Latest release: Sin and Bones (Century Media/EMI)

Atlanta metalheads Fozzy have just released their fifth album, Sin and Bones – their third since becoming a ‘serious’ band on 2005’s All That Remains. Recently announced on the bill at the forthcoming Soundwave Festival, Loud caught up with guitarist Rich Ward in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, safe and becalmed in upstate New York.

Hey Rich how are you? You’re from the East Coast – how have things been for you the last few days?
Good man. We’re actually on tour right now and we’re in Albany, New York! We were in Toronto, Canada, last night and we just skirted right by it. We had some rain and we had some heavy winds. We just missed it all. We got real lucky.

It’s not something you would have wanted to be in the middle of.
It’s amazing. We’re in Albany, not too far from the eye of it, but this town got spared. There wasn’t any flooding, no downed trees or anything. I think it just got lucky. You know, as you can get sometimes with these storms, you can get hit by it or it can just pass by. Tomorrow we’re in Washington, DC and they got hit heavy, so we’ll just see how it is down there. We’re just fortunate, out on tour and lovin’ it, playing music for a living, man. It’s the greatest job in the world.

When things like this happen, do you think about cancelling the tour or do you just soldier on?
Oh, we didn’t even think for two seconds about cancelling it. The only thing we’re concerned about was, we don’t want to put people in the position where, if they have a ticket, they’re not going to get a refund because it’s dangerous. We took that into consideration. We wanna make sure our fans are safe. But, as I said, we just got lucky. In Toronto there was heavy rain and winds, but certainly no tropical storm or hurricane force stuff. There was rain and wind, but we still got a great turn out. For a Monday night, during a storm, it was cool! It was a great gig.

How has the rest of the tour been going?
Great. We just finished seven weeks on tour with the Uproar Tour, which was a travelling festival with Shinedown, Godsmack, Staind, Adelita’s Way, P.O.D. and ourselves. It was just an amazing tour. Then we were home for ten days and went right back out and we’ve been out just shy of two weeks. And this was just a chance for us to play some markets we didn’t play on the Uproar tour, and then we’re home for another couple of weeks and we go to Europe for a month. That will take us almost up to the Christmas holiday break, so we’re blessed to be busy and working.

I talked to Chris (Jericho – vocals) twice after the last album, and at the time it looked like things were about to really open up for Fozzy. Now it seems like that’s happened. You’re on a bigger label now and starting to really get out to the people.
Yeah it think that was the really big thing for us. Being on Riot! was excellent for us in Europe and in Australia, but in the States it was a new territory for them. It’s so difficult to break into the mainstream. It’s such a huge territory. You’re obviously aware of how big the States are and how many markets there are, and you really need a big organisation to crack that. Century Media was the label I was signed with with Stuck Mojo for years and I’ve got good relationships with all the folks there and it’s been so great for us. We just feel so blessed to put out the record we did on the label we did with the band line up we have right now; it’s the best line up the band’s ever had and we got a great crew and the skies and the sun are shining on us, my friend.

What the vibe like between this album and the previous one? This album has quite a different sound from Chasing the Grail.
Well, Stuck Mojo was still an active band while we were doing Chasing the Grail. I’ve always tried to make an effort to keep a separation between the sound of the two bands. I always felt it was a good idea that if anybody has multiple projects, to keep a separation of the direction of those so it all doesn’t sound like two bands with the same sound. So, I think that Chasing the Grail had more of a true metal direction with more technical drumming and riffing and the vocal approach was a little bit more traditional metal, whereas this album I just felt that it was right for us to write more from the perspective of, who are we as a band and who are we as players? Chris presented me with fourteen sets of great lyrics which made it easy. Because ultimately the riff and the lyric are going to be the foundation, the blueprint, of every song so once I had the foundation for that side of things, I started working on the melody with Chris. And also, I tried something different on this. As the producer of the band I also have the task of trying to make Chris comfortable in the studio. For anyone who’s seen him, he’s an amazing performer. How do you harness that energy in the studio, which can be a kind of cold experience where you’re just in a room by yourself. There’s no fans to play off of and you’re standing in front of a microphone, and anyone who knows anything about the technical aspects of recording vocals in a studio – if you move back an inch or two, the sound changes. If you move forward, the sound changes. It becomes a process where the singer has to become very mental not only about the pitch and timing and notes he’s singing and the lyrics, but he also has to worry about the technical side of singing. So for this record I got Chris a very expensive hand-held microphone. So he was actually able to perform with the microphone like it was an instrument, and it really was an amazing transformation. I’ve recorded every note that Chris has ever sang. The difference between the cold experience of singing in front of a microphone and putting it in his hand was really night and day, and I think that’s why the vocal performance in really so much better on this record.

This must also seem like a bit of a holiday for you too. Up until Chasing the Grail it seemed like Rich Ward was everywhere. You were doing so many things. But since then, apart from a little bit of work with Adrenaline Mob, you’re really just concentrating on Fozzy now.
It’s very difficult to multitask for different projects. Mike Portnoy is such a workaholic and he’s such an amazing musician and it was great to have an opportunity to play with him. But he was also very focused on wanting to prioritise the Adrenaline Mob band touring and doing this and doing that. In the past, all the other projects I had – Stuck Mojo and Sick Speed and The Duke – these were all my bands. So I was able to work the schedule for those bands around the schedule for Chris and I. That made it easy. But with the Adrenaline Mob project I was working with other people, and Mike was the boss. I came into the Adrenaline Mob as the rhythm guitar player after they had already established a hierarchy, if you will. I wasn’t in a position where I could say, “Hey, I can’t do this tour because Chris and I are doing Fozzy stuff”. So it just seemed the logical thing for me to just step down and explain to the guys that I had a great time and I was real appreciative of the opportunity to play with the band, but loyalty means a lot in this business. As attractive as it is to think about playing with Russell Allen, who’s one of my favourite singers in the world, and playing with a talent like Mike Portnoy… at some point, I’ve been  with my guys for a lot of years. Chris is a brother and Frank (Fontsere – drums) and I are brothers and Billy Grey (guitars) and I are brothers and it just felt a little weird for me to go to them and say, “I’m not going to do this with you anymore because I’m gonna go do this“. That being said, if I found the magic project that spoke to my soul, and it was the right thing, then I’d come to them and say, “Hey, I feel like I’m meant to do this. Could you give me some time off”. But really, I was playing someone else’s songs in someone else’s band. It would be kind of like being the guitar player in Janet Jackson’s band. It would be fun, and awesome. But it’s Janet Jackson’s band! One of the things I enjoy about music the most is the creative side of things – writing and producing. And that’s the things that I never wanna step back from.

You’re coming back to Australia soon for the Soundwave Festival. You must be looking forward to coming here and playing with some of the bands that will be here.
Absolutely. Festivals are always my favourites. Getting to see some of the greatest bands on the planet within a short walk of each other on different stages is just awesome. Just to be able to say we’re playing the Soundwave Festival is a privelege for any band. We’ve wanted to be on there for years. We’ve played Australia twice in clubs, but always in the back of our mind was the Soundwave was something that we wanted to do so when we got the word that it was confirmed, we all jumped in the air for joy. Hearing that Metallica was the headliner was the cherry on top of the dessert.

Well thanks for the time today Rich, it’s been a pleasure. All the best with the rest of the tour and I hope it doesn’t become unstuck because of this terrible weather. Let’s hope you get through it okay.
Well thank you, I really appreciate that. We announced on stage last night that it was Fozzy – 1, Hurricane – 0. So far we’re winning the war. That’s all that matters, man!