dark Avenger' one would expect nothing less. If comparisons have to be
made then early Sabbath and hints of Iron Maiden spring to mind. There's no
doubt about it, Manowar do what they do very well. Adams has a powerful
range of vocals and Ross' guitar playing is commendable. However, where the
band suffer slightly is with the production, which they handled themselves.
What made them decide to twiddle their own knobs?
"Well, after all this time of making albums and being a victim of producers
I figured we should do it ourselves," states the axeman, "And I think it
worked out fine."
I'm afraid I can't agree on this point. Not wishing to create a bad feeling
I shan't provoke Ross, but next time around Manowar should use an outsider.
A Martin Birch or even an Eddie Kramer could do wonders for the group.
While 'Battle Hymns' has only just been released, Manowar have already
started thinking about the next album. Ross: "We've got level two all
planned for the band. There's music that makes this album look like Mary
Poppins! We're supposedly coming to Britain in October, or earlier if we
get the chance to do Reading, and after that we'll be going in to record."
Back to 'Battle Hymns', movie buffs may well be interested to note the
appearance of the legendary Orson Welles on the song 'Dark Avenger'. How
did they manage to persuade the 'King of Sherry' to help out?
"We needed an awesome voice," explains Ross, "and we figured there was only
one man in the world who could do it. So we got in touch with his manager
and sent over a copy of the lyrics. Orson really liked them and agreed. He
came in and did his part in 20 minutes (you can't beat a true professional).
He also did another track."
At this juncture Manowar's live activity has been limited to a few club
dates during the recording of the album down in Florida. Shortly though,
they'll be off on the road with Ted Nugent. Ross claims that his band is
the loudest in the world (yawn) and it'll be interesting to see what the
Nuge has to say about that.
"Well, we'll see.....we're prepared though. We're prepared for the hardship
in the beginning. All that matters is that the band plays---that's all we
care to do. To Manowar, being on stage is the ultimate honour for a
musician that plays Heavy Metal. It's your sacred ground! You see a lot of
musicians who take it all too lightly nowadays. They think they're doing
people a favour and are more concerned about how many T-Shirts they'll sell.
Let me tell you, when we were doing those gigs in Florida, we were
dropping plaster off the roofs in all the clubs. It was truly awesome... we
also did great business with the ladies."
Oh no, not another Rods, I hear you mutter. Mentioning Rock Feinstein's
penchant for 'wimmin' to Ross, a strange look spreads across his face.
"The Rods claim women? Well let me tell you something (here we go!) if they
claim women, we'll claim the "Harems of Allah", if you can get behind that
one. Because the fact is Manowar is a 'mannish' band founded on
Such curious terminology. What the hell is 'mannishness'?
"Mannishness is something that's gone in this country and it's basically the
spirit we have. To me, a lot of the great ethics of Heavy Metal have been
negated. Heavy Metal is the most powerful music in the world---it's the
most glorious next to classical. Great metal will never die!"