ROSS THE BOSS // official interview 2018 // AFM Records

It took quite a long time to release the new album “By Blood Sworn”, like, ten years. But it’s really worth to waiting, the stuff is brilliant! But why did it take so much time? And why did you play under different band names, I mean, Death Dealer first of all, returning to Ross The Boss brand just now?

Ok, that’s a very good question. I put my first solo record, “New Metal Leader”, out in 2008. And we did “Hailstorm” in 2010. And after that I figured that I didn’t know what direction I wanted to keep going. At that time I had my band, my great band from Germany, with my German boys, there were good guys. But I thought that I wanted to have a band closer to me and I live in New York city. I was thinking about that, so in the meantime I got a call from Sean Peck and Stu Marshall and they said that they wanted to form a band called Death Dealer. And I said “ok, great”. So, they sent me the music and I liked it and I said that I could be in the band and I don’t have to do all the work. I could be just a guitar player, a contributing member and I felt that it would be an interesting thing for me to do. So, we did “War Master” and then we did “Hallowed Ground” in 2015, I think. And that brought me up pretty much to where we are now, so I had two more metal releases, it put me to play at the Keep It True festival and that’s what started everything back again.

What could you say about your new singer, Marc Lopes, how did you find him? He really fits the songs!

It’s a great story because I was doing some Ross The Boss gigs with the old line-up with Mike Cotoia and my best friends’ band was an opening act for me and Marc came down just as a guest singer to sing two Accept songs like ‘Fast as a Shark’ and something else. And he immediately caught my attention, when I saw him singing I thought that this guy was freaking fantastic. He really impressed me the first time and then I did another show and he came again to sing and I was like ‘oh, my god!”. I was very impressed with Mark. And we often came with changing line-ups because the original band didn’t want to tour. I had to have a singer, so Marc was the first guy I thought of. I gave him a call and I said “Mark, I have this tour, I have all these dates and I need a singer, and I need someone that’s terrible durable, someone that’s strong, someone that’s dedicated, someone that wants to play these shows, someone that is very aggressive on stage, someone who knows how to handle with the audience, who is charismatic”. And Mark filled the bill. Obviously, you can see what’s happened. But I didn’t know how we would be doing the original material though. But when he came to playing live, he was brilliant and he was strong and he took care of himself ‘cos you know how hard this stuff is to sing, and he did an amazing job, he was road tested, he was battle tested. And I was wondering if he would be studio tested. And now I absolutely know that he has been studio tested.  

How did it happen with the songwriting? Did you write all new songs on your own or with the other members?

Well, everybody helped. The way it happened is after a long tour last year we came off the road in June: I said that it’s time to write a record. We could keep playing, we could have plenty of shows but I said: No, we have to come off, we should write this record correctly. Mike LePond, the greatest bass player in the world, came to my place and we started writing songs. We put  together a bunch of songs. And I asked: Mike do you have any songs, do you have any songs you wanna contribute? And he said that he had two songs that would fit really nicely, and these songs are “Devil’s Day” and “Fistful of Hate”. So we started working on those two songs, I had seven tunes for this record and Mike had two and Marc had one more song “We Are the Night” that he wrote with another partner from “Let us Prey”. We had ten songs! Then we started.

Why did you decide to choose exactly those Manowar songs to re-record for the album? Are they so special for your background? Did you want to give them a new life with new sound?

Definitely, I wanted to give a new life to them with a new sound, with a new production because I was never happy with the way they came out with Manowar. We play live those songs all the time and we had them ready and I think that they came out really well. We have a guitar-based mix instead of bass-based mix. But the bass is there, of course! It’s the whole different concept now.

How the By Blood Sworn world tour is going on?

We started the tour, we did 15 shows in the North-East, then we went to Europe and we did the Wacken boat cruise and like six or seven shows in Europe and they were fantastic! Then we headed to Australia. We played four really really great shows in Australia. They were super successful! They can’t wait to have us back next time! We pretty much broke Australia. We should return for five more shows in North America. And then we go to Europe for festivals.

