FOZZY frontman Chris Jericho was interviewed by Full Metal Jackie on the January 20 edition of her "Whiplash" program on Los Angeles's 95.5 KLOS radio station. The full conversation can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On the similarities between pro wrestling and rock 'n' roll:
Chris: "I think the best gimmicks in wrestling and the best frontmen are taking your natural personality and turning it up to the tenth degree. That's why the best frontmen are always characters off stage — not so much now, but in the '70s and '80s, they're always getting into trouble and getting a little bit nuts... All those guys are tremendously charismatic, and onstage, they turn it up even higher. You have to have that. I always enjoyed frontmen [like AEROSMITH's] Steven Tyler who were larger than life. They were characters — guys that you could dress up as on Halloween. That's why I started wrestling, because I wanted to be the ultimate rock 'n' roll frontman in wrestling — I took all those characteristics of [rock singers] and put them into a wrestling character. When FOZZY started getting big, I took all the same characteristics from wrestling that I took from music and put it back into FOZZY. There isn't a lot of those ultimate frontmen. I try and model myself after those guys... You have to be into it, and everything you do is show business and theatrical, because you're the frontman. You're the party host. You have to have that connection with the audience where they want to respond to what you're doing and get more involved into it. Forget about if they've had a crappy day, or if the guy beside them isn't moving or jumping or screaming — we work on those people [too], but more stay focused and connected with the ones that are going to be causing people to have a good time. You can't make somebody do it, but you can stay on them. You see this a lot if you're co-headlining or supporting, [when] you'll see that person in the front row, arms crossed. I remember we played at The Wiltern [in Los Angeles]. We opened for MOTÖRHEAD back in 2005, and there was a guy there. He was, I don't know, 300 pounds [and] looked like every guy in 'Sons Of Anarchy' — just a big, biker guy, the prototypical Lemmy/MOTÖRHEAD fan. This guy had his arms crossed and he would not budge for nothing. Finally, the last song, we were doing a cover of JUDAS PRIEST's 'Freewheel Burning'. There's a real kind of fast vocal part, and it's almost like a heavy metal rap. When I did that part, he started looking like, 'Huh. Can you do that again?' Later on in the song, it happens again. At the end, [I did] this crazy scream and jumped off the riser, and he gave me the thumbs-up. My whole show was based around whether I could get this guy to respond, and he did. I didn't care if everyone else was having fun — there was one guy that was really bugging me, and he finally opened up. That's a fun thing to do as a singer. You're preaching to the choir a lot of times, but when you get those people that do not want to be there, [you can] convert them to the choir."
On the key to the breakthrough success of FOZZY's latest album, "Judas":
Chris: "You see and hear about the bands that are doing really well, and then they meet up with that producer that takes them to the next stage. I'm not comparing ourselves to METALLICA or KISS or AC/DC, but when you see them working with Bob Rock for the first time, or KISS with Bob Ezrin, or AC/DC and Mutt Lange, they became a different band. We started working with a guy called Johnny Andrews in Atlanta. The last record, our first Top 30 single, 'Lights Go Out', that was written with Johnny. When this record was in its opening stages, Rich Ward and myself, we decided we wanted to work with a third party. He and I had always been in charge. He and I would debate; he and I would make the decisions. It leads to a little bit of unrest, some arguing. We thought, 'Let's bring in a third party who's now the principal. He's the boss. Whatever he says goes.' It's funny, because I always wrote all the lyrics for FOZZY, and I submitted my 15 pieces and [he] basically figuratively threw them all in the trash. I think I had one or two that were used and one song title. You realize very early on, 'Who is this guy coming in here to tell us what to do?', but he had a vision. He said, 'This is what I think you guys do best. You don't do this good; you shouldn't be doing it.' Once Johnny was in charge, suddenly there was a bunch of three- and four-minute songs. Most of them don't even have guitar solos; most of them don't even have Chris Jericho lyrics. Who the hell does this guy think he is? Then you realize he's got a vision, and that's all I can ask for. Once I realized he had a plan, I bought into it and realized, 'It doesn't matter who writes the lyrics. It doesn't matter if there's a guitar solo or a high scream. All that matters is the song itself'... Now we know that Johnny Andrews was that missing ingredient. It wasn't always easy to give up control of our band, but then you realize, it's not giving up control — it's doing what's best for the band, and doing what's best for the music. Even though I didn't write the majority of the lyrics, I have to sing them. I have to introduce them to the world. I have to go through those lyrics, internalize them and sing them about something that I can empathize with. Because that's what singing is — it's selling your words to people. It's show business. Once I figured that out, suddenly, [I thought] 'Did I write the lyrics for 'Judas'? No, but I sing them like I did, because I understand where it's coming from.' That's when I got a whole new respect for guys like Geddy Lee that are getting these crazy Neil Peart lyrics and have to sing about red barchettas and trees that are fighting and Xanadu."
On FOZZY proving itself:
Chris: "It's never been Chris Jericho and his merry men. Rich Ward is one of the most respected guitar players by other guitar players — talking about guys like Dimebag Darrell, Zakk Wylde, Mark Tremonti, Matt Tuck from BULLET [FOR MY VALENTINE]. All these guys are Rich Ward disciples. Even Zakk, he credits Rich with getting him back into heavy guitar playing when he was doing a lot of the acoustic stuff in the '90s. Automatically, being associated with him and his lifelong drummer Frank Fontsere, they're like, 'Wow — this isn't just some kind of vanity project, because those guys wouldn't get involved in this unless it was real'... We made this a five-point star, because I never wanted it be about me. I'm just the singer in a rock 'n' roll band. Yes, I have a whole other fanbase, which is great — I'm not turning my back on that or denying it in any way, shape or form — but Bruce Dickinson flies airplanes. When he's onstage with IRON MAIDEN, I don't expect to hear him sing songs about middle-seat, smoking, small bags of peanuts and 'the lavatory is occupied.' I expect him to sing IRON MAIDEN songs. I think at first, there [were] people that thought I'd be on stage singing about body slams and jumping off the top rope. [THE PRETTY RECKLESS vocalist] Taylor Momsen told me the same thing — 'They thought I was going to be onstage singing in a Cindy Lou Who costume reciting lines from 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas'.' It doesn't matter what you do offstage. All that matters is what you do onstage, and either it's great music or it's not. If you can show time and time again that you're doing great shows, that you can connect with an audience and your tunes are up to snuff, suddenly all that stuff doesn't matter anymore. I think that's where we're at at this point in time... We do rock 'n' roll with a smile. We're VAN HALEN in 1981, where everybody's having a great time onstage. That translates to the audience, which translates back to us."
On his goals as a performer:
Chris: "For me, I always go back to, 'What would I like to see as a fan?' When I was a kid, I still vividly remember the big stage shows of IRON MAIDEN or Paul Stanley's stage rap, all that sort of stuff — people who looked like they were having a blast onstage. That's what I want people to think when they see me. I think that they get that. We enjoy playing. It's fun — 10 or 10,000. Thankfully, we don't play too many 10s anymore, but we have. It's a lot easier to have a great show in front of a sold-out audience. The true test of a rock 'n' roll band is to see if you can have a great show in front of a small crowd. If you can do that, and get them to believe that they're in Madison Square Garden when you're in Chucky's Wing House in Peoria, Illinois, you've done something, and we take great pride in doing that."
FOZZY is continuing to tour in support of its seventh album, "Judas", which was released in 2017 by Century Media.