My favorite new album right now if Fozzy’s “Do You Wanna Start a War.” I’ve probably heard the whole album 30 or 40 times and it’s only been out a couple of weeks. Normally I wait for the bands to come to me but you have an album this good I needed to talk to somebody about it so I reached out to them. I got to chat with Fozzy frontman, WWE Superstar, podcaster, “Dancing with the Stars” alum, actor Chris Jericho. For the most part we talk about the new Fozzy record, but we do talk a little bit about wrestling and podcasting as well.
You can listen to the unedited interview right here:
Bob Zerull (BZ): I’ve been listening to the album “Do You Wanna Start A War” a lot and what I like most about it is that for the most part every song is a completely different style. Was this a thought out decision or did it just happen that way?
Chris Jericho (CJ): It just kind of happened that way. Rich and I went into the song writing process with the attitude that there are no rules. Let’s not worry about what a hard rock band is suppose to do or a style that’s supposed to be played. Let’s just do it our own way and be ourselves. I think that’s one of the reasons why the record is getting such good buzz because it is different from anything else out there right now. Lets just do twelve good songs. Let’s not worry about what category they fit in. if you look at some of our favorite it bands, especially in the 70’s, a band like Queen. Queen would have a rock song, a disco song, a pop song, a rockabilly song, a ballad all on the same record and you loved it because it all sounded like Queen. That’s kind of what we were going for with “Do You Wanna Start a War.”
BZ: I’ve done a lot of interviews and some of the bands I’ve talked to feel like they’ve written themselves into a corner where they can’t escape the sound they’ve created. Have you noticed that mingling with other bands?
CJ: I do notice that if you listen to rock radio there are a lot of bands that sound the same. They’re following whats hot. All of my favorite bands all created their own thing. The Stones, Zeppelin, Sabbath, Metallica, Van Halen, Guns n Roses, Iron Maiden, Nirvana, they all did their own thing. Some people are gonna hate on you for that and some people are gonna think you’re the greatest thing ever. We don’t have a problem with negativity, we learned a long time ago that we don’t listen to people who are negative. We don’t listen to people who don’t like us. If you can please yourself you’re gonna please your fans and you’re gonna get new fans. Every band is different. Our band is different, especially the make up of the band, the origin of the band. We’ve done everything opposite to the way you’re suppose to make it yet we’ve gotten as far as we have and still growing. That’s because we’re forging our own path.
BZ: I’ve known about Fozzy for awhile and it wasn’t until “Sin and Bones” that I sat down and listened to it. You said the people in your band are what make Fozzy original but at the same time WWE Superstar Chris Jericho is in the band so people are going to judge it without hearing it. Has that been frustrating trying to be taken seriously as a band?
CJ: It hasn’t been frustrating, it’s just the way it is. When you’re known for doing something other than what you’re doing there is going to be resistance. People are gonna want to put you in a box. He’s a great singer for a wrestler. Listen I’m the best singing wrestler of all time, big deal. Who cares? I want to be a great singer for a rock band. I want to be amongst the great singers of all time along with Robert Plant and Paul Stanley. That’s who my competition is. Those are my peers and influences. I didn’t just wake up one day and decide I want to be in a rock band, I’ve been singing in bands since I was twelve. Growing up I wanted to be in a rock band and I wanted to be a wrestler. Oh you can’t do that. I said I can. It’s easy to say that now as 6 time World Champion in the WWE but when I was starting out everyone thought I was crazy for wanting to be a wrestler. Everyone thought I was crazy to want to be in a rock band. If I made it as far in wrestling with everybody telling me I was crazy why would any body think i’m not going to do the same thing with music. Bruce Dickinson is an airline pilot. I don’t give a shit if Bruce Dickinson is an airline pilot when I go see Iron Maiden. They’re not singing songs about small bags of peanuts and sitting in the middle seat, they’re Iron Fucking Maiden. Conversely when he’s flying a plane I don’t want to hear him singing Maiden songs. I want him to take the plane off, I want him to fly me where I’m going and land me safely and not kill me. It’s the same thing. I happen to have two jobs that I’m good at. People are always going to try and put you in a box and I don’t care. At least listen to us, if you listen to us and don’t like it, then step aside and let those that do get a better seat.
