Manilla Road Special (13): Phil Ross (Manilla Road)

We’re very happy to present to you the first interview with a Manilla Road member. Many thanks for your contribution to our special, Phil Ross!

Phil Ross. Picture taken by Mark Anderson.

When did you meet Mark Shelton for the first time?

I first met Mark at a Manilla Road show in Wichita at The Port, a local venue that was around for a while. Probably around 2011 or so, I can’t remember the exact year.

Mark’s friendly nature off stage is well-documented and this extended tenfold to his family and bandmates.

Phil Ross about his bandmate Mark Shelton.

Can you point out a special moment that you experienced with Mark Shelton?

I’ve shared the stage with Mark, Bryan, and Neudi many times, one long «special moment». I was in the band for a very short time. There are of course moments that stand out both on and off the stage. Anytime you can perform with musicians of this caliber or people of this character special moments make themselves. If you add the music of Mark / Manilla Road to that, well then every night is full of special musical moments with Mark. Mark’s friendly nature off stage is well-documented and this extended tenfold to his family and bandmates. We really got to know each other on the USA tour of 2017, coast to to coast with the Shark in a Chevy Impala [4-door car], I guess that’s an epic adventure if there ever was one.

What makes Manilla Road special in your opinion?

It’s pretty easy to point out the unique vocals, epic song structures, shark attack shredding… but I think what is «special» as a whole is Manilla Road’s effect on the people who love the music. I knew Manilla Road was a very special band, beyond of course a «local band» – I did not know the degree to which it is SACRED to so many until I joined the band. This is not something that can really be explained with words. Chances are everyone who reads your blog knows exactly what I am talking about, there is something in every song, every album that makes this band something more than just «heavy metal». By default I think this part of the country used to breed some really weird and often unique music. Manilla Road had numerous influences that are easily identifiable, especially in the beginning but they blazed their own trail very early on, too. The genius of Mark Shelton was untouched by the regional music scenes of either coasts. Shark is a true American original, a poet, a virtuoso and all that adds up to «special» for me.

Shark is a true American original, a poet, a virtuoso and all that adds up to «special» for me.

Phil Ross about his bandmate Mark Shelton.

What are your three favourite Manilla Road albums?

  • Dreams Of Eschaton aka Mark Of The Beast
  • Gates Of Fire
  • Out Of The Abyss

What‘s the most underrated Manilla Road album in your opinion?

Voyager.

Mentioned once again…

What are your five favourite Manilla Road tracks?

  • «Metal»
  • «Time Trap»
  • «Taken By Storm»
  • «Dragon Star»
  • «War In Heaven»

What’s the most underrated Manilla Road track in your opinion?

«The Prophecy» – Maybe the most epic Manilla Road song song ever.

Which Manilla Road track moves you the most emotionally?

«Dragon Star».

Whats your favourite solo/lead played by Mark Shelton?

«The Books Of Skelos» – Shark Attack!

Can you point out some favourite bass parts?

Scott Park is under-appreciated and unheralded. I’ve always thought that if some «billy badass» was on bass back then it would have taken away from Shark, and later from Randy. Manilla Road was the Shark show in many ways and I think every fan is ok with that! Scott held it all down and if you’ve ever heard the Roadkill live LP, you can hear that SOMEONE had to hold that shit down! That being said, I would say my favorite bass features are on later albums… Mark Anderson’s «Lemuria» [from Atlantis Rising] is an incredible example, and a seemingly rare collaboration between for reformation era Road.

Bryan has told me the bass line was written solely by Anderson before Shark added vocals. My favorite is Harvey Patrick. You can hear him shredding his ass off on Gates Of Fire and especially on the Voyager album. He was everything I am not with a pick in hand, a killer shredder that could go toe-to-toe with the old man! I have never met Harvey, nor have I ever seen him play but his recordings with Manilla Road stand out for me. On some of the later albums Shark’s best bass partner ended up being himself! He performed a lot more bass than people realize, and a lot more than he took credit for. «The Dead Still Speak» and «Kings Of Invention» [from The Blessed Curse LP] both feature Shark killing it on the bass. On the To Kill A King LP Shark played the bass on «In The Wake» – we decided not to redo this track after I joined because the dark and delicate picked lines fit Mark’s vision for that song and I am glad it remains.

How would you define the term epic metal?

I am no expert in what makes metal «epic» these days. I would say the basic, generic ingredients I listed about Manilla’s sound above would apply to most bands here: epic song structures especially. A friend of mine [Tom Rentor from the Finnish band Chevalier] said the other day that a lot of bands just say they are «epic metal influenced by Manilla and Cirith» and that seems to be a popular tag to add to any generic Heavy Metal. Again, I reference back to an aura, an unnameable air to certain bands that make them «epic» for me. An ingredient that can not be contrived or forced. Many bands have it, and even more just pretend! That’s a very long way to say «I don’t actually know», ha!

I reference back to an aura, an unnameable air to certain bands that make them «epic» for me.

Phil Ross about epic metal.

Are there any young bands inspired by Manilla Road that you appreciate?

Yes a ton. Ironsword, Legendry, Visigoth, DoomSword.

What do you generally think of Manilla Road‘s legacy and the current epic metal scene?

Manilla’s legacy is cemented forever in the underground and the legacy is whatever the music means to you. There is so much to dive into, so much to take in from these 20+ LPs. The current scene is kind of hard to judge for me when I am not out there seeing bands and experiencing the comradery and I don’t really follow digital media too closely.

Bryan, Phil and The Shark. Picture taken by Mark Anderson.

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