Chris Jericho is in a very good mood today. Having just pulled off one of the highlight performances of the day at Bloodstock, the vocalist/wrestler reflects on the success of his band and just how far they have come over the last decade, especially since the release of their latest album ‘Judas‘ which stormed the charts on either side of the globe earning the band two top-ten singles.
Overdrive pulls up a chair with the superstar to catch up on all that’s been happening…
OD – So, what a year you’ve had with Fozzy to date. The new album has been widely received with open arms and you continue to reap the rewards of festival appearances. Do you find that that the reception from fans over in this part of the world has been growing consistently?
CHRIS – Yeah, absolutely! We have been playing over this side of the pond since back in 2005 and ever since then the reception and interest that we receive every time we come over is just getting bigger and bigger.
I’ll never forget the first time we played in England was in Nottingham Rock City and I couldn’t believe how many people came out see us on that show. I don’t even remember was it 600 or 700 people, I don’t know! Whatever it was, the room was fucking packed!
Ever since that show, England has been a real home away from home, if you like.
OD – So with “Judas” there is no doubt that the popularity of FOZZY has multiplied.
CHRIS – Totally! With the new record being as popular and as big as it’s gotten – on a worldwide basis, it’s just helped us everywhere. I call it the “Judas effect” and it’s helped this band in so many ways it’s almost hard to explain.
OD – I was doing some research and was amused with the statements said of producer Johnny Andrews and how he was wrecking heads in the studio, yet you guys are gunning to work with him again on the follow-up. Do you think that too many producers are quite happy to just let the band come in and do their thing without getting involved?
CHRIS – He’s very smart and passionate as a person. Johnny is somewhat of a genius, but there’s a very dark side him. Getting to know him took a while as did making the record. I’m used to wiring all the lyrics and when I brought my ideas to the table for this album, Johnny took one look at them and threw them in the trash!
I brought fourteen sets of lyrics for the album and he just canned them! I’ve never had that happen to me before, so it was a little bit strange for me if anything. But also, it didn’t really bother me, because the lyrics that Johnny had were so great and I’m just thinking: “who cares who wrote the song, as long as it’s the best for the overall finished track“.
In fact, getting butt-hurt over stuff like that is just ego and at the end of the day, the most important thing is the song itself.
OD – So, it seems that overall, the working relationship with Johnny worked out for the best in the end?
CHRIS – Yes, completely! He would explain to us things like: “this part doesn’t need a guitar solo.” or “this lyric has to be this way.” His whole approach to what we were doing was for the greater good of each song and the music. We really had a really good working balance during the recording process, kind of a Metallica/Bob Rock or KISS/ Bob Eszran type scenario (laughing).
Imagine AC/DC and Mutt Lange’s relationship, and that’s pretty much the nail on the head. Johnny said to us: ” I love your band, but I don’t love your records. This is the record I think you should make!”
I’m not gonna argue with that, as Johnny knew exactly how to handle us and was totally in control as to what the bigger picture was at the end of the day.
OD – Well, the popularity of the album speaks for itself!
CHRIS – Absolutely! We got three top-forty singles and two top-tens from that album.
OD – Were you surprised when you saw the singles do so well when considering the mainstream is all about R&B, Rap and Electronic these days?
CHRIS – I was surprised,….. no, let me rephrase that! I wasn’t totally blown away because I always knew that it was going to happen at some point. I was more like, whatever the emotion of: “Fucking A! Finally, we did it!“, like total elation, that was more on the backburner with a more concentrated focus on the next step if you know what I mean.
It’s like if we released “Sandpaper” today, it could very well go to number 1. We’ve had some great songs in the past that have never charted, so it’s a little bit strange to see things finally happening. It’s like we’ve finally reached a certain mass audience that can make things happen for us. At the end of the day, it’s the power of the fans that make all of this happen.
OD– This album really seemed to connect with a lot of people. It’s like both the band and the fans were just on a perfect equilibrium. Would you agree?
CHRIS – Yes, totally man! When Synyster Gates (Avenged Sevenfold guitarist) heard the album he said: “These are the right songs for the right band, for this moment and that moment is NOW!”
Everyone has been pulling for FOZZY for years! We’ve seen the growth and commitment from the fans as well as the chemistry and quality from the band and now we have the songs to back it all up.
