Chris Jericho has spent the better part of his life in the spotlight. His legendary career was not only forged with blood, sweat, and tears but with hard work, determination to his art, and undeniable intensity. Even though he rose to an iconic status within the world of professional wrestling, he never lost sight of his childhood dreams of being in a great rock ‘n’ roll band. During the past 20 years as the frontman of Fozzy, he’s firmly established himself as one of the most charismatic frontmen in the game. He’s proof-positive that dreams do come true, but only if you’re willing to work for it.
Formed in 2000, Fozzy released their self-titled debut album. Throughout the years, the band has released six progressively popular records, including 2012’s “Sin & Bones,” featuring the hit single “Sandpaper”, which found the band reaching a level of legitimacy that drew a mass audience to drink in their trademark heavy melodic groove. However, it was the band’s seventh LP, “Judas,” catapulted them to an entirely new level. The album instantly captured the attention of music fans worldwide with their explosive title track. “Judas” catapulted up the Active Rock Radio Chart. Fozzy’s follow-up singles “Painless”, which peaked at #7 on the Active Rock Mediabase Chart, and “Burn Me Out”, which peaked at #12 on the Active Rock Mediabase Chart, solidifying the band as a force to be reckoned with. With the 2-year album cycle for “Judas” nearing its end, one might think the band would be ready to take a breather and bask in the glory of all they’ve accomplished. Well, I hate to break it to ya, kid. That just wouldn’t be the Fozzy way. In fact, they have already been planning their next moves, which includes rockin’ you to your core.
Icon Vs. Icon’s Jason Price recently caught up with Chris Jericho to discuss the band’s evolution, their hard-hitting new single, “Nowhere To Run” and their upcoming gig with Iron Maiden at their Banc Of California Stadium show in Los Angeles. Along the way, Jericho offers an exclusive glimpse inside the world of Fozzy’s creative process and offers insight on what fans can expect from the band’s next studio album!
It’s hard to believe but it’s been 2 years since Fozzy released the “Judas” album. I’m sure it’s been a wild ride for everyone involved. What has that experience been like for you personally?
“Judas” was such a huge record for us because it took us completely to another level. That was always the intention, but you never really know for sure. When “Judas” the song broke through, it opened a lot of doors that had been previously closed to us, especially in the radio world. It was one of those things where you never really realize how important rock radio is to a band unless you’re on it! Then you realize what an impact it can make. Before we knew it, it was “Holy smokes!” “Judas” went to Number 5, “Painless” went to Number 7 and “Burn Me Out” went to Number 12. Suddenly, you have a whole new audience of people who had never heard of Fozzy or maybe they had heard of Fozzy but had never heard a Fozzy song. That’s when you start getting all the main stages of the festivals, gigs with Nickelback, and gigs with Iron Maiden. There are a lot of bands out there, so to stand out, you have to have a little bit more of a presence. Then, when you get the elusive hit single like “Judas” was for us, it completely changes everything! I will always look at “Judas” the album and “Judas” the song as a moment in time where we went from Level B to Level A. Fozzy has a huge future and much more potential now awaiting as we get ready to release the new song and new record a few months from now.
What is it about the “Judas” album that resonated with fans so deeply?
I think more than anything it connected lyrically. We started working with Johnny Andrews, who’s a guy with an amazing track record in the rock world and the radio world. I think he has something like 15 or 20 Number One hits with Halestorm, Three Days Grace, Starset, Motionless In White , etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Hooking up with him, he understands what radio is looking for and we know it too. The riffs of Rich Ward have always been very hooky, groovy and crunchy. I think lyrically, more than anything, we are singing songs that people can relate to. Whereas, in the past, we had those types of more emotional based songs but there was also a lot of songs about war, serial killers, dungeons and dragons and that sort of stuff. That’s always fun to write about, but it’s the emotional songs with lyrics that people can really relate to that are the ones they are more in tune to and get excited about. “Judas” had that, “Painless” had that, as did “Drinkin With Jesus.” Now, with “Nowhere To Run,” it’s the same thing. It’s very hooky as well. It’s the old Def Leppard trick! [laughs] Instead of just one hook or two, they’ll throw 3 hooks at you over the course of the song, which makes it super catchy. It’s like an earworm that gets in your head and won’t leave! I think we’ve always had elements of that in the past. Much like the great producers of all-time, like Bob Rock when he gets ahold of Metallica or Mutt Lange when he gets ahold of AC/DC; it’s the same thing with Johnny Andrews. He really gets into Fozzy’s mindset and really figured out how we can explore all of these groovy, heavy riffs and melodies that we’ve always had and make them much more accessible to a mainstream audience. I think we’ve really found and established that formula over the last two records but most specifically with the “Judas” album.
