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Interview – Chris Jericho, November 2013

| 10 December 2013

Interview – Chris Jericho, November 2013
By Shane Pinnegar

Fozzy lead singer and professional wrestler Chris Jericho may be a dedicated family man and father of three, but he’s not concerned about sharing a backstage area with notorious advocates of the “groupies & blow” lifestyle, Steel Panther.

“Well I’ve been on the road since 1990, so I’m actually no stranger to all that stuff,” he admits candidly, “and I think at certain times I’ve probably the worst of all of them when it comes to certain things! So I think Steel Panther will have to try to pull up their socks to keep up with Jericho sometimes!

“Especially when it comes to the straight vodka – not many guys can take that part of it. The groupies and blow are all fine and dandy but the straight Grey Goose… that’s where my prowess and expertise lays!” he says with a mischievous laugh.

Shenanigans aside, Jericho seems legitimately amped to be heading back to Australia for the second time this year, having played Soundwave Festival in February and March.

“Absolutely… we like Australia and we think Australia likes us,” he declares, “which was really apparent at Soundwave this past year when the crowds that we had for our set early in the day really blew me away. I mean, Sydney and Melbourne, Brisbane – thousands of people… ten thousand I think it was in Sydney – to get that sort of a crowd at 2:30 in the afternoon or whatever it was, it’s like ‘you know what? I think we’re doing something right here!’

“Which is cool, because we’ve got a great relationship with Australia, we’ve been coming there since 2004. So to see kind of the growth of Fozzy in Australia just blew me away, and soon as we got a taste of it we really wanted to come back before the next record. We’re still on the same Sin & Bones tour cycle as when we came out in February, but we wanted to come back and drive the point home and feel like this is the perfect opportunity to do that, so we’re really stoked and excited about it.”

As assertive as ever, Jericho quickly debunks the theory that it might have been surprising to have been asked to come back so soon.

“Well I dunno if it was a surprise, like I said, I think it was more warranted,” he counters. ”It shows that the people who organise Soundwave – more specifically A J Maddah – were paying attention. Like I said – not to be boasting or anything like that – we played at 2:30 in the afternoon, and if you take Sydney for example, there was like ten thousand people there, and the band after us – I swear I’m not joking – had about 500 people!

“Like, we were like a destination band at Soundwave – people grabbed their programs at the beginning of the day, looked at the set times, said ‘we’re gonna go see Fozzy at this time, Bullet For My Valentine at this time, someone else at this time and finish with Metallica.’ And that’s kinda what happened – like I said, the response we got was off the charts. So for me it’s kind’ve a no brainer to bring us back again because we obviously did our part at Soundwave.

“I wanted to come back really bad, not because – obviously we love Australia, it’s a great rock n’ roll country, it’s a great Fozzy country – but we wanted to continue to grow this band, and we kinda feel we’re on the precipice of going to the next level. And I think A J sees that too – I mean, next time we wanna come back and we wanna be the headliners! And this is the best way to do that – to continue to tour and continue to come back and hammer the point home as to who this band is, and increase the amazing relationship we have with our amazing Australian friends.”

This time round Fozzy are supporting Steel Panther and Buckcherry, making up a diverse line-up with their old school heavy metal grooves standing shoulder to shoulder with the sleaze-dripping party metal anthems of the headliners.

“In some ways it makes perfect sense,” Jericho says of the line-up, “’cos I think all three bands are very entertaining live bands and all very exciting live bands, and all very much have the same kind of motto – which is, have a great time!

“We’re making sure that people have a blast at these shows, and it’s not sort of, look at your shoes, shoegaze metal, it’s not sort of go out there and have a huge moshpit metal, it’s good time metal. That’s one of the reasons Fozzy has been so successful over the past few years, because we’re very versatile. We could open for Slayer, we could open for Shinedown, we could open for Steel Panther – and get great reactions with all of those fans.

