TRCH Classic Thriller Season

Chris Jericho

6 November 11 words: Al Needham
"I was playing Madison Square Garden one night with the WWE and Manny’s Sports Bar and Grill with Fozzy the next, and loving them equally"
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Fozzy have been going for twelve years now, and the novelty of a pro wrestler leading a band has worn off. Do you feel that you’re fully accepted as a musician now?
Oh, absolutely. Being in a band is something that I’ve done since I was 12 – I didn’t wake up one morning and say; “Hey, I wanna be a singer in a Rock n’ Roll band now”.  When I was a kid, I had two dreams – one was to be in a band, and the other was to be a wrestler, and wrestling took off first. As for Fozzy, the last two years of work have really taken us to the next level, and people don’t really care who’s in the band any more – I could be a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker, as long as the music is good. I mean, of course I’m always going to be Chris Jericho the wrestler, but Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden is an airline pilot, and when I go to a Maiden gig he doesn’t sing about sitting in seat 3D. Look, I know way more about music than I ever did about wrestling; I’m not a wrestling trivia guy, but I could sit for hours and talk about any metal band ever.

Have you noticed a change in your fanbase over the years, particularly in the UK? Is it less wrestling fans and more hardcore Metal sorts?
Well, there’s always Chris Jericho fans there, whether because of my wrestling, or singing, or writing or dancing – I’ve been in showbusiness for over twenty years. Of course there was the curiosity factor at the beginning, but that only lasts so long, but here we are five records later and on our 4th or 5th UK tour – so if we weren’t developing as a band and recording memorable songs, we wouldn’t keep coming back. We never were a ‘wrestling’ band – we never sang songs about wrestling or acted like wrestling. We’re finding that we’re starting to become acknowledged by Kerrang! and Metal Hammer over the last six months, which means the younger kids are getting into us.

This isn’t the first time you’ve played Rock City…
Actually, Rock City is the first UK show we ever did. The UK has always been a second home for us – the first country where people accepted the band for what it was. I couldn’t believe how many people we pulled in and thought, wow, we’re definitely rock stars now…

We interviewed George Akin just after that gig, and they told us that Dominic Masters of The Others was making such an arsehole of himself in the next dressing room that he was told that, quote; “There’s a six foot five wrestler next door who doesn’t like your band and if he sees you he’ll fucking kill you”
Ha ha! I love the six foot five bit – I’m barely six feet. Actually, I remember there was some chicanery going on next door, now you come to mention it. I was told some guys were being wankers next door, so that’d be it.

What kind of relationship do you have with other bands? Are they wary of you, or jealous?
Not at all. We’ve played with so many great bands over the tour cycle of the last album (Chasing The Grail) – Anthrax, which was amazing, we’ve played with El Nino, we’ve done a bunch of shows with Avenged Sevenfold, who are good friends of ours, and we’ve got tight with Bullet For My Valentine. We’re a hard-working rock band with some amazing musicians – I mean, Rich Ward is one of the best guitar players you’ll ever hear – Zak Wylde is a fan, Dimebag was a fan. We were accepted by the music community very quickly, because we’re musicians. Rich and Frank Fontsero were in Stuck Mojo for years. The attitude now is to go for broke and tear some heads off.

You’ve definitely paid your dues, then.
We’ve done all the ‘band’ stuff – playing to five people, being stuck in vans, being on Punk bills where the fans wanted to lynch us. When we started Fozzy, I was at the highest level as a wrestler, so I was playing Madison Square Garden one night with the WWE and Manny’s Sports Bar and Grill with Fozzy the next, and loving them equally. I mean, I’ve played a thousand arenas with the WWE, but we played our first arena gig this summer, at the Saddledome in Calgary. And I couldn’t believe it, that Fozzy had finally made the arenas.

Do you get treated better as Chris Jericho of Fozzy, or Y2J Chris Jericho the wrestler?
When you’re on the road? Well, when you’re in the WWE in the UK you’re staying in four-star hotels or whatever, but there’s a lot of flying involved and travelling on buses that are more like coaches. But when you’re travelling with Fozzy, your tour bus is your house on wheels. Actually, I much prefer being on the bus with the band, because it’s hard to get up in the morning, go to the airport, pick up the tickets, get on the plane, get off the plane, get on the coach, go to the hotel for an hour, go to the show.

And then be thrown about.
Yeah. With Fozzy it’s get to the gig, do the soundcheck, hang out, do the show, have a few drinks, get on the bus, sleep until two in the afternoon, and go to the next town. I actually look forward to band tours.

You’ve also tried your hand at TV, with America’s version of Strictly Come Dancing.
Yeah. I’ve always seen myself as an entertainer, so anything that comes my way that I think I can do, I’ll do it. I see it all as an extension of what I’ve been doing for the past twenty years.

