Paul Hebert

Interview: Chris Jericho of Fozzy

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Recently we caught up with Chris Jericho, current WWE Heavyweight champion and front man for the metal band FOZZY to discuss the new album and co-hosting the upcoming Revolver Golden God awards at Club Nokia this week. First off congratulations on defending your title on Sunday Night against Edge.

Chris Jericho: Thank you, very cool.

SCMT: Let’s talk a little bit about FOZZY. You started the band back in 1999

Chris: Yeap, That is correct.

SCMT: You started the band almost as a spoof, ala Spinal Tap and now you have evolved into Rock Gods, can you tell me a little bit about the history of the band.

Chris: What happened was in ’99 Rich Ward and I put together a band and we called ourselves Fozzy Osbourne. We were playing covers, and for whatever reason, because of the buzz of who was in the band, Rich from Stuck Mojo and Chris from the WWE there was a bidding war for us to sign a record deal. It was eventually won by MegaForce records and Jonny Zazula, who was the guy who signed Metallica and Anthrax like in 1983. Jonny loved the idea of what we were doing and was convinced that we were going to be the next Metallica. He even said to us at one point “You Guys are gonna be the next Metallica.” So that kind of an interesting thing, but still we went with it, like any self respecting musician would. He offered us the money to do covers, so we did. It was cool, but we couldn’t be just a typical cover band, there has to be a little bit more sauce behind it. That is when we can up with the idea that the songs we were covering were really stolen from us and had this huge back story and created a big Blue Brothers, Spinal Tap, Travelling Willbury thing where everybody had alter egos. It was great, for the first album it worked out good and we had a good laugh. Then when it came time to do a second album we started thinking maybe this gimmick isn’t so great anymore and we started getting away from it. By the time we did our third record we decided to continue on as FOZZY as ourselves and play all original stuff. “All That Remains” our third record was a little bit of a transition, but it did really well for us. Now “Chasing the Grail” is basically the first record that FOZZY has done where people know that we are an all original band and have gotten behind it huge. It has been our best reviewed record, our highest charting record and it has really taken us to a different level, for sure.

SCMT: “Chasing the Grail” is as you mentioned your fourth studio album, and has almost your full original lineup back in the band, now that Frank has returned to drums. Tell me a little bit behind the process of writing the album, obviously you are a huge WWE Superstar, how do you find time to fit FOZZY in and to record another studio album?

Chris: Well we started talking about a new studio album about 3 years ago, Stuck Mojo was touring again, and I had just gotten back in the WWE and I was writing a book, so there was a lot of stuff going on, but I was still really concentrated on writing lyrics. So when we started writing, I gave Rich like 14 sets of lyrics, which is the first time I have ever done that. Before we would do it almost piecemeal , Rich would write something, put down some scratch lyrics, I would kind of work with his scratch lyrics and that would be the end of it. This time, for the first time ever he was writing his riffs based around my ideas for lyrics. It really was two guys sitting down “what do you got?,” “how about this this,” “I’ll change that and I’ll change this” and that is why I think the record turned out so good. It really is the organic natural songwriting process between two guys that have a lot of chemistry together and put a lot of miles and toured the world together, and have really matured as a band. All the ducks were in a row to make this record the best one we have done, and everything paid off in the end.

SCMT: It is an excellent album, and you are getting a lot of praise from some of the heavyweights in metal. Recently Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) endorsed the album calling it “an excellent album of traditional metal.” How does getting that kind of endorsement make the band and yourself feel.

