» Ross The Boss - Death Dealer
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Interview conducted July 27 2015
Interview published July 29 2015

"I invented Manowar."

Death Dealer's second effort, Hallowed Ground, is coming out on October 2nd on the band's new label SMG [Sweden Music Group]. On the band's European summer tour, Metal Covenant met up with veteran guitar player Ross The Boss in Stockholm, Sweden, to basically talk about the record and the band's activities.

"We're doing this to be a serious, legitimate touring band with fans."

Tobbe: Let's talk about your coming album. What do you think differs this record from the last one [War Master]?

Ross: I think that this record, Hallowed Ground, is deeper. It's more of us. It's more of me in the band, 'cause I had just joined the band on the last one. I think that we're offering more of ourselves on this record. More epic stuff. The band is more fully integrated. I think War Master, as great as it critically did, this one will be the first one that people really hear.

Tobbe: So what is your main goal with this album?

Ross: Well, listen. As in any band we're not doing this just to make records. We're doing this to be a serious, legitimate touring band with fans. And we're gonna get it. We're gonna do it, you know. It might not happen overnight, but it's gonna happen. I mean, just from the reactions that we've been getting at Headbanger's Open Air and all that stuff, I think the band is just set to do it. Not just because of the individual guys and what they've done. We don't care about that. I don't care about that. I think the band together is great.

Tobbe: Yeah, but you have great experience too in your band, so it's something you can rely on.

Ross: Right, right, right. It's like, you know, it's not anyone's first record.

Tobbe: Will the United States or Europe be your primary target with this release?

Ross: I think obviously it's gonna be Europe first. United States is just in a state of flux. What can happen, can happen. Plenty of great metal fans there, awesome people and believe me, they just keep up on what's going on here. And especially in like South America and the Pacific Rim now. But, listen, it's not going away. Heavy metal just does not go away. It's a great thing. They've tried to kill it many times, but it just keeps coming back.

Tobbe: You mentioned that you now work more together as a group with more of your involvement too…

Ross: I mean, let's face facts. Death Dealer was an internet band. You know, Sean calls me and "Would you be interested?". And I go "Send me a song.". And once I heard a song I said "I'm interested.". "And what about my songs?" and then, you know, we started. But now that we've toured, now that we did Metal All Stars, the Eastern European things, we've proven it in front of 10000 people, you know. So it's not just a fly-by-night thing. This band can legitimately take the throne.

Tobbe: Can you more specifically tell me how the band has developed between these 2 records?

Ross: I think that when you make your first record, you can see where you are songwriting-wise, because my whole thing is songwriting first, okay. The playing, the shredding, the guitar playing, the drums, to me that's secondary. I mean, I come from the school of songs. Songwriting is everything to me. With The Dictators. With all the bands I've been in. It's all songs. If you don't have songs, you don't have anything, personally. I know a lot of metal bands that come out there and they blast their way and it just is nothing there. You can play the longest guitar solo, you can the fastest guitar solo, but it's just not happening. But if you can combine the riff, the song, the chorus, the great guitar solos, the great singing, which is 50 percent of the whole thing. Let's not forget who's singing these songs.

And then the whole thing, the whole carpet is laid out in front of you, the whole field is laid out in your metal panorama, you can really do something. You can do some damage, so that's what we went for. The first thing I did when I joined the band, you know, early on, before it wasn't a band, I said "Listen. It's songs, it's choruses, and songs and choruses, and then after that it's songs and choruses, and then after that it's more songs and more choruses", and that's all I'm about. Okay, if you want me to come in and play a 20 minute solo, I can do it, but I'm not doing it. That's not where our thing is. It's the songs. You've heard the record, right?

Tobbe: Yes, totally.

Ross: As you've heard it, I mean, it's there. Even in the songs that you don't think are there, it's there. So that's what our goal is. We just played the Headbanger's Open Air and we get on there and we start singing those songs and I'm watching faces. That's all I do, is watch faces and watch reaction to music and that's like: First chorus "High, high.". We're doing Revolution, "High, high, raise 'em high". Second chorus, you know, a group that were kind of singing it. By the third chorus, they had taught themselves the song. When it came back again, they knew what to say. So that's to me the judgment of songs. If I know that there's a great song there, and there are, it's a whole album's worth, then that's all I care about.

Tobbe: In what way do your songs progress from a first idea or a first riff to a complete song?