“So it’s kinda cool for me, because as I said, it’s a perfect match for that reason. Sometimes fun is almost a dirty word in rock n’ roll and this is gonna be a FUN show. I think everybody knows that – the people that know Fozzy know that’s what we bring, and same with Buckcherry and same with Steel Panther. And when you do shows like this it really works ‘cos you’re getting new fans for all the bands. But I think there’s enough of a grey area between all three of us that fans of Fozzy will love Steel Panther, fans of Steel Panther will love Buckcherry, fans of Buckcherry will love Fozzy and so on. So I think it’s actually a really good mix.

“[It’s gonna be] one HELLUVA party, man!”

Don’t expect a radically different vibe to their recent Soundwave appearances – they’re still the same band touring the same album, and the singer insists they give their all no matter the venue or size of the crowd.

“You know, every show we do, no matter whether it’s ten or ten thousand – we play just as hard in front of a thousand people as we do if we’re up in front of fifty thousand people. We want every show we play, people to think that they’re at Madison Square Garden. And that’s the best way to do it, we’ve played shows in front of fifty thousand people – and then we had a show a couple weeks ago in Nashville where only a hundred people showed up – it was just one of those nights! But at the end of that show everybody was like, ‘Oh my god – you guys were fucking amazing!’

“And that’s it – when you see a small crowd you can’t let that piss you off or intimidate you,” he explains, “you’ve got to turn it around and make it go the opposite way. Let’s make these hundred people have the show of their lives! And when you can get a hundred people to [make that much] noise, that’s easy… I mean, sorry, I mean that’s the hard thing. Anybody can get 50 thousand people to make noise. You go out and get a hundred people to make noise, that’s when you know you got something special. All the cities we’re coming to on this tour are GREAT rock n’ roll towns. And it’s exciting.

“Like I said – these shows are gonna be wild shows, and they’re gonna seem even bigger once we’re finished with ’em, man we’re gonna rip everybody’s heads off in the best possible way, man, ‘cos that’s what we do!”

One thing Jericho concedes is getting harder is writing a set list now that the band have six albums under their belt,

“It gets harder, man. Especially with, like, we just did a tour opening for Saxon, where we got 45 minutes – there’s 8 songs. We did some of our own headline shows where we had as much time as we wanted, so there’s 15 songs. Doing the Steel Panther tour, I think we have 30 minutes – that’s 6 songs. So you gotta pick your best 6 songs that are gonna be your best six songs for the crowd that you’re playing to. So it does get harder and harder. There’s certain songs that you gotta play, ‘cos the fans demand it… there’s certain songs you wanna play – especially when you’re the singer ‘cos you just love to do ’em… and then there’s other songs you need to play because there’s a certain vibe they might give you.

“So it becomes more and more like a kind of mathematic balancing act the more shows you do, because like I said, sometimes you’re playing 30, 45, 60, 90 minutes and you have to have sets that fit all of those playing times, so it’s a real bit of a juggling act. But it’s something that I’m pretty good at – so the band pretty much leave it up to me. Another thing that is interesting is that Rich Ward writes his songs in a lot of different tunings, so we also have to play songs in certain groupings based on the different guitar tunings so there’s not a lot of changeover time. So it really is a little bit of a math problem – but I’m getting pretty good at it and I have a list of songs and where they need to go!”

Playing 22 shows throughout North America with New Wave Of British Heavy Metal stalwarts Saxon, led by Biff Byford, was a dream come true for Fozzy, and it sounds like the bands got along like a house on fire.

“Biff, Nigel & Paul are all in their early 60’s,” Jericho enthuses, “but every night they kicked ass – and I’m not just sayin’ that! It was like when I saw The Stones this summer. They kicked ass, not for a 70 year old’s band, but for ANY band. As long as you kinda keep yourself in shape, and as long as you can still sing basically, you can play rock n’ roll til the day you die, 50, 60, 70 years old.

“Saxon’s new material is just as good as their older stuff [and] they play it hard every single night, they move around a lot every night and they really made a great show. It’s kind of inspirational to know that in twenty years we can still be doing this at a high level and not look like old men, but still look like amazing, entertaining showmen. That’s what they were, it was really cool.

“I did learn a lot from hanging around with Biff, just from being around him. It was great, too, because it was like, 24 hours a day busting each other’s balls! Some of the best one liners I’ve ever had in my life, were given out, and some of the best one liners I’ve ever had thrown at me were by Biff Byford, so that was the best part – just kinda busting each other’s balls each day and having fun with it. That’s what you’ve gotta do when you’re on the road, is just have a good time with each other.”

