He’s a wrestler, rocker, actor, author, and all-around Renaissance man.
He’s WWE Superstar Chris Jericho. And he’s back with a new Fozzy album.
It’s been fifteen years since Jericho first parlayed his charisma into a successful parallel career fronting a hard rock band. Initially a covers-only collective (Dio Krokus, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest), Fozzy introduced an increasing number of original songs on each successive album (Happenstance, All That Remains, Chasing the Grail) until—like its iconic singer—the band became a self-contained force to be reckoned with among its peers.
Since its 1999 inception, Fozzy’s played clubs, arenas, and stadiums around the globe and appeared at several major music festivals—including Download Fest and Sonisphere Festival. They rocked Uproar’s Jagermeister Stage at Blossom Music Center in 2012, supported Saxon at the Cleveland Agora in 2013, and co-headlined House of Blues with Theory of a Dead Man in 2014. Jericho has described the band’s heavy-yet-melodic sound as the “bastard child of Metallica and Journey.”
Now Fozzy are focused on a Spring 2015 U.K. tour behind its sixth studio effort, Do You Wanna Start a War?
Issued in the wake of 2012’s well-regarded Sin and Bones, the new Century Media disc sees Jericho and company adding the up-tempo “Lights Go Out” and aggressive “One Crazed Anarchist” to its treasure trove of prior powerhouse singles (“It’s a Lie,” “Martyr No More,” “Sandpaper,” “Enemy,” etc.).
Fozzy’s current lineup features Jericho, guitarists Rich Ward (Stuck Mojo) and Billy Grey (Dangerous New Machine), bassist Jeff Rouse (Duff McKagan), and drummer Frank Fontsere (Stuck Mojo). Corey Lowery will sub for Rouse on the U.K. dates, as the bassist is tied up touring with the ex-Guns ‘n’ Roses star.
Check out the video for “Lights Go Out” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJso7XYphb4
Born the son of NHL hockey player Ted Irvine (New York Rangers), Jericho was raised in Canada on a steady diet of wrestling and classic rock and roll. He started wrestling with ECW and WCW fresh out of high school, racking up victories and ascending the ranks until WWF came calling, signing Jericho to a long list of ring legends that includes Hulk Hogan, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Undertaker, and “Macho Man” Randy Savage.
Known by the nicknames “Lion Heart,” “the Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla” and “Y2J” (among other colorful monikers), Jericho became the Undisputed WWF Champion in 2001-02 and notched a string of victories as Intercontinental Champion as both a “face” (good guy) and a “heel” (villain) for the entertainment network. He first ventured into music in 1999, adopting the alias “Moongoose McQueen” for Fozzy’s self-titled debut.
The “codebreaker” combatant reverted to his real name—or his wrestling name, anyway—on follow-up Fozzy albums.
Watch the video for “Sandpaper” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEbXnhgYYYs
Jericho’s since divided his time between the ring, recording studio, and concert stage: He’s still a major draw at WWE’s RAW, Smackdown, and Wrestlemania events, but recent years have seen him selling a considerable number of concert tickets, too. Jericho has also appeared on reality TV (Dancing With the Stars, Celebrity Duets) and in the movies (MacGruber), and he hosts a popular podcast (Talk is Jericho). Moreover, the self-deprecating superstar has three books under his gold-studded belt(s), including Around the World in Spandex, Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps, and 2014’s The Best in the World: At What I Have No Idea.
He now resides in Tampa with his wife and kids.
Do You Wanna Start a War? is Fozzy’s highest-charting, best-reviewed release so far; Jericho and the gang definitely have momentum on their side as they press on overseas with the Cinderblock Party World Tour.
We checked in with Jericho by phone last week to discuss the new album and find out how he manages to keep so many irons in the fire at once.
CLEVELAND MUSIC EXAMINER: Hello, Chris! Thanks for checking in with us to talk about Fozzy. You guys were just here a couple months back, but now you’re gearing up for a U.K. tour, yes?
CHRIS JERICHO: We’re just in the middle of rehearsals right now before we head over to the U.K. on March 3rd, I believe it starts. We’re excited. We’ve been to the U.K. like 2,000 times. That’s not an exaggeration. We always love going over there. We have a great fan base. They were kind of like, the first country to embrace Fozzy with open arms. We consider that our second home and we’re always stoked to go back. It’s almost like we’re conquering heroes returning. We say hi to old friends and make some new ones.
