DATE OF INTERVIEW:
12th May 2011
Since releasing their fourth studio album, 'Chasing the Grail', last year, a mightily fine collection of accomplished groove-driven metal compositions with the surprise, though welcome, inclusion of an epic prog-metal finale, it seems Fozzy have finally unburdened themselves of general opinion that they are not a serious band. Quite the contrary, their one-time "mock band" status has been long abandoned and the widespread critical acclaim for 'Chasing the Grail' coupled with a rapidly increasing fanbase as evidenced by a series of sold-out shows last year in support of said release is testament to such a fact. Fozzy have never been more serious about their music which the metal scene, after many years, seems to be embracing en masse. Ahead of the band's return to the UK for a handful of shows in June/July which includes an appearance at Knebworth's prestigious Sonisphere festival, Metal Discovery spoke with multi-talented frontman Chris Jericho to reflect back on a most successful 2010, where Fozzy are at in 2011 as well as his ambitions for the band, particularly now the former WWE world heavyweight champion has taken a break from wrestling...
METAL DISCOVERY: It’s been over a year now since the rather awesome ‘Chasing the Grail’ came out. How do you regard the album all these months on and do you still listen to it much yourself?
CHRIS JERICHO: It’s funny because I was just talking to Rich Ward about this the other day. I put it on having not listened to it for probably six months and it was like, man, that’s still a smokin’ record! We’ve been playing the songs so much live but when you hear it from beginning to end, note for note, it’s like, wow, it really does what we wanted it to do which was to create a quality, versatile album that kind of grows with each listen. There’s so much stuff that you don’t really notice the first couple of times you hear it. It’s cool because, especially now with the level of recognition the band has gained over the last year, a lot of people are still discovering this album. They’re like, “wow, we never heard this before and I can’t believe it took us this long to hear about Fozzy, and I can’t believe it took this long to give Fozzy a try.” Man, it just goes to show my big motto that the only people who don’t like Fozzy are the people who never actually heard the band!
(Chris Jericho on Fozzy's ever-growing fanbase)
"...the only people who don’t like Fozzy are the people who never actually heard the band!"
Chris Jericho onstage with Fozzy at the Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, UK, 14th May 2010
Photograph copyright © 2010 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
CJ: [laughs] You know what I mean?
MD: Definitely! So you’ve obviously played a lot of the new material at shows over the past twelve months but have any tracks become favourites of yours more than others based on crowd reactions?
CJ: Well, it’s funny because we do half the album live; it’s the most we’ve ever done from any of our records live. We do six songs live. ‘Martyr…’ is a great tune, ‘…Madness…’ is a great tune. I think ‘God Pounds His Nails’ goes over really well because there’s a little bit of a sing-a-long with that. ‘Under Blackened Skies’ is a great way to open the show. ‘Grail’, we’ve started playing that; that’s a really cool song and could be my favourite song on the whole album. We never thought about playing it live until we went to Australia last year and it just really goes over well. We also do ‘Friday the 13th’ which is Thursday the 12th, it’s bad for my health and that’s today, dude. So that’s a cracking tune as well. So yeah, all the songs go over well live and I think we picked a really good mix off the record so people get a really good sense of what it is we do.
MD: Can you pronounce the Friday the 13th phobia track?
CJ: Of course, it’s “Paraskavedekatriaphobia”…[a fluent pronunciation]
CJ: I try and lead a “Paraskavedekatriaphobia” chant every night and it doesn’t usually go too well but it’s part of the fun!
MD: There’s no reference to it in the actual lyrics for the song – is it too many syllables to sing?!
CJ: Yeah, of course! [laughs] I actually wrote that song…I write all my songs based around song titles and I saw that in a car ad for a Ford or something like that and I thought that’s the best Steve Harris lyric that Steve Harris never wrote! It’s the perfect sort of Iron Maiden style where you have to look it up to learn something. That’s what I always loved about bands like Maiden back in the day where you would actually have to look it up to find out what it was. That’s why I loved the song title and the subject matter of it as well.
MD: Yeah, it’s quite esoteric in that sense, I guess. I interviewed Frank last May and he said he’d love to start playing ‘New Day’s Dawn’ at shows and he was saying maybe get a female vocalist to do the falsetto vocal parts live. Is that something you’ve considered at all?
