Brian Ross

Legends of NWOBHM Blitzkrieg headline the Brofest Metal festival in Newcastle on 28th february. Mick Burgess chatted to lead singer, Brian Ross, about headlining in his hometown and the impact of Newcastle on the NWOBHM

On Saturday 28th February you’re playing at the Brofest festival at Northumbria University. How does it feel to be headlining this festival in your home town?

It’s great. We actually played it last year. Almost at the last minute one of the bands who was playing had to pull out. I was actually in Europe at the time with my other band, Satan. I was asked if I could play on the Saturday so I flew back to Newcastle jumped into my car, got ready and went straight on stage. The offshoot of that was we were asked back this year but as headliners. It’s always nice to play in Newcastle, it’s a great crowd.

Will you have lots of family and friends coming down to see you play?

It’s pretty much the only time they get to see us as we don’t do that many gigs in England as we seem to play so many gigs abroad so whenever we do play in Newcastle they always come down to see us play.

What sort of people come to your shows these days?

A while ago it was mainly hairy guys in denim and leather with studded wristbands especially on the continent. Now when we play, the old school guys are still there but now there’s kids who weren’t even born when we did the first album and there’s a ridiculous amount of girls come to the shows now. If the heavier music is going to exist into the future, it doesn’t lie with the likes of me, it’s with the young kids. We need them to form bands and keep the music alive.

It’s the 30th Anniversary of your debut album, A Time of Changes. Are you planning on marking this occasion?

This year is the 30th anniversary of our first album and also the 35th anniversary of the formation of the band. We will play the first album in its entirety at every gig we play this year. We’ll be doing an hour and a half set so we’ll do the entire album first and then we’ll do a selection of songs from our other albums.

You actually formed in 1980 but didn’t put out your 1st album until 1985. Why did it take so long to get that 1st album out?

In 1981 we put out the Buried Alive single with the track Blitzkrieg on the B-side. The manager of Carrere Records at the time was looking for a support band for Saxon and went into a record shop and asked if they knew of anyone suitable. They gave them our single and we got that support slot for Saxon and a record deal. That’s when the problems started. Jim, our guitarist decided he didn’t want to do it so we split up the band. I put the band back together in 1984 and recorded our first album which was eventually released in 1985.

This is a festival to celebrate the New Wave of British Heavy Metal which surged in popularity in the late ’70s/early ’80s. What was it about those times that was so productive for British Metal?

Before Blitzkrieg I was in a Blues band like Free and Bad Company. I was also into Judas Priest. With the Punk explosion in 1977 I could see what was happening. These bands had the right idea to get out and play but most of them couldn’t play very well. As they learned their craft and became better musicians they became the first bands of the new era of Heavy Metal. Blitzkrieg were always formed to be a British Metal band and I wanted to be part of the growing scene. Raven, Fist and Tygers of Pan Tang were starting to pick up on this in 1978. I left the band I was in at the time as I wanted to do something much heavier and ended up joining Split Image. I didn’t like the name so we changed it to Blitzkrieg. Really, the whole scene took the Heavy Rock influences from the ’70s and the energy of Punk and it just seemed to inspire so many people to form bands and it seemed to catch the imagination of the fans at that time.

Newcastle seemed to be at the centre of the movement. Tygers of Pan Tang, Blitzkrieg, Raven, Venom, White Spirit, Spartan Warrior, Avenger. Why was Newcastle such a hotbed of Metal in those days?

All of these bands came from Newcastle or were attracted to Newcastle because of Neat Records. Newcastle became known as Metal City and every band in England wanted to play in Newcastle. We had a very healthy music scene back then and unfortunately it’s not quite so healthy now with the loss of the Mayfair and Trillians but it is great that we have Brofest to carry on that great tradition.

History has shown that Iron Maiden, Def Leppard and Saxon broke through into the mainstream. Why do you think they broke through when others didn’t?

We didn’t breakthrough as we split up in 1981 and by the time we put the band back together things were starting to calm down a bit. I think it’s a bit of a cliché but sometimes cream does rise to the top and those bands were definitely the best of the bunch and quite rightly made it to the very top.

Which bands around then did you think were going to make it but ultimately didn’t?

I remember when we played a gig in Sheffield there was another band playing a few yards down the road before us so we checked them out and then they came to our show. That band was Def Leppard and they were incredible and much, much heavier than they became. I thought they were going to make it big time and they did, but not in the way that I thought they would. They became more Americanised and did it that way but they were so good back in the day.

Blitzkrieg the song was famously covered by Metallica on their Garage Inc album. When did you first realise that they’d covered one of your songs?

I was actually in the studio recording the A Time of Changes album and when I got home my wife said that somebody called Lars from Metallica has called to ask if they could use one of my songs. I just thought “Yeah, right!!” He phoned back later and it was Lars Ulrich who had got my number from the record label. He asked if Metallica could cover the song “Blitzkrieg” and I said of course they could. I gave him the lyrics over the phone and they still got them wrong. They did their version of it which I thought was great.

