DATE OF INTERVIEW:
14th May 2010
METAL DISCOVERY: You rejoined Fozzy last year having left the band in 2005 - what were your reasons for leaving, and why did you decide to rejoin four years later?
FRANK FONTSERE: It’s just one of those things. You know how relationships go sometimes…relationships just kind of burn out. Rich and I had been working together almost constantly; at the time it would’ve been seven or eight years…oh, nine years actually as I was in the band from 1996 until then, and Stuck Mojo and all his side projects, basically doing everything that he was involved with. It’s just one of those things where you start to kinda burn out on each other and I think it was just time for us to do other things. I know I needed to do other things; I needed to work with other people. A couple of years later we just drifted back together and started talking again, and he asked me if I’d be interested in playing with Fozzy and Stuck Mojo again, and I said “sure”.
(Frank Fontsere on latest Fozzy album 'Chasing the Grail')
"It’s like a pinnacle of everything we’ve worked towards so far and it just inspires you to do more, and to do better. I really think that everything that I’ve ever done with Rich gets better and better musically and I’m really looking forward to doing the next one."
Frank backstage at Rock City, Nottingham, 14th May 2010
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
There is a lot of buzz about Fozzy in the press right now. Beyond the fact their frontman is currently WWE world heavyweight champion Chris Jericho (that's old news, we all know that, right?), the band's latest album, 'Chasing the Grail', is indubitably a career best. Also, it further cements Fozzy's 'serious' credentials away from their mock beginnings. Guitarist and founding member Rich Ward spoke to Metal Discovery about 'Chasing the Grail' at the time of its UK release but, on tour over here mid-May for four shows, a trip to Nottingham provided an opportunity to gain the perspective of the man behind the drum kit, the humble and thoroughly unpretentious Frank Fontsere who, as well as being back in Stuck Mojo, it transpires through discussions he is also sticksman for a live karaoke band...
Photograph copyright © 2010 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
MD: Circumstantial then.
FF: Yeah, because I never didn’t like us working together. Musically, his style of playing and mine are perfect for each other. You know, it’s just one of those things and you have to go out and explore the world sometimes, a little bit.
MD: Of course, definitely. It’s an absolutely awesome new album.
FF: Ah, thank you.
MD: I actually did a phoner with Rich in March around the time it came out over here and he said how incredibly happy he is with the final recordings. How pleased are you with the album?
FF: It’s the proudest thing I’ve ever done, without a doubt. It’s the best thing I’ve ever been a part of. It’s a fantastic record and it sounds amazing; the songs are amazing; the playing is amazing. It’s like a pinnacle of everything we’ve worked towards so far and it just inspires you to do more, and to do better. I really think that everything that I’ve ever done with Rich gets better and better musically and I’m really looking forward to doing the next one.
MD: So it’s your best drumming to date, would you say?
FF: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. Some of it, stylistically, is different to what I’m used to so I had to really work hard to get it. That’s how you become better, is by pushing yourself and leaving your comfort zone, and that’s definitely what this record was. It wasn’t comfortable to record at all; it was very hard, but the results speak for themselves and it’s like I’m a better player for it.
MD: In an interview I did with Dave Lombardo last week he was saying that, for the latest Slayer album, he minimised his kit a bit and took away the biggest tom and the smallest tom to force himself to be more creative. He said that less is more in creativity rather than more is more. Is that something you’ve ever done as a drummer?
FF: Oh yeah. Just experimenting with your setup and changing things around a little bit, it makes you think about things differently and, for the longest time, I’d been playing a pretty simple setup of a kick, and one tom up front, and two floors. I’ve kind of made it now, two toms up front and one floor, just because of the way we wanted to do the fills on this record; it made it easier. And yeah, changing things up, it just does something in your head that makes you think about everything you do a bit differently. I’m always changing little things around here and there, whether it’s the height of a cymbal, adding or taking away a cymbal, or something. I used a lot more special effects cymbals on this record than I’ve had before, like splashes and closed hi-hats, and stuff like that. I’m definitely looking forward to doing more of that.
MD: Bruce Dickinson’s been touting the new album as a masterpiece on his BBC Radio 6 show…
FF: Yeah, I know, that’s fantastic!
MD: How does it feel to get commendation from such a metal veteran as Bruce?