2013 sees rock n’ roll moved a very long way on from the days when Mick Jagger would say he couldn’t see himself on stage at the ripe old age of 30, and Jericho sees no reason why he won’t be following in Biff Byford’s wake and fronting Fozzy into his sixties.

“Well it’s funny man,” the 43 year old singer reminisces, “I remember when I was a kid it was like ‘when you turn 30 you’re old, no matter what – that’s just the way it is!’ and then when you turn 30 and 40 it’s like ‘age is just a number, man’ and that’s exactly right – age is just a number!”

In addition to pro wrestling, fronting a heavy metal band and doting on his family, Jericho acts and has appeared on America’s Dancing With The Stars, and is currently finishing up his third volume of autobiography – how much can someone cram into one life?

“I dunno!” he says with a laugh. “I just never put any boundaries on things that I wanted to do if I wanted to do them, from a creative viewpoint, and as a result I’ve had some really great experiences and done a lot of really cool stuff. When I finish this new autobiography I’ll be 42 years old, and it’s really interesting for me to think, that’s 1200 pages for one guy’s life that’s basically only halfway through – part of me is, like, ‘is that really necessary?’ [he laughs again] But reading these books – there’s great stories in there! There’s no filler in this new book, same as there’s no filler in my first two. If you’re a Chris Jericho fan, you’re gonna like these books because they’re not boring, they’re not a chore to read – nor are they a chore to write. Once you get into it it’s like ‘man, I gotta lot of shit to talk about!’ [laughs] So if you’re into reading it, this one will be just as good as the first two, I guarantee it.”

Confidence isn’t something Chris Jericho is lacking, and even fifteen minutes on the phone is enough to inspire and motivate one. Such easy positivity and self belief is really quite rousing, so it seems a logical step to move towards motivational speaking or at least some more Spoken Word shows, like he did in Sydney and Melbourne whilst here for Soundwave earlier this year. Jericho says that’s for further down the track.

“That’s always kind of on the list of possible things I could do if I had nothing else to do – you know what I mean?” he says. “I’ve got so many things going on, so many projects and so many places to go, that something like that, I could probably put together a six month tour tomorrow if I wanted to, but at this point if I’m gonna be on the road it’s gonna be with Fozzy. That’s where the momentum is laying right now, and the spoken word is something I can do later, so having said that, I just don’t have the time for it right now.

“I’ve only done three spoken word shows – one in London last year and 2 in Australia – one in Melbourne I think and one in Sydney. They’re a lot of fun, but they’re a lot of work – it’s hard work to talk for 2 and a half hours straight! Because you’re half stand-up comedian, you’re half author because you have to explain these things in great detail, and half party host, you gotta make sure people are engaged, know how to read the room – is the story going over [well]? Are people bored with this? So it’s a lot of hard work to do those, but definitely something I would consider doing in the future.”

So with Fozzy in the ascendant and a year of touring behind Sin & Bones already, it’s exciting to hear that Jericho and guitarist Ward have already started writing the next record.

“We covered so much ground [with] the last record that we really wanna continue that,” he explains, “and [there’s] a lot of eyeballs on us and doors opening – and the best way to keep that momentum going and keep those doors opening is to do another record, so we have a plan. We’ve already started to write – we’re recording in January, and the record will come out next summer. So that’s kind of where it lays… actually the Steel Panther tour is the last tour on the Sin & Bones tour cycle, so it’s a great way to end it off, in Australia.”

Before letting him go, and obviously impressed at his drive and creativity, I want to know, has he always been a born performer, was he, for instance, the class clown at school?

“Not really the class clown but really always obsessed with pop culture,” he laughs, “and really studying everything from music, to British comedies, to movies, to stage plays to hypnotists, magicians, any of that stuff. I was always really obsessed with showmen and entertainers, and that’s kind of why I’ve always had that streak about me, and always made that my life’s work – to be an entertainer.”
Fozzy play Metro City in Perth with Buckcherry and Steel Panther this Thursday, 12 December

Category: Interviews

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