Before the last night of their recent UK tour, I was able to catch up with Fozzy co-founder Rich Ward who was kind enough to give me a large amount of his time. We talked about a lot of different things, but the first thing on the agenda was that a few days prior to this show Fozzy had been in a nasty incident with their tour bus in Germany, read on for Rich’s perspective on that and many other things.
Jamie: Well I guess the first thing to ask about, although since it was a few days ago now you’re probably sick of talking about it, are you all ok after what happened in Germany?
Rich: Yeah! Both Billy (the other Fozzy guitarist) and myself, we have what are called stingers, where you have to turn your shoulders to look and you get a little bit of a stiff neck but besides that everybody’s fine. We got lucky, we hit a concrete barrier. The bus driver fell asleep, she’s saying no but we know what happened, it was five thirty in the morning, there was no way to miss it, she just fell asleep and drifted into it and when it hit the barrier the whole thing went BAM at the front and everything lurched forward then it knocked us up on two wheels and I thought we were going over. It was so high and I was inside my bunk and bracing as hard as I could
Jamie: Had you been asleep?
Rich: Oh yeah I was dead asleep. I thought we were going over so I just braced as hard as I could and then there was just this BAM as it came back down and I was just like “Oh My God”. Frank, our drummer, he and I and Stuck Mojo, we were in a bad bus accident back in 98 so it was like holy moly man…
Jamie: Really bad deja vu…
Rich: Yeah, obviously you’re in a big metal tube so you’re safer than you are than if you’re in a car but if you flip in a bus that’s the scary part because you have all these things in there and when it flips everything moves and all of a sudden not only are you worried about the blast and the impact you’re worrying about the thrust of whatever objects are shaken loose
Jamie: And no-one wants any kind of Cliff Burton situations…
Rich: No man, I know! But we got lucky and everybody’s fine so knock on wood we got that one out of the way for at least the next decade!
Jamie: Aside from that one pretty big mishap, this is from what I understand Fozzy’s biggest European tour so far?
Rich: Yeah and the reason it is is that usually we’ve focused in on the UK, and then we’ve gone over to France before and we’ve played a few shows in Germany but this is the first time where we actually in one tour played England, France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland. We really tried to broaden out a bit and play some festivals. We supported Anthrax on a few shows and we thought if we’re ever gonna do it…I mean we do well in the UK we do well in the US and in Australia and in Canada, but we haven’t really made an attempt on these other markets on the continent of Europe.
Jamie: In the non English speaking markets?
Rich: That’s exactly right, and places where wrestling isn’t as popular. The other part is that we haven’t always had the best record company support in some of these areas so a) Chris is not a celebrity there b) The record is not getting great distribution or great press so we’re really having to earn and work opening for other bands, the old fashioned way! The way we all grew up y’know? And the reason it wasn’t hard for us is we all came up in the system in the 90’s where you just go and play and you win over fans ten and twenty at a time and you play your ass off no matter how many people are there, and even if their arms are crossed because they are there to see Anthrax, the goal is that by the end of your show that you’ve turned them, turned them into a Fozzy fan and that’s got to be the goal.
Jamie: Well if you’re going to support anyone Anthrax has got to be a pretty good group of guys to support..
Rich: Hell yeah! We’re all Anthrax fans but Frank and I in particular, Among The Living was a huge part of our lives growing up. It was a pivotal record, you had Metallica who obviously were amazing but in the mid 80’s Anthrax did it a different way, they were a little “groovier”…I’m gonna use the word hip, it was almost like those guys had the “East Coast bop” that went along with their fast beats n stuff. To me, I liked Metallica a lot but I liked Anthrax more because I liked their take on it. It wasn’t bay area thrash like Slayer, Exodus, Testament which I love those bands, but Anthrax was my favourite of all that era so it was cool to open up for them.
Jamie: You’ve always written pretty groovy riffs, do you think the influence of listening to Anthrax is a part of that?
Rich: Of yeah of course! Of course it did man, there’s a lot of stuff…we grew up in the south so you’re exposed to Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top and Bad Company and AC/DC and that’s the staples if you grow up in the south on rock radio. All those bands are pretty groove oriented even though they’re rock or classic rock the base of all of it is that thing where you see everyone’s heads boppin’ so I grew up listening to and being more attracted to music that had more of a pocket, that had more of a rhythmic swing to it. It’s funny because we talk about this all of the time and I explain to the guys, I wasn’t really the biggest bay area thrash guy because I didn’t really understand it. At first I thought it was too heavy y’know what I mean? When you grow up and AC/DC and Ozzy and Scorpions and Van Halen are your favourite bands….all of a sudden Ride The Lightning comes along and seems like a load of noise. It seemed like it such an extreme jump because there was so few bands that were in-between that when you listen to Rock You Like A Hurricane and then listen to Trapped Under Ice its such a huge gap and I didn’t get it at first. I think part of it is too is that there’s a really big distinction from the way Frank and I play together from say the guys in Metallica, we sit back on our heels. So that’s where that pocket is, that’s where the swing and the groove is. Metallica are up on their toes and there’s a real anxiousness about it and that’s the real distinction between bands like Rob Zombie and Pantera, Stuck Mojo, Fozzy, we sit on our heels and it’s a different pocket. It’s not better or worse, it’s just different! And Slayer, and Exodus and Annhilator and Metallica, those guys are on their toes and it has a different feel to it, and I’m more attracted to music that sits back on it’s heels. It doesn’t mean it’s not fast, it’s just even when the tempo is fast, if you think of a beat as being a place in time you can play all around the beat but its like music and art are very subjective but lets just say on a metronome the perfect place is in the middle, I like to play just south of it and it doesn’t mean we’re playing slower, we just find a different piece of real estate on the beat. So I just spent like twenty minutes answering one question (laughs).
