Latest release: Do You Wanna Start a War (Bullet Proof/Riot!)
Twenty minutes never seems like enough time when it comes to interviewing Fozzy frontman Chris Jericho. With new album Do You Wanna Start a War on the launch pad, Loud stuck to the business of rock n roll when we pinned him down (with difficulty) for a chat recently to discuss the evolution of Fozzy and the band’s huge Australian fanbase.
I recently played your version of ‘Freewheel Burning’ on my radio show. When you recorded that 14 years ago, did you think that Fozzy would be the band that it is now?
When we started out it was a fun thing, like every band. Every band started out playing cover tunes and it was no different from us but we were signed to an actual record deal at that time. So it was kind of a crazy time. But we realised shortly after that it was fun doing half originals, half covers but we got a lot of chemistry and we really think that we could go farther with this. It wasn’t until 2009 that we really started to focus on the band completely. And that’s when we really started to grow. When we did ‘Freewheel Burning’, we didn’t really have any aspirations either way. We were just recording records and getting exposure and being able to play music, and it was fun. But it’s so much more real now, I guess you could say. So much more bigger and greater things are at our fingertips at this point. Before, we just did it for itself. Now there’s just so much more at stake. We were the big fish in a small pond and now we’re the medium-sized fish in the ocean. You either grow and get bigger or you get eaten up and die. We’re enjoying being in the ocean now and playing in the big leagues, which we never were back when we were doing ‘Freewheel Burning’. So it’s kind of an interesting question you ask, because it’s yes and no. If it wasn’t for those days, it wouldn’t have led to these days. It’s a very important part of Fozzy.
Do you think there was a struggle to be taken seriously after being that covers band in the beginning?
It’s kind of funny because that’s like a second part of the same question. We’re like the original Steel Panther, you know? The difference is that it was such a long time ago. If Fozzy was a pencil, the first couple of Fozzy records would be the very tip and the rest of our career is the whole rest of it. The whole wooden part. So much time has past between now and then. We’ve done everything opposite to what you’re supposed to do to make it in the music business and to make it as a band. But at this point, it doesn’t really matter. We’ve really gone a long way and we’ve accomplised a lot by doing things our way. Yes, we started as a covers band and yes, the singer’s a wrestler and yes, there’s so many reasons why this band should never have gotten as far as it did, but we’ve only gotten bigger with every show we’ve played and every album we’ve put out; and the reason for that is because we’re a good rock and roll band. We write good songs, we’ve got a very energetic show – loud, and people know what they’re gonna get from us. It’s gonna be a good time and they’re gonna have fun and enjoy themselves and hopefully they’re going to be humming our songs into the middle of next week after they hear them. That’s what rock n roll’s all about, so it doesn’t really matter how we got here or what the story was before, all the matters is that now we’re here and people can judge us on the merit of, do we like this band or not? 9 out of 10 are saying we love this band and that’s a cool feeling. Like Frank Sinatra said, we’ll do it our way. Or Bon Jovi!
Where do you see the progression in Fozzy from the previous album?
I think every Fozzy record has been a progression from the last in terms of focusing on what we do best song-writing wise, focusing in on what our sound is – which is very heavy, groovy melodic riffs with a lot of harmonies, a lot of different vocal styling. The major difference with this record as opposed to the other records was that the only rule was there is no rules. We’re gonna write the best songs we can write. This one is poppier, this one heavier, it’s almost, I don’t know, dance metal. It’s got a great hook and if it still sounds like Fozzy we’re gonna put it on the record. Do You Wanna Start a War is very versatile, very diverse, but it’s very much a Fozzy record from track one to track twelve. In the same way that a classic Queen record would have so many different styles of songs, a classic Beatles record, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, whatever the case may be, it still always sounds like that band. Even though Zeppelin would do a reggae song and then they’d do a dance song… there’s so many different styles to that band – it’s the same with us. As long as there’s Rich Ward playing guitar, Frank Fontsere on drums and Chris Jericho singing, it’s always gonna sound like Fozzy, and that’s exactly how this sounds. So it’s a very versatile, diverse record that I think is going to be a game-changer for us as a result of that.
You once told me that you wanted to make Rich Ward better known as one of the best song-writers and guitar players in heavy music. Do you think you are on the way to achieve that?
