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INTERVIEW: FOZZY

 It takes a bit of swaggah to call yourself the “Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla,” but Chris Jericho is the poster child for swaggah. It doesn’t matter if he is commanding the ring in a WWE match or the stage at a Fozzy concert; Jericho is the ultimate showman. He’s a wrestler, a rocker, an author, an actor, a savvy businessman and a pretty good dancer. These days, his prime focus is his band Fozzy and taking them to the next level in the music industry. The U.S. is now catching up with what the rest of the world has known for quite a while.

Fozzy consists of Jericho on lead vocals, Rich Ward on guitar, Frank Fontsere on drums, Paul Di Leo on bass and Billy Grey guitar and their origins date back to 1999 with their debut album being released in 2000. Yes people, they’ve been around for that long. Their sixth album Sin and Bones seemed to make the U.S. sit and take notice that this band is the real deal. The guys are about to hit the road with the legendary Saxon for a coast to coast tour. I was able to track Jericho down to catch up on all things Fozzy.

Hi man, this Johnny with RockRevolt™ Magazine. I can’t think of a better way to start my Monday morning that by talking to the “Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla.” How are you doing Chris?

I’m good man, doing really well. How about yourself?

(In my best Jim Carey voice) Good! Everything’s good! I guess this is media day for you, so I am sure you will be tied up for a bit. 

Yeah, but it’s all good. It’s always a good thing when people are still interested in talking to you.

The album Sin and Bones just recently turned a year old and what an amazing year it has been for you guys, especially here in the U.S. where people seem to be catching up with what the rest of the world has known. Even after all you have been through, do you ever have to pinch yourself to make sure this isn’t a dream?

It’s definitely been a different world over the last three years. When we started doing our last record, Rich Ward, my partner in crime, and I talked and thought we could really do more with this if I started doing it full-time. So, that’s exactly what we did and now my schedule and everything else I do revolves around Fozzy‘s schedule. Once we started putting 100% of our time into the band, the rewards that we reaped from it was just off the charts; especially when Sin and Bones came out which is our first since being signed to Century Media. We knew we were under the spotlight and we had some momentum with what had happened to Chasing the Grail. We really wanted to hit this new one out of the park, and we knew if we could do that, it would definitely take us to the next level. We wrote and recorded it and we all think it’s the best thing that we have ever done, but you never know just how people are going to react to it. Now, here we are a year later and it’s our best-selling record. It’s our highest charting record and our most played radio-wise. We already have over 100 dates under our belts for this album and here we are about to go out on another tour cycle. So, just like you mentioned, it’s a very gratifying position to be in – to know how much great stuff is going on with the band and how far we have gone over the last few years opinion-wise, quality-wise, gig-wise, and everything in between. It’s a real exciting time for us without a doubt!

You’ve had a bigger and more solid fan base overseas for quite a few years now as opposed to here in the U.S. Do you think that’s because of your touring over there?

When we started going to the U.K. in 2005. It was the first territory that really embraced Fozzy with open arms. I remember our first gig there was in Nottingham, England in 2005 and walking out on stage and the place was packed; we couldn’t believe how many people were there. We had never had that type of reaction anywhere, so we’ve worked really hard to build up our U.K. fan base and now we’re working really hard to do so in Europe and Australia as well as in the states. We’ve done dates before in the states, but as far as a coast to coast tour goes, last year on Uproar with Shinedown  and Godsmack  was the first time we had ever done that. The Saxon tour that we’re about to do is also very important as well because we want to build the U.S. as a live draw just as we’ve done overseas. As far as selling records go, we sell the most copies by far here in the states. We would live to build up the live show here in the states to that same level. We’ve always done things a little backwards in this band, but it always seems to work and now that the states seem to be getting hip to what we are doing, as you mentioned before, it’s a really cool place for us to be in.

Let’s talk a little bit about the Saxon tour that you are about to begin. Are you involved when it comes to booking tours or did your management come to you one day and tell you that this tour had been booked? With you being such a fan of metal, it has to be a little surreal to be going out on the road with Saxon, one of the leaders of the new wave of British heavy metal.

Yeah, I am involved in every aspect of what the band does and I have certain things that I tend to as does Rich (Ward) and in tandem with our managers and booking agents. What we wanted to do on this tour cycle was offer diversity because we can fit in with any fan base, from Bon Jovi to Slayer, because our music fits in with some many different styles. Over the last year we’ve toured with played with Anthrax to Metallica to Drowning Pool, and when the chance came up to tour with Saxon we thought it was a great opportunity because as you said, who doesn’t like Saxon. How can you be a fan of heavy metal and not appreciate what they have done and what they are still doing? Their new record Sacrifice is one of the best records that I have heard in years. It’s not like we are going out with a nostalgia band without any new material; they are still just as vital as they have ever been and they are massive over in Europe. This is actually going to be their first extensive U.S. tour in years and we wanted to be a part of it. They are still a great, vital, living and breathing rock band and they have pretty much influenced every band that has played heavy metal. They’re kind of like a junior Motörhead; everyone loves Motörhead and Saxon is the same way – although they don’t really have the as big of a name of Motörhead, but they’ve played everywhere and with everyone just like Motörhead has.

Watch “Sandpaper”
  

It has to be a very cool and rewarding experience to be sharing the same stage with someone who has influenced you like they have.