Jamie: Obviously you’ve mentioned you’ve been to France and Germany before but is this the first time you’ve been to some of the other countries you’ve mentioned?
Rich: Like Belgium and Holland? With Fozzy yeah, we’ve been lucky and it’s been great. Chris has just enough of a name, Stuck Mojo has just enough of a name that put it together, for fans who may not have heard the records it was a nice introduction. Those two things kinda helped to get us the attention like anything we have to be good or that attention means nothing, or after two songs they go get a beer. We’re playing well together, we’re all best friends, we’ve all known each other…I’ve known everyone in this band for coming on fifteen, twenty years with the exception of Jericho who I’ve only known for ten or twelve. After you’ve known each other for long enough, it makes it easier to tour together.
Jamie: Yeah I’m sure it does.
Rich: There’s no guesswork involved you can tell immediately when somebody’s grumpy or when somebody’s having a rough day or if the monitors aren’t good, y’know. Plus, when you get older it has its drawbacks in that the industry starts to look at you, not the fans but the industry looks at you differently. When you’re a band and you’re in your late thirties or early forties all of a sudden their mindset is that the guys are getting older. From our perspective it’s that we’re just better and wiser and so where a band full of early twenty-something year olds would throw a tantrum when the monitors aren’t great like I used to do or maybe try to punch the sound guy and go crazy, we know how to talk the language and make the monitors better because we know monitors and we know frequencies and I can say cut 3db of 80hz. I can talk and that’s like being part of being a Jedi master, for us its our first rodeo in some of these territories but there’s so much experience and roadworthiness in this unit that going into “cold environments” where people don’t quite know us or haven’t seen us, we are able to win them over a little easier because we have that wealth of experience.
Jamie: You know what to do when its not exactly a hostile crowd but…
Rich: That’s exactly right! And even hostile crowds, you’ve got to know how to turn them and one of the ways is that if someone yells you suck, you can point and you have a microphone they don’t so you turn on them and you turn the entire crowd against them, and all of a sudden that person becomes the joke instead of the band. That way everybody gets a good laugh, and if you’re quick and you’re witty, which we are (laughs), and if you’re sharp enough you can win people over and like I said, you can’t berate the crowd, but you can berate one person if they started it that’s a great technique. It’s an old Jedi master trick! Feel free to use that one in the future!
Jamie: With Fozzy, and Stuck Mojo, and Dangerous New Machine (Billy Grey’s other band), and now Adrenaline Mob (Rich’s new Band with Mike Portnoy and Russell Allen), and Chris’s other commitments, do you think Fozzy is possibly the hardest band going to put together a tour schedule for because of everything that is going on?
Rich: It’s actually the easiest band of all those to get a tour schedule together for all of those bands because all the other bands are second fiddle to Fozzy, Fozzy is my priority over Adrenaline Mob, it’s my band. The Adrenaline Mob thing is a cool project and we’ll tour and we’ll do things but ultimately it’s that old expression “dance with the one that brought you” you know what I mean? And it’s the same with Billy and Dangerous New Machine, they’ve been working a long time and working hard but obviously Fozzy has records and tours and success and stuff and all of us go with where we are at the moment. So when we have time off, we’ll have time for Adrenaline Mob and we’ll have time for Dangerous New Machine, so it’s almost the reverse. It’s a difficult job to be in Adrenaline Mob, because then you’ve got Symphony X, and you’ve got Portnoy’s ten thousand commitments and you’ve got my commitments and Paul DiLeo plays for ten million different bands, so that’s the hard one to tour.
Jamie: Do you think maybe at some point in the future if the schedules ever work out you would get a tour with say Fozzy and Adrenaline Mob and Dangerous New Machine, something where you could have more than one of your bands on the same show?
Rich: We’ve done it in the past, where we had our side project Sick Speed open for Fozzy and even The Duke opened for Fozzy at The Astoria one of our other bands but I think we’ve come to the conclusion that unless its a perfect scenario that we’re not gonna do it
Jamie: Fair enough!
Rich: Yeah, because I think it waters down the impact when you’ve already been on stage, it’s like if you had Dave Murray’s side band opening for Iron Maiden, you just saw Dave on stage for forty minutes, where’s the specialness of the initial impact again. So I think our mindset is we won’t do that UNLESS the opportunity presents itself in a perfect scenario where it makes sense and everybody benefits from it. Right now, the only person who would benefit from opening for Fozzy would be Adrenaline Mob, or Dangerous New Machine. If it got to the point where Fozzy could benefit from one of those two scenarios then its worth discussing or examining the pros and cons.