CJ: Er, no, I haven’t, it’s the first I’ve heard of it! Maybe Frank can hire the female vocalist and bring her on the road with us!
CJ: Rich sang that part in the studio. He wanted to get a female vocalist and during his demo it sounded so cool the way he sang it so it was like, “oh, you’ve got to sing this”. But that’s the thing about this album, there’s a lot of straight-ahead four-on-the-floor…what is it Bruce Dickinson said?…“sticking to the pit of your stomach type metal.” If anyone else said that it would be weird but, with Bruce Dickinson saying that, it’s the greatest compliment ever! He said – “It’s a real meat and potatoes stick to your guts type metal album”! So there are plenty of songs like that on the album but there’s also quite a few songs like ‘Wormwood’ and ‘New Day’s Dawn’ that have a little bit more orchestration behind them. So they’re kind of getting into ‘Sgt. Pepper' territory where they’re kind of hard to reproduce live. Those are two songs that were just made for the album. I guess if the time comes if we’re ever gonna do ‘Chasing the Grail’ in its entirety we’ll have to hire a female vocalist.
MD: I think Frank was suggesting maybe if you did a festival you could grab a female vocalist from another band that was playing there as well to come on stage with you, or something like that.
CJ: Sure, yeah, like I said, it’s a great tune and it’s one of those ones when I first heard I was like - “Really? I don’t know if this is really gonna work”, but it just fits the whole tone of ‘Chasing the Grail’ brilliantly and it’s a very different style song of what we usually play. So I was really excited to have that song on the record too.
MD: Talking of different styles, ‘Wormwood’ is a particularly awesome track on the album which I gather from talking to Rich last year that it was yours and Mike Martin’s baby. Have you ever considered doing any other prog-metal stuff, maybe as a side-project or something?
CJ: No, I mean, I was always a big fan of ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ and Helloween’s ‘Keeper of the Seven Keys’, and Dream Theater and Rush and stuff like that so I always wanted to do a long song. Rich and I had discussed that early on in the process and Mike kind of took up the challenge for that and wrote a great tune. I’ve already written all the lyrics for the next record and I already have another epic one written for it.
CJ: Lyrically, it’s just as long as ‘Wormwood’. There are four sections to it and I think it’s three or four pages of work. This time, I think Rich is gonna do it so we’ll see what Rich comes up with. I think with a guy like Rich Ward writing you’ll probably get more of a ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ type prog-rock song whereas ‘Wormwood’ has a much more Dream Theater type feel. What I mean by that is Maiden’s longer songs are based around a central riff and the dynamics of that riff whereas ‘Wormwood’ has seven or eight or ten different parts to it. So I’m really looking forward to seeing what Rich will do with this song because he’s got the lyrics to work with. I think the lyrics are probably better than ‘Wormwood’ because I kind of really knew what I wanted to do with it this time.
MD: I think it fits your voice really well too, that kind of style. You know, you’ve got a really good voice for epic, prog-metal.
CJ: It’s really weird because you can kind of feel that vibe and, like I said, it’s always been part of who I am as a music fan. I love the long, epic type tunes and you’re almost singing out different characters. If you listen to ‘Wormwood’, there’s different vibes to the song – there’s a creepy vibe and you can sing more creepy and if it’s a fast riff you can sing a bit more panicky. Whereas most four or five minute rock songs you don’t get a chance to settle in. ‘Wormwood’ gave me a chance to do that and I think with this next epic tune we’ll be able to do the same thing with the same type of vibes and a really frantic kind of feel to it.
MD: Cool, I’ll look forward to that. I have to say that the Fozzy show I covered in May last year in Nottingham was one of the best gigs I went to last year, it was absolutely awesome. What are your memories now from those four shows you did in May because it was a bit rushed, wasn’t it? You flew in, did the four shows in three days, then had to fly back out to be on TV in the States on the Monday?
CJ: Yeah, and I almost got stuck over there from the remnants of the volcano!
MD: Ah yeah, the Icelandic volcano thing.