BZ: What is the bands writing process. I know Rich (Ward) arranges a lot of it. Do you write together?
CJ: Rich is the majority song writer. My contributions are lyrically. I’ll come up with lyrics and send them over to Rich and he’ll use those in songs he already has written with certain melody lines or certain ideas and I’ll do some rewrites with him or he’ll say i got this and I need something like this, this and this, I need a verse here or a chorus there. That’s basically how we’ve been doing it for the last three records. There’s a little bit of collaboration once the songs start to take shape but the original process is I write lyrics, send them to him and he puts them into songs that he’s written.
BZ: Are you writing lyrics with a melody in mind?
CJ: Not really, Rich’s melodies are always better mine and the best thing about being in this band or any band is that you’re a team. Like any good football or hockey team you need to know what I do best and what do your teammates do best. Let your teammates do what they do best. If I had to write melodies I would. i’ve written melodies for Bullet for my Valentine records. I’ve written songs for them, but when it comes to Rich Ward his melodies are always better than mine. I might have a couple ideas here in there but 90 percent of the time Rich’s ideas stick.
BZ: You guys have a few albums out now, how many songs from “Do You Wanna Start a War” are gonna make the set?
CJ: That’s always the eternal question right? When we headline we can play as much as we want. 14/15 songs is usually a good headlining set in a club. The lions share of any set we do is always new material. Your catalog is like an iceberg and the tip of the iceberg is the new record. That’s the one most people have. This record debuted at 54 on the charts, it was a big success out of the gate. Most people know this record more than “Sin and Bones,” more people know that record than “Chasing the Grail.” When we play our own shows we play songs off all the records. When we’re supporting we try to do as many songs as we can. We have to play “Enemy,” “God Pounds His Nails,” “Sandpaper.” “Lights Go Out” is a top forty hit and that must be played. “Do You Wanna Start a War” is the second single that has to be played. that’s five songs and if you’re only doing six songs there isn’t a lot more to work with. We try to play as many songs as we can that are getting a reaction. We could play the whole freaking record of “Do You Wanna Start a War” which is something that’ll happen. Some of those songs are very difficult. “Unstoppable” and “No Good Way” are very hard to sing. If we were gonna do a situation where we were going to play those songs we couldn’t do them every night because they’re just too hard.
BZ: Those are two of my favorite songs. I listen to your podcast and you had mentioned “Unstoppable” being really difficult. Can you tell us about the recording process of that song and what was so hard about it?
CJ: “Unstoppable” was Rich’s idea of doing a duet like the Rolling Stone’s “Gimme Shelter” or Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky.” We thought it’d be interesting to have the guest vocalist for the whole song and not just the chorus. Christie Cook has been a part of the Fozzy family for a long time, instead of doing stunt casting we thought we’d use Christie and give her a shot. The melodies are very high. It’s in my range, but it’s not something I can do night after night after night. When you’re recording, records last forever so you want it to be perfect. When you record you go for two or three hours a day. When you’re doing a song in that high of a vocal range, at the two hour mark you start to feel it. You don’t know how much more you have left so you have to nail it. You come out of there and you feel like you just had a six round fight with Mike Tyson and he kicked the shit out of you, but the results are amazing. In a live setting I’m not sure I could do it night after night. It reminds me of a story Zakk Wylde told me about Ozzy when they were recording “Ozzmosis.” They were recording the song “Thunder Underground.” It has super high melodies. When Ozzy finished tracking it the producer was like, ‘Ozzy that was great you nailed it.’ Ozzy said, ‘I’m glad you liked it because you’ll never fucking hear me sing it again.’ That’s the same attitude I have for “Unstoppable.”
BZ: When did you know you were on to something special because like I said beginning to end there are no skippable songs on here?
CJ: “Lights Go Out” was the first song I heard. It was a song Rich wrote with a guy named Johnny Andrews in Atlanta. When I heard that I was like this is different, it’s like if Fall Out Boy and Black Sabbath had a bastard child. We were creating a new genre of music, like heavy metal dance music. Once I heard that I knew this what we needed to do. Even with the lyrics I wrote i knew there was some good stuff there from “Bad Tattoo” to “Do You Wanna Start a War” etc.They’re all interesting and cool lyrics. When I started hearing Rich’s demos and the diversity and variety of the songs while still having that Fozzy trademark of groove heavy riffs, melodic choruses and a lot of harmonies. I think we were in Australia touring with Steel Panther and we got together in a hotel room to listen to all of Rich’s demos and every one was better than the last. Most of time there are a few songs where you’re like those were ok and there were a couple like that but he had written 14 demos and instead of recording 14 songs we got rid of the two weakest and instead had 12 killer songs. That’s when I realized when we had something special.
