Interviews / Presse

Datum: 1988
Interview with Ross The Boss
Published by : POWER METAL
Published on : 1988


While all bands experience a fair share of career ups and downs, few have
survived the curve balls thrown at them by Fate as well as New York metal
merchants Manowar. Having released five albums on as many record labels in
as many years, Manowar count themselves lucky to still be churning out their
self-styled tunes on vinyl and in the live forum. Here is a synopsis of
their turbulent career as told to Power Metal by guitarist Ross the Boss.

In 1981, I was in a French band called Shakin' Street. We were touring with
Black Sabbath in England on their Heaven and Hell tour when Ronnie James Dio
was still in the band. I wasn't really happy in Shakin' Street and was
looking for a better situation. Anyway, at one of the concerts, Ronnie
introduced me to Joey DeMaio, who was doing the pyrotechnics for Black
Sabbath at the time. There weren't too many Americans on the tour, so I was
happy to have someone to talk to. Joey said he really liked the way I
played and told me that he was a bass player. So, while Black Sabbath was
onstage, we went into their dressing room and started jamming. We
discovered we had a lot of the same interests, so we decided that when we
got back to America, we'd form a band.

I left Shakin' Street as soon as we got home and he left the Black Sabbath
crew, and we immediately started writing songs. I had a friend who was a
big A&R man in New York and he became interested in us. He saw Joey and me
play just as a duo, without a band and he said, "You guys are really good, I
like the sound you get, so why don't you work on putting a band together."
So the first thing we needed was a great singer. Joey grew up in Auburn,
New York, which is upstate. There was this kid named Eric Adams who had
sung in a lot of bands with Joey during their childhood. Joey kept raving
about what a fantastic voice Eric had, so we invited him to come to one of
our demo sessions and lay down some vocals. They worked out so well, that
from then on we knew we had "the voice." The only thing we were missing was
a drummer.

While we were making our various demos, we just picked up drummers along the
way. When we gave our final demo to the A&R friend and he brought it to
EMI, they signed us without ever having seen us live. We had never even
played a gig! We were really excited about getting signed, but we still had
to find a permanent drummer and decide exactly what Manowar was all about.
When we went down to Florida to record BATTLE HYMNS, the first album, we
recruited our first drummer, Donnie Hamzik. He was good but not really
suited for the band. So after the album was finished, we started looking
for a replacement. We had heard about a drummer from upstate New York that
worked in a metalworks factory. His name was Scott Columbus. When we
auditioned him, he learned our stuff in one sitting and fit into the band
immediately. So he was in and Donnie was out.

At this point, we already knew that Manowar would have a certain image.
That's probably why Bill Aucoin approached us. He's probably best known as
Kiss' manager. He's also managed John Waite and Billy Idol, so his record
speaks for itself when it comes to image-oreinted bands. But he didn't
really have enough time to devote to us, so we eventually had to part ways.
But, at the beginning, we agreed that Manowar would be different. If you
look at the song titles of other bands before we came out, you'll see they
were relatively tame. As soon as Manowar came out though, all the other
groups jumped on the bandwagon of the sword and sorcery imagery and fierce
song titles and lyrics. Although we took a lot of our inspiration from
older bands, we really focused it for this generation so that it gave birth
to a whole new genre of music.

We put together a show with lots of Viking images and leather and swords and
all that stuff. EMI sent us out on the road with Ted Nugent, but we were
kicked off the tour after only a few days. You'll have to ask Ted about
that, I'm not gonna make accusations. Meanwhile, EMI was going through a
recessionary problem and a lot of people were losing their jobs at the
company. As a result, we were neglected. Instead of getting us on another
tour, they dropped us from the label. It was a travesty. We wanted to sue
them for what they did, but we didn't have the money to go up against a big
record company. You can imagine how we felt! We finally had a record and a
tour, and then two weeks later, we had nothing.

But we weren't gonna give up. We played a lot of local club dates and
started recording another album, INTO GLORY RIDE, which was eventually
released on Megaforce. The greatest hurdle for us has always been in
convincing record companies that we were viable. There's been such a
misunderstanding about us.

Our third album, HAIL TO ENGLAND, really took off in England and Europe, and
we got incredible reviews. We did our first English tour and came back to
the States where we still an underground band. We were bigger in Europe
than in our own country! We wanted to tour, to support a major group like
Priest or Sabbath or the Scorpions, but no one would take us. So we just
kept doing what we do best --- playing and recording.

We released ALL MEN PLAY ON TEN, and went back to Europe, where we'd play 5,
10, 15,000 seaters and them come home and play a few clubs on the East
Coast. It was like knocking our heads against a wall. We couldn't get
radio air play; none of the labels would put any money into promoting us,
and no one would give us a break and let us open their tour. Meanwhile, all
these newer, younger bands were getting signed and we started feeling like
we'd always been ahead of our time. We're not a thrash band, we're not a
glam band, we've got our own sound and image, and we don't listen to any
other band for inspiration because we wouldn't find it.

This is the first time we've recorded more than one album for the same
record company. We put out FIGHTING THE WORLD last year on Atco Records,
and we're getting ready to record our sixth album for them soon. FIGHTING
THE WORLD was the perfect title because we feel that's what it's been like
for us this whole time --- a real uphill struggle all the way. For this
next album, we're gonna tour America first and then Europe, we'll have a
video and the backing of our label. Obviously, we're here for the long
haul, which is the way it should be. Our fans are our inspiration. They're
the most loyal I've ever met. They're fanatical. We're not gonna wimp out
or change. We wouldn't let our fans down, and we wouldn't let ourselves
down either.