Chris Jericho Talks Blood Divisions, Covering Scorpions, Fozzy + More
Rocker, wrestler, podcast host -- Chris Jericho is all of those things and the multi-hyphenate entertainer was the guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend show. Jericho discussed his involvement with the all-star metal collective Blood Divisions, talked about covering a deeper Scorpions cut and revealed a bit about the timeline for the next Fozzy album. Check out the chat below.
How ya doing, Chris?
I'm rockin'. Thank you Jackie. It's always a pleasure to be on the phone with your metal voice.
Safe to say you're always rocking.
What was the first thing you immediately thought you could bring to Blood Divisions to make it even better than it looked on paper.
Well, here's the thing. There really wasn't much to it when I got involved. It all started. I was a big Nasty Savage fan when I was growing up in Canada and I was one of about 5 people in my city who probably knew who the Nasty Savage were. But I just loved how weird and unique and intricate the band was. So, fast forward to when I move down to Florida and I found out the Nasty Savage live down here, I was introduced to David Austin, who was the guitar player and main songwriter from that band. And the thing that's really cool about Nasty Savage is they were part of that famous Florida death metal scene in the mid-'80s which was all based on Moore Sound studios. You're talking about Obituary and Death and Morbid Angel, Dark Angel, Cannibal Corpse, 69, all those type of bands. And Nasty Savage was kind of in that era. So, Dave called me one day after I knew him. He said he was going to do a re-record of "The Morgue" which was a Nasty Savage tune from their first record and asking if I wanted to sing on it. I said "Absolutely." So, I went down there and laid down the vocal on it.
The original "Morgue" was about 4 minutes long and this one was like 9-and-a-half minutes and there was this huge, epic intro and strings and all of this stuff and then there's all of these open spaces of ribbon tracks in between the verses and I asked him what he was going to do with it. He said he was going to get some of his friends to come down and play guitar. "Well, who you got?" "Well I've got Ralph from Iced Earth and I got Terry Butler and I've got this guy and that guy and this guy" and I was like "Are you kidding me? This is like an all-star band, what are you going to do with this?" He said, "I'm just doing this for myself" and I was like "No". Once I heard that my P.T. Barnum, Vince McMahon mentality took over and I was like, "This thing is big." There's a whole contingency of metal fans that love the Florida death metal scene that might not even know much about it. They're going to be intrigued by this. So I called the one guy I knew that would be into it as well, Brian Slagel, 'cause most of the bands we talked about were on Metal Blade and also he was a huge Nasty Savage fan. He heard the track and instantly we had something special and that's how we got started.
The players on Blood Divisions bring a serious death metal pedigree to the music. What do you love most about death metal and what first turned you onto it?
Well the thing is, it's actually kind of the opposite for me. I'm not a big death metal fan and when I was in high school, like I said, I knew about the Florida death metal scene and all those bands. The one band I like because they weren't death metal was Nasty Savage. Came from the same area. Savatar is kinda good as well and that was another band that I dug cause I was always more of a singing guy as you can tell by how I sing that I always liked the guys that had a little bit more melody. But, I liked the vibe of it. It was always very original. It was a very dark tone to it and Nasty Ronnie, who is the singer in Nasty Savage (gotta love that name by the way), he had a style that was a lot like King Diamond. It was very guttural during the verses. Not screaming like Tom Araya but more punchy and grunting and "bah." And then during the choruses of these crazy, super high harmonies, almost squealing, but I just thought it was really cool.
So, I enjoyed that aspect of Nasty Savage and that the music was very heavy, very intricate and then they're sitting there with a song called "Romantic Vertigo" and counting the tempo changes (there's 22 of them) and I remember telling me dude the new Nasty Savage song has got 22 tempo changes. It's 1989, most people wanted "Talk Dirty to Me" and "Dr. Feelgood" and I'm counting the tempo changes in this obscure, thrash death metal band from Brandon, Fla., but I liked it and that's kinda why I was really interested in getting involved with it. Cause when I was going to sing "The Morgue," it's a whole new re-imagination of it. Like I said, there's a whole extra part to it, an extra 5 minutes, so I don't have to try to be Nasty Ronnie. I wouldn't want to be Nasty Ronnie or anybody could be. I just sang it the way that Chris Jericho might sing this type of a song. So, in the verses, I have kind of that kind of cartoon style as if James [Hetfield] is going to sing this during Kill 'Em All era, how would he sing it? And then for the high parts, I just sang it really high, which is something else that I can do, so it's kind of a mix of the two different sides of my vocal styling.
Chris, covering Nasty Savage is a natural choice since Dave Austin and Ben Meyer are part of Blood Divisions, but what prompted choosing a tune so obscure as Scorpions' "Top of the Bill"?
Well, there you go. Talk about obscure, because I'm a huge, massive, Scorpions fan but from the Matthias Jabs era. I kinda caught into them, Animal Magnetism on, so I didn't know much from the Jon Roth era. So when we did the Blood Divisions project, to me it was "The Morgue" and then back to the "Top of the Bill." So they said we'd do two songs, great, and then they said "Top of the Bill" and I had never heard the song before. I was like, "Wow, OK great." I was YouTubing it at my house a few days before and then on the way to the studio, just humming a long to it. But, it's in my wheelhouse. That type of a singer is something I can do. The melody is fairly easy, I actually had a lot of fun with that.
