Who’s louder than Ozzy Osbourne, heavier than Black Sabbath and faster than AC/DC? The answer is Manowar, a group whose debut album for Capitol Records is titled Battle Hymns. And speaking of battle, the group has made a standing offer to all other rockers. “We challenge all takers to meet us in the field of battle, on the stage of glory, to play louder, harder, or faster,” states bassist Joey DeMaio.
One thing that really stands out on this album is the narration of their song “Dark Avenger,” done by Mr. Orson Welles.
Managed by Bill Aucoin (of Kiss, Starz, Billy Idol fame) Manowar is set to tour with Ted Nugent. When we talked with band members Joe DeMaio and Ross The Boss (ex-lead guitarist for The Dictators), they were preparing for that upcoming Nugent tour as well as writing material for their second album.
Q – How did you get of all people, Orson Welles, for the album?
Ross – We had the song, “Dark Avenger”. Now in this part of the song he does, we thought it would be nice to have a narration. We were sitting around thinking with our executive producer, Bob Curry from EMI, and I’m going, yeah, we can get Burt Lancaster, maybe we can get Charlton Heston, Walter Cronkite, and maybe we can get Orson Welles! Orson Welles is the perfect man. So he goes, ‘well, I’ll try to get Orson Welles.’ Lo and behold, we get a hold of his manager, send Orson the lyrics, and Orson read them and blew his mind! He said, ‘This is me!’ So he made his rock and roll debut with Manowar. His voice is so visual, especially the words he said, it just takes you to another planet.
Q – Where did Bill Aucoin see you?
Ross – Our demo tape was submitted to him by a friend of ours at the record company and he freaked out when he heard it. He came down to Florida, it wasn’t a thing where we sought him out, he came down to see us. He heard us, and just blew his mind. He said yes, this is the next big band of the world.
Q – Now, do you get mad when people say all hard rock groups sound alike and they can’t tell the difference between Krokus, Starfighters, Scorpions, Ozzy, and AC/DC?
Ross – Well, to tell you the truth, I kind of think that’s true with those bands. They have a sort of sound and beat they use, and to the untrained ear they do sound alike. But I don’t think Manowar is in that category.
Q – Why not?
Ross – If you put on a Krokus album, all their songs sound alike. To me Krokus is just a poor man’s AC/DC. A lot of those bands sound alike. If you listen to our album, there’s not one beat, there’s not two cuts on it that are alike. We’re just trying to bring something new to the form of music we’re playing. We’re more classically influenced than the other bands are. Some people have termed it symphonic rock.
Q – How badly do you want success? What are you willing to do for it?
Ross – The one thing we’re not willing to do is sellout, turn down, and write Foreigner-type singles. We will never go to the radio for success. We want to be unique and we will always be unique.
Q – Do you think audiences realize all the hard work that goes into the formation of a rock group?
Ross – A lot of people think all it is, is getting up there on stage and playing and getting the accolades. In our case, Joey and I really, really worked extremely hard, a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of hard work, a lot of going without to get where we are now. It’s just an unbelievable amount of work, practice, heartache, ups and downs. People just don’t see that! They’ll never believe it! It’s an insane amount of work. Every decision we make affects twelve people. It’s a lot of responsibility.
Q – It says in your bio that Black Sabbath’s road manager saw you at a rehearsal and remarked, “No band in their right mind would let you guys open for them. You’re too good.” Would something like that bring more harm than good to Manowar?
Ross – You know what I say? Seeing is believing. Of course he did say that, but I take it more as a compliment because, let’s face it, there aren’t too many bands that are around like us. Ted Nugent is pretty fearless. We’ll see how long we get along with him. I think we’re going to do quite well with him. We sort of believe in the same things. He likes the competition. We just intend to go on with every bit of gear we have, which is more gear, we’re playing with Pat Travers and Ted Nugent. We have more gear than Pat Travers and Ted Nugent put together. We carry one truck-full of our stage gear, packed to the brim, a 22-footer.
Q – Joey, you were severely burned onstage in one of your earlier bands. How did that happen?
Joey – We were doing an outdoor concert with six or eight other bands. We were using like ten to twelve pounds of flash powder, plus a case of flash powder per night, not counting bombs. We had it stretched across the stage in a rain gutter-type of situation so that an actual sheet of flame would shoot up and explode. It wasn’t supposed to go off when it did. We don’t know if it was sabotaged from one of the other groups, or whether it was a cigarette tossed by a spectator or just mechanical. The whole thing went up, engulfing me on stage while I was doing my bass solo. Luckily, there was nobody else on stage. It caught my whole back, the backs of my legs, both arms, both hands. Luckily I had my back to the audience. Otherwise, it would have taken my whole face off.
Q – Had you used fire in the act before?
Joey – We had used it extensively and never had one problem, and that’s why it was so strange. It was all top quality equipment. I dare say at the time we had more fire than Kiss did.
Q – What safety tips could you give other groups who are using or plan to use fire in their act?
Joey – First of all, you have to start off with knowledge. If you don’t know what you’re doing, then consult someone that would definitely know. Your equipment would have to be properly designed by a pyrotechnics expert. It’s all to do with your knowledge of and your equipment. If you’re limited in any one of these two, you’re headed for trouble.