Fozzy’s Chris Jericho Discusses ‘Do You Wanna Start a War’ Album + More
Fozzy frontman Chris Jericho recently took some time to sit down with ‘Loudwire Nights’ host Full Metal Jackie to talk about the band’s new album, ‘Do You Wanna Start a War’ Check out the chat, in which they discuss the disc, Fozzy’s career trajectory and how Jericho has grown as a musician since the band’s early days:
It’s Full Metal Jackie, Chris Jericho with us on the show tonight. Talking about the new Fozzy record ‘Do You Wanna Start a War.’ Chris, when it comes to entertainment and popular culture, you’re something of a renaissance man. Musician, wrestler, writer, dancer. How much does each thing affect the other?
First of all, for my own personal excitement that we’re backstage at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go. We played here about three years ago but any time you play a show at the Whiskey, man, talk about history. Even on this couch we’re sitting on. Jim Morrison could have made out with a chick on this couch. We could be sitting on Morrison DNA right now. You know they haven’t washed it since then.
Here’s the thing, when I was a kid I had two goals, two dreams. I wanted to be a wrestler and I wanted to be in a rock band. That’s all I wanted to do. I had a lot of people telling me that I couldn’t do either one. You can’t be a wrestler! Then once I became a wrestler, you can’t be in a band! To me, it’s funny because I did it once so why would you have so much — putting me in a category where you don’t think I can do it again? It’s cool to know that I made both these dreams happen. It’s cool to know that both are growing. Fozzy, now we’re playing in the big leagues. WWE is the big leagues for wrestling.
All the other things I do stem from those two dreams, being an entertainer. It’s like being a modern day vaudevillian performer. But I only do other things when I have open time and especially Fozzy has been the priority for the last five years, so I’ll wrestle from time to time when I’m off the road, or podcasting or writing a book that kind of comes in between. But you can’t do anything all at once and I wouldn’t even try, especially in the music business. It has to be a thousand percent physically, mentally and passion-wise. Especially now that we’re in the big leagues.
You couldn’t possibly be effective doing it all at once.
You can’t. We tried to jumble both. I remember 10 years ago or so, we would do a WWE then I’d drive across town and we’d do a Fozzy show in the same city. You can’t do that. That confuses people. If I’m off from Fozzy, I’ll go back to the WWE for a couple of months, if it works out. If not, you have to let people know. With all the momentum we have in this band, especially after the last record leading into ‘Do You Wanna Start a War,’ for me to be jumping all over the place would just confuse people. What’s he doing? Which one is this? People now know Fozzy is the priority and you can tell by the amount of shows and touring we’ve done and the frequency we’ve been putting out our records.
Chris, what was the pivotal point when people stopped thinking about Fozzy in the context of the WWE and really embraced it as a legitimate, good band?
I think about five years ago before we put out the record ‘Chasing the Grail,’ which was our fourth record. That’s when Rich [Ward] and I sat down and said listen, we’ve been on a little bit of a hiatus. We think we can take this to the next level. We think we have what it takes to go to the top. And we made Fozzy the priority for both of us. That’s when people started really started taking notice. It’s almost like there’s two phases of the band, the first couple of records and then the last three or four. That’s when we really started a real focus on it, frequently, touring, touring.
Whenever you start doing something in one world, like I said, there are people who have prejudices against us because Jericho is the “wrestling guy” as I’m sure people have prejudices against The Pretty Reckless because that’s that “Cindy Lou Who” girl or Thirty Seconds to Mars because it’s Jared Leto. The only thing you can do is just keeping banging out great records, play great shows and getting people on your side. We have an amazing loyal fanbase, but we’re still kicking the door open every day to new people that have never checked us out, because, “Oh that’s the wrestling thing, isn’t it? Oh, no it’s not. Well I’ll listen to it,” and they love it. What took you so long? So once you can break that door down, twice as hard to get the respect once you get it, you’ve got those fans for life and that’s what we’ve been able to do especially over the last three or four years.
Musically, how has the band has evolved from first album to now?
I think it takes a band a little bit to find out who they are, sound wise. What we do best that we’ve done over the last few records is very heavy, groovy riffs with a lot of melody and a lot of harmonies. I always say that if Journey and Metallica had a bastard child, it would sound like Fozzy. Not a lot of other bands do that. Very clean vocals, three- or four-part harmonies, we have no problem changing things up.
‘Lights Go Out,’ it’s almost like a dance/metal song. You could hear it in a strip club or you could hear it next to a Slayer tune and it would fit with both. And I think once you throw away the rules of what you’re supposed to do as a metal band, or a hard rock band, that’s when you can really find out who the real Fozzy is. We love Iron Maiden. We love Avenged Sevenfold. We also love Queen, Pink Floyd and The Beatles — bands that had no problem changing the songs on the records. Queen would have a metal song, a rock song or a rockabilly tune or a ballad, disco song and you loved it all because it was Queen. That’s what we wanted to do, especially with ‘Do You Wanna Start a War’ It’s very diverse and the only rule we had in making this record is there are no rules. We’ll do whatever we think as long as it’s 12 good songs. That’s why I think people have really gotten behind this record, because the diversity of it is different from what’s going on now.
Musically, what does Chris Jericho do better now than he did 14 years ago on the first Fozzy album?
Singing-wise, you really learn who you are as a singer when you do a lot of touring. Also, Rich and I write the majority of the songs and he knows, he writes all the melody lines –Rich Ward, he knows exactly where I sing best. I think in the early days I was trying to be all things to all people, trying to sing like Bruce Dickinson or Ozzy or Paul Stanley, whoever. Now I just sing like Chris Jericho. I know what my range is and I know what I do best.