EXAMINER: Looks like the tour starts with a couple shows in Ireland.
CHRIS JERICHO: Ireland’s crazy, man. It’s always a lot of fun when we go to Ireland. Especially Dublin and Belfast. And we’re playing a city called Cork in the middle of those two shows. I remember last time, I’d never heard of Cork—but I’ll never forget it now. Ireland’s just one of those places where it’s always a blast. The rumors you hear about the Irish are true!
EXAMINER: Yep, Cork is down south. So, how was writing and recording Do You Wanna Start a War different from the last couple Fozzy records? Any new challenges?
CHRIS JERICHO: Well I mean, with this record we wanted to focus on just writing great songs and not worry about if they’re too heavy or too poppy or too dancy or too ballady, or whatever it may be. Let’s just focus on great songwriting. Because I think now in this day and age a lot of bands kind of put themselves into a box: We’re a heavy metal band, so we must play heavy metal, or we’re a pop band so we must play pop. When you think of some of the greatest bands of all time—whether it be The Beatles or Queen or whatever—they always have records with a lot of diversity. There’d be a rock song, a heavier song, a ballad, a prog song, a ska song, circus music, or whatever. And it’d still sound like The Beatles and Queen. And I think what we decided between the last record and this one was, let’s just focus on writing some great songs. Maybe some songs that are a little different from the norm, or different from what we’ve done in the past. Because they’re all gonna sound like Fozzy songs. It’ll be Fozzy either way. And I think that opened up a lot of diversity for us, and I think it’s why this is the most popular record we’ve done: Review-wise, sales-wise, and everything in between. So it’s exciting for us!
EXAMINER: Yeah, I saw a funny Twitter post by the band saying something like, “We’re at #54 now, who whoever’s at #55 can suck it!”
CHRIS JERICHO: [Laughs] Well, yeah, I mean it moved up huge. And the thing about it that was so impressive for us is you’ve got a top fifty record, and the sales were double what we did the first week on the last record, Sin and Bones. That was the real proof in the pudding for us. Chart positions are weird now for bands that sell fewer records. That’s the way the world is. But our chart position was like, a hundred positions higher than last time, and double the records sold.
EXAMINER: What’s the writing process like in Fozzy?
CHRIS JERICHO: Rich does basically all the music and most of the melodies, and I’ll do the lyrics. So we do kind of exchange ideas back and forth. A lot of our songs are written lyrics first. With the song “Do You Wanna Start a War,” I came up with those lyrics a while back and said to Rich, “This is an anthem kind of song; I want you to write a song where I can see everybody in the crowd jumping up and down and singing along.” So I kind of give him some direction sometimes about the lyrics. Or sometimes he’ll send me a song and say, “I need some lyrics for this.” So it goes both ways. Again, we just write songs the way they feel right to us, and there are a lot of different ways to do that.
EXAMINER: If there’s an overarching theme I’ve noticed from one Fozzy album to another, it’s this sense of believing in oneself, and fighting for what you believe in.
CHRIS JERICHO: Absolutely. Believing in yourself is something I’ve always written about. It’s been a part of Fozzy lyrics for years. I mean, basically since the first record. I think that it’s important, because you have to believe in yourself if you want to do the things you dream of doing, and I’m the perfect example of that, being a guy who wanted to be in a rock band and wanted to be a wrestler back when I was a teenager. And who’d ever say that? Back in the late 80s and early 90s people would say, “That’s insane!”
EXAMINER: Right, pipe dreams. People would roll their eyes. It’s like, “You’ll never be any of those things, much less all of them.”
CHRIS JERICHO: Right. Like, “You can’t do either one of those things!” I had to deal with a lot of negativity. I just had these dreams, and I could never figure out, “Who are they to tell me I can’t do this?” Even today I’ll still get stuff like, “Aw c’mon! You’re a wrestler now, so you can’t do that!” or “You’re a musician now, you can’t do that!” So I just stopped listening to people who’d say those types of things. If someone’s dream is to be…I dunno…a dancing astronaut, then who am I to say no? Go for it. I say be the best dancing astronaut you can be! I think there’s a lot of people who wish they could do more with their lives but don’t ever give it a try, or maybe they’re just too busy listening to what other people tell them. And that’s a bad thing. I just wanted to be someone who says, it’s okay to believe in yourself and stand up for what you believe in. That’s what Do You Wanna Start a War is about; it’s not about starting a war with guns and bombs. It’s about starting a war against things that oppose you, things that are holding you down. I like that message. Our whole band does. It’s a positive message, and one I think we can get across.
