Interview by Robert Cavuoto
Ross “The Boss” Friedman has just released an epic new CD, Born of Fire, on March 6th. It is the perfect follow-up to this 2018 release By Blood Sworn. With each CD, Ross and his band continue to providing sonically powerful riffs coupled with thought-provoking lyrics. Born of Fire will not disappoint any heavy metal fan from its opening track “Glory to the Slain” to the epic closer “Waking the Moon!” Having already written music history as a founding member of both Manowar and The Dictators, Ross’s influence in heavy metal and punk is still noticeable to this day.
I caught up with Ross to talk about the new CD, the physicality of touring for 40 years, and how the President’s ban on travel will impact his European tour.
Robert Cavuoto: The word that comes to mind to describe Born of Fire is “furious.” Was that the intent to make this better than By Blood Sworn?
Ross “The Boss” Friedman: Of course! The band has been touring, and we have an amazing chemistry from songwriting to the recording process. On this CD, everything got heavier, louder, and faster! The hooks were better on these songs too. The entire CD came out magnificently well.
Robert Cavuoto: Was there anything you did differently in preparation for this CD from By Blood Sworn?
Ross “The Boss” Friedman: We changed our songwriting process. We didn’t work everything out in the rehearsal studio like we did on the last CD. We took our demos into the studio as we were under the gun to meet a deadline. I would have to say that working out our demos in advance was the main difference.
Robert Cavuoto: How does this writing process compare to when you wrote with Manowar?
Ross “The Boss” Friedman: It was the same way with Manowar. There weren’t many ways to record back then. We did everything on a cassette tape using a boom box [laughing]. We would have our little practice amps and turn the boom box on and record through a microphone. That was our portable iPhone back in the day! It’s how we got our basic ideas down. We would then bring those ideas on the cassette into the studio to rehearse.
Robert Cavuoto: Are you more comfortable now as a songwriter than you were when you were in Manowar?
Ross “The Boss” Friedman: I don’t think it’s changed that much for me. When I was younger I thought songwriting was easier. I think there is a bit of maturity as I get older and maybe have become more opinionated on how a song should be. For this record, we went on basic instincts and came out on top. The fact that we have 12 songs so different is a testament to the band’s writing strengthen as everyone was contributing. That’s why it is so strong.
Robert Cavuoto: Marc Lopes has such an amazing voice and vocal range; he did a tremendous job on this CD. How did the two of you connect?
Ross “The Boss” Friedman: I always have my eyes open for talented singers. I saw Marc singing in my friend’s band when they opened for us. I thought he was great. My band at the time refused to tour, so I had to fire them and hired Marc and these guys. I asked them if they were ready to go to Europe for a few weeks to do 28 shows? Marc never sang any Manowar song, but he rose to the challenge. He played a ton of shows for By Blood Sworn and now this record. We are extremely happy with him.
Robert Cavuoto: You just completed a tour of the US, did you play any new songs in advance of the CD’s release?
Ross “The Boss” Friedman: We played three songs; “Denied by the Cross,” “Born of Fire,” and “Glory to the Slain ” and were planning to add two more if we go to Europe. The situation with the Corona Virus, I think everything will have to be canceled for the European tour. I have a sick feeling in my gut all the touring is going to stop. Everything is going to get rescheduled; it’s just temporary, but it just sucks!
Robert Cavuoto: Does it impact the band financially when you have to cancel and reschedule a tour?
Ross “The Boss” Friedman: Not really. Nobody is being penalized financially.
Robert Cavuoto: Tell me about the physicality of touring after 40 years?
Ross “The Boss” Friedman: I’m used to it. I’m a warhorse! It’s the system of traveling to the next place, whether by plane, bus, or RV. It’s the traveling that is hard; the gigs are beautiful. It’s traveling the next day; that’s what takes its toll on you. We just did a 26 date show in the US in an RV, and the six of us were comfortable. Everyone had a bunk and a place to sleep. Instead of taking hotels, the three of us joined Planet Fitness for $25 a month each. With a membership, you can take a guest to work-out and shower. To get a day room at a hotel is $100. I recommend Planet Fitness to anyone out there.
Robert Cavuoto: My favorite track is “Born of Fire.” What can you tell me about its creation?
Ross “The Boss” Friedman: Marc and his writing partner John came up with some great riffs. If I can see myself on stage playing the song, then I want to go with it. I have a talent of picking out accessible riffs and picked that riff plus a couple more of Marc’s. Everybody contributed on this album. The marching orders for Marc were, I want hooks in every song so it can be sung back to us by the audience. I think it has all those characteristics and that what cemented the song. There so many metal songs out there that don’t separate themselves from anything anyone else has done. It’s like they are writing them to each other.
Robert Cavuoto: I grew up in the 80s where every song was riff-driven, lately a lot of bands are writing overly complicated and overly produced songs. How important is a solid riff to your songwriting?
Ross “The Boss” Friedman: It’s everything, and that’s what people gravitate to live. People were singing the songs back to us, and they were hearing it for the first time! I feel we have a riff-driven, guitar-driven, it old school with new school production, and it has the hooks in each song. That is why it’s a winner.