I was shocked and saddened to be informed of the death of Megaton vocalist Ross Torlak. He had been fighting cancer since March and lost his battle on May 18th, a couple of weeks short of his 55th birthday. I am still shocked. He leaves behind a daughter, Jesselyn.
Although I had only known him personally for a little over a year, initially in connection with my Rock show, interviews and general fat chewing ensued and it didn't take long to put him firmly in the 'one of the good guys' category. I am proud to consider him as a friend.
Megaton was always his main love professionally and after Ross and guitarist, Jeremy Nagle, had their musical reunion in 2010 and subsequent album 'Returning With Vengeance', it was clear that they had so much more to offer and had come a long way since the NWOBHM days – time and experience meant the magic was even greater.
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Personally too, Ross and Jeremy were like brothers. Just before Ross became ill, Megaton had a US tour on the horizon, Megaton were going back on the road. The last time I spoke to Ross, in February, he was talking about that very thing and bringing the show to the UK and we had a brief chat about venues. Sadly that never got to happen.
Megaton was founded by Ross in 1979. He began his life in England as a security guard and worked at a record store part time. After working for about a year, he ended up making enough money to purchase his first guitar; a Gibson SG. Shortly after his purchase, Ross walked into a production company with that guitar and ended up getting signed.
During an audition for a second guitarist to join Megaton, Jeremy was the first to be seen out of over 150 other guitarist auditioning for that spot. As soon as he began playing, Ross knew that he was the one for the band and stopped the rest of the auditions scheduled for that day.
After about six months, the record company went bankrupt. Ross and Jeremy decided to keep the band going and continue Megaton. They were scrounging for a couple gigs each week and things began to really slow down. Shortly after the company went under, Megaton came up with and released their first recorded single, 'Aluminum Lady'.
Ross and Jerry gave their single to the England Radio Stations BBC1 and BBC2. Megaton's first single and record was played on these stations almost every thirty minutes against all the odds. People were impressed; they absolutely loved this band and the uniqueness it brought to the stations.
Megaton ended up hitting the Sounds Heavy Metal Charts at #8 in 1980. Megaton was then signed again by another production company named Rock Exchange. That same year Ross ended up meeting drummer Mick Tucker from The Sweet. Megaton was playing a gig at a local club and Mick Tucker was sent down to view the band. Mick ended up loving the band and they all recorded the last single in 1980 'Tallahassee Lassie'.
In 1981 Ross moved to the USA swapping the UK for the slightly warmer California. Away from music, he set up and ran a successful trucking company. Music however was never put on the back burner for long.
In 2002 Ross released a solo album, 'I Wanna See You Again' and also fronted another band, this one with the name Breed. Ross was also heavily involved with Big Mama Earth, an organisation that teaches children to look after nature and the planet in general. This was something he believed in deeply and he became the voice of the organisation.
His musical compadre and great friend Jeremy told me: "He was a natural rock star and was nonstop laughs to be around and a really genuine guy..." He added: "We had the craziest times together and man, I could tell you stories, but I won't..." You know I agree, there will be other days for those.
Megaton was his love and if there is any consolation to his far too premature departure, it is that he was doing what he loved right until the end.
Cheers Ross, it's been a pleasure, you will be greatly missed.