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TSA with Ross the Boss

Guitar fanatics and fans of true, classic sounding heavy metal will want to race out and grab the latest slab of sonic hot sauce HAILSTORM from Ross “The Boss” Friedman. The former Manowar, Dictators and Shakin Street guitar warrior has really been hitting a new, serious writing stride with the Ross The Boss group, a strong gang of metal brothers which includes Friedman and a band made up of crazy, talented German dudes who flat out destroy. Maybe it was the fact that the “backing band” for Ross was once a German Manowar tribute band, but this is no flimsy prop up of past glories. Ross The Boss is a legit group any power metal fan should embrace. The whole group is very adept at delivering mighty metal tunes that pack punch and sound simultaneously classic and modern. Vocalist Patrick Fuchs (also of the superbly rad Ivory Night!) is on his way to really standing out in the field of heavy metal vocalists leaning towards a soaring, vintage style. On HAILSTORM (AFM Records), the ballsy new follow-up to the RTB band’s solid debut NEW METAL LEADER, Ross and company prove they mean business with the muscular and catchy “Dead Man’s Curve” (Not a Jan and Dean cover!) as well as other tracks like “Crom” and the standout “Kingdom Arise”.

“The first album was great to do but now we can tell each other what sucked and didn’t suck,” Ross The Boss told me. “The guys recorded the drums and bass in Germany. They sent the tracks to me in New York City. I sent the tracks back to Patrick. When he was done we sent it to Hamburg, Germany. It works so well. You can hear the joy and energy and greatness of the whole thing on HAILSTORM. With these four guys it’s the most fun I’ve had playing music in a long time.”

It probably helps that the rest of the guy’s in the band with Ross are real maniacs (more on that later) but Ross is surely also referring to how champion (yes, using that as an adjective) the music they are delivering is. Listening to HAILSTORM’s assured guitar tones and thunderous drums merged with the solos of Ross and Patrick’s rabble rousing shouts is a sure way to feel ready to rumble. Like Fozzy’s truly awesome CHASING THE GRAIL from last year, Ross The Boss (the band) have managed to make a record that is grand scale/epic but also down to earth, fan friendly and full of monster riffs at the same time. It doesn’t have to be proggy as fuck to make you feel swept up in the fray.

I’ve been meaning to write this piece for awhile, but it kept getting delayed. This wasn’t out of a sheer love for Ross and Manowar stuff, but rather me wanting it to come out just right and also that my life is a chaotic zoo of rock n roll, hundreds of articles to write, books to read (INFINITE JEST, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, NAKED EMPIRE, etc.) or my own shows to play at all times. I’ve been juggling a lot but also really have been waiting for the exactly right cloud formations in the sky from the Thunder God to reveal to me that I had reached my goal of summarizing properly the awesomeness of the Ross The Boss band and also the events that surrounded the crafting of this article. It wasn’t that words were eluding me so much as I almost felt intimidated (which is rare) at the task of trying to convey how cool the events of 9/11/2010 were, when Ross and his band played the punk and metal club I often book for, The Basement in Kingston, NY. I almost wanted to keep the experience to myself for a minute until I’d digested the radness of it properly.

The Standard Assault, a Kingston based thrash band with a howling, towering front man Pete Stott, also shook the halls of The Basement late that night. “Very excited to be here with Ross The Boss. It was a very cool last minute addition,” Stott told me that night. “We’re also looking forward to playing on 9/11 and making it awesome for everyone. Our Cd is about halfway recorded so we’re taking a break and doing shows. We’re gonna refine it a bit and get it out there.” Be sure to search for The Standard Assault on the good old internet ‘cuz they have heart, a fun show and a very metal attitude. They just played with CKY recently and are really playing metal for the love of it.

I was watching the thoroughly enjoyable BUSTED CIRCUITS AND RINGING EARS documentary on the underrated and totally brilliant grunge band Tad the other day when it struck me… the “thesis” I had been looking for! In the 90’s, Tad Doyle and his band of weirdoes were all about being themselves and just trying to do what they loved while often playing with other like minded but different sounding bands, and that is kind of the theme of the event that led up to this article as well.

A couple of months ago I was looking through my inbox at the press releases of the day and happily saw that Ross The Boss was doing a short, prestigious little East Coast string of dates. I had just about a week earlier started casually helping book shows for my friend’s rock club and I was startled to see that the band had an off date on 9/11 and was relatively close to Kingston, NY. In a moment fueled by chutzpah and a day’s worth of ale consumption I emailed the fine folks at Earsplit PR (who’d sent out the press release) and told them that if they could put me in touch with the band’s booking agent we would “love to fill that date”. Like, really love to fill it. Crying tears of purest molten metal and blood “love to fill that date”. I heard back shortly and was very excited to hear that it might actually be possible. A period of several hours ensued of grabbing the venue owner and brainstorming on how to make this happen not to mention pacing back and forth and swinging a baseball bat around my office back and forth (in my excitement) pretending it was Mjolnir, the mystical hammer of Thor from Norse mythology.

