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Born Of Fire And Loud As He Can Be: An Exclusive Interview With ROSS "THE BOSS" FRIEDMAN

By Andrew Depedro, Ottawa Corespondent
Monday, February 10, 2020 @ 1:44 PM

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MANOWAR Photo Credit: Fin Costello\/Redferns

He’d earned the right to conquer every shore throughout his tenure as one of the founding members of MANOWAR, his raw wild guitar work on the band’s 80’s discography beginning with 1982’s legendary debut Battle Hymns laying down the groundwork for the burgeoning US power metal scene. And as such, esteemed axeman Ross The Boss has absolutely earned the right to conquer the $16.95 after lunch special at Sushi Village right next door to Mavericks before he and his band later tore the roof off on January 30. And I was there to share a cup of herbal tea with the humble legend himself as we talked MANOWAR, DICTATORS, MANITOBA'S WILD KINGDOM (and whether Handsome Dick Manitoba would fare better had he named himself after another Canadian province), his latest RTB disc Born Of Fire, those outlandish Viking warrior outfits and even baseball!

KNAC.COM: Hi Ross. Welcome back to Canada. How’s the tour going so far?

FRIEDMAN: It’s been absolutely great. It’s really good, y’know? We’re very excited to be here.

KNAC.COM: I just want to say, first of all, that despite having been a bit late to the MANOWAR party in my early teen years myself, but later rediscovering them while living abroad – in Spain specifically because MANOWAR are massively huge there – but I just wanted to say that your performance in particular on those first six studio albums absolutely defined MANOWAR’s sound for sure. That said, with yourself having come from a punk background stemming from your previous touring/playing experience first with the DICTATORS and then later with SHAKIN' STREET in the 70’s before your chance meeting with Joey DeMaio while you were both touring with BLACK SABBATH on their Heaven And Hell tour in 1980, was there an immediate connection at the time between you and DeMaio?

FRIEDMAN: Well, we became friends. Ronnie Dio told me I should check Joey out, he’s on our crew, he plays bass, he plays bass like no one else does…so that became interesting, we became friends and then we started jamming in BLACK SABBATH’s dressing room, and that’s how it all began.

KNAC.COM: So, given the overall intensity and energy, and, I guess the high-demand show that MANOWAR’s live shows were particularly known for back in the day, did you feel that there was always a bit of pressure to go musically above and beyond your role in the band?

FRIEDMAN: Just because we’re MANOWAR?

KNAC.COM: Probably, I guess I would have to say.

FRIEDMAN: I think it was the next level. I wanted to play, I wanted to play something heavier, and MANOWAR was the obvious…you know, the things that we were talking about was the obvious thing. We wanted to do something bigger, louder, faster than anyone else. That was our goal, and I think we did it.

KNAC.COM: I’ll say. I mean, few bands were able to actually end up landing in the Guinness Book Of World Records – I think that was twice for being literally the loudest band?

FRIEDMAN: Twice as the loudest band.

KNAC.COM: You even broke your own previous record, I heard.

FRIEDMAN: That’s true. We were fricken’ loud!

KNAC.COM: Where did that particular concert take place?

FRIEDMAN: Hammersmith Odeon, the first one, the first time. The second time, I wasn’t in the band.

KNAC.COM: So, after your time with MANOWAR, you first formed your new band MANITOBA'S WILD KINGDOM and then reformed the DICTATORS around the mid-90’s or so. So, given the significant musical differences between MANOWAR, who were heavy metal and MANITOBA'S WILD KINGDOM and, of course, the DICTATORS being straight-ahead punk rock, did you find much of a difference between the MANOWAR audiences and the MANITOBA'S WILD KINGDOM/DICTATORS audiences during your touring time with all three bands?

FRIEDMAN: There was a difference with the audiences. The DICTATORS were more of a punk, punk/metal kinda thing, but as time went by, my fans were just coming to whatever I was doing. So there was a great mix.

KNAC.COM: So how did Handsome Dick Manitoba actually get his stage name anyway?

