Latest release: Conquered Lands (Steel Cartel)Website: www.facebook.com/deathdealerband
Death Dealer, the epic power metal band that already includes some of the genre’s most recognizable names, has added yet another well known member to their ranks for album number three. With the departure of Halford bassist Mike Davis for different horizons, Mike LePond of Symphony X has joined in his place.
“As far as I’m concerned he’s one of the top five bass players in the world,” declares metal guitar legend Ross the Boss. “He’s in an atmosphere all of his own. Mike (Davis) wanted to go off and do his own thing, so I said to the guys, ‘Let’s get LePond!’ Now we have his incredible bass playing on the album.”
Conquered Lands is the third album from Death Dealer, which also consists of Cage vocalist Sean Peck, drummer Steve Bolognese who plays in Ross’ solo band, and Night Legion/ex-Dungeon guitarist Stu Marshall. The band finally completed it this year during the pandemic while there wasn’t much else to do.
“We started it a while ago,” Ross explains, “two years ago, and then when the pandemic hit, when the shitstorm hit, we just said, ‘Let’s do it man’. And Stu said, ‘OK mate!’”
He chuckles with an imitation of an Australian accent, before revealing that there are more albums from the band already on the way: “I am working on Death Dealer IV and, not only that, Death Dealer V is almost done.”
“Conquered Lands is a great record,” the guitarist continues, “and it also features one of the most depressing songs in the world, ever written: 22 Gone. It’s about a veteran who comes back, and everything that could go wrong, goes wrong and he commits suicide, and it’s a sad thing that many of them do.”
It’s a surprisingly sober topic for a band whose usual lyrical content is steeped in tales of gunfighters, pirates and battles epic and fantastical. The plight of returning veterans is something metal bands have taken on all the way back to Black Sabbath, and it’s something Ross is clearly passionate about. He speaks briefly about the Trump administration’s initiative at making the VA system better for US military veterans – “It’s something that he got in and did really quickly,” he asserts, before the conversation moves from Death Dealer to another of his bands – The Dictators.
“There’s a new Dictators album coming,” he says, without going further, but the line-up is reported to be three of the original members, Ross, Scott Kempner and Andy Shernoff, and former Blue Öyster Cult drummer Albert Bouchard. Ross has featured in every line-up of the band throughout its on-again, off-again existence that goes back to 1972. A key act on New York’s notorious 1970s club scene, The Dictators are often cited as one of the most influential bands in the development of US punk rock.
“When I think of the whole CBGBs scene… the Dictators played CBGBs 35 times,” he recalls. “Holy Moly… what we used to do was, we would go to CBs every night, whoever was playing, we’d all be there hanging out, getting fucked up, getting into trouble, rocking and rolling. That scene – a real rock scene where it was happening every single day.”
His reminiscing on that period of his life alone could quite easily transition into a book, an idea he’s toyed with. The reflections of his wilder times gives him pause when he thinks about those who didn’t make it this far.
“A lot of guys really abused themselves, and they’re paying the price now. You hear it all the time. There was a time of partying, but my idea of partying wasn’t their idea of partying. My idea of partying was drinking and maybe some cocaine now and then. Their idea of partying was shooting shit. It’ll take its toll on your body, believe me.”
From The Dictators, his career elevated to arena level with Manowar in the 1980s, a band admired by some for their bombastic over-the-top heavy metal, stage shows and ridiculous costumes, and derided by just as many for exactly the same reasons. Does Ross have any regrets about some of those cheesy promo photos from back then?
“I would say that, the fact I always had my pants on, and I’m so glad that I did, because some of that look that they had has not aged well. It really has not aged well. I look at myself and I go, I look pretty good. In all those pictures, when Joey’s wearing the g-string and whatever – I never went in for that. I always had pants on,” he says with a healthy chuckle, “and I thought I looked rather tasty! I was showing enough skin, you know. We were very well appreciated by our female fans, believe me. You have no idea.”
That’s probably something else to leave until the published memoir arrives.
“I have a switch on the side of my head!” he jokes when asked about his ability to move between the various bands and musical genres he works in. “The thing about my guitar style is that, basically I’m a blues guitar player. Being such a big blues player, I can pretty much go into any genre, all the time. I have a tremendous foundation of music and guitar playing under me and I think that’s what’s carried me all these years. Some might think I’m just this snotty punk kid from The Bronx, and someone else will just think I’m the frickin’ guy in the furs and leather with the sword – I guess I’m somewhere in between all that.”