CJ: Yeah, but this is the thing about the UK – it’s always been a second home for us. From the moment we played our first shows there in 2005, probably up to this year, people just really embraced us and they always have. So those shows were really good because we hadn’t played in the UK for…I think it was maybe three years or four years, so it was a real good return because it was like, “will people remember us and what are they gonna think?” I know those four shows, especially the Nottingham one, and I think the one in Glasgow, they got moved to bigger venues because the shows sold so well. So that was a nice kind of comeback, you know, like welcome back Fozzy. Like I said, we’ve always gone the extra mile and done more tours in the UK than anywhere else in the world because our fans have built us there. That’s one of the reasons why we’re even on Sonisphere this year. I mean, you don’t just get on that show because you want to, you have to have a track record and you have to have a fanbase that demand it. And I think people know what we bring, like you said, we pride ourselves in really going the extra mile and having a very entertaining show and having a show that has a lot of crowd participation, a lot of crowd involvement. There are some great rock ‘n’ roll songs as well. Yeah, I remember that show vividly. It was a great show and it was a great time. We’re not coming back to Nottingham this tour but we’re going to a bunch of other places that are close enough I’m sure.
MD: It was very hot in that venue I remember.
CJ: Yeah, I always love that about the UK; I love the venues. That’s one thing about our band, we definitely have no egos as far as where we’ll play. We’ll play the biggest stages in the world like Sonisphere and we’ll play places like Margate! It was funny because we had a show in Paris and we had a day off because, you know, you’ve got to take the ferry over to Paris. I don’t like having days off when we’re on tour so, like – “Book us somewhere. We’re in this little town called Margate, is there nowhere to play?” I was like, “find us a place to play”! And it was this club called The Westcoast or something. Gosh, it was a small place; it probably held about two hundred and fifty people. It was jam packed, smokin’ hot, there were hot chicks all over the place and it was like the perfect date! You know, just really fun and almost like playing at a party! That’s what we do so we always take pride in the fact that we’ll play anywhere and give people the same show as if we’re on the Sonisphere stage, no matter where we are.
MD: So Margate then, the perfect hot and sweaty metal show!
CJ: Yeah, we’re going back there again because we’re going to Paris again so, well, “book Margate again”!
MD: Marvellous! A strange little town is Margate too! Obviously you have the European tour coming up this summer and some UK dates including Margate, as you mentioned – will you be aiming to do a different setlist from when you last toured here in October?
CJ: Well, it’s weird because it will be a different setlist just by proxy and the fact that, okay, we’re doing some festivals, we’re doing some shows where we’re opening for Anthrax and Skindred, other shows where we’re second on the bill between somebody and Ill Niño, and then we’re doing a bunch of shows where we’re headlining. We’re gonna have all different types of setlists because I’m sure at Sonisphere we’ll get forty minutes, you know, playing with Anthrax we’ll get forty minutes, playing with Ill Niño we’ll probably get an hour and doing our own shows we’ll do an hour and a half or an hour and forty five. So we’re just gonna have to mix it up every night and kind of feel the vibe of what people want to hear. That’s one good thing about us is we’ve got a lot of different styles of songs – we’ve got heavy ones, we’ve got fast ones, we’ve got covers that we can throw in there. So we’ll definitely be able to construct the setlist to wherever it is we are. New material…we won’t have any new material ready. We did work on a really cool medley of classic metal songs for the Golden Gods Awards we just played at in LA…a tribute to some of the greatest tunes of all time so that might be kind of fun to play maybe.
MD: That sounds good. Can we expect Andy Sneap at any of the UK dates again?
CJ: [laughs] It’s funny…I went to the Big Four in Indio, California, a couple of weeks ago and I got there a little bit late, and then I went and said “hi” to some of the people that I knew backstage, like some of the Anthrax guys and that sort of thing. I walked out of the little compound, sixty thousand people there, the first person that I see who I didn’t even know was there was Andy Sneap!
MD: Nooo! Wow!
CJ: “What are you doing?!” I don’t know if he was doing Exodus, or Testament, or something. And then I never saw him again. I saw him for four or five minutes and then he disappeared. I called him a couple of times but I don’t know what happened to him. I asked him if he wanted to come and play with us, of course…he wants to do Sonisphere. I’m like, “no, you can’t do that one!”
CJ: “You can’t play the big games without the practice!”
MD: That’s fair enough!