FRIEDMAN: (laughing) Well, it was just the fact that we all wanted to choose different names because we didn’t like our Jewish names, being Jewish kids from the Bronx, so we just wanted to have new names. We thought we could make him Canada’s Greatest Athlete.

KNAC.COM: (laughing) Yeah, because it was kinda surprising because when MWK came out with “The Party Starts Now” – that song’s actually 30 fuckin’ years old now this year!

FRIEDMAN: (equally surprised) Yeah…I know.

KNAC.COM: And the song just became like a cult favorite up here in Canada probably because of the band name. There was even a rumor at one point that Handsome Dick Manitoba really was from Manitoba – even though he’s really from the Bronx, isn’t he?

FRIEDMAN: (laughing) Yep…he’s from the Bronx.

KNAC.COM: (laughing) That was just one name he came up with randomly. Handsome Dick Saskatchewan was probably a bit too long to fit on a marquee (both laughing). So, moving on, tell me a bit more about your latest project ROSS THE BOSS, as I understand that your latest album Born Of Fire is actually your fourth studio album.

FRIEDMAN: It’s our fourth studio album and it’s the best. It’s absolutely incredible. Have you heard it yet?

KNAC.COM: I have actually and I’m even going to be reviewing it. The review will be coming out a little bit later right after this concert.

FRIEDMAN: It’s unbelievable.

KNAC.COM: I’ve already heard a few of the tracks like the opener “Glory To The Slain” in particular, which is one of your fastest tracks that you’ve played since the early MANOWAR days.

FRIEDMAN: There are a lot of things on this record that are incredible, like “Made In The Shadows”.

KNAC.COM: So how did the latest lineup come about for this new album assuming it’s otherwise the same lineup from 2018’s By Blood Sworn?

FRIEDMAN: It is. With By Blood Sworn we had a different drummer – I think Rhino from MANOWAR was in the band for a while – and he had to leave, so I had to get my nephew Lance Barnwald to play drums on the record because we didn’t have time to get a new drummer, so now since 2017 we have Steve Bolognese, our current drummer, and he’s the best. This guy’s played on the record, and now we’ve done two years of touring with him, and it’s epic.

KNAC.COM: Wow. Well, definitely can’t wait to see him in concert.

FRIEDMAN: Oh, you’ll see him.

KNAC.COM: I can’t wait. And if I’m not mistaken, I don’t think any of the members came from the original lineup for DEATH DEALER. Is that correct?

FRIEDMAN: No, no. But Steve was always on the drums. So, we have Steve and me on the first two records and Stu (Marshall) and now, on the new record, Michael LePond played bass on the record, and Steve on drums, me on guitar, Stu (Marshall) and then Shawn.

KNAC.COM: That’s a pretty well-rounded lineup.

FRIEDMAN: (laughing) Yep.

KNAC.COM: I remember at the time with DEATH DEALER, when that band came out, originally I think that was the project that you and Rhino from MANOWAR wanted to do.

FRIEDMAN: Rhino was on the first record.

KNAC.COM: Ah. And I believe that prior to the last time when you and Rhino had played, I think it was at a festival in Europe – I can’t remember which one – that you played at.

FRIEDMAN: Headbangers.

KNAC.COM: Yes! Headbangers Open Air in Germany.


KNAC.COM: That was kinda like a last-minute appearance, I believe?

FRIEDMAN: Kinda something like that if my memory serves me correct. And we’re gonna go out on the road again this summer.

KNAC.COM: So you’re likely playing all of the other festivals as well. I believe you’ll be playing Headbangers Open Air again, and…are you guys slated to play Download?

FRIEDMAN: I don’t know. Maybe.

KNAC.COM: Or Bloodstock?

FRIEDMAN: (correcting me) We just played Bloodstock. With KK Downing (JUDAS PRIEST).

KNAC.COM: Ah, yes! I do remember now. That was last summer….I was trying to remember the whole reason that KK Downing ended up leaving the band.

FRIEDMAN: I think there was some difficulty or something, and, unfortunately, things happen. So, KK hadn’t played in 10 years and the first time he played was the first time he played with us.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, because I’d heard as well that he’d been trying to get out of the music business altogether and was opening his own golf course.