Ross: It comes through with the lyrics and your singer, okay, and the way the band brings the chorus. I'm like known for like "Cut it, cut it, cut it, cut it.". Less is more, to me less is more. I mean, in the metal genre you would think more is more. It's not. Not to Ross The Boss, it isn't, and not any band that I'll ever play in. Less is more. Bring out the chorus. Is there something in there? Is there a phrase? Is there something? You know, it's like "High, high, raise 'em high. I am the revolution.", and it's like "Gunslinger". All these songs have it. I mean, "The Way Of The Gun", a little more epic, but you can get behind it. You know "Plan of attack. Attack! Attack!". It's like we're visualizing what a metal audience would do. How we could melt the metal audience into the ground and that's our goal of doing it, you know. Whether we finally succeed at it, that's another deal, but as far as I'm concerned, this record is ready to go and ready to be burned.

Tobbe: What inspires you guys, lyrically?

Ross: Well, you know, from my metal school, you know, the Manowar. You know, battle, fighting, science fiction. Sean Peck [vocals] is seriously into science fiction, Marvel Comics, as myself. He has written a lot of things. He's got a lot of things backlogged written. So that's what we do, you know. With U666, I have a fascination with history. We have a Western thread in this record, Hallowed Ground. The Way Of The Gun, you know, Clint Eastwood. So we're doing these things a little different than the first. The first one was more Sci-Fi, you know with the Conan, you know that guy with the gun. He's cyborged and someone said "Is that you, Ross?" and I'm like "No.". - "Who is that?". - "I don't know.". The guy goes cyborging from the present to the future, but now the guy's in Texas, or in Arizona, in the American Southwest, you know, killing mutants or whatever it is, I don't know, but that's about what it is.

Tobbe: Your music is basically traditional heavy metal with a bit of thrash metal and power metal involved. Were you ever thinking of putting a more traditional style to the music, rather than to put a modern style to the music?

Ross: It just came the way it came. We weren't looking for anything. We were just looking to touch it. We were just looking to do it. I think some people "Oh, let's do an album and let's make it like this…". I never was able to do that and I've made 30. I mean, 30! [Laughs]

Tobbe: The ways and techniques of recording albums have changed significantly since you first started, like 4 decades ago, so how have you tried to adapt to the constant changes?

Ross: Well, as I've said to a lot of journalists and people; the internet has killed the music business, but it has enabled us to be a multi-continental band. [Snaps his fingers] Skype, internet, boom boom, we're writing songs together. I mean, it's like we're in the same room together now, so it's allowed Death Dealer to be Death Dealer.

Tobbe: In today's tough musical climate, how many heavy metal bands can there actually be? It's a tough competition nowadays.

Ross: It seems as a zillion of 'em, but not a zillion good ones. [Laughs]. We just wanna be the good one. One of the good ones. There are a few. The few are gonna have to make way for us, because we're coming in.

Tobbe: What the biggest challenge with making music that supposedly addresses to a large number of fans?

Ross: I don't second-guess myself ever, because I've seen 2 waves of music, punk and heavy metal, and been with the forefront. I don't second-guess myself. I can't. I just do what I feel. I say what I feel, I do what I feel. If it works out, it works out, you know. I'm totally into this band and we have wind in our backs, you know.

Tobbe: You said that you do what you feel, but do you put a lot of pressure on yourself, concerning songwriting and studio work?

Ross: You know what? I do not put pressure on myself. I let the game come to me. I've been in the business long enough, that I let it come to me. I don't force it. When you force something, it sucks. You know, a song, a guitar riff, you can not sit down and say "I'm writing songs today!". That's not the way, at least I've written songs in my life. I mean, Ross The Boss. You know when it comes to me? When I'm like at Dunkin' Donuts or something or I hear this something and the way something hits me and when I'm on my phone. It's a gift. I'm not that prolific. I'm just not that prolific like I was in 1982, you know, but I've written a bunch of records with a lot of bands. Now we have Stu Marshall [guitar] that's just a fantastic songwriter, so we work together, we complement. Sean has an amazing amount of lyrical output.

