Brian Ross has been vocalist for a number of North East NWOBHM bands including Satan, Avenger and Blitzkreig. Brian looks back on the influences and defining moments in his career. ‘We actually played what I think was my first gig at Wingate Youth Club in Durham around 1972. By the late 70’s I was in a band who were playing Led Zep, Judas Priest and Deep Purple stuff, I knew this was for me I could see it coming alongside punk. The kids were hungry for this noise, anger, excitement and a do it yourself attitude. It was definitly getting to me, getting in my blood, this raw and visceral sound was becoming addictive. The term New Wave of British Heavy Metal had been coined by then, and yeah it really was a new wave and you’ve gotta go with it… and we did’.
Were there any moments in your career when you thought yes, this is what I’m here for ?
‘I joined a band called Satan, now that name has certain significance and imagery attached to it for some people, you know upside down crosses and that, but our intention was not to go down that road. We weren’t exactly listening to the church bells ringing out on a Sunday but believe me it has attracted a certain type of response from some people, shall we say maybe misguided.
But a big turning point was when I was frontman for Avenger we played a gig at the Dynamo Festival over in Holland around 1982 and there was a different feel around the place, bands like Saxon and Iron Maiden were becoming well established. I knew I was on the right direction of travel’.
Who were your influences ?
‘Looking back I suppose the influence on my music career started back in the early 70’s with Marc Bolan, although before that I did catch The Beatles on TV and that had a big effect on me and everyone really, the whole culture with music making a real breakthrough.
You know we were at school just miming little shows with some friends which led us to picking up guitars. That’s where the bug started really, thinking yeah this could work, it was fun. The Bolan album Electric Warrior was in the charts then so we would have put some of those songs together. Then I heard Alice Cooper and the rockier stuff that was coming through like Judas Priest. So their vocalist Rob Halford was a big influence on my career but the defining moment was hearing Ian Gillan, I said to myself yes I want to sing just like him’.
How do you come up with ideas for a song ?
‘Sometimes you can get lost in the writing process you have to be dedicated to it, really immersing yourself in the subject. There is projects I’ve researched over many years almost to the point of obsession. One time we were recording and I was writing lyrics for the band. Ended up I got a mental block for a few days which was worrying but once I put myself away I stayed up all night to finish the lyrics.
It’s the dedication that got me through. But once they are done it’s done. Listening back to stuff years later I don’t go back and want to change songs, you know I don’t want to add or take away an extra verse or something like that’.
Why did you end up recording a lot of your material at Impulse Studio/NEAT records ?
’With the technology today you can get good results recording at home but it’s different when you are in the studio, the atmosphere adds to the creative process. I remember the first time in Impulse Studio was great we made it feel like our second home. It came highly recommended as Tyne Tees TV used it to record their jingles there and we recorded a jingle Hot n Heavy Express which Alan Robson used on his radio show it went well so we extended it into a single, we recorded it at NEAT and they put it out on a compilation EP.
Now this studio was the label to be on, and I mean in the country not just the North East, I’ve recorded many tracks there as Satan, Avenger and Blitzkreig. It’s a shame it’s not there now rather like the Newcastle Mayfair and Mecca in Sunderland. Both venues I’ve gigged at many times and I think there is still an audience out there who are hungry for bands like us. In 1983 Satan recorded Caught in the Act which at the time wasn’t well received by the reviewer in Kerrang, to be honest it’s a very scathing review which I still have.
But I look at things like that and use it to my advantage. If you are doing something you believe in you’ve got to keep going and believe in yourself. Really the review is an opinion of only one person. The fans view is more important they buy the records and turn up at the gigs’.
What are you doing now and what are your plans for the future ?
‘I suppose a really good thing to come out of this is that I’m bringing my son Alan through the industry, sort of passing the baton on as he is playing with us in Blitzkrieg.
This year with Satan and Blitzkreig we are writing new material and looking at going into the studio, maybe First Avenue or Trinity Heights in Newcastle and off the back of that will be a run of gigs. It’s in yer blood, it’s an addiction’.
We finished the interview and agreed to follow up on details of his recordings on NEAT and the Satan tour of America 2016. We said our goodbyes then went off into the dark misty night on the banks of the river Tyne in South Shields, I think Brian can howl out loud he’s Sold his Soul for Rock n Roll.
Interview by Gary Alikivi 2017.