INTERVIEW AND PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJALA AND ARTO LEHTINEN
When former and current members of various metal bands (Cage, Manowar, Lizzy Borden, etc.) forms a new band, what is the result? It is pounding powerful metal with the fast and furious riff with the vocals in the upper register. The band is called Death Dealer. The five-piece went throughout Europe supporting the Metal All Stars. Therefore Metal-Rules.com sat down with the whole group before the show to talk about the band, their debut and, above all, what the future holds for Death Dealer.
First of all, tell us briefly, what is Death Dealer?
Ross: What is Death Dealer? Well, to me, now it’s the new ultimate heavy metal band on this planet. I think that we are just onto something great when I first hooked up with Sean and Stu here, it was just like magic. It was magic; the whole thing just kept rolling downhill like a freaking and gathering steam as we proceeded.
Stu: Rolling downhill in a good way.
Ross: Yeah. No. Not down. Going down, but like…
Sean: Like as if downhill was good.
Ross: You know like it was, a snowball goes downhill and it just…
Sean: It gets bigger and bigger.
Ross: It gets bigger and bigger, and that’s what happens. The music business isn’t the same as it once was back in the day, especially when I started. But I would say that this band is, every time it hits the stage, it gets better and better.
Stu: Tonight is our 11th show ever. And we are playing this giant arena; someone’s got to be working right.
But would it have been more comfortable for you to play in small clubs first before doing this tour?
Stu: I think about this too in some, we’ve all been in bands for years, over 20 years or so. For us, we just wanted to bring the band on a big stage, and we didn’t really need to go through the club system. We have Ross in the band, he’s very well known, and for us, we started playing here on very early in our careers band. It solidifies for us that we do belong on a big stage. We are playing to people who may not have heard about us before, too; we are walking out to a stage hostile crowd. By the end of that stand, which you’ll see tonight, where we tend to convert the crowd. And then we are walking on stage and people knowing who Death Dealer is. I think this is more important that we are doing it this way.
Ross: I’m not going to say that we are not going to be playing clubs in the future. We will. About clubs, there is something very intimate about playing clubs, because you get to be right with your audience and they are actually not so far away, and it’s like having a sounding. I prefer a good, tight sound and sometimes some of these places they get just….
Stu: Well, it’s funny you mentioned clubs because we just played in a club in Turkey, Istanbul…and that was some of the best shows we’ve done. The place went absolutely ballistic. So, for us, it’s such a play shy, but it’s true like will play in front of five people or 50,000 and the show is the same. We’ve really discovered who Death Dealer is on this trip and who we can be in the future, and for us, it’s very exciting.
Regarding this Metal All-Stars tour, everybody knows about the problems this tour has, and there have been many challenges and changes during the tour. But it’s still been an enjoyable tour for you guys.
Ross: Without a doubt, the story has been fabulous for the band, for Death Dealer. As far as the whole Metal All-Stars thing, as far as the confusion, the whole thing, who is coming and who is not coming? Who is built to play, who is not. That stuff is totally out of our control.
Stu: It hasn’t infected us.
Ross: It hasn’t. And it hasn’t even affected the whole Metal All-Stars tour, which has been the whole, every gig has been great because everyone goes out there for songs. Everyone does their best and just the crowd is just dumbfounded, everybody is doing a great job. There is no problems with musicians, there is no ego. There is no nothing, we are all on it together, we work on, and we want to give the fans the best show we can offer. Whatever anyone has to do, we are doing it. Like Joe Lynn Turner is coming tonight, and after the show last night, whoever wanted to do it was going to, they were up practicing late last night. We had a 6:00 lobby call, 7:00 O’clock lobby call, and they are up to 2:00, 3:00 in the morning practicing these songs so that they would be ready. So, it’s a professional. Everyone is professional; everyone is holding for each other. I think the benefit of the whole tour I think Death Dealer gets the benefit. No doubt about it, the name is going out there in the metal world, and it’s like when we hit the stage is like they know already that this is just going to be really ridiculous.
Stu: What else is interesting too is that we’ve spent the last six to eight months, reminding the press this is not a project, this is the band. This is Ross’s main band, and this is my main band. This is Sean’s main band and Steve’s, and Mike’s main band. This tour helps to solidify that in the minds of metalheads. We are doing a second album, maybe doing the third album. We aren’t going away anytime soon.
Ross: And I think the perception is when you see like, you start like a superstar band or a band. It’s like it’s not going to last, it’s like I got that from the labels, it goes, it’s just one-off track.
But you could put a sticker on the CD cover saying “featuring ex-members of this and that band”?