EXAMINER: You got Michael Starr from Steel Panther to come and sing on one of the tracks, “Tonite.” How’d that partnership come up?
CHRIS JERICHO: It was pretty simple. We toured with Steel Panther in Australia last year. They’re all great guys, great musicians. And Mike said, “Hey I want to do something on the next Fozzy record!” And that song had the perfect vibe for him, a more Cheap Trick-esque power-pop sound, and something we thought he’d be great on. And he sang so great on the first pass that we gave him a couple more passes. And we’ve had a lot of guest musicians over the years, but it’s never a “stunt casting” thing. It’s whether the guys fit. It depends on what we’re trying to do with the record, with the song, and whether it all fits, whether they’re gonna truly add to it. Then we’ll ask them to be involved. If not, then we won’t. People ask, “Who do you want to collaborate with next?” And I say I don’t know, because it depends on the song, and whether that person is someone who can add to it.
EXAMINER: Right. You don’t want anything to sound forced.
CHRIS JERICHO: Totally. I mean, I’d love to have Paul McCartney come and guest on one of our songs—I don’t know if we could get him [laughs]. But it’s question of what song we could get him to sing on. Because you don’t want Paul McCartney to sing on your record just to say he did it, or have an Eddie Van Halen playing a solo on your album if he’s not really adding something to it. If it’s not adding something cool to the song, there’s no point to doing it.
EXAMINER: You alluded to your parallel careers a moment ago. What are the major differences between touring with a rock band and touring with WW?
CHRIS JERICHO: Well with the band, you’re with the band. You’re with a group of guys on the bus. You drive around together, you’re together all the time. With wrestling, I basically just go on my own. There’s a lot more independence in that aspect. But it’s a cool experience to be on the bus. Like a summer camp. You have lot of fun, and good vibes with good people, and you enjoy yourself with the gang. So there’s a lot of pros and cons to both. Depending on what kind of mood you’re in, I guess!
EXAMINER: My final question comes from my son. He’s a big wrestling fan, and he wants to know what it’s like to be the Undisputed Champion.
CHRIS JERICHO: Anytime you’re the champion, it’s like winning a Grammy. It’s a pat on the back from your peers and the industry. There’s a lot of responsibility to being the champion. But usually it’s a long road; it’s the culmination of a lot of hard work. Not just anybody can be the champion. So when you are the champion, and during those fixed times you happen to be the heavyweight champion, you’ve got the scepter. You’ve got the baton in the relay race, so to speak, and it’s up to you to hold your own and be the face of the company. There’s a bit of pressure, but it’s honorable, and it’s a nice place to be in. It’s a responsibility, but in a good way. I think most of the time the guys are responsible when they are the champion, and they do a good job of it. And it’s the best feeling.
EXAMINER: Is it difficult reconciling the lifestyles between wrestling and music? Rock bands are notorious for partying and keeping odd hours and not taking care of themselves, whereas athletes have to keep in shape and treat their bodies like temples.
CHRIS JERICHO: I’ll tell you what. Wrestlers party a lot harder than rock stars do [laughs]! You just have to learn what your limits are. You have to be responsible. When you’ve got a show to do, whether it’s with wrestling or music, you’ve got to be ready to go. People have been waiting months to see you, and paid you to hear the song or see the match, and when you can’t perform at your top ability, then that’s a problem. If you’re gonna go out and have a couple drinky-winkies the night before, you’d better be sure you’re ready to rock the next day.
EXAMINER: Moderation is key.
CHRIS JERICHO: Exactly!
EXAMINER: So Fozzy will be busy in the U.K. for a couple months, and then you’ve got a festival show in Florida. Can Ohioans expect to see the band again in late summer or early fall?
CHRIS JERICHO: I think so. We’re working on all that right now. We have a couple bigger festivals that are coming up. There’s something else big coming up in the fall, around October. I think we’ll be doing something in the States in July or August, and then continue on from there. The record is doing well. As I said, it’s selling well and it’s our most acclaimed record so far, so we’re excited to go out and play it as often as we can to as many people as we can!
Twitter @FozzyRock @IAmJericho and @TalkIsJericho