Chris: It is huge, anytime you get a pat on the back from your peers it is great. We kind of started getting that on the last record from Zakk Wylde (Ozzy, Black Label Society), Marty Friedman (Megadeth), Mark Tremonti (Creed), Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge) and guys like that. For this record, Bruce’s quote I mean it just blew me away, because it was such a surprise. Someone sent it to me via twitter and I just couldn’t believe it. Obviously Iron Maiden is a huge influence on us, especially for me as a singer. He could be my favorite singer of all time. So for him to say that, not only personally does it carry weight, but also for metal fans too, when they hear that Bruce Dickinson liked it. Even when we starting to talk about doing “Wormwood,” the 14 minute song, I said my overall goal was to do a song that at the end of the day I could play to Mike Portnoy, who is a good friend of mine from Dream Theater, and have him go “Wow this is impressive” and that is what happened. I sent him the track and he was like “Dude this is great, it is so good, the end of it sounds like ‘In the Name of God’ combined with ‘Learning to Live.'” You know just to get these thumbs up from these guys that are at the top of the top it really does show that we are moving up in the food chain. We even just got offered a gig opening up for Black Label Society which we couldn’t take, but still. This wasn’t because Zakk and I are friends, we are not doing this because were friends. There are a lot of friends, were doing it for business and for business he wanted FOZZY on his tour. Stuff like that is showing that were really starting to grow and get some legitimate credibility, it’s a great kick ass rock n roll band.

SCMT: Talking about tours, it looks like you are headed to Europe for a little bit, any plans for a US tour, and in particularly coming to LA.

Chris: We would love to, I mean obviously we can’t get in a bus and criss cross the country. My schedule is just too busy. We have done that before, but now we are just kind of hit and run, we do the gigs we can do. The ones that really mean the most to us, that really benefit us. We did a great gig in Phoenix a couple day ago and sold it out, it was our first gig in four years. We are doing a big gig at BB Kings in New York City in April. Like I said we are going back to the UK in May and playing some festivals in Europe. We will do some more shows as they kind of appear and as they pop up. We had planned to play as many as we can, we would love to come to LA. We have never really done a proper show in LA .

SCMT: Let’s transition into the Revolver Golden Gods which will be held here in LA in a few weeks at Club Nokia, where you will be co-hosting. Tell me a little bit about how you got involved with the awards.

Chris:I got involved with Revolver, because last year they wanted me to be a presenter at the awards and I wasn’t available. The same thing happened this year. Revolver wanted me to present at the awards. Presenting is fine, but I would much rather host the show and that is exactly what happened. They were like “We would love to have Chris host with Andrew W.K.” and it was perfect. Obviously I have done a lot of hosting work, I am very comfortable leading a crowd and being a huge heavy metal fan it was just right up my alley all across the board.

SCMT: Along with hosting you are also nominated for “Most Metal Athlete” along with some pretty interesting competition, you have guys like Josh Barnett, Mike Piazza, and Jason Ellis. What are your chances of winning that?

Chris: Well I don’t really fit in that category, because I am a musician as well. I was a musician long before I was an athlete, I have been playing in bands since I was twelve years old. It is one of those things where it is great to be nominated in the “Most Metal Athlete” category, but I would rather be nominated in the “Best Metal Band” category, you know what I mean. It is not a novelty or a gimmick for me. I actually hope I don’t win, because it is almost like patronizing me.

SCMT: So everybody should not vote for you.

Chris: Yeah don’t vote for me, vote for FOZZY.

SCMT: There are quite a few special performances slated for the show, any chance FOZZY will make an appearance.

Chris: Well actually it is funny because, at first they wanted us to play. And I was like “I don’t know. it would be kind of weird for the host to have his band play” and then I changed my mind . I came back and said “It might be cool to have FOZZY play” but by then it was already all booked, so maybe next year. Actually I think they are going to do some kind of release party when it actually airs, so maybe FOZZY will play at that. We will be represented in one way shape or form.

SCMT: Are you excited to see anyone in particular at the awards?

Chris: I am looking forward to seeing Slash play, and Black Label Society is always a blast and I would love to see Rob Halford accept his award. I am just excited to see everybody there, we got to do this press conference to promote it, and Halford was there and Zakk and Dave Mustaine and Lemmy and Chuck Billy and Vinnie Paul. It was like a who’s who of the greatest metal guys ever and just to know that I will be a part of it and my band will be part of it is a big honor.

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