Ross: Yeah. I think that’s the brand of heavy metal, but I prefer that. Alright. I mean next year I’m going to be in the music business for 40 years. I started touring in 1975. I can’t hide that I’ve done it. You are going top; this guy did this, X-this and that. No one gives a shit. I don’t think anyone really gives a shit about that.
Stu: They don’t give a shit about anything except my ex-band as my ex-band, also. That’s good.
Ross: I think they give a shit when they turn the fucking music on when they hear the music. That’s what counts, not the fact that I played in this band and that band and this from here and everything.
Stu: It’s actually interesting, people will judge it more harshly, Manowar fans, which I’m one of obviously, that’s why we reached out to Ross. I’m a Manowar fan. So when I hear music from Ross, it better be bloody good, and that is part of the challenge for Death Dealer as well. Manowar fans like Eric Adams’ voice, that’s why Sean, on the first 10 seconds of the album does an almost 7-octave scream. And that was a one-take thing. We have to throw the gauntlet down every single time we play, every single time we record, it’s got to be to a standard that metal fans expect. That’s pressure, and we know that.
Ross: It’s very hard. You can never outdo your legend. Sometimes that body of work that I did with Manowar, those six records, those are great records, but I mean, I am sick of hearing about it, to tell you the truth (laughs). I’m living in 2014, you know? We are here. The WAR MASTER record is now.
Right, that Manowar thing, that was almost 30 years ago.
Ross: In 1988, I left them. Great. KINGS OF METAL, great! Let THEM re-record it. THEY re-recorded it, alright? We know what that did, we know what that was all about you know? But I’m about 2014, or this past year with WARMASTER. I mean, what could be better than that record, I don’t know?!
You’re right, and WAR MASTER is a very powerful album. I would say that there are some Judas Priest influences there but some European power metal elements as well. Do you agree with that?
Ross: Yeah. Obviously, we are aware of our influences on our sleeve, but I think that… I don’t know I’ve never had a band like… Listen, when you put my guitars and screaming vocals and then blasting drum, you are going to get some similar artist kind of thing.
Stu: We covered a lot of different genres within that record, so it takes a journey. And what you say it’s right. I’m a massive Priest fan too. And it’s interesting when Ross and I are working together as guitarists, Ross is in my DNA as a guitarist. So, we have this, there is a Manowar connection there, and a Priest connection there. But this album is faster than anything Priest ever did. And that’s said with respect.
Well, what if I say that WAR MASTER sounds like Judas Priest in steroids? “Laughs”
Sean: I don’t think that term could be mindful. We just do what we do, and we play from here and sometimes will get the similarities.
Ross: He’s pointing to his heart right now.
Sean: But if we change it too much, it’s not metal. We are not interested in redefining or reinventing the wheel like that’s not what Death Dealer is about. We are not here to revolutionize the world of music, and we are here to bring an album of spirited, power-driven….
Ross: Heavy in power metal. Heavy power metal.
You recently had some changes in the line-up when Rhino left, and Steve Bolognese now replaces him. Steve, how is it to tour with this band?
Steve: So far, so good, so the first time before we got to Bulgaria, I had met Ross or Stu. It was kind of interesting to have the first. We didn’t even get to rehearse. There was no rehearsal, so we just played…
Sean: So, the first show was In front of 5,000.
Not a bad start for you.
Steve: You can’t make this stuff up, really.
Ross: Yeah. We are very excited about the new record because we are going to see what Steve really can do.
And when the next album is out?
Stu: It’s probably 75% done, but we are still trying to strategize when it’s going to come out, but it’s almost done.
Steve, do you have any pressure being in the band after Rhino?
Steve: Not that I know of.
Stu: Steve is from a different school, and you’ve seen photos online; we’re best friends with Rhino. He’s on tour with us now…
Ross: We just played with “Hail and Kill” together.
Stu: Everything is cool. But Steve’s coming with this amazing Berklee background. It just comes from this different kind of thing that we found this new power on stage, and it’s no disrespect to Rhino, it’s a different thing, and we are all really happy, and believe it or not, it was all amicable we had with Rhino.
Sean: You got to see Steve’s gravity blast, with the one-handed blast beats, 30 seconds. Amazing stuff.
Stu: There are great musicians in the band.
Ross: Waitttttt a minute (laughs). I’m not really a musician. But yeah, technically Steve is the best musician in the band. I’m just a rock and roll guitar player. I’m only one step beyond Chuck Berry, I think.
By the way, what is going on with your other stuff? Is Ross the Boss, the band, still going on?