What was your biggest takeaway from working with another songwriter?
I always wrote the lyrics for Fozzy and with the last record I submitted 14 songs. Johnny Andrews is such a great writer that I thought, “Johnny’s such a great writer. Why am I taxing myself to write stuff that’s not as good as what he’s writing? To us, it doesn’t matter who writes the song, but how good the song is! I have no problem with singing his lyrics because they are very deep and very dark. What I have to do when I read them is then assimilate them into my head and figure out how to relate to them the best. Whether Johnny wrote them, I wrote them, or the Easter Bunny wrote the lyrics, I have to sell them to the world! I have to sing them in my voice and sing them the way it makes me feel. I always think, “How the hell did Geddy Lee sing all of the Neil Peart lyrics about red barchettas, dystopian societies and Indian passages?” You have to take them, internalize them and sing them as if they are your own. I think that’s a huge maturity for us as a band because before there was the thought of “I’m the singer. I need to write the lyrics. That’s how it works.” Well, that’s not how it works. What matters most is putting out the best song and performance that you can. All of that stuff is coming to fruition now, more so than it ever has in the past.
You’ve had a lot of highlights from the “Judas” album cycle. One of the biggest is still on the way! Fozzy will be opening for Iron Maiden in September. What does that mean to you and the band?
It’s really great! All of us are Iron Maiden fans. They are still one of my favorite bands of all-time. To be invited to play a stadium show with Iron Maiden is an absolute honor. It’s funny because we were in New Zealand at the time I got the email. I had a little bit of jet lag and it was about 5 o’clock in the morning. I see an email, which is from Iron Maiden’s manager, asking if we wanted to do a show in September. This was back in November, so I was a little confused. I was thinking, “10 months from now?” I was like, “Do a show with who?” The manager said, “A show with Iron Maiden! Who the fuck do you think I’m talking about!” [laughs] I was like, “Well, I didn’t think you actually meant Iron Maiden!” [laughs] It was very surprising and very cool for us. When the poster for the show came out, I must have stared at it for a half an hour straight! It was kind of unbelievable to see Fozzy and Iron Maiden together on the poster.
It’s interesting for us. I can never think it’s just a one-shot deal, if you know what I mean. I’m sure there is some type of audition in it for us, at least that’s the way I look at it. If it is just a one-time thing, that’s fine too but I always look at the big picture. I think the better of a show we have, the more chance there will be to do more with Iron Maiden in the future. The same thing goes for the recent shows we played with Nickelback, which was an amazing experience for us. Their fans really have the same vibe that Fozzy fans do. That’s what I mean, in regard to your previous question, we would never have had these opportunities before “Judas” came out. Now, here we are getting a completely different spectrum of opportunities and huge bands asking us to play with them from Nickelback to Iron Maiden and everything in between. I think that’s a pretty good barometer of the type of band we are. We can pretty much fit in with anybody. We know how to put on a great show and make sure everybody has a great time. That’s what it’s all about! It’s a very exciting time for us and we’re really excited about the potential for the future.
You have such great energy when you are on the stage and shine as a frontman. Obviously, you are no stranger to the spotlight with your experience as a professional wrestler. When do you feel you came into your own in that role?
Connecting with an audience is the most important thing when you’re a frontman. It’s the same whether you are talking about wrestling, rock ‘n’ roll, or stand-up comedy. Whatever it may be, you have to have that connection to your audience. I think it’s something I’ve always had it but once you get the songs behind you that people know and are legitimately excited to see you perform and you start getting a reputation for it, it gives you additional confidence. This last tour, “The Judas Tour” was huge for us. We always knew how to command a crowd, but it really came to fruition when we had all of this story and, shall I say, steam, momentum, and excitement behind us. All of that stuff just added up to be really cool times for us. We were playing shows for people who were really excited to see us, had seen us multiple times, knew the songs and knew what was going on. That really gives you confidence. There is nothing better than walking on stage, seeing the crowd and knowing that they’ve been waiting for this moment for six months, a year or whatever it is, and then delivering on that excitement with all of the atmosphere and energy that they were expecting. When you do that, they give it back to you tenfold!
As you mentioned, Fozzy is rolling out a new song titled “Nowhere To Run.” What can you tell us about it? What made this the song to usher in the next phase of Fozzy?