I actually kind of have a little bit of a style that I think when you hear Fozzy, you go OK that’s Fozzy because you know Jericho’s voice. Sometimes about being a pro, anything you do, not so much what you do sometimes it’s what you don’t do. It’s the choices you make. I’m not going to do a super high Sebastian Bach scream. I used to, and it was OK but then I have to sing it 30 out of 35 nights and it doesn’t sound as good. Let me stay within my range, there’s a high part of it and there’s a low part of it but it punches and it’s got a style to it.
That’s just what I’ve learned more specifically over the years, who I am as a singer and I think you can ask most singers and they’d agree. Ask M. Shadows how he sang on the first record until now. Ask James Hetfield. Almost sounds like a different guy. Songs on our first records I cringe listening to because I would never sing it that way now, but you just don’t know, you’re learning.
Chris, for you, what’s the mark of a great song and what songs on your new record ‘Do You Wanna Start a War’ do you think best showcase this band’s songwriting ability?
Strip away all the double kick, all the guitars and just have a melody that you can see four dudes sitting around a barrel that’s on fire in the middle of the city street, like a doo wop band. [SINGS] When you have that hook, you can do that with ‘Angel of Death.’ The heaviest songs all boil down to what the hook is. We’ve learned that over the last few records. This record, you have ‘Lights Go Out,’ you have ‘Do You Wanna Start a War,’ you have ‘One Crazed Anarchist.’ They’ve got a little bit of a dance-y, industrial type vibe to it. Then you’ve got ‘Witchery’ and ‘Brides of Fire’ and ‘Bat Tattoo’ that are super heavy and thrashy. Then you’ve got ‘Unstoppable’ (featuring Christie Cook) or ‘No Good Way’ that are almost poppy type songs. Then you’ve got ‘Witchery,’ which is a prog-rock thrasher type tune. Then an ABBA cover in ‘SOS,’ which is super heavy too. That’s blowing people away that we did that, and I love how it turned out. There really is something for everyone as far as diversity on this record.
That’s one of the reasons why I’m really proud of it. You don’t know what’s coming up next. You don’t know what kind of a song is going to be next. But you do know that if it’s got Rich Ward on guitar, Frank Fontsere on drums and Chris Jericho on vocals, it’s going to sound like Fozzy. Let’s go back to that Queen example of the early 70s, mid-70s when a band would just write good songs and not worry about what category they fit in. It’s good or it’s bad.
Chris, you really wear your love for metal on your sleeve. You’re still very much a fan at heart.
LIterally! Got them on my tattoo sleeve.
Which musician whom you idolize has blown your mind by telling you they’re a Fozzy fan?
I’ve become really close with M. Shadows over the years because he loves Fozzy. Same with Andy Biersack from Black Veil Brides. Zakk Wylde is a long time Rich Ward fan, Fozzy fan. The one that blew me away was Kerry King. At Soundwave, he came and saw us twice and at Rock on the Range he came and saw us again and I have this great picture of me singing in front of thousands of people and right behind me back stage is Kerry King. That’s when you know you’ve got some pressure, when Kerry is watching. Actually, we were in Perth Australia, Kerry came to watch our set and I jumped off the drum riser and when I landed, I fell and I knew with King on the side of the stage, he’s never going let me live this down so I have to recover. So I landed, fell, did a front roll as I was doing the front roll took out my pack or my in-ears, stood up and jumped right into the crowd.
“I meant to do that!”
Exactly. And King was like, “Ah I hated you for doing that stage dive because you saved it!” Yeah, it’s cool when you get people like that to give you the thumbs up and let you know that you’re doing something that they like. The true sign of respect to me has always been getting the respect of your peers. When you get that it makes everything — it’s very gratifying.
It’s Full Metal Jackie, Chris Jericho with us on the show. As we mentioned, we’re at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go.
You’ve got soundchecks going on. You’ve got a guy warming up over there doing Bruce Dickinson screams.
[Laughs] The room is definitely shaking right now or the soundcheck, but it’s funny, when you sit — even in this dressing room. You can feel the history in this building, there’s been so many great bands that have played here over the years. Are there any memories of your favorite bands seeing them here?
I think I saw Cold Gin, which was a KISS tribute band in the early ’90s here at The Whiskey. I was so excited because I met Eric Singer who was the drummer for KISS at the time, and now — I was like, there’s Eric Singer! I met a famous person! We played here in 2011 and Phil Campbell was like, “I want to jam with you!” So he came and jammed with us that night, I have a great picture of all of us on stage.
Just being here, obviously knowing the history of it. I always think Van Halen, when I think of The Whiskey, which is cool because for us — we put on a show that’s like Van Halen in the ’70s. Musically it’s different but the show is the same, a lot of energy. A lot of excitement, we want people to have fun at our shows. We want them to sing along, clap along and chant ‘Hey hey hey’ and ‘1, 2, 3.’ Chant ‘Fozzy.’ It’s the best name in the world for chanting. I can feel that vibe and spirit here.
I think sometimes “fun” in rock ‘n’ roll is almost a dirty word. We embrace it, we want people to have fun at our shows. If you want to mosh, that’s fine. If you want to stage dive, that’s fine. But it’s more going to watch the hot chicks shake their ass to the groove of the songs. When the girls are enjoying it, the guys enjoy it as well. It’s a formula that we’ve figured out over the years and it seems to be working pretty good [laughs].
Thanks to Fozzy’s Chris Jericho for the interview. The band’s ‘Do You Wanna Start a War’ album is currently available via Amazon and iTunes. Look for the band teaming up for shows with Theory of a Deadman (see the dates here). Tune in to Loudwire Nights With Full Metal Jackie’ Monday through Friday 7PM-midnight online or on the radio. To see which stations and websites air ‘Loudwire Nights,’ click here.