Ross: Yeah, it’s not finished, you know. I still have my record contract with AFM records. I find I have less time to put it together, another project, with The Dictators, it’s going good, working on new stuff and I got 13,14, 15 shows to do this summer. I don’t know, I mean at one point if there is a body of songs I can put together for that band, and make a great record, I will do it. They are great guys, I love them, they are from Germany, and they are great. I’m very proud of those two records that we did. They are great records, and I’d put them up against anything. But it’s just hard. I find my time is kind of; I just wish I had 48 hours in a day! But I’m very centered on Death Dealer. In the heavy metal world, Death Dealer is just on such a push.
How about doing a tour with Death Dealer and Ross the Boss together?
Ross: Anything is possible after this tour. After the Metal All-Stars. I’m just saying anything can happen, who knows. Anything. After the combination of people planning, people here, anything can happen.
Sean, what about the Cage, you just said that Death Dealer is now the priority, is there anything going on with the Gage?
Sean: Yeah. I want to play live, and so right now, Death Dealer has the most opportunities to play bigger shows, but I’m going to do a little tour with Cage, and this summer, we are playing in Headbangers Open Air and then the BAAM Fest also. We’ve got our seventh album almost done, it a concept record, a real King Diamond thing based on a little novel that I wrote, like 1869, London horror, H.P. Lovecraft’s kind of thing. It’s a concept album with really difficult stories and stuff. So, that’s almost done. Stu is going to be producing it, which is really cool.
Stu: I guess I’ll be mixing it in Australia in our Sydney Studio.
Sean: So, it’s not going to sound like crap, like some of our records.
Stu: So, it’s going to be very similar production to the Death Dealer album
Sean: So that’s going to be a good one.
MIKE DAVIS JOINS THE DISCUSSION
Mike, you are still playing in the Halford band?
What’s up with them?
Mike: Nothing, I know.
Stu: A new Priest album.
Mike: I don’t know, I don’t have any like immediate plans, but hopefully we will get another album out, and another tour going. So, I just like to keep busy. I keep working.
Well, how did you end up working with these guys?
Mike: They came to my house, held me at gunpoint, “join or fucking die.” No. Stu and I actually went to… we want to see Judas Priest after the “Made of Metal” -tour with Roy Z. Three of us and we had a hell of a time.
Stu: Because I had gone to America, and at the time I had a thing called Empires of Eden, it’s like a power metal thing. We released an album where we used many different “paid singers,” and I went to America to meet the singers and to have a holiday. It was actually on holiday when Death Dealer was born, and I bumped into Mike, and we went to see Priest in LA and…
Sean: He sat in with Cage on a few shows and played a couple of songs with us.
Stu: At some of the shows, it was really cool. It was very synergistic, I met up with Rhino just by chance, and he invited us and then just by chance I had some free time in LA and Priest was playing there
Sean: I hooked him up with Roy Z, Mike, and they had never met, and they just met right there and like, ‘Hey, I’m Stu.”
Mike: We had a great time, and I was hoping even if it’s just one night, yeah, I had a feeling I would be seeing that guy again. But Stu called me up and said, “Mike, let’s do a band called Death Dealer.”
Stu: In the how that came about, because you asked the question before, is when I released the third Empires of Eden, a lot of comments like we had like Rob Rock on there, it had Udo on there, it had great singers and obviously Sean and for the albums before. Some people said, you really should start a band with that guy because that’s the one song on the album that had some real meat, you know?! That’s when I approached Sean and said, “man, we really should start a band. We have a really good writing relationship.” Everything was cool. One day I was sitting down watching, and I had this theory, obviously finding a band name, and it’s one of the hardest things you could ever do. So I was watching the Underworld movie, you know the one with the Lycans and the hot chick in latex with this killer English accent and a really nice ass. And she just mentioned the words “Death Dealer” and it was like a penny dropped, and I was like, “oh fuck!” That just suits what we’re going to do. Then I started doing research, and I went, this is not a commonly used band name. It was a band name used in 1984 by a band for two years that then changed their name to Death Dealer, and that was it. There was no…
Sean: They were a pretty good band too; actually, their songs were pretty good. Then we say the trademark was free, so we trademarked it, and we own the name.
What’s the point of having the name Death, because there is Death Angel, Death Power, whatever death. So, is the Death name a little bit cliche?
Mike: It’s kind of also like the same, wearing black as cliche, and having the metal thing.
Stu: I think you had a good point. I think you are right. It’s just a name that didn’t really have any science behind it. Like when I heard the word Death Dealer I went, that fits the music. So, it wasn’t really a thought process of…
Sean: There is no any meaning behind it.