What impact did that have on you as a band? Did the level of interest grow?

Not really at first. When our album came out we got labelled as doing a cover of a Metallica song. It had a negative effect at first but since then I think people have heard the song and decided to check us out so it’s been a double edged sword.

I bet the royalty cheques helped?

I wish!! If I told you how much I’d made from Metallica’s cover version from 1985 to the present you honestly would not believe it as it was so little. Maybe we should have done but who knows, it was just one of those things.

Have you met any of the guys in Metallica?

I have several times but whenever they come to Newcastle I’m inevitably out on tour so I never get to see them here as if I did I’d probably get up and do Blitzkrieg with them. I almost did back at Donington in 1991. I spent all day backstage with them but they were pushed for time and as they weren’t the headliners back then so didn’t get an encore, which would have been Blitzkrieg, so I didn’t get a chance to play with them but one day I will hopefully.

You have an album of demos dating back to 1980 called The Boys from Brazil Street Volume 1 out now. Why did you decide to release those now?

Jim, our guitarist who I mentioned earlier, who didn’t want to do it anymore and quit, it’s actually his baby. When we were in the studio to record our Buried Alive/Blitzkrieg single we basically ran through all of our songs live in the studio. Jim put out a pretty decent package of those songs. He’s now put out a Volume 2 and I actually question its validity as they are basically recordings of our rehearsals. I think fans quite like stuff like that but I hope he doesn’t put out a third volume as surely all the decent stuff has been used now and he’ll be really scraping the barrel for a third one.

In 2013 you released your first album of new material in 8 years called Back From Hell. Are you pleased with how it turned out?

I’m very pleased with it. The previous album had a more American sound but with Back From Hell I wanted to return to a more traditional British Metal sound. The idea was to go back to the Unholy Trinity album and recapture that feel but with some new ideas brought in by Alan, a younger musician and mix the two things together that pleases the old school fans but pleases younger ones too.

You re-recorded Buried Alive from your very first single. Had that not appeared on an official album before?

That’s the first time it’s appeared on one of our albums. It’s something of a tradition now that I ask the lads to look at some of our older songs and choose one to rerecord. Last time on Theatre of the Damned it was Armageddon so this time we decided to re-record our very first single.

In Call For The Priest there’s a fair few Judas Priest song titles in the lyrics. Is that your tribute to them?

We ran a competition on a radio station where people had to phone in a guess how many Judas Priest song titles were in that song. I wrote down every Priest song title and worked them into a narrative form and ended up using 45 different song titles.   It wasn’t easy but it was well worth doing. We even put in little bits of riffs like Hell Bent For Leather and Electric Eye. We’re such big Priest fans so it was nice to do a tribute.

Metallica covered Blitzkrieg and now you’ve returned the favour with your take on Seek and Destroy. Why did you pick that one to cover?

We did that for no other reason than to say thank you. It’s for no other reason than that. We did that one because it was the song we all wrote down on a piece of paper and we all wanted to do it. The second choice was The Four Horsemen but I think Seek and Destroy was the right choice.

Have you any plans for a new album?

While we are writing songs for a Blitzkrieg album proper we’re going to nip into the studio and rerecord the first album. Getting hold of the original album now is virtually impossible and we don’t even have any copies left to sell. Trying to get Universal in America to re-release it is impossible as they aren’t interested in small bands and they’ll only sell us the masters for a ridiculous price. We thought we’d just re-record them ourselves as I own the songs themselves. As this is the 30th anniversary of the debut album it seems like the right time to do it.

What have you got lined up in the coming months?

My other band Satan, have a European tour in October and we will probably play America later in the year or next year. We will be playing Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Peru. The schedule for Blitzkrieg is filling up too so we are trying to time things to make sure we don’t clash. Both bands are playing the Headbanger’s Open Air Festival in Germany in July with Blitzkrieg playing one night and Satan the other. It looks like it’s going to be a very busy year.

I’ve also been asked to play Alice Cooper for a stage show at The Customs House at South Shields on April 11th. My son Alan, who is also guitarist in Blitzkrieg will be playing guitar. This is a one off for the Toma Appeal and it will be based on the Theatre of Death Tour show and will include the guillotine, the gallows, the snake and all the costumes and everything you have seen at an Alice Cooper concert including Frankenstein. This was only going to be a one off but so many people have expressed an interest in it that we may take it out on tour. Hopefully plenty of people will come and see the show, have a great night and it’s all for a good cause.

Blitzkrieg headline the Brofest Heavy Metal Festival on Saturday 28th February at Northumbria University Students Union in Newcastle.

Brian Ross performs the Alice Cooper Theatre of Death show at the Customs House, South Shields on 11th April in aid of the Toma Fund.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

    View all posts

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.