I'm working with 2 guys that are really, really, really putting stuff out right now, so that's why we've been able to make 2 albums in 2 years. I mean, I can't be the only guy writing songs, ever. I never was. Between Stu and I, we can though. We got plenty of music. I think it's great. I'm having fun. I'm so grateful to SMG. They're doing it the right way, which is hard to find these days. There's so many hard stories about great musicians putting out very, very good work and nothing's happening. But I think we have a good team here.

Tobbe: How much time and effort will you guys put into this band and its future activities?

Ross: We're gonna put full-time. As much as full-time as we can. I have other touring commitments with The Dictators and the other extraneous Metal All Star stuff, but, you know, we're all there. I mean, everyone's got a little different project and other bands. Sean's got Cage, but everyone knows that this is it. I mean, I have nothing to do anymore and my son's grown. I'm just pretty much a full-time musician.

Tobbe: So what can you personally do to become a bigger act at the end of the day?

Ross: Well, I can't convince the world, you know. We're gonna convince it through our guitar playing and on our stuff. I mean, we're just gonna do the things. We're gonna make a video, for Break The Silence. We're just gonna continue to write metal anthems. Listen, this is what we know and judging by what I'm seeing, the first reactions to these songs, it's gonna be all right. It's not gonna happen overnight, nothing does. The heavy metal machine is a big Goliath. It's slow moving. It's hard to get it started, but once you get it started, it ain't gonna stop.

Tobbe: I think it's the same as it was 3 decades ago. You've gotta spread the word. Nowadays you have to do it differently than you did before, but it's still about spreading the word.

Ross: Yeah. We're here and we can tour. We can play small clubs, we can play giant stages, we can play anywhere we can possibly play, and we're gonna do it. You know, adversity is not gonna stop us and we have the ability to write songs and produce very inexpensively and you've heard the result.

Tobbe: How do you personally try to adapt to social media? Do you use facebook and stuff?

Ross: Yeah, of course. We've got our friends and fans and I've got my Twitter and facebook, and we have the RTB fans. I'm twittering every day. I'm not really as good at Twitter as like Zakk Wylde is, I mean, 'cause he's got his Black Label Society, you know, which is much bigger. But I'm learning as we go.

Tobbe: As most metal fans already know you played in Manowar…

Ross: I invented Manowar.

Tobbe: Yeah, you did, with Joey [DeMaio]. Do you think it's still too much focus on what you did before 1988?

Ross: I think that it was when I started the Ross The Boss band in 2008. There was that kind of like "This better be…", you know. But no, and I think I've been out of the band for so long that a lot of the newer fans don't even know who I was.

Tobbe: But it's still part of your legacy of course.

Ross: Of course, and The Dictators. And The Dictators are witnessing Sony Legacy reissuing our first record. Andrew W.K. has just done 3 remixes and they're touching it up to releasing a double thing of that 40th anniversary of Go Girl Crazy!, our first record, 1975. So, I mean, things are really good. I don't know how it happened, but it's happens, it's happening.

Tobbe: What about Sean? How does he combine his work with this band and Cage?

Ross: It's a little kind of pressure there. He has been in the band for 20 years with those guys. I don't really know Cage. I've really never listened to them, but I give them a lot of respect for working hard with that band.

Tobbe: What makes Death Dealer, amongst all those bands you've played in, to something special?

Ross: I just think that the band is here at the right time. I think heavy metal needs a new kick in the ass. It's not a new band, but it's not an old band. Everyone that's heard it really is into it. The artist always thinks that. [Laughs] You ever hear an artist put down his product?

Tobbe: You're obviously on tour, right here, right now, and before the record releases. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

Ross: I think this is good. I think this is perfect. I think this gets us to get out in front of people. It's not as easy as it should be, but that's good for us. I think it's a paying the dues tour for us and I like it.

Tobbe: You're a touring musician and certain sacrifices have to be made. Were you aware of that when you were young and up-and-coming?

Ross: Yeah. That's actually all I wanted to do. I mean, "If I'm not going to college and becoming a doctor or something like that, I'm playing!". There are sacrifices, but now my son is 24, and I'm good. It's always been about my guitar with me and I've dedicated my life's work to this.

Tobbe: Is there something you can do to significantly develop your guitar play nowadays?

Ross: No, I play the same solos that I've been playing in my whole life [Laughs]. Actually I'm excited about playing guitar. I am not a shredder. I have nothing to do with that world. I'm basically a blues guitar player and very proud of it. Rock N' Roll guitar and I just happen to play in metal bands [Laughs].

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