A Conversation With The Dictators Guitarist Ross The Boss

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It’s been nearly 50 years since the punk explosion based at CBGB’s in New York City’s Bowery.  The band that kicked it all off was The Dictators.  While there have been many incarnations of the band over the years, it has been more than 20 years since founding members Ross The Boss, Andy Shernoff, and Scott Kempner have recorded together.  The original Dictators are back, joined by Blue Oyster Cult drummer Albert Bouchard and are releasing new music.

Please press the PLAY icon below for the MisplacedStraws Conversation with Ross The Boss –

On Scott Kempner’s health and reuniting the band – Well, let’s just get the bad part over with Scott. Scott Kempner, “Top Ten”, my brother, my dearest brother, has been diagnosed with early-stage dementia and it’s the saddest thing for us. It’s a bittersweet time for us. I mean, what happened was, is that Andy and Scott had some business with me like a year ago. We had some contractual stuff and some royalty stuff to go over with. While talking to those guys, I’m saying, “Why don’t we play? Why don’t we just play? Let’s play. Now let’s get the band back together”. They all said, “Great idea”. The only way it would happen with it was some personnel changes. As you know, Mr. Manitoba is not in the fold anymore. It was coming and so we’ve moved on and then Scott just got progressively worse and he couldn’t perform. It was it’s really tough to watch such a great, great musician and a great guy and great rock historian. It was excruciating, excruciating for us. So instead of folding, we just decided that Scott wants us to go forward. And so now we have two videos and two songs out. :57

On the decision to record and release new music – We didn’t want to be considered an oldies act or anything like that. We wanted to be the band that could move forward. Since The Dictators have never, never quit, we’ve never disbanded, really, we’ve never officially stopped. So we wanted to move forward with some fresh music and that’s what we’ve done…What we’re going to do is continue to put out songs, we’re working on the third one. We recorded a whole bunch of stuff, so which is good. We’re working on another tune and we’re going to put that out soon and then another one. Then we’re going to go back into the studio and record some new stuff. According to Andy, I wrote an amazing new song. When he says it’s amazing, I got the proof here. When he says it’s amazing, it’s amazing. So we’re going to work on that one and a couple of other things, some other stuff that he’s written. Albert is chiming in with some new stuff, too. So the addition of Albert Bouchard is an incredible boost to the three of us. He’s great. He’s so talented and an amazing cowbell player as well. If there is anyone that could play that cowbell, Albert, and people just stop them on the streets and say, “Hey, you’re the best cowbell player I’ve ever seen”. 3:10

