By Andrew Bansal
Based out of Atlanta, Georgia, hard rock/heavy metal outfit Fozzy has been around for more than 14 years, releasing five studio albums and touring worldwide during this period. Their frontman Chris Jericho needs absolutely no introduction to anyone, but aside from drawing attention because of Jericho’s involvement, the band actually features in its ranks two excellent musicians in guitarist Rich Ward and drummer Frank Fontsere, both of whom also members of Stuck Mojo. In the States, Fozzy have found it hard to shed the label of being “Jericho’s band” and in all honesty haven’t been taken as seriously as a regular band would be, but their success in the UK and Europe proves them as legit. They got signed to Century Media Records last year and put out their latest album ‘Sin And Bones’, and will be hitting the road with the legendary Saxon for a month-long North American tour starting on September 12th. A couple of weeks ago, I had the good fortune of speaking to Jericho about all things Fozzy. Check out the conversation below.
Chris, it’s good to have you on Metal Assault. In this interview I’m going to mainly talk to you about Fozzy, which is a band that’s come a long way from when it started out to what it is today. You guys signed to Century Media last year, so first of all tell me how that came about.
Just through many years of releasing records and touring, I guess. The word kind of got around, the record sales were good and I think we really had built a great reputation in the year before Century Media approached us, for being a great live band with a very loyal following. So when we got signed to Century Media and it came time to record the new album, we wanted to put together the best collection of songs that we could, to put together our greatest record yet and kind of swing for the fences with Century Media behind us. It worked out great! ‘Sin And Bones’ came out, it was number 1 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart, the song ‘Sandpaper’ was in the top 10 on rock radio for 10 or 12 weeks, and we really got off to a good start with Century Media. So this is a really cool relationship that has helped us both to the point where we’ve just announced that Century Media is going to release a second Fozzy record next summer. We’re really looking forward to that!
That’s awesome, man. So, obviously you’re an American band but you’ve had a lot of good success in Europe and specially in the UK. I think you pretty much tour the UK every year if I’m not wrong. Was that surprising for you when that first happened? How have you felt playing there over the years?
Yeah, for whatever reason, the first time I went to the UK in 2004, we had a show in Nottingham, I walked on stage and just couldn’t believe how many people were there. It just blew my mind how big the show was, and it’s been that way ever since for us! The UK really took to us right off the bat which was awesome, and then it kind of expanded into Scotland, Ireland and Wales and creeping into Europe. France and Germany have been really good for us, Belgium and Denmark started to open up, and then we hit Australia pretty big. So we’ve been growing overseas before we started hitting the States. I mean, we’ve played gigs here and there but as far as a full US tour is concerned, the first one we really did was last summer and it was amazing because we finally got a chance to play to all the fans who’ve been patiently waiting to rock with us in the States. We’ll be doing it again this year on our tour opening for Saxon very soon and we’ll just continue to build our fan base in the States to try to take it to the level we’ve reached overseas!
Yeah, exactly. To be honest, your following in the US has taken a while to develop. What do you think is the reason? Is it just the fact that people took time to take your seriously because of your other profession?
Yeah that’s probably got a lot to do with it. We had to work twice as hard to get the result as first. People weren’t sure what to make of our band just because I was in it, not knowing that I’ve been playing in a band since I was 12 years old and not realizing that my two goals in life were to be in a rock band and to be a wrestler, also not realizing how damn good Fozzy is as a band with its songwriters and live performance. And also a lot of it was because of not having a proper record company. I mean, we had decent record companies but if you really want to go to the next level in the States, it’s about radio, it’s about perception and it’s about the promotion that you get. Century Media really gave us that. The song ‘Enemy’ from the All That Remains album did really well for us in the past but that was just us doing it independently. Now with this label we have a machine going for us, really pushing things for us. And of course getting on the Uproar tours in 2011 and 2012 and touring with the kind of bands that were on those tours, it puts you into a different world. It allowed us to show people what we can do. I think we took a lot of people by surprise as they came to finally realize that this band is for real. For those who still don’t get it, we’re going to release another record and go on another tour. I think that’s just how you build your fan base, from the ground up. That’s what we’ve been doing with Fozzy and now it’s starting to pay off.
You mentioned the Saxon tour, which of course I wanted to ask you about. I’ve known you to be a hugely passionate metalhead. How does it feel to be on this Saxon tour? Talk to me about that!
Oh, Saxon is one of the legendary bands I grew up listening to, and this is a very cool feeling. It’s one of the best things of being in a band that’s growing. We’ve toured with Anthrax, we’ve toured with Metallica, we’ve toured with Duff McKagan. These guys started out as our heroes, then they became acquaintances, then friends and then peers. I thought that’s why this Saxon tour would be great because they are a massive band in Europe, headlining festivals with full production. They haven’t done a lot of touring in the States, so for them to come over and put us on their tour was really an honor. But it’s also a smart business move from their end and from ours, because a lot of fans know Saxon, a lot of fans know Fozzy, but there are people who don’t know both bands and those are ones we really have a chance to appeal to. Fozzy fans can check out Saxon and vice versa, and that’s the reason why we wanted to do a tour like this. It’s great from a personal level as a Saxon fanboy, and from a business level. We’re really looking forward to doing not only this upcoming tour but to build a relationship with Saxon for many years to come.
