Ross The Boss – Ross (guitars)

Guitarist Ross “The Boss” Friedman, legendary co-founder of MANOWAR, has been kicking ass in bands his whole life. His new band, which bares his namesake, is backed by a former German MANOWAR tribute band. ROSS THE BOSS’s debut album, New Metal Leader, is a slab of meaty riffs only Ross could come up with.

Ross The Boss is taking the metal world by storm, proving that he’s still an enormous talent by infusing his original guitar sound with some great European power metal. In the early ’70s, Ross cut his teeth in the influential New York punk band the DICTATORS. In 1980, Ross and bassist Joey DeMaio formed MANOWAR, which included the RODS drummer Carl Canedy. Ross was in MANOWAR for eight years; differences with Joey over the direction of the band led to his exit.

Most fans know you as being the original guitarist for Manowar, but talk about your time in The Dictators.

We started our careers and put out our first record in 1975, “The Dictators Go Girl Crazy.” We blew ahead of the Ramones. I think we came into the city when the (New York) Dolls were at their end. We played with them a lot. They were kind of cool, but they didn’t understand the band … it was all motorcycles and black leather and jeans … snarling. It was definitely anti-glam but definitely punk. The metallic edge was me on guitar. That was the thing with the Dictators … I think it was a little too punk for the metal guys and a little too metal for the punk rockers.

How did you and Joey decide on the Manowar concept?

Everything was our concept for the band. We wanted a band that was going to be unlike anything else that had ever been in heavy metal before. Judas Priest was out and was already doing their leather look, and we wanted something a little more outrageous than them … a little wilder. And what would be more wilder? We figured … animals? Animal skins? It was kind of crazy, but something we wanted to do. And the Norse concept really put the band ahead of everyone else.

What led to your exit in ‘88?

That was pretty much not agreeing with Joey on everything, the course of the band, the image of the band, the severity of the band. The fact that we were driving away a lot of “what could-be” fans with the attitude … the all-or-nothing attitude that Manowar has. The “Death to False Metal” thing drove me crazy. I thought we turned off more people than we turned on, to be honest with you. We’re not angry at each other. It’s just that Joey wanted complete control of the band, and that’s what it was. I said, “I can’t take this anymore. That’s it, let’s separate.” So basically, I was asked to leave. I wasn’t arguing (laughing).

Were you very musically active after you left Manowar?

I was extremely active. I made a lot of records after that. We had Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom. Two years later I had this band called Heyday, a blues rock band. The Dictators started playing again, we started touring a lot in Europe and making records. I was making my own records. I had a band called Spenachas, we had a deal. My son was born in ‘91. … Put it this way, I was busy! Producing, mixing, sessions, all that stuff.

After all these years, playing in different bands, what do you still find exciting about being a musician?

The fact that I can go out there and put my guitar on and entertain folks. Playing music, meeting a lot of people, writing songs and just hearing the creation of music is pretty thrilling for me. How an idea blossoms to a full-blown song, which we’re in the midst of doing … we’re recording our second record right now. It’s such a great process, doing this record. Making music just never gets old to me. It’s a great thing.

Were your band members actually a Manowar tribute band? How did you find them?

That’s an amazing story. They were already schooled metal musicians in a band call Ivory Night in Germany. They just did this Manowar thing, a couple of gigs, one or two times, and they recorded it and sent it to the guy that wanted me to play this festival, to play a night of old Manowar. I said yeah, but I didn’t have a band. And they said, “You’re not going to believe this, but we found you a band.” It was unbelievable. They sounded exactly like Manowar. I had to check myself because I hadn’t listened in a while, but it was definitely another band. So I agreed to do it. I flew to Germany, we had two practices, and then we played the gig, the Keep It True festival. And you can see all these performances on YouTube. It’s our very first time on stage together after two practices, which is a pretty bold thing to do. So then I said, “This is great guys, but I don’t want to be a cover band.” We then got shows in Italy, Russia and Greece. So I said, “Alright, let’s do these shows, have some fun, but let’s try some of our own music.” While I was in Germany, we went to Tarek Maghary’s studio, who was the promoter for Keep It True and had this band Majesty, who is now in Metal Force. I laid down what would be “We Will Kill” and “I Got The Right.” I said, “OK boys, this is the chance. This is the true mark of great musicians … our own music.” And I said, “You run with it.” And I left. They did the bass, drums, Patrick (Fuchs) wrote lyrics, and voilá! We had it mixed, and in four months we had a record deal with AFM. We released the record in August 2006, and now we’re going to release our second record in August 2010.

Obviously, being from Manowar, whatever you play is going to being compared with it, or there will be similarities, because it is your guitar sound. What was the goal you had in mind while forming the band?

We’re going to be an original band. We’re going to make quality music. Some of it is going to sound a little like Manowar because it’s me. That’s my thing, it was my creation … some of it. There’s definitely going to be a lot of Manowar-isms. But I think now that it’s going along, we’re going to move away from that. It’s naturally moving away and morphing into our own thing, which you’ll see with the new record. It’ll still be there, it will always be there. But I don’t want to mimic Manowar, believe me. None of us do.

Did you think the band would get more recognition naming it after yourself, or did you want to pick a band name?

If you’ve ever read anything about me, I wanted to pick a band name. AFM, on the other hand, would have nothing to do with that. They said breaking another band name in would be just insane. So I said, “OK, you’re the guys that have to go out and sell this thing.” And they said, “At this time in your life, Ross, you’ve been making music all your life, and everybody knows you.” I refer to those guys, they’re in this business every single day, they’re in the record business. They didn’t even want “Ross The Boss Band.” I’m totally self-conscience about it, I don’t like it. But if that’s what people recognize and that’s what the record company wanted, I’m not a guy who licks record company ass at all, but they do know what they’re talking about, to an extent. So I let them have it and I let it go.

How’s the new record coming along, and what direction is it heading in?

The direction is heavier. The songs are better. The sound is going to be better. The performances will be better. The band is more self-assured, I think. We’re just getting there. It’s been a real fun record to do, right from the beginning of the songwriting sessions. We’ve had a blast doing this. When the ideas come so fast, it’s almost orgasmic for a musician. I’m getting contributions from the whole band. Carsten Kettering, our bass player, is a great songwriter, and he has three or four songs on this record. Patrick has written a couple, I’ve written the rest. We’re just a bunch of happy songwriting guys right now, and hopefully everyone else will think that as well!

By Kelley Simms
Story originally ran in Hails & Horns

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