Jamie: Fair enough, makes perfect sense.
Jamie: I think Sonisphere here in the UK was billed as the highlight of this tour (and I managed to catch some of your set), but what do you think when you’ve been waiting to play a show like that all day and it’s 8 O’Clock and an hour before you’re due to go on stage it pisses it down with rain like it did in Knebworth, the weather was pretty bad when you were on stage.
Rich: To be 100% honest I couldn’t really tell if it was raining or not while we were on, because the lights distort what I’m actually seeing. It’s like watching a football match on TV and it’s pissing rain but you can’t really tell. So from our perspective it’s hard to tell if it’s really raining. Right before we went on it started to sprinkle a little bit but I didn’t really know that it was raining so I didn’t have that running through my head with anything like “aw man I feel bad all these people”. The other part of it is that I always look at a gig as like going to war. You can get killed if you’re distracted by other things. The job is to be the best soldier and to kill as many people as possible, you’ve trained and trained and trained and this is it. I actually had one of my least favourite gigs in Belgium, I actually can’t remember which festival it was but it was one that I didn’t enjoy on this tour because we had lots of problems and it took my mind out of the experience and into the reality of being a guitar player who’s dealing with technical problems, dealing with my guitar tech being at best, a useless glob of cells and that everything that could be going wrong was. I went on stage mad at my guitar tech, I went on stage and we run some tambourine stuff in some of our songs and some drum loop break beat things so we run some backing tracks and they weren’t working. You can play the songs without them because it’s not like it’s the guitars or vocals its just things we need, like on God Pounds His Nails there’s that awesome kinda ZZ Top ch-ch-ch-ch-ch effect and then some break stuff and it’s important, you can still do the song without it. But when I’m thinking about those things it takes me out of the joyous union of fingers and guitar and the band and the crowd. So, luckily that only happens a few times a year when you feel like…Chris came offstage saying “that was one of our best gigs”…well it wasn’t one of our best gigs, it may have been one of yours (laughs)…and that’s the other thing about a festival, when you’re more spread out you don’t always know how everyone else is doing, you don’t necessarily have as much chemistry on those big stages. I always wondered in the old days, like Iron Maiden is my favourite band, you look at those five guys, how much interaction do they actually have on that massive stage?! A lot of is “this is your real estate, this is your (next person) real estate”, they might look at each other and there may be a moment or two but they’re basically doing the business separately, but then also collectively musically. So you don’t always know if someone’s having a rough gig. At a club gig you immediately know if someone’s having a rough gig because you can look at them, you’re ten feet away from them and you can look them in their eyes and you can see them visualising ten different ways to kill themselves. (laughs), It doesn’t happen often, but then your job as a bandmate is to figure out how to make their experience better in that moment because, if there is a lack of joy from one guy it weakens the ship. It’s just a small crack in the hull….
Jamie: But if everyone notices and you can’t fix it it can spread…
Rich: Exactly. Speaking of spreading, Sean, how’s your mom? (Sean Delson, Fozzy’s bassist was sat on the Sofa round the corner at this point)
Rich: Yeah that’s pretty good (laughs).
Jamie: He was just minding his own business, I don’t think he was expecting that.
Rich: Yeah that’s what we call a drive-by, hahaha
Jamie: As you said earlier, Fozzy is everyone’s priority, up to this point you and Chris have done the majority of the songwriting, do you think that will be the case when you come to do the next record or do you think the other guys will have more input?
Rich: I think the others will have more input..Our other guitar player who was on the last record Mike Martin, we really encouraged him to write, he wanted to write and we said hey, there’s one big epic song and he’s a big Dream Theater fan so it made sense that he collaborate with Chris on the epic Dream Theater type song. I think this was during a period of time where all parties felt like it wasn’t going to work and we were all going to go our separate ways so he only did the one song but it’s never been the case in this band that your ideas are not welcome. It’s always been as the producer of the band and the main songwriter I become a bit of a filter so it means bring me songs. At soundcheck with Billy and I, he keeps playing these ideas and I’m like “what’s that? Is that taken by Dangerous New Machine? Can I have that?” it’s been like that many times and he’s been recording stuff on the side so there will be input. Also I think it was like a year ago I told Sean (Delson, bass player), “man, please start recording me bass bits. I don’t care if you don’t think they’ll work, I promise you there are bits n pieces in these songs, bridges, breakdowns, a verse, whatever”. There are moments….if a hundred percent of writing an album rests on my shoulders and I’m not discounting lyrics but basically when I’m given lyrics there is a considerable amount of editing that has to happen. Not because they aren’t good but once you take poetry and try to force it into song structures there are a lot of things that have to be worked on. Stuff like maybe its a four bar phrase and I’ve got eight bars, or maybe I don’t see an obvious chorus so I use all of Chris’s vocals for verses and I write my own chorus. Chris and I collaborate great that way, so he’s like “dude I’m gonna give you tons and tons of stuff, use it wherever you need to because I believe