OD – Speaking of Synster (Avenged Sevenfold), there is a lot of talk at the moment of who will be the future heavyweights within the rock/metal spectrum.
CHRIS – Well, you have to have bands such as Avenged Sevenfold to replace the old guard. I can still go to a Rolling Stones show or Metallica, Guns n’ Roses or even U2 and think: “Fuck! They are the best at what they do on this blue planet!” but sooner or later Iron Maiden won’t be there anymore and someone has to replace these heroes.
OD – Do you seen FOZZY as one of those bands that can fill that boots of the classic bands we have today?
CHRIS – Absolutely! I have never once thought of anything less than us headlining this festival (Bloodstock) or the Download Festival in years to come. Because I see the reactions of the crowd.
This might sound egotistical and don’t take it that way, but I’ve watched so many bands perform at festivals around the world and there are not a lot of bands that have the same connection and commitment from a crowd, from the first note to the last.
I don’t like “downtime” and our band doesn’t like “downtime“. We start, we get people going and give them a chance to chant and soon as the chant starts to wither out, (claps hands) boom! we go straight into the next song and keep the vibe pumped at all times.
All of this comes from Freddie Mercury’s performance with Queen at Live Aid back in ’85. The band was going through a lull in their career and they had 20 mins to their thing and they fucking destroyed! They blew everyone away! That’s what we aim to do everytime we hit the stage.
Another thing that I got from some of the classic heroes is that I point at the crowd constantly. I got that from Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons (KISS). Those guys are two of the greatest rock stars of all time. When I was a kid, Paul Stanley pointed at me during one of their shows and all my friends were like: “Holy shit dude, Stanley just point right at you!” I now know what he was doing! That works! It’s making a connection with the audience and once you get them on your side, the rest just comes naturally.
For me, I find the person in the crowd that looks the most disinterested and then I get their attention and work on them. Like today for instance! I saw these two girls in the crowd and they were just standing there, not really bothered by what we were doing and I thought to myself: “Fuck it! I’m getting into that crowd to shake things up a little.” (laughing)
They were standing there like two China Dolls and I jumped off the stage and went straight over to them in the audience and it worked. Afterwards, my tour manager said: “Yeah, I saw you out there trying to dance with those two girls.” It totally worked because later when we were doing the signing/meet and greet, they were both there!
That’s proof that if you get people involved with the show, they will remember it and tell their friends and before you know it, there are more people interested in the band and coming to the shows.
Another great frontman is Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) when he takes to the stage he’s got the whole place in the palm of his hands. It’s a dying tradition that needs to be preserved. If all bands put 100% into their live performances and just work the audience as much as they can then more and more people will come back for more. Go watch David Lee Roth (Van Halen), Paul Stanley (KISS) and Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden), those guys are supreme frontmen that go straight for the jugular. It’s all or nothing.
OD – Okay, let’s talk about this cruise that you guys are playing at the end of October. The line-up, the wrestlers and comedy make this somewhat of a dream come true for fans. How does one go about putting the logistics together for a mammoth party like this?
CHRIS – We played the KISS Cruise back in 2015 and the moment I got off the boat I called my manager and I said: “I want to do this!“. It’s taken two years to put together and let me tell you, it’s been a long haul trying to get it off the ground.
The end goal for me is trying to make it an annual destination for fans of rock music and wrestling. I’ve put everything into this and want it do well, so we can have this party every year, just like KISS does.
OD – With a lack of ‘guitar’ based music becoming more elusive in the mainstream charts I wanted to get your opinion on Gretta Van Fleet and do you think that they could be the band that brings the genre back into the mainstream? I believe they have sold in excess of 250K of their EP.
CHRIS – I think those kids are unreal! Their songs are really strong and they have the swagger and vibe to back things up. The biggest cut-down towards them is that they sound so much like Led Zeppelin and although Zeppelin is not a ‘current’ rock n’ roll band right now – they stopped playing 40 years ago for Christ’s sake!
Gretta Van Fleet are in their 20’s and if they are bringing a younger audience into the realms of rock n’ roll, then who gives a fuck! For example, Metallica’s ‘Kill em All‘ sounded like Motörhead back in 1983 and I wasn’t a Motörhead fan back then but Metallica introduced me to them and I haven’t looked back since.
We need bands like Gretta Van Fleet to grown and any chance that there is for a band to help the evolution of rock, then let it happen by all accounts!