Latest release: Judas (Century Media)Band site: www.fozzyrock.com
Following the success of the title track’s video (boasting nearly 9.5 million views and counting at the time of writing), hard rockers Fozzy return with their new album, and seventh overall, Judas. Featuring the core team of singer Chris Jericho (also of World Wrestling Entertainment fame) and axeman Rich Ward (Stuck Mojo), the record could well catapult them a few rungs further up the heavy music ladder. Loud chatted with Jericho while he was on the road with Fozzy about the album’s broad musical scope and touring plans, as well as his Talk is Jericho podcast and latest book, No Is a Four-Letter Word.
Q: What’s the touring experience like for Fozzy now compared to your early days?
A: Well, it’s a completely different band now, and the band has grown so much over the past few years. It’s been really cool, the past couple of tours we’ve had the biggest crowds we’ve ever had, and there’s so much buzz on the band. I call it the ‘Judas effect’, which is now that (the song) ‘Judas’ has gone so well at rock radio and everything, just to kind of see how the momentum and the popularity of the band has grown as a result of this big song. Once you have the elusive hit single, it really does make a difference in the type of shows that you do, the amount of people that show up and all that sort of thing. So it’s been good, everything’s very exciting right now, and it’s the biggest the band has ever been in our career right now.
Q: You’re an overnight sensation after 15-plus years (laughs).
A: Yeah, we’re a 17-year overnight sensation, exactly.
Q: Why do you feel a song like ‘Judas’ has resonated so strongly with audiences?
A: Well, we’ve had successful songs in our past, but I think there’s a couple of factors. I think it’s the right song at the right place at the right time. I think people have been hearing about Fozzy for years, and there’s a lot of people that have heard of us, but never actually listened to us. And when they finally give us a shot and check us out, they like it.
So I think that has a lot to do with it, and I think a very cool video really spiked it and took it to the next level. And also the song itself. It’s a song that everybody can relate to. The lyrics, that feeling of betraying yourself, knowing that you’re making the wrong decision… Even though you know it’s the wrong decision; drinking that last shot before you go to bed, or cheating on your girlfriend or whatever it may be. I think it’s a combination of the lyrics, the hook, the situation, the band. We weren’t ready for this a couple of years ago, and now we are. Whatever the reasons, you can really see that things have really changed for us in the past few months, in a good way.
Q: Has the writing process changed much over the course of several albums?
A: Well, it changed quite a bit on this record because we decided to use an outside producer, which we’ve never had before. We always had, between Rich (Ward, guitars) and I, we produced the record and kind of had the final say. But we decided to bring in Johnny Andrews, who we had worked with on the Do You Wanna Start A War record on the song ‘Lights Go Out’. We said, listen, we’re gonna do this with Johnny at the helm, Johnny’s gonna be the boss, he’s gonna call the shots and he had a lot to do with the songwriting.
He was very adamant about some songs; maybe they didn’t have a guitar solo because it doesn’t need it. It’s about making it a better song. It doesn’t have a high scream on it, (but) it doesn’t need it to make it a better song. It really focused in on the actual songwriting, focused in on the hooks, the melodies and the choruses, and making this record ten or 11 singles, much like Appetite for Destruction, Hysteria or Kick by INXS, whereas it’s just one song after another after another. And that’s what we kind of focused in on; we wanted 11 singles, and I think we’ve got that.
It’s also very diverse, which we’ve never had a problem with as well. So I think what you have is a very exciting record and the best of Fozzy’s career. We’ve finally figured out what our sound is after all these records, and we nailed it on Judas.
Q: What do you feel are the crucial ingredients of the Fozzy sound?
A: A few years ago I would say that if Metallica and Journey had a bastard child, it would be Fozzy. But now I say that if Metallica and Journey had a bastard child and it was raised by AC/DC, that’s kind of what Fozzy sounds like. It’s very heavy, it’s very melodic, but there’s a lot of groove. There’s a lot of harmony within the playing. I don’t think there’s really a lot of bands that have our sound right now. We’re not afraid to throw in a rap element, or some orchestration, or some industrial type of a vibe. If it fits with the song and what we’re going for, we’ll do it. And I think not a lot of the bands take those chances, whereas we’ve afforded ourselves the luxury to be able to take those risks.
Q: Where did you derive your lyrical inspiration from this time around?
A: Well, Johnny wrote a lot of the lyrics, which was different for us because I’ve usually written the lion’s share of them. But this time I had three songs that made the record. ‘Wordsworth Way’, which is about my childhood home and growing up and my mother, who’s no longer with us, and that sort of a song. ‘Running with the Bulls’ is about trying to be a non-conformist when you’re forced into doing what everyone else does. And ‘Three Days in Jail’ is pretty self-explanatory about an experience that I had where I did just that. So a lot of these lyrics from my end, and actually on the whole album, are very introspective, emotional lyrics, which are different from some of the imagery lyrics that I used to write for ‘Sandpaper’ or ‘Spider in My Mouth’ and those types of songs that are lyrically more just about painting landscapes. ‘Do You Wanna Start A War’ is standing up for yourself, that kind of stuff. These are a little bit more relationship, dark and emotional places, that sort of a vibe.