Well it’s so cool to see him get to the level that he’s at, but a lot of that has to do with the material and the product and the songs that we’re putting out. You can’t deny it. Here we are again, the third time in the last five years where there’s a great record where every song kicks ass – the production is amazing: that’s Rich Ward, the song-writing is amazing: that’s Rich Ward, the mix is great: that’s Rich Ward, the solos are great: that’s mostly Rich Ward, along with the riffs. So, the biggest Fozzy gets, the bigger Rich gets and the more notoriety he’s gonna get because of the material we’re putting out. He bigger than he was a few years ago. He got a Marshall endorsement, the biggest amp company in the world. In a couple of years he’s going to be just as reknown for his production skills as he is for his song-writing skills as he is for his guitar playing skills. He’s kind of the undiscovered talent of music and he’s in our band, so that’s great.
You’ve brought the band down to Australia a few times now and played Soundwave last year. How does that compare to other festivals you may have played elsewhere?
The thing I love about Soundwave was that I think Fozzy was a destination band during that festival. And what that means is that people would find us. No matter what time we played at, we played at a different time each day, but people would be there. And I remember looking at the band before and seeing pretty much as empty field, going onstage and seeing six, seven, eight thousand, I think, is what we played to in Sydney – and in Melbourne, too – and then going back ten or twenty minutes after our set was done and seeing pretty much an empty field again. And that made me realise how much of a fanbase we were getting and how things were moving along for us in Australia. To have five amazing shows from all the bands to choose from and our crowd was the biggest of the day, at our stage, at 2 o’clock in the afternoon – that to me is something I can’t take lightly. That was really cool. Soundwave is one of the best tours we’ve ever been on. Organisationally and camaraderie-wise, fanbase-wise… and then to go over there again nine months later, to Australia, with Steel Panther and Buckcherry was amazing too.
Considering the bands on that tour except Steel Panther had only been here a little while before, how did that go in comparison to Soundwave?
Different style venue… some of them, I think Sydney was crazy good! Perth was amazing. I think there was one show in Melbourne, or maybe Brisbane – I think it was Melbourne – where there was nobody there for the first band. We were the first of three, so it was a different set of circumstances. But it was great. That’s what we do. Whether we get ten or ten thousand, that’s our motto, man. We put on the same show no matter what. And that tour was a great tour because you got three bands, and all three of us wanna do one thing and that’s have a great time. Steel Panther, Buckcherry, Fozzy, a lot of girls come to our shows, people are yelling and cheering and clapping. There’s not a lot of moshing or a circle pit at a Fozzy show or a Steel Panther show. Nor should there be! We’re more of a Van Halen 1979, Rolling Stones 70s type of a vibe. There’s just a bunch of people there losing their minds and fucking rockin’. And that’s what we did. That was a great, great bill for the fans and for the guys in the band as well.
Some of your songs have a bit of a dark theme to them but you still seem to just bring the fun out in everybody on stage. There definitely is a very old-school fun vibe to what you do.
Oh musically that’s not the case. There’s a lot of dark heavy riffs and a lot of different types of sounds, but onstage, attitude-wise, we want to be Van Halen in 1979. And what I mean by that is just four great musicians onstage, all of them amazing players, all of them amazing at what they did but just all of them having a blast, so much fun in what they were doing that you couldn’t help but smile along with David Lee Roth or Michael Anthony or the Van Halen brothers. You could tell they were having the time of their lives, and that’s the attitude that we bring to the stage and it’s something that is consciously there. We love playing our songs, we love playing in front of a crowd, and that’s something you do with a smile. And we expect the same from the crowd. We want people to have fun. Fun is a dirty word sometimes, but not for us. We’re going out there making sure people have a good time, and that’s what it’s all about man.
So when do you think you’ll get a chance to come back and have some more fun with us?
Pretty soon man! I hope we get a chance to come out with Soundwave 2015. If that doesn’t happen, I guarantee we’ll be back on our own one way or another. Australia’s a great, great.. we have a great fanbase there. A lot of friends, a lot of fans and Australia’s just a great country for music too. Everytime we go there, there’s so many bands playing and so much action going on, so many beautiful girls everywhere… how could you not love it? I love Australia!