Who influenced you as a guitarist? What did you listen to in the very beginning? Who were your idols back then?

When I first started playing the guitar when I was about 13 years old I was heavily influenced of course by The Beatles, George Harrison, of course, by Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones, but then I really got into the blues. Blues music and rock’n’roll was my biggest influence, of course, it was BB King. He’s my favorite guitar player. And then heavy English music started happening. Eric Clapton with Cream, the great English guitar players of the day… Peter Green from Fleetwood Mac… Jimmy Page… then Jimi Hendrix came… That was in 1969. And in 1970 Black Sabbath hit and Tony Iommi became a great influence on me. But if you really listen to me, I’m basically a blues guitar player, you can hear it. And that’s allowed me to play many genres of music and to do anything that I wanted to do in music because my musical base is so big and… you can hear it!

In Manowar times you played Gibson Les Paul guitars, right? What guitars do you use now?

Well, I’ve been basically Gibson SG, Gibson Les Paul, straingt-into-the amp kind of guy, with Marshall amps. Now I have new companies as ENGL amplifiers. Of course, I have my Gibson and ESP guitars in retirement, they are in store, because they are too valuable to take them out. And now I use my new company of guitars that is called Grosmann from Armenia. It is genius. I have lots of good ones, fantastic guitars. But I can pretty much get my sound from any guitar and any amp. My sound comes from my fingers. I play my guitar, I do not use any special effects on my guitar. I just plug the guitar straight into the amp and the tone comes from my fingers and my heart and my brain. That’s where it comes from. But my new favorite guitar is the Grosmann in fact.


What keeps you being motivated to go on with music? The industry has changed, there is not so much money nowadays, people have lots of choice of entertainment and less people pay for music. How do you keep being enthusiastic, what inspires you nowadays?

Well, I’ve started playing for my love of music, for my love of playing music in front of people and that’s what drives me. There’s still lot of feeling I get when I’m on stage, I think it’s the greatest feeling ever. That’s why I keep going. I would say that people love great live bands. I think there will always be a place for that in the world. We are a great live band and now we are a great recording band with this CD and I think there will be always audience for what we do. Heavy metal will never go away. It will NEVER stop. There’re too many fans. Honestly, there are young fans always coming up. It’s a kind of the genre that keeps re-inventing itself with young fans.

What was the main difference between 70’s/80’s and nowadays?

Well, music was a lot younger back then. You know, rock’n’roll was started in 50’s. Metal was kind of really started when Black Sabbath hit their first chord in 1970. In the 70’s and 80’s music was truly younger. All of us were captured by that sound and later Joey and I invented this music that was called power metal. So, I think that now music is grown up. And the genre is definitely older. Maybe people get older and it’s not as shimmering to them as it once was but then again, like I said, there are more new fans than ever before, you can see them at the shows. Well, it’s true that the Internet did kill rock’n roll, the Internet wiped away the way to make money for a lot of us. But that means that you just have to be better live. So, now you need to sell yourself live and then you can sell your merchandize. So, I don’t think it’s such a bad deal. And listen, I was there since 70’s years, I started at 1975 and, believe me, music was amazing in 70’s. But it’s still there. People still have the same spirit.

What could you advise to young guitarists?

That’s a great question! I would say – don’t listen to anybody else or follow any trend. Listen to yourself, get yourself some blues records, learn how to play the blues, learn how to play early rock’n’roll, stuff from the beginning of music. Don’t start learning guitar from Eddie Van Halen, believe me! He started with the blues and everything that I learned how to play. Then study AC/DC, study Ross the Boss, study Tony Iommi… go,go,go and learn from the beginning. And then you can study what you like. Then you can start learning how to play like Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and all those guys who are playing great guitar job. But make sure your foundation is big and solid. And then you can go.

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