Stu: There is no science behind it. Death Dealer just sounds badass, just like Cage. It’s like no one has got Cage.
Sean: I can believe that one either.
You all live in different cities in The States. How do you do the writing?
Stu: Yeah. But not too far, these guys, Steve and Mike live in Los Angeles, I live in San Diego. So, it’s like one hour away.
Mike: We recorded everything online, exchanging files, and stuff.
Stu: The main part of it is that we are active on Skype with each other. So, it’s the band orientated persons. Where I write a lot of music, Sean writes a lot of music, and Mike is a great writer, and Ross is prolific at writing. Steve never got drum sticks out of his hand, and we kind of hit score once a week and just go by this back and forth, and a lot of the ideas coming out of sessions we’ve been in a show. And because I’m so influenced by Ross, I’ll play stuff with Ross, and he goes, that sounds like HAIL TO ENGLAND album. We’ve got songs from the new album that could easily fit to HAIL TO ENGLAND. So, that’s pretty much how it comes about. It’s just fun…
Sean: The good thing working with Stu is like will come up, will be working on an idea, and he’s watching, he will just lay down the riff, and he’ll lay down some program drums, and I’ll work on lyrics. And like he gets, then I’ll sing the tracks and send it to him. And like literally within ten minutes, we are hearing like a real good sounding track there. He’s so quick, throwing it together, he gets instant gratifications. So, you are now like, yeah, let’s keep going about it, and let’s do this. It’s nice, so they have it on some handheld recorder like he’s just got the songs already there immediately.
Mike, when you started to play in bands at the beginning, it was completely different stuff to this, like Lizzy Borden, it wasn’t that fast and heavy as Death Dealer. How do you enjoy playing that high-speed, powerful metal stuff?
Mike: That’s a good question, that’s a really good question. Yeah, I grew up on Black Sabbath, Priest, and English metal bands, Deep Purple. Anything English, Whitesnake. I love all the English musicians, English songs. So, yeah. It was a custom show; the PAINKILLER was kind of like the bridge for me. Because playing PAINKILLER and playing it with Rob… Because I played that stuff with Rob since 2003, we did. And Halford is a little bit more, Halford band has some kind of thrashy shit. But yeah, it’s just a natural progression. I enjoy it because I’m a very aggressive player. So, kind of really like this is a school. But there’s always melody too; there is thrash, those metal things.
So is Death Dealer influenced by thrash metal, in your opinion?
Sean: I like thrash metal
Stu: All the ’90s thrash key, are the cure for being in Testament and Slayer. That’s where a lot of the right hands, there are some hits to the wall. It’s got a very Slayer rhythm. So, we probably carry the loyalties somewhere. There is every fun and influence in there, like if you know the album, but there’s a track called “Children of Flames.” Which is kind of ballad kind of thing, but it’s still tough, and then you’ve got the thrashy songs, and then you’ve got the true power metal songs like “Never to Kneel, Harder Down.” I think it’s a very wide album, but the next album we’ve got nine songs already on this one and we are talking. We are playing Black Sabbath influences on the new album, so it’s very wide. But it’s still very much linked to the power of the first album. So, we are not going to go left in the field or anything, it’s still Death Dealer.
What’s the future of the band from now on after this tour? There is a new album coming soon, but what else you have in plans?
Sean: It’s going to be very busy in 2014. As soon as we hit back home, we will be finishing the new album. We are planning three different strategies at the end of the year and all three about touring. So, we just have to work out with the best outcome. It’s going to be decided after the European shows. Do we come back to Europe and do, Western Europe, like jamming in Holland, which we want to do. Or are we going to do… There is a lot of opportunities opening up out of this tour. So, we are playing with Max Cavalera, and we are playing with Joey and Zakk, we’ve become very great friends with all these guys. So, opportunities come up from them. And we will be touring with Anthrax, maybe will be touring with Black Label Society, who knows. So, we are just going to wait and see with the next couple of weeks stuff. The other thing is important is that we got so much footage off this tour. We’ve got setting cameras on stage every night, and we love to go prowls.
Do you have any plans to release a DVD from those recording?
Stu: Yeah. If not, at least take a clip. So, we are putting in a lot together. It’s 24 days, it’s going to be bu
Mike, can we expect to hear the Lizzy Borden cover on your setlist someday?
Stu: Shit, I do…
Mike: You know what? You never rule out anything. The only thing I know, like a little over more experienced. Nothing is so impossible; you never know what’s going to happen.
Okay. Thank you guys
Everyone: All right, thank guys.
OFFICIAL PAGE: WWW.DEATHDEALER.COM
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