To make a long story short, 9/11 was already booked at the club by someone else but a band had dropped off and so there was room. The show was a memorial show, however, put together by local chanteuse Shonda Reilly with East Coast turned West Coast underground punk rock/anti-pop agitator John The Baker, to honor many people from our Upstate, NY community who had died over recent years from vices or misfortune. Obviously, it being 9/11 was in theme with this “for those no longer with us” message as well. Well, Ross The Boss heard that this is what the show was about and was super cool and gave us a really great rate to get him added to the bill at the eleventh hour. The bill was kind of odd looking for some people, with a line up consisting of everything from punk bands to crust metal and folk songs plus the power metal of Ross The Boss (who also play several Manowar tunes at every show)! When you think of the past bands of Friedman, however, it wasn’t such an odd fit. All in all, I thought it was really awesome that across styles people could share the stage on 9/11 to showcase diversity in the underground. Ross told me that he also had gone to a nearby college and it was cool to play the area and also have a gig to play on 9/11, something he feels strongly about.

That night I talked to J. Voltage of the hyper and positive Michigan punk rock band Aggro Or Die about his feelings on the show. “I had a lot of apprehension being in New York on 9/11 but don’t anymore. Everything is so cool,” said J. pre-show. “It’s gonna be the cross over show of all cross over shows.” Aggro kicked out the jams hard and showcased the punk rock on the bill along with the (since broken up) long running (and very loud) Upstate, NY crust band Stench.

Pre-show that night I was pretty nervous to talk with Ross but after the RTB band and their tour mates from Vegas, the awesome Seventh Calling, showed up, we quickly broke the ice and all the guy’s were really down to earth with the venue and promotion team. I caught the Germans watching dirty Asian movies at one point and thought, “this is so fucking cool!” They also ended up partying on watermelon filled vodka with my good friend Drew who took everyone in the band except for Ross to try the Alex Burger challenge at our local diner, Broadway Lights. This fucking cheeseburger is literally the size of a Frisbee, like a fucking cow’s head worth of meat and apparently the Germans powerhoused that shit, according to Drew. I am vegetarian and think I would have a heart attack from even sniffing an Alex Burger these days (they are seriously unbelievably huge…uh, “that’s what she said”), but I have to admit I laughed when I heard that burger story from Drew.
Steve Handel from Vegas thrashers Seventh Calling was very friendly when asked about touring with Ross and also what his scene is like in Vegas. “We’re out here on the road with Ross The Boss and have been having a good time,” Steve told me in September. “We came out to the coast to New York and are loving it. We wanna tear it up. As for Vegas, you know what? We’ve got a very good scene. A very busy scene. Protest happened to pick up the best local Vegas band award this year and a couple other bands. The Rock Room is a big room out there to play. Everyone really bands together and supports the shows.”
I became a big fan of Seventh Calling that night and they told us we were the one venue they played on the tour that was cool enough to represent properly for their Metal Church cover. Word up. Very cool guys. Be sure to support Seventh Calling. I rock their t-shirt all the time since meeting them.

Ross The Boss played a strong set that some people in the audience drove several states to see despite it being only announced he was on the bill a few days prior to the event! Standouts “Blood Of Knives” and “We Will Kill” from NEW METAL LEADER plus numerous classic Manowar cuts. I was several feet away watching Ross break into a grin while Patrick sang, “May your sword stay wet, like a young girl in her prime”. Fucking win!!!! By the time Ross and the band pounded into the very recognizable intro of “Thor” by Manowar, I was in riff heaven. I think I was even punching myself in the face while they played out of sheer excitement.

John The Baker, a guy I’ve known for years and years who won an obscenity trial and then went west to work with Alternative Tentacles and be very active in the West Coast punk scene, startled me by playing a very intimate set of material I didn’t recognize. John is usually known for scream along, fun, punk rock protest tunes and shock rock stuff like his song “Fist Fuck The Pope” or “I have got a P.H.D. (Pretty Hard Dick)”, but at the 9/11 show he showed an introspective side and played some really heartfelt and strong songs about loss. Hold on, first he played his rowdy stuff with his old guitarist Dan from his old band Slimy Penis Breath and with some of The Standard Assault guys backing him up. The mellow set was later on. Shonda Reilly, the event organizer, sang with John during the quieter set and they were joined by Joey Eppard of the Metal Blade prog rock band Three (John is Joey’s uncle). Joey is a brilliant guitarist and it was cool to see him perform acoustic with John, always a treat. Three is currently writing an anticipated new album. Again, I really thought it was so cool to see such a variety of bands playing together for those no longer with us and for real underground music. I’ve always thought the music world (pop music or the metal and punk worlds) is coolest when it is about solidarity whether between different bands or in the treatment of artist’s by venues or within the ranks of a single band’s dynamic (like how cool it is Dave Matthews treats his side men like equals).

“It was our record company’s decision to market my band this way,” Ross told me, street side before the show that night. “The fact that I’ve been making records all this time with The Dictators and Manowar…people know my name. Believe me, it’s not the fact that it’s called Ross The Boss “the guy”. It’s Ross The Boss “the band”. It’s four guys playing with equal contribution and that’s the way it is. Everyone is so happy. Four guys but one fist on stage together.”

Hold your hammers high!



Morgan Y. Evans