You seem to be part of a select few who have been able to come and go in the wrestling world as you please. You don’t seem as tied down to it half as much as others are.
It wasn’t a conscious decision. I’ve always had other things I wanted to do, and I always had an opinion, which can be a dirty word with certain people. I stopped wrestling for no other reason than my contract ended in 2010, and there was a huge glut of Fozzy opportunities, so I moved on to the next thing that was happening for me. Hey, I love wrestling, and I never say never about going back – but right now I wanna see Fozzy as big as we can get it, and that’s my goal.

Is there a new LP in the works?
Yes. We’ve got six or seven songs written, and we’re aiming to record this winter and get it out in time for next year’s festival circuit.

Fozzy started off mainly as a covers band, so what did it feel like when you wrote your first song and realised that you could actually do that?
Obviously, when you start a band you always want to do your own material, but when we were signed by Jon Zazula - who signed Metallica and Anthrax back in 1983 – he wanted to sign us as a covers band. We used to slip our own numbers in right from the off, but now we only do one cover a show. And yes, it’s amazing to do your own material. One the coolest things ever is to see people in the front row singing one of your own songs, or having a tattoo with one of your lyrics on it.

We’re top-heavy with wrestlers in Nottingham this week; you’re playing on Monday, CM Punk’s in Viccy Centre on Wednesday, and then Mick Foley is doing stand-up at Glee on Thursday.
Yeah, I heard that. The WWE are touring the UK soon, but it’s not intentional on my part; I wanted us to tour here in the fall, but between Halloween and Thanksgiving, because I like to be with my kids for those holidays.

As a currently former wrestler, what do you think to the proliferation of shoot videos on the internet? Are you surprised that people are so interested in backstage gossip from twenty years ago?
Not at all. When you’re a fan, you love hearing insider talk. Personally, I’d never do the three-hour sit-down shoot video; I’d write a book about it instead.

Some of these shoots are murderous, aren’t they? The Ultimate Warrior slagging off Hulk Hogan’s wife, and God knows what else…
Yeah, I really don’t understand that. The wrestling community can be a lot more vicious than the music business. You’d never see Lemmy sitting down and burying David Coverdale. Wrestling is a very strange little world of half-fantasy, half-reality; it’s nothing like any other type of showbusiness on the planet.

Would you mind if we asked you a really personal question? What’s it like to have worked in a profession where so many of your peers have died long before their time?
It sucks. I was watching Raw earlier, and Hunter (HHH) was talking about how lucky he was to have all these friends in the business and he gave a list, and I thought, fuck, my friends died. It’s not happened in recent times, thank God, but there was a period not so long ago where guys were going down one after the other. It is a very tough business, and I feel so lucky that I never got into the drugs and pills. I was always a drinker – I still am to this day, and I can probably drink more than most, but if I want to go a week or two between having those drinks, I can. I don’t know, man. Maybe because of the music side of my life, and because I didn’t have all my eggs in one basket, wrestling wasn’t the be all and end all.

The music industry had its own spate of deaths back in the day, but they seem a lot more comfortable with rehabbing and looking after the talent than the wrestling world does.  
Well, there are bands that still party hard, and it’s amazing that no-one from Guns n’ Roses or Mötley Crüe died. But guys in bands can take the time off to get clean; wrestling’s a never-ending cycle. That’s one of the reasons I had to step away, because it can become a hamster wheel.

Do you look back at your time on WCW, and think; what the hell was I doing there?
Not at all. I look back on that time fondly, to be honest. If I hadn’t have gone through WCW, I wouldn’t have been as successful at the WWE. I learned a lot there, especially what not to do. I mean yeah, it was a crazy place, but some of the greatest wrestlers of all time were there. But my overall goal was to work with Vince McMahon anyway, so it was an important stepping stone for me.

What do you think of pro wrestling at the moment? It seems to have suffered from the WWE effectively having a monopoly…
Its an experience thing. I think my generation of guys was one of the best because we were going around the world learning their craft before we ever got to the WWE. Now there’s a lot of guys there who have less than five years experience. And I don’t think I really, really knew exactly what I was doing until I came back in 2008 when it came to manipulation of a crowd. I had great stuff before that, don’t get me wrong – but it wasn’t until then that I felt on certain nights that I was the best in the world. It takes years to become truly great at anything, and the guys there at the moment haven’t had five years experience, never mind ten or fifteen.

Most of them seem to be so similar these days. There’s a definite lack of diversity.
Again, that’s an experience thing; not realising that you have to stand out and be different. When I started out in wrestling I knew I was never gonna be the biggest guy on the roster, so I decided to make sure I had the biggest personality. So I took a chance every time I went out, because I knew if I played by the rules, I’d be squashed every match and would have been done in a year and a half. Guys nowadays act the same way because they don’t want to be yelled at by management, whereas I didn’t care. Even when I was there last year I was still getting yelled at, because my opinions differed. But that’s part of being an artist; Lennon and McCartney never agreed on absolutely everything, and that’s what made them so amazingly genius when they wrote songs. You get the best results when you have creative minds that can disagree with each other, but can still work together on the same thing.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to LeftLion readers?
I’m really looking forward to coming back to Nottingham and the UK. It’s always been a second home for us. 

Fozzy website

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