It’s really just one of those things where we had a tour coming up and, now, we are on Sony Records, who are very much behind us. They wanted a new song to roll out with the tour, so we wouldn’t lose the momentum that we have been building as a band. It’s a song where Johnny Andrews and Rich Ward were going through some of the stuff they had and “Nowhere To Run” is the one they picked out because of the strong chorus. It’s another very hooky song like the ones Fozzy is known for. We have only one song that we tracked and recorded. We knew it was the right one. It’s really a situation where you want to keep the ball rolling but you also don’t want to put something out just to put it out. This is a tune that we really thought would fit we are doing with the evolution of the Fozzy sound and vibe. Sony Music felt the same way about it, so here we are with another potential huge hit song on our hands!
What type of pressure does that put on you when it comes to creating the next album?
The pressure is there because we want to make it better than what we did before. It has to be just as good, if not better, than what we did with “Judas.” I don’t see how it won’t be because last time around was the first pairing of Johnny Andrews, Richard Ward and Chris Jericho. Now, we’ve got that behind us. Anytime you work with someone for the first time there is going to be a little bit of a feeling out process. Once you get that out of the way, you can really get into the groove. On Johnny’s part, you’re talking about a guy who’s written all of these hit songs for all of these bands, but he probably didn’t know what he was getting with Fozzy either. Suddenly, when it comes through, we have this amazing working relationship and all of this success, so I think he’s going to give it the extra bit of effort. That’s not to say he wasn’t giving a huge effort before, but I think now you’re going to get the real A+++ stuff from the creative team that we’ve put together. It’s exciting, like I said, because now we have the world’s ear. With “Judas” we had to open a lot of doors. There was the thought of “What is Fozzy? What is this? Let’s check it out.” Now that we’ve got their attention people will ask, “What’s next for Fozzy?” When they hear “Nowhere To Run” it will be, “Okay, this is exactly what we wanted to hear, a continuation of this great rock ‘n’ roll band with killer songs and all of these hooks, who we’ve been waiting to hear the next level.” So, yes, there is pressure, but the only pressure is amongst ourselves because we want it to be better than anything we’ve ever done. I don’t think it can’t be better because the team has been assembled and now, we are razor sharp!
What type of timeline are you looking at in regard to getting into the studio and putting out the next record? Obviously, you have a lot of irons in the fire.
I do but Fozzy is always the priority and it has been. I think it’s more along the lines of writing the best collection of songs but with “Nowhere To Run” coming out now, I think it’s fair to say that we we’re going to have something out, a full record, in the early stages of 2020.
I ask this next question because you’re a guy on the front lines of the music business. What is the best way for fans to support a band like Fozzy?
If you want to support the bands you love, go to see them when they come to town, buy a t-shirt and all that sort of stuff. In this day and age, when you are watching the music videos or streaming a song, all of that information gets recorded more than ever. It’s not like it was even a couple of years ago when the whole music business went down the drain. Now, it’s much more about how many streams you can get, how many YouTube views are you getting, what your merch check is looking like and all that stuff. So, the underlying principle has never really changed. If you like a band, just listen to their stuff and support them when they come to town. That’s what rock ‘n’ roll is all about!
One last question before I let you get back to it, Chris. It seems, much like Fozzy, a new era is on the horizon for the world of professional wrestling. What’s your perspective of what’s happening and what does it mean for a guy like yourself?
It’s a great time for the wrestling business because there is an option, an alternative, which we haven’t had in 20 years. It’s a really exciting time! For me, I grew up a teenager wanting to be in a rock ‘n’ roll band and wanting to be a wrestler. Now, here I am with the biggest name I’ve ever had in both cases, as a wrestler with AEW which is revolutionizing the whole business and with Fozzy being on the verge of going to the next level after we already jumped 5 or 10 places in line! It’s really cool for me and it’s the culmination of a life’s work. People go, “How do you do it?” I don’t know how I do it. It’s just what I’ve always done. It’s what I do and it’s who I am. It’s just really cool to know that when you put the hard work in, you get the benefits of it. When you get those benefits, you keep putting more work into it. You never stop working. You’ll only go as far as the amount of work, passion, and desire you are willing to put into it.
That’s a great perspective. You continue to be an inspiration, man. It seems like you’re just getting warmed up, so I wish you continued success in everything you take on! I’ll be out here spreading the word!
Killer, man! I appreciate it so much! I look forward to talking with you again soon.
Fozzy is Chris Jericho (vocals), Rich Ward (guitars, vocals), Frank Fontsere (drums), Billy Grey (guitars) and Randy Drake (bass). They are unstoppable. Check out their official website at www.fozzyrock.com for the latest dates and developments!