FF: It’s really surreal because I grew up listening to Maiden and all those guys, and going to see them play in Atlanta at the Omni Arena where I used to go and see all my concerts, and to see this guy and be in awe of this band, and they’ve been an institution for so long, and then for him to actually be talking about something that you’ve done, and to be so complimentary about it, it’s surreal. It’s weird because I’ve met Bruce a couple of times, I don’t know if he’d remember me or not, but a long, long time ago he actually got up on stage with Stuck Mojo and he did ‘Wrathchild’, and that was amazing. So yeah, to actually go from being a fan, and still being a fan but to be somewhat of a peer, that’s an amazing feeling. It’s really odd; it still doesn’t really sink in. Yeah, I really appreciate all the nice things he’s had to say. Maybe we’ll get to play with those guys one of these days.
MD: His radio show’s ending at the end of May - BBC cutbacks unfortunately…you got in there just in time!
FF: Yeah, just in time, exactly!
MD: What’s your take on the ‘Wormwood’ track because Rich said that Chris and Mike got quite possessive about the songs and they had a weird falling out with him over the song?
FF: To be perfectly honest with you, it’s not something I can comment on because I wasn’t part of all that. All these songs were written before I came back. I really didn’t have anything to do with any of the writing; they were already demoed and ready to go when I joined the band. I’ve been told Chris and Rich’s side of the story - I haven’t spoken to Mike and gotten his side of the story. There’s always two sides to every story so, in fairness, I can’t really comment on that as I had nothing to do with it. For me to say anything about it just wouldn’t be fair.
MD: Is that a different kind of thing for you to do, a fourteen minute epic, prog-metal track?
FF: Well, Sean, the bass player, and I used to play in a band called Salem Ash back in Atlanta a long time ago, and that was like a progressive rock band, so I do have some background playing in odd times and longer songs with different parts and all of that stuff. It’s not completely alien to me as I have had some experience of that.
MD: If you could pick a couple of tracks from the new album that you’d want to continue playing in future years what would they be, and can you pronounce the title of the one about the Friday the 13th phobia?!
FF: I have no idea! I just call it ‘Friday the 13th’. I have no idea how to pronounce it!
MD: I noticed Chris didn’t actually include that in the actual lyrics for the song - it’s too many syllables to sing!
FF: Yeah! It’s one of those things where I remember looking at it, and trying, and thinking that I was gonna learn how to pronounce this, and then just saying “to hell with it!” But yeah, that’s one of ‘em, and then ‘Under Blackened Skies’. Basically, all the songs that we’re playing right now. At some point I’d like to get ‘Pray For Blood’ and ‘Grail’…I’d like to get those in the set at some point.
MD: You don’t play ‘Grail’ at the moment?
FF: No, we don’t play ‘Grail’ live.
MD: That’s a shame.
FF: Yeah, it’s a great song but we’re not playing that one yet, but I’d like to get those in there. ‘New Day’s Dawn’ I’d like to play as well.
MD: Ah yeah, that’s the one where Rich does the falsetto vocals.
FF: Yeah, yeah.
MD: That’s a favourite one of mine actually.
FF: I’d like to get a female vocalist to guest on that when we play it live; somebody who could really holler it out, you know. And it’s got so much orchestration. That might have to be one of those things we do one day if we do a festival and arrange to have somebody who’s a female vocalist playing with another band at the festival to come out and do it, and have the orchestration and all that stuff.
MD: Tonight’s show and Glasgow got upgraded to bigger venues because of good presales - have you been surprised by this level of interest in Fozzy in the UK?
FF: Yeah, well, I knew the UK is our biggest market right now…
MD: Bigger than in the States?
FF: Yeah, for the most part. I mean, we really do well here, and it was surprising to pre-sell out where we were and had to move to bigger venues which is really nice. The fans here are amazing. We’ve got great fans in the States and everywhere we play that the band does well and the fans are great, but here, they just love this band so much which is awesome, and I love playing here.
MD: Rich said that you’re kind of limited in how much you can tour because of Chris’ TV commitments but have you ever had to turn down any offers of more lengthy tours because of that?
FF: I believe so. Our manager, Mark, handles all the business and everything. I basically don’t have any business meetings or strategy meetings…
MD: You just play drums!
FF: Yeah, I basically just play drums! I’m kind of like, in a way, a hired gun even though I’m a part of the band. In bands like that there’s usually one or two guys who deal with the management and the business and all of that, and then the rest of the guys get told what’s happening. But I’m sure we’ve had to turn down some stuff because of that.