By Ryan Ogle
Rock n’ Roll and Pro Wrestling have always had a kind of inherent connection. Both are extremely testosterone-fueled forms of entertainment. Both have become staples of Americana. And I don’t think there are very many of us out there that didn’t spend the Saturday afternoons of his youth emulating his heroes from either industry. It seems now that someone has turned both of those dreams into reality. Perhaps the missing link between Ozzy Osbourne and Hulk Hogan, WWE Superstar Chris Jericho, has made the leap from the ring to the stage with his band Fozzy. Starting out as a cover band, Fozzy recently came back in way with the hard-hitting All That Remains, their first album of all original material. This musical equivalent to a steel-chair shot to the head, proves that Fozzy is a force to be reckoned with. Below, Jericho and I discuss all that has been and all that remains for this wrestler turned rock star. Can I start things off by asking how it was that Fozzy came to be?
I happened to meet up with Rich Ward on a chance meeting about 6 years ago in 1999. We just struck up a conversation and found out that we had similar tastes in music and similar philosophies. It was one of those things that when you meet someone you just connect with them right away and we said, if we ever get a chance we should get together, form a band and just have some fun. So that’s what happened, we got together, formed a band and just played some of our favorite songs that we grew up listening to, a lot of covers. A funny thing happened right after those first two shows that we did, we were offered a record deal right off the bat. We got this record deal to basically play covers because of who was in the band. The record company thought it was pretty cool idea so they signed us and we did a record of covers. I kind of thought that maybe the world had too many cover bands as it was, so I came up with an idea that the songs were really ours, that they were stolen from us. Kind of a whole legendary thing, kind of a Blues Brothers/Traveling Wilburies/Spinal Tap back story for the band. So it was cool, we did a 30 minute documentary on the band that aired on MTV. A mockumentary so to speak, a kind of homage to Spinal Tap. We had some fun with it, it was great. Then as we played some more shows and continued on we realized that we were actually a damn good band with great players. We had some great chemistry as song writers. When it came time for our second record we did half covers and half originals. So that was the deciding factor for us to realize, we want to continue as a band and continue on creatively. We have great chemistry as a band and as song writers. The best way, the only way for us to continue is to play our songs and so our own material and that’s where we’re at. That’s where we are today. Our third record is in a lot of ways is like our debut because it’s the first one with all of our own material.How involved were you in the writing process for All That Remains?
On all three Fozzy records we’ve had original stuff but it’s been the same every time. Rich writes the music and most of the melodies. I’ll contribute the lyrics and a little bit of melodies as well. That’s how we’ve been doing it since we’ve started. On this record we really wanted to make the best record we could because we knew he’d probably have one chance to prove what the band could do and how the band sounds. So we spent a lot of time really make this a special, great rock 'n' roll record. We really put a lot of time in the song writing to really show what we could do as a band and make sure that we were able to really turn some heads with this one.So Rich Ward is the main song writer?
Yeah, Rich is the main song writer, he writes about 80% of the songs and I put in the rest.I was really impressed with Ryan Mallam (credited with solo guitars on the disc). Was this his first recording with the band?
Yeah, he was a great player. He joined the band when he was like 18 or 19. We called him “The Kid”, that’s basically what he was. He was a huge Rich Ward fan, a huge Zakk Wylde fan. He really stepped up to the plate on this record and played some unbelievable solos and then right before the release he quit the band. I guess he wasn't cut out for the whole rock n roll life style. That was kind of a shame, then we got another player named Mike Martin, whose like Steve Vai on crack. He’s taken what Ryan has done and just made it even crazier. So it’s out with one great player and in with an amazing one. That’s how it works out sometimes when your in a band.Where did you find Mike Martin at?
He was a guy who is an Atlanta musician, which is where the band is based out of. Almost like a jazz/fusion guy who is also a great rock player and a great blues player as well. Ryan was a great solo player but didn't really have a style of his own. That’s what we wanted a guy who was a great solo player but really lay down the blues and have a great rhythm sense about him too. We got all those things with Mike.You guys brought in quite a few guest stars to help out on this record. Can you tell us who came in to help out?
Zakk Wylde is a friend of mine, a friend of the band. He’s been very supportive of Fozzy since the band started, he was in that documentary that I told you about, from about 6 years ago. He actually has a really big sense of respect for Rich as a guitar player. There’s a mutual respect thing going on between the two of them. On the song “Wanderlust” we thought it’d be a perfect song for him to solo on. He always mentioned that he wanted to do a solo on our record. It’s got a very Black Label Society/Black Sabbath vibe to it. We were right, he laid down a tremendous solo. Probably my favorite solo I've ever heard him do, I mean they’re all great solos that he does, but this had something special to it. I was a great honor to have him play on our record, it definitely doesn't suck to have Zakk Wylde on your record, especially when it’s our first record of all original stuff and you really want to turn some heads and let people know what we’re doing. I think Zakk helped us break through some of those doors that way. Marty Friedman was a fan of the band who was also a friend of our producer, Rick Beato. He lives in Japan, so we e-mailed him the track and he played the solo and e-mailed it back. One of those wonders of modern technology shining through. It was really amazing how we were able to do that. He really laid down his signature sound on the record. Mark Tremonti from Alter Bridge was recording in the same studio as we were so it was one of those instances of happenstance (no pun intended) that he was able to come down and solo on “The Way I Am”. Having all these great players on the record was a great honor to us and really added to the presence of the record.Totally! What about Allison Irby who did vocals on “It’s A Lie“? She’s got a killer voice. Where did she come from?