When you do a Fozzy record, it's very meticulous. You take every little piece seriously and you work on it. It takes 4-5 hours to lay down a song and then come back a few days later, do a couple of pickups and harmonies, whatever. With both "Top of the Bill" and "The Morgue" I did each song in an hour-and-a-half. I would just add harmonies when I was singing "Top of the Bill." Let's do a harmony here, let's see what it sounds like, that's great! Let's leave it. That was a lot easier of a song to sing, even though I didn't really know it because it's a Scorpions tune. Once I locked in the verse and the chorus, it came about very quickly. It was a lot of fun. It proved to me that there are so many great Scorpions songs that I had never even heard of before, because I just never bothered. They never play anything from that era, so why would I ever get into them? I went back and had a full awakening, come to Jesus recognition of the Scorpions from these untouched albums. Like, Lonesome Crow, Fly to the Rainbow and Virgin Killer. I never listened to them before. I went back to check it out and they had a lot of great material.
Some of the money from sales from the EP goes to Rock and Rescue, an animal rescue charity. As if we needed another reason to love you, Chris.
That was David Austin's idea, and I'll tell you the reason why and you'll understand this and so will all the musicians that are listening. When we put together -- the first idea of this was just a fun project. When I got involved and Metal Blade got involved, then suddenly it's a business proposition. It's the other part of the music business, the ugly part of the business. So when you have all these talented musicians from all these big name bands, then you start worrying about -- well who is going to want what money to do the solo, what kind of royalties do you have? How do you handle this? And Dave's idea was just to donate it all to charity. That way there's no arguments about money because we're not making any. I thought that was a great idea and it really added to: A, the significance of the project and B, everyone wanted to get involved because now it's just free form calling because there's no hastle. There's no hurting anyone's feelings because the guy from Death got more money from the guy from Iced Earth. So everyone was doing it for fun and because they wanted to be involved in it and I thought that was a really brilliant idea. I said to Dave, you chose the guys you want on this. You chose the charity, let me facilitate it, I'll call Brian Slagel and that's how it worked. It worked out well. I'm glad the charities are involved because it really saved a lot of problems and like you said, it makes everyone a little happier when they check out the record.
How does working on something other than your own band inform you when you get back to making music with Fozzy?
That was one of the reasons I enjoyed doing it. It's always fun being in the studio and like I said, it was real fun to try out a few things that I might not have tried. Like free form harmonies, stuff that wasn't planned. Whispering here, double tracking some vocals there. It was a lot of, kind of an interesting experiment. It made me realize that I love recording music. It gave me some inspiration to start writing some new stuff. Also, it gave me some freedom to try some stuff out.
That's what I love about being a musician. It's fun playing with other musicians. It's great having a group of guys in and where you know exactly what to expect, but for me, even from a professional standpoint, I was a little tentative about it, wondering what all those death metal fans were going to think. Obviously Nasty Savage fans, and people who are fans of the Florida death metal scene. I'm not of that generation but I have the same vibe and experience and love for it. So, it puts me outside the box like yeah, Iced Earth / Death / Six Feet Under / Nasty Savage / Cannibal Corpse / Fozzy? Which one of these things is not like the other. Which one of these things doesn't belong? But, I love it.
When you hear it you think, that really fits. It was a good mix of guys and i think it's a bit of a challenge when you play that side of the band. It's a bit of an ego check to hear what people are going to think. But, as always, I enjoy doing it and I'm really happy with the EP and happy with my performances. It's always fun to get that final mix when you do new music. Whether it's a cover or original, listening to it 15 times in a row, you just know every little part of it. It was a real good bridge between Do You Wanna Start a War?, our last record, and the record we're getting ready to start working on now.
What can we expect for the rest of the year in terms of your ridiculously busy schedule?
Fozzy wise, we're off for the next month or so and then we go do the KISS Cruise. Going out with them which is going to be huge obviously. Then we go back to Europe in November and December. We're taking out Nonpoint and a new band called Sumo Psycho. That's going to be a blast. Then once that tour is finished, I start going into recording mode. We're writing right now. Rich is doing a new Stuck Mojo record, and then when that is done, he's going to start working on the new Fozzy. He already has a bunch of new tunes written. I got some stuff written.
Then Blood Divisions wise, we've been talking about maybe doing a couple of more tunes. Like I said, it's only a two-song EP but we really had a great time with it. I've actually done a lot of press today with very prominent forces like yourself, not just saying that to suck up. All the big guns are coming in and wanting to talk about this. I kind of thought they would because there are so many bands involved. I knew it'd be a little bit of a media buzz, just because of the mix of all the teen involved. So, I think we're still busy but once we get that European tour done with Fozzy then we go back into the studio and work on having a new record out for next summer.
Thanks to Chris Jericho for the interview. Fozzy return to the road beginning Oct. 30 on the KISS Kruise before heading off to Europe. See their dates here. To learn more about the Blood Divisions EP, click here. And hear his 'Talk Is Jericho' podcast via PodcastOne. Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show airs on stations across the U.S. Check out which stations air her show here.
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