“God Damn New York”
On if Albert Bouchard was the first name that came up when picking a drummer –Actually, he was. Albert’s so busy as well. I mean, he’s just he’s putting out ReImaginos. I just did recording yesterday for him for that. I’m all over that stuff. He was our choice. He was a solid first choice. So I think it’s just a match made in heaven, the three of us. 6:28
On The Dictators’ relationship with other CBGB bands – Our relationships with the Ramones and the Dead Boys were very, very good. We always respected each other. Especially the Ramones and The Dictators. We came out a full year ahead of them with our record. We did “California Sun” on our record and strangely, they did it on theirs. How did that happen?  We don’t really care, we never cared. But I think the Ramones’ success was due to them, due to the fact that you could really understand the Ramones. What you saw was what you got. Their image was a lot more defined than the Dictator’s image. We changed our image for every album. No one could know who we really were.  Finally, on the last (record) on Blood Brothers, that was the band. I thought the band we were trying to be on the first record, and then we got a little carried away in the middle section there. The Ramones deserve every bit of what they have, every bit of it. We love them all and. We miss Joey. I miss him and all those guys. I was good friends with Johnny. As a matter of fact, we played CBGB’s the last weekend that it was open and we played the Friday and Saturday. The Saturday night, the very last song we played on that stage was “Blitzkrieg Bop” with the special guest Tommy Ramone. We sang “Blitzkrieg Bop” and after that, that was it. My heart sunk. I said, “That was the last rock song ever to be played on that stage”. It was very, very, very sad and. What can I say? We played CBGB 35 times. You can’t even imagine that, I mean, it’s just like such a great place, it was our place. It was our dump. 7:38
“Let’s Get The Band Back Together”
On being labeled a “punk” band –No, we never thought of that title until the news put us on the cover of that and said, “Punk rok”. So that thing that’s happening downtown at CBGB’s, then that thing kind of blew up in England. But that form of that punk rock, English punk rock was more of the look. The safety pin and the spiked hair. American punk was more attitude and street street rock, it was just that more tough attitude, Ramones, Dictators, Dead Boys.  9:52
On starting Manowar after The Dictators – The story was, after the Dictators, after  Blood Brothers, Sandy Pearlman was in Paris and he discovered this French band, Shakin’ Street, and they needed a guitar player. The next day was in Paris and I joined Shakin’ Street and we did the record and it was great record. Then we found ourselves opening up for Black Sabbath on the Heaven and Hell tour with (Ronnie James) Dio. So, I became friends with Ronnie and he comes up to me and after soundcheck and he goes, “You’re a great guitar player. I love the Dictators and I love New York rock scene. But I got this guy on my crew, his name is Joey DiMaio and he plays bass”. He was just on the crew just hanging out with one of the guys. They brought him over and he goes, “But wait till you hear the way he plays bass”, and he played bass like, no one I’ve ever heard before, and we became friends. I was looking to do something different. I was looking very heavy because I am influenced by blues, heavy blues. In the beginning, I started because of B.B. King and those guys, then Eric Clapton and (Jimmy) Page and (Jeff) Beck and of course, Buck Dharma in ’72, their first record and all those guitar players, Peter Frampton, Mike Bloomfield. Then, of course, Tony Iommi when Sabbath started, so I had this and Hendrix, of course, and then I had this this conglomeration of influences in my head  I’m a pretty heavy handed guitar player. I said, “Let’s do it”. I want to do something heavy, I’m in England with Black Sabbath, we’re not thinking of forming a pop group. We had similar likes and dislikes, and that’s what we did. I didn’t think it would morph into something as crazy as Manowar, but it had its own life once we started. 11:25
“California Sun”
On The Dictators place in the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame – I don’t know about the Hall of Fame. I don’t know what our imapct is, some people say it’s huge. I don’t know, I can’t tell you. They’re running out of bands to put in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I could tell you that. I guess maybe if we live long enough…But you never know. I’m always disappointed with the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame. At leastwe have the Heavy Metal Hall of Fame.  I was I was made Ambassador of the Hall of Heavy Metal History, which is now the Metal Hall, live at Wacken on stage in front of a 110,000 people after my set. At least that is for heavy metal. It’s for performers, journalists can get in there that have been dedicated to the scene. So it’s not just musicians. My class was the first class, the Rainbow Bar was inducted, too. I think hat has more to do with with us than than the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which you can’t figure out. 15:28
“Stay With Me”
On his immediate future – Well, the first thing we’re going to do is we’re adding another member. We’re adding another guitar player. We’re going to have our first rehearsal with the candidate. We’re just  putting it together, slow but steady. But but we’re working on the music on that third song. So our plan is we’re sticking with our plan and it’s working. As I said before, we have many people vying for our participation, their agencies, their booking agencies.  I got the third agency call me today, call, one of my other managers and a lot of interest.  I’m going to be very busy because the Ross the Boss band tour starts next.. We’re supposed to go to Russia in July for this Big Gun festival.I’m supposed to do an hour and a half headlining set but the Visa’s don’t look like they’re going to happen because there’s super tension between Russia and the United States now with our new regime.  Who knows what’s going to happen? Then I have a 15 show run in September with me and my singer and Marco Mendoza, and Ui Roth, Graham Bonnet, doing  15 shows with local orchestras in Russia and Eastern Europe. I don’t know if that’s going to happen now. No one knows, even the promoters don’t know.  Touring will happen, The Dictators will tour next year, Ross the Boss band will tour next year and my other band Death Dealer. 17:08

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