Talking more of Saxon, when did you get to see them first? Did you catch them in the 80s at all?
I never saw Saxon until ’93 in Germany. I saw them in Hamburg that year, but I’ve been a Saxon fan since around ’83. ‘Crusader’ was the first Saxon album I bought. I was super impressed by it and I enjoyed all of their albums throughout the 80s and early 90s. So I’ve definitely been a longtime fan of theirs. So that’s the reason why I wanted to do this tour, and their new record Sacrifice is in my opinion one of the best they’ve ever done. I love the present day Saxon because they are better now than ever! They’re not just a nostalgia band that plays only the hits. They play a lot of newer material too, and that really appeals to me from our end as well. I didn’t want to go out on tour with a band which is focusing only on the past. Bands that truly deserve legendary status are bands like Motörhead who are still putting out great material and still having that hunger even though they don’t necessarily have to have it. That’s really appealing to me.
So, would you say doing the support tours is the way forward for you at least in the US?
Well, we’re growing as a band and we like to do our own headlining shows because it’s very cool to do that and it’s very important. You’re playing to your own crowd when you do that. But when you’re playing festivals and opening for bigger bands, you’re playing to a lot of people that don’t know you and that’s how you build your fan base. We love opening for these gigantic bands that we have the great opportunity to be able to play with. Any time we’re playing with Metallica or Avenged Sevenfold, there are a million bands that would like to be in that position. We don’t take it for granted or take it lightly. We’ve up there to kick their asses and do a great job. We’ve spent a lot of years honing our live performance. We don’t have pyro or flying dragons in our shows. We have us, and we’re the show when it comes to Fozzy. Five guys in a band that put on the best show that we can put on. That’s the reason we continue to grow as well.
Coming back to this Saxon tour, what kind of set are you looking to play? Will it be all originals or would you throw in covers as well?
We do a lot from Sin And Bones because that’s our best record and it’s what we want people to hear, but we still always play some of the older stuff. When we headline, we make sure to do something from every album. But even in support runs, we play songs from the last three records, for sure.
I have just one more question for you. Some of your band mates don’t get enough credit for their musicianship, because everybody knows Chris Jericho, obviously. One such musician is your guitarist Rich Ward. How has it been for you working with him over the years?
Rich Ward is one of the underrated guitar player, songwriter and performer that I’ve ever met in my life, but I think that’s been changing over the last few years. Obviously Rich does so much great stuff with Stuck Mojo and at the same time he keeps track with what’s going on in Fozzy. He’s my partner in crime, and he’s as important to the band, if not more important than what Chris Jericho is. That’s something I love about our band right now. Rich and I are very specific about the fact that we want five rockstars in the band, we want five songwriters, we want five performers. This is not Chris Jericho vanity project. It’s not ‘Chris Jericho and a bunch of guys’. It’s Fozzy, and every guy is equally important. We’ve really kind of built that up over the last few years, what I consider to be our best lineup and a lineup that can take on any band that we play with. It makes us dangerous, which is what I want and what I like. For the people like yourself that know the firepower of the band, it just gives you more of that feeling. And for people who don’t, and who still think this is Chris Jericho’s show, it blows them away when they see the quality of the musicians in the band. That’s where we’d like to be, man. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I couldn’t do this on my own.
Saxon/Fozzy/Halcyon Way North American tour dates:
Sept 12- Patchogue, NY @ The Emporium
Sept 13- New York, NY @ BB King’s
Sept 14- Montreal, QUE @ Corona Theater
Sept 15- Toronto, ONT @ The Phoenix
Sept 17- Reading, PA @ Reverb
Sept 18- Cleveland, OH @ Peabody’s
Sept 19- Dayton, OH @ McGuffy’s
Sept 20- Flint, MI @ Machine Shop
Sept 21- Joliet, IL @ Mojoe’s
Sept 22- Milwaukee, WI @ The Rave
Sept 26- Dallas, TX @ House Of Blues
Sept 27- San Antonio, TX @ Backstage Live
Sept 28- Houston, TX @ House Of Blues
Oct 01- Tempe, AZ @ Club Red
Oct 02- Long Beach, CA @ Gaslamp
Oct 03- Ramona, CA @ Ramona MainStage
Oct 04- Los Angeles, CA @ House Of Blues
Oct 05- Corona, CA @ M15
Oct 06- San Francisco, CA @ DNA Lounge
Oct 08- Seattle, WA @ Studio Seven
Oct 09- Portland, OR @ Mt Tabor
Oct 10- Vancouver, BC @ The Venue