Definitely so, and it’s exciting for us! It’s competition and we’re going out there every night to kick their asses and vice versa. It was a good idea for them to tour with a band like us as opposed to a band of their generation. It’s going to bring in a different fan base on their end as well as on our end, and we’re going to be pushing each other to the limit.

There’s nothing like some friendly competition to bring out the best in each other. Now, not to overlook the Saxon tour, but do you have anything in the works once that’s over?

We’ve already started to work on our new record with the writing process in the works for some time now. I think we may be going back to Australia in December and that will probably be the end of the Sin and Bones, unless something else comes up unforeseen. The plan is to write, then go into the studio in January, February and March and have the new record ready to go for next summer. We have a lot of momentum behind us and we’ve been able to get our foot in the door; after that happens you just want to kick the fucker open.

I was able to witness that momentum first hand last year when we saw you on the Uproar Tour in Bristow,VA. I talked to quite a few people before the show who didn’t know who Fozzy was other than the singer being “that guy that wrestles”, but afterwards they made it a point to find me and tell me how you guys really kicked ass that day.

It’s so great to hear that and that’s why we love playing those big festivals. Of course, when you play your own tour you’re preaching to the choir, but at a show like that you are going out before a crowd who doesn’t know you are who is curious about you; they kind of stare at us sometimes like we are a weird animal in the zoo. By the end of our set, 99% of the time, we have them all chanting Fozzy and going nuts and I think that’s a great testament to the band. We have to work twice as hard to get half the respect, but once we get it we have it for life. There are people out there who are hesitant to check us out because, just like you said, they think, “Oh it’s Jericho, that guy who wrestles.”

They don’t even get that it has absolutely nothing to do with wrestling.

You’re absolutely right! We’re the real deal and we bring a real rock and roll attitude to the table that is missing out there. You know, we don’t really give a fuck; if you don’t like us then step aside and let the people that do get a better seat, but at least give it a chance first. Every band has a gimmick; KISS wore makeup, Audioslave was the band with that guy from Soundgarden, Pearl Jam is the band with the guy who climbs the freaking lighting rig and hangs above the crowd and all of that is great, but once all of that is gone, how good were the tunes and how did the band sound? Jared Leto is in 30 Seconds to Mars and he’s an award winning actor, but I don’t give a shit about that when I go to see them in concert.

I have two quick fan questions that were submitted to me. One fan wanted to know if you were a fan of Rammstein?

I am a fan of them, but not so much for their music but more for their live show. We play a lot of festivals with them overseas and they have one of the best live shows that you will ever see. It’s like KISS taken to the 20th level. If KISS was playing while the world was ending, that would be Rammstein.

Ok, that’s two mentions of KISS, so I have to ask you a KISS specific question at this point because I know you are a fan of the band. The KISS Army seems to be torn because Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer are on-stage with the Spaceman and Catman makeup and outfits on. Do you prefer the original lineup or does it matter?

I actually do you one better; my favorite KISS era is the 80s version. My favorite lineup, as weird as it may sound to many, is Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Bruce Kulick and Eric Carr. The reason for that was because I got into KISS in the 80s and the first album that I ever bought was Animalize and I kind of worked my way backwards. I love the original era, but the 80s version really stuck with me and spoke to me. I still love listening to “Crazy Nights,” “Lick It Up,” “Asylum,” “Animalize” and “Hot in the Shade” to this day. Revenge is probably my all-time favorite KISS record and I get into arguments with Scott Ian (Anthrax) about it all the time, but it’s my opinion so shut up (laughs). The new era is ok, but I think Monster is one of their worst records. I wish Paul (Stanley) would get back in a room with Desmond Child and work together. They worked on so many great songs together back in the 80s.

The other fan question wanted to address being away from home and out on the road. You’ve been travelling for most of your career with music and wrestling, but how tough is it to be away from your family like that? Do they ever go out on the road with you?

It’s always hard to be on the road and they don’t come out with me because it’s not a great place for family because you’re on a small bus, or the submarine as we call it, and you pull into town and do soundcheck, then your in-store, interviews, you eat, play, shower and them jump on the bus and head to the next town to do it again. So, when I’m home I am taking them to school and packing lunches, brushing teeth, getting them ready for bed and all that kind of stuff.

Wow, how crazy would that be to look over and see Chris Jericho in the car rider lane or at a PTA meeting?

(laughs) Exactly! You know, that’s where the balance comes in because when I am home, I don’t do anything but hang out with my kids, so I do interviews and stuff like this when they are in school.

Do your kids just know you as dad or do they know that you’re a rocker and a wrestler?

Yeah, they know who Chris Jericho and some of their friends think that’s pretty cool, but to them I’m just dad. They’ve come to see me wrestle, they came to see me when I was on Dancing with the Stars and they’ve been to Fozzy shows. It’s always cool to perform in front of my kids, but they are usually staring at me with a strange look on their faces because they can’t believe that it’s their dad doing that. It was the same way for me because my dad played for the New York Rangers and I remember all the people thinking it was so cool and to me he was just dad.

It looks like our time is up Chris, but as always it is great to be able to talk to you. Is there anything you’d like to close with?

Thanks to all of our great fans for their support and we can’t wait to see them out on this tour with Saxon.

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