She’s a 17 year old girl that we hooked up when her mother actually called Rick Beato. She wanted to do some heavier stuff so Rick hooked her up with Rich and he was like, “Look we have got this great sounding singer...”. We originally wanted to do the song “It’s A Lie” with Bonecrusher, who is a rapper. Do three separate styles of singing on the same track. Not like a rap-metal song, but here’s a song with a metal vocal, a rap vocal and a rhythm and blues/soul singer on it. Originally that part was written for a Nightwish/female opera singer type of thing, but Allison fit perfectly so we changed the direction for kind of a rhythm and blues type sound. We wanted three types of vocals all in the same song just to try something different and experiment a little and it worked out great.I can imagine with your WWE schedule that you’re a pretty busy guy. How do you find the time to rehearse and play shows?
I take the time because, like I said the band is growing and the more opportunities we get the more time we spend on the band. I’m actually in the airport right now. We’re going to England tonight to do our first UK tour that actually sold out. It did so well that we had to add a couple extra shows. So the band is growing. We’ve been getting great reviews for this record and serious airplay for both “Enemy” and “Nameless/Faceless”. I mean, if nobody cared about the band and nobody listened to the music it would be a different story. But people are into what we’re doing and the band is getting a bigger name as it goes on so therefore it’s worth spending the time with the band because it’s paying off.So you’re taking the time off from wrestling to focus on Fozzy.
Yeah, we’re making it work. Taking some time off and combining. We play shows after WWE shows sometimes. We just do what we can to make sure people hear this band because we know they’ll pleasantly surprised and almost shocked about how good it is.You just mentioned the airplay that “Enemy” is getting. Just a couple hours ago I had the opportunity to watch the video for that song, can you tell our readers a little bit about it?
Actually that video is going to debut on Headbanger’s Ball this Saturday. It’s a great video, it’s very dark and almost disturbing. It involves a guy with one leg and how he’s trying to fight his different enemies that have built up over the years. It’s a well shot, well done video and we’re really excited that people are interested in it. On Ifilm.com, which is an off-shoot of Itunes, it’s number 10 out of 5,000. So it’s getting some good hits and people are really commenting about how good the video turned out. Also the song is a really heavy melodic song so people are really getting into both of them.Are there plans for another video?
It all depends on how the record does. We already have a great concept for “Nameless/Faceless” that we’d like to shoot a video for. If the record is strong enough to warrant another video then we definitely have the plans for it.Let’s talk for a minute about your influences. Who are some of the singers that inspired you to do this?
I’ve always been a huge Bruce Dickinson fan; a huge Steve Perry fan; Michael Weikath from Helloween; Paul Stanley. Even guys like James Hetfield, there’s some great grit in that voice. That’s one of the things that’s been great for me on this record, especially on my vocals, I can sing like Chris Jericho. I don’t have to try to sound like Bruce Dickinson or like Rob Halford. I can take elements of those guys and create my own sound, create my own vibe. I think I’ve done that, I'm really excited about how the vocals turned out on this record and how we sound has a band.So what are you listening to these days?
I’m a big Dream Theater fan, always have been. I’m a big Red Hot Chili Peppers fan. I’m always looking for new stuff, I just got the new Masterplan record, the new Dio over in Japan, the new Annihilator, Shadows Fall. Just whatever comes up that actually has some singing in it. Shadows Fall is a great band, they have a little more “cookie-monster” vocals than I like, but when they sing melodically I’m really into that style of vocal. You can tell when you listen to our band what kind of singing I like. That's one thing about nowadays, there aren't a lot of singers that really have a lot of melody or feeling and we’re really trying to incorporate that style into our music.Do you think you’d like to stick with music fulltime after you’re done with wrestling?
That’s definitely something I've thought about. I’ve been a musician long before I was a wrestler. I’ve been playing in bands since I was 14 years old. It’s something I've always been interested in doing, I've always enjoyed doing. Now that the band is really taking off, I'd like to take it as far as it can go. I’d like to give it it’s due and see how far we can get it. You have probably got the two coolest jobs in the world! What are of some of the similarities the two share?
There are a lot of similarities, especially live. They’re both very high energy, aggressive forms of entertainment that a really spurred on and enhanced by the energy you get from the crowd. We definitely want to give the crowd a good vibe and a good time, to make sure that they have a great time. That’s the most important thing with show business. We go out of our way to make sire people have a good time and we’re really proud of the fact that whenever someone comes to a Fozzy show you know what you’re gonna get. A great time and some great rock music. We haven't had a show when someone didn't leave 100% satisfied. That’s something that makes us happy as well.You mentioned your getting ready for a European tour.
Yeah, we’re leaving right now.Who will you be playing out with?
A local English band. I think it’s called Head-On, an SPV band. We’re doing really good over there on our own. So we’re just taking whoever is available out with us and letting them experience all that is Fozzy.Anything planned for the States?
Yeah, there’s some good tours coming up that we’re working on getting. Doing another tour of Germany in April. We are working on some stuff for March which could be really huge for us if it works out. We’re in the final stages of negotiation for that right now. Like I said the bigger the band gets the more opportunities we get to play the more we’re going to play. So we’re working on that right now.If Vince McMahon came to you today and wanted you to choose between the WWE or Fozzy, which direction would you go?
That’s an interesting question. I’ve been in wrestling for 16 years and I’ve accomplished more than I ever thought I would ever accomplish. It’s still a lot of fun for me, I still enjoy it. But once again, playing with band and seeing the band grow in leaps and bounds, to me, is very fresh and new and exciting. I’d like to take it as far as it go with the band, because I think we have a lot to offer. So who knows what will happen in the future. Music is a lot easier on my body than wrestling anyhow. So we’ll see what happens.Anything else you’d like to add before we wrap this up?
I think when people hear this record they’ll be pleasantly shocked and surprised on how good it turned out. I’m looking forward to hearing everybody’s responses and how they think it turned out.