Q: Rich Ward has been one of the more under-rated guitarists and songwriters in heavy music for a couple of decades now. Do you feel like he’s now starting to get his due?
A: I think Rich is the ace in the hole for Fozzy. He’s the unsung hero of the band, and I think as a guitar player on the whole, nobody writes riffs like Rich Ward. His solos, he’s very David Gilmour-influenced, Angus Young-influenced rather than who’s the latest shredder of the day. And once again, very under-rated in his style and a pioneer of his field. But that’s gone away. Everyone’s starting to know who Rich Ward is, and all the musicians love Rich Ward’s playing. All the fans of Fozzy start appreciating what Rich Ward does. So once again, he’s another 25-year overnight sensation. ‘Who’s this Rich Ward guy?’ ‘Your guitar player’s great – who is he? He’s amazing’. Well, you’re fucking right he’s amazing, and he’s been my partner for 17 years, so it’s cool to see him getting some appreciation as well.
Q: How has your relationship evolved over time?
A: I think when we first started, it was more of a fun thing to do on the side in between our other projects. Both of us wanted to be the alpha male and call the shots. Then we had a little bit of a ‘come to Jesus’ discussion after the Happenstance record and realised that instead of working against each other, we needed to work together. And that’s created a really good professional bond. I know what he does best and I leave him to do that. He knows what I do best and leaves me to do that. And I think in 2010 when we decided that we wanted Fozzy to be the priority when the Chasing the Grail record was made, that’s when we decided to really focus in on taking this band as far as we could go. You can see the leaps and bounds of how much Fozzy’s grown over the years, and that’s because we have a great one-two punch. Like Keith and Mick, or Steven and Joe, all those great guitar player/singer (combinations), Van Halen and Roth. I know his limits, he knows my limits and we don’t step on each other’s toes. And we both exemplify our strengths and hide the weaknesses behind the other.
Q: Obvious question – when are we likely to see Fozzy in Australia again?
A: We’re waiting, man, but we love Australia. We’ve been there four times, were fortunate enough to come twice in 2013, and we haven’t been back since. We have a great fan-base in Australia, which is why it’s so cool to be talking to you and talking to all the people we’ve been doing interviews with over the past couple of weeks. There’s so much interest in Australia. I mean, shit, we played stadiums on the Soundwave tour with Metallica, and then had another great tour with Steel Panther. So we know the market is there, we know the vibe is there, it’s just a matter of putting together the right package and doing it right. Giving it a good three or four months to build up, then come in there and rejoin all of our great friends in Australia. Australia was one of the first countries that really embraced Fozzy, right after England. And the fact that we haven’t been back there in so long is ridiculous, and that is one of the big missions of 2018, to bring Fozzy back to Australia.
Q: Changing topics, you mentioned Fozzy’s growth, but how gratifying has it also been to witness your Talk is Jericho podcast build an audience and become so widely popular?
A: It’s been great, man. Right off the bat I knew I had a huge audience. I have a great fan-base that follows me to whatever it is that I do. And I never wanted Talk is Jericho to be a wrestling podcast exclusively. I wanted to have music, movies, paranormal stuff, comedians, athletes and whatever else in between. I was very strict with that right off the bat. I told my boss, ‘this is not going to be a wrestling podcast’. So I knew that it had to be diverse, it had to about people trusting me as to who I was having on my show. Even if you haven’t heard of this person, you trust Chris Jericho and my judgment, my past and how you know that everything I do is 100 per cent, (so) you’ll enjoy the show all the same. And that’s exactly what happened, and it worked out really good. So my podcast is one of the top podcasts in the world, we’re at over 215 million downloads in just under four years, and getting ready to get to a 400th episode. It’s stronger than ever, so it’s becoming a destination podcast for people that are doing promotion in all genres and fields. That’s very cool.
Q: I recently read your latest book, and the two stories I most enjoyed were about Fozzy’s attempts to get booked on the Wacken Open Air bill, and also your response when Metal Hammer magazine blasted the band in a review.
A: Yeah, man. In order for us to get booked on Wacken they wanted me to wrestle (as well as perform with Fozzy), and I would say absolutely not. We’d played Download multiple times and festivals all over the world, and I thought that would be like putting Alice Cooper out there to operate the Ferris wheel in the middle of the concourse. Finally, they booked us without me wrestling and we killed it.
The head of lettuce story is a great story (laughs). I think it was actually M Shadows from Avenged Sevenfold who gave me the idea to send Metal Hammer a head of lettuce in a box when they gave us a bad review and said that ‘Fozzy is as heavy as lettuce’. You’ve got to stand up for yourself sometimes, and if you feel like people treat you like shit, if they’re gonna do that, well sometimes you throw a couple of shots back. It’s all in good fun.
Q: Any famous last words?
A: We’re just excited to come back to Australia in 2018, we’re very excited about that. We’ve got a lot of friends that we haven’t seen in a long time, and a lot more new ones that we’re excited to meet.