FRIEDMAN: Yeah, he tried and he did his golf course, and I don’t know how that worked out, I didn’t ask him his business, but we had two great days of rehearsal, and then we had the gig and did Bloodstock. It was fantastic. I mean, it was really great.

KNAC.COM: Actually, if you don’t mind my asking, I’ve heard that you’re also something of a huge baseball fan as well, just getting out of the music realm for a bit. And you have a business venture known as The Cage if you could tell me a bit more about it.

FRIEDMAN: Well, for the past 16 years, I’ve had a 10,000 square foot baseball/softball/cricket facility in New York City, and it’s very famous – quite legendary now – and it’s been great for the local kids and it’s been great for baseball.

KNAC.COM: Have you ever met anyone famous showing up there?

FRIEDMAN: Sure. Absolutely.

KNAC.COM: Namedrop a few names just for context! (laughs)

FRIEDMAN: The New York Mets, I had the New York Yankees come…you know, it was great.

KNAC.COM: So, the first six MANOWAR albums – sorry for redirecting back to that – what would you say was probably your favorite? Not to put one album over the other…

FRIEDMAN: My favorite MANOWAR record? (thinks for a bit) That’s hard to say. (pauses some more)I think the first one, because it started it all. I think the first one. Battle Hymns.

KNAC.COM: Battle Hymns. For sure. To be honest, I don’t think I really got around to really get into MANOWAR around ’91 or ’92 – surprisingly during the grunge era. But I think for me it took me having to go to Europe to fully understand a bit of what MANOWAR were all about, regrettably never having ever seen MANOWAR in concert. So this will be the closest thing for me in this case.

FRIEDMAN: You’re gonna see the old school style.

KNAC.COM: I’m definitely looking forward to that. Especially a lot of the older numbers, like, say, “Metal Daze”, your actual namesake song…

FRIEDMAN: Maybe you won’t see “Metal Daze” tonight, but you will see “Hail To England”.

KNAC.COM: I’ll definitely be looking forward to that. In fact, I think the very first MANOWAR song I was ever into was probably “Blow Your Speakers” when that came out.

FRIEDMAN: Yep. Fighting The World record, right?

KNAC.COM: Yep. Fighting The World record from ’87. Vaguely remember the video but it was kinda loud and it kinda opened a newer world for me at the time and I probably didn’t appreciate it but I remember thinking that “wow, this band is just really wild”. I probably shouldn’t mention anything about the loincloths at the time? (gets Ross laughing) Whose idea was it to really come up with that?

FRIEDMAN: It was Joey.

KNAC.COM: Joey’s idea?

FRIEDMAN: Yeah. I never wore it.

KNAC.COM: I don’t blame you (laughs).

FRIEDMAN: It didn’t age well.

KNAC.COM: I was kinda surprised that so many bands had tried to emulate that. Bands like ARMORED SAINT, ODIN had started emulating a bit of that look and while it kinda worked a bit at the time, it was also a look that was kinda frozen in time and seemed it was like the only way that you could recognize a lot of the bands.

FRIEDMAN: (cringing) Right….oh my God.

KNAC.COM: What would you say was the easiest MANOWAR record to do?

FRIEDMAN: Easiest one? I think Into Glory Ride, probably, because it was live. Didn’t require much overdubbing. We just came in and blared it and it came out. But we always recorded two albums at the same time, so, extra stuff.

KNAC.COM: Ah. So that kinda explains the consistency because at one point in ’84, MANOWAR had two albums out.

FRIEDMAN: We put out six records in six years.

KNAC.COM: You weren’t just the loudest band in music but I’d say you were probably one of the hardest working bands at the time.

FRIEDMAN: At the time we were definitely the hardest working band for sure.

KNAC.COM: I think METALLICA during that era was probably a close second.

FRIEDMAN: Yep. Well, these were the days in which you had to work hard. You have to work hard now. You’d have to put out a record every other year to tour. I mean, my last record By Blood Sworn isn’t even two years old yet and we have a new one coming out.

KNAC.COM: Definitely looking forward to the new album.

FRIEDMAN: Thanks. And thank you KNAC for all of your support and for believing in metal and supporting it.


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