BZ: What’s the difference between the Chris Jericho I’m talking to now and the Chris Jericho on stage or in the ring?
CJ: You have to be a larger than life character. All my favorite wrestlers and rock stars were larger than life, whether it’s Mick Jagger, Freddie Mercury, Axl Rose, James Hetfield or Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. They were all bigger than life characters. When I’m home with my kids I’m Chris Irvine, I’m dad. Performing I’m just fucking Jericho man. I take control of any stage I’m on. I’m gonna be the party host. I’m going to make sure people have a great time and that people get their money’s worth.
BZ: As a fan of hard rock music and not as a member of Fozzy, is it disappointing that in the US it feels like hard rock is, not dying but it’s certainly not growing. The two biggest newish bands right now are Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch and neither band can play arenas without loading up the bill with great bands. But overseas hard rock seems to be alive and well.
CJ: Rock n Roll and Heavy Metal has always been under ground. People say its a tough time for heavy metal, well it’s always been a tough time for heavy metal. There’s always the bands that are gonna play the arenas. There will be the bands that come close and not make it. I think Avenged Sevenfold is the best thing to happen to heavy rock music in years. Not only is it the music they play, but it’s not screaming, it’s not shit vocals there’s great harmonies and great guitar solos. I think Avenged had a huge say in bringing back the guitar solo. The Avenged show is a throw back to the big arena rock shows of the early nineties late eighties like Iron Maiden or Metallica. When You get a band like Avenged who hits it big, it goes to show that there is still an audience for heavy metal. You just have to have the right band. You have to be doing something that’s different from what everyone else is doing and Avenged has done that. The audience are there, but not for every band. Yes hard rock is under the microscope right now, but it always has been. I remember listening to heavy metal in 1985 and nobody liked it, in 1996 nobody liked it, in 2006 nobody liked it. It’s always the bastard child of the music world, but that’s why its such an amazing family of fans. If you’re a metal fan you’re instantly friends with everybody else that’s a metal fan because we are kind of the outcasts, the uncool people but with in our world there is nothing cooler and more loyal than fans of their favorite bands.
BZ: What made you decide to venture into podcast?
CJ: I had a radio show for a long time. I loved interviewing people, I love music. The podcasting enables me to spread my wings, I love music, I love movies, I love hockey, I love super natural stuff. It gives me a chance to sit down and talk to people. Who did I have on last week? Zack Ryder, I’ve known Zack for years but how often do you get the chance to sit down and talk with people for an hour uninterrupted. Same thing with Zakk Wylde. I talked to Ace Frehley for 45 minutes the other day. When else am I gonna get to do that? If I saw Ace backstage and I don’t really know him, you say hi and its super awkward, you take a picture mumble a couple of words and walk away saying, ‘fuck I wish I would have said this or that.’ When I’m conducting the conversation, because it’s not an interview, I don’t have a list of question ever. That’s cool to me I really enjoy and appreciate that, it’s been a lot of fun for me. It’s not a wrestling podcast, it never will be. It’s my show, I talk to interesting people that I think will be good guests and I plan to continue to do this for a long time. It’s been a big hit so far.
BZ: Do you guys have plans to go out on tour, is it tough to balance that with your WWE schedule?
CJ: You don’t balance it. My focus and priority has been Fozzy for the past five years. The only time I go back is when Fozzy is off the road. I’m in the WWE right now because we happen to have three months off. We go back out in September and that is when my WWE deal is up. My WWE runs are like tours. I go to the WWE for three months, here are my tour dates. I’m coming in on this date and I’m done on this date. When are you coming back? Well I guess I’ll come back next tour. The days of being a full time wrestler are long gone. I still enjoy doing it and I’ll continue to do it as long as I still feel I can contribute at the highest level and as long as our schedules work out. You can’t balance both and I wouldn’t even want to try.
BYLINE: Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.