It is absolutely not an understatement to say that Ross 'The Boss' Friedman is a legend of Heavy Metal. Or that he's one of the most underrated and yet simultaneously hugely influential guitarists of a genre that seems to throw up a new graven six-string idol every ten minutes, through his work first with New York rockers The Dictators, French punk Metallers Shakin' Street and finally, of course, with true Metal titans Manowar.
The news of his involvement in a new project – the one you're about to read about below – caused a quake of sesmic proportions in our palatially well-appointed Canberra nerve centre, and we (or more accurately I) jumped at the chance for a bit of fat chewing with one of the true Gods of Metal...
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But first a little more background. This project (actually it's a fully-formed band – I'll let Ross expound more fully on this later), the supremely well-named Death Dealer, is a no-holds barred shred fest, featuring, alongside Friedman, Aussie axepert Stu Marshall (Dungeon, Empires of Eden, etc etc), vocalist Sean Peck (Cage, also to be found cropping up on Marshall's Empires of Eden project), bassist Mike Davis (frequently seen plying his trade with Rob Halford) and, incredibly excitingly, former Manowar drummer Rhino. They are about to release an absolutely obliterating debut effort, the insanely heavy 'Warmaster', and Friedman is justifiably excited about this, and keen as mustard to talk it up...
This is the last interview of the day for Friedman, so it seems to be a reasonable question to get the ball rolling – are you getting back into the old interview swing?
"Yes! I've done quite a few lately... but that's a good sign, right? People wanting to speak to me is definitely a good sign!"
It sure is, but you're weren't particularly looking to talk to anyone when this opportunity presented itself, were you?
"Not at all! I have plenty of things filling my time, touring with The Dictators, there was talk about doing a third Ross The Boss Band record, and then Sean Peck contacted me on Facebook! Just saying he had a few songs, would I be interested in playing on them... so I said yes, why not?
"I didn't know who Sean Peck was, hadn't heard his band Cage, but when I heard these songs... I knew we were on to something. And a couple of days after I said 'Yes', Stu was contacting me too, saying how much he loved my playing and how it would be great if I could work with the band. Then he tells me he's got Mike Davis, from the Halford band, and I'm thinking well, that's pretty good, and then he says Rhino is in on drums! And I'm like well I have to be involved with this!"
You didn't work with Rhino in Manowar did you?
"No, I think 'Triumph Of Steel' is his first record, which was the next album after 'Kings Of Metal', which was my last one."
As we speak, the album has only been heard by a lucky selection of Metal 'industry' types and media lizards like me – what's the reaction been like to the record so far?
"WHOA!! That's it. That's the reaction. The reaction has been WHOA!!"
And quite rightly so. I certainly wasn't expecting the full on, gutwrenching heaviness on show. What's your favourite track on the record?
"'Hammer Down', but you know, it changes every day?"
Would you say 'Hammer Down' is the quintessential Death Dealer track if somebody asked you?
"Not really, they are all Death Dealer songs, you know? Even the ballad, 'Children Of Flames', I'm happy with. But I think every song is great. 'Death Dealer', 'The Devils Mile', 'Heads Spikes Walls' – what a great title that is!, they are all great songs."
Although this first album has yet to make its way in the world, are you already thinking about album number two, or is this very much just a project?
"No, this is definitely a band."
So you plan to tour the record?
"We have to. It's too good a record not to. It's just a matter of finding the right kind of tour, you know?"
This is marvellous news of course, and I assume you'll be playing a few Manowar tunes as well? Is that your choice or do the band have a say in what tracks you play?
"Well, if I didn't ever play another Manowar song again it wouldn't bother me, you know? But the other guys want to! And I guess with me and Rhino in the band we will be expected to. Which songs? I have no idea, probably something like 'Blood Of My Enemies', 'Hail And Kill'..."
That's my sister's favourite Manowar song.
"Then I'm very glad I wrote it!"
What would be your favourite Manowar album?
"The first one for sure."
Was Manowar a big leap for you after playing in the bands you'd been with previously, neither of whom were Metal in particular? The Dictators were very punk weren't they?
"I don't think it was such a big leap at all. You know, I was still listening to Black Sabbath in those days, and The Dictators to me weren't a punk band. For me when you say punk I think of The Sex Pistols or The Clash. And it was still me playing guitar in the same style, so I wouldn't say it was a big deal at all."
And so as the cross-planet line starts to deteriorate a little, it's time to bid adieu to one of Metal's best loved axe men – anything final to add, sir?
"Look – thanks to everyone for their continued support, and for already getting behind this record so magnificently. It really is appreciated. I hope to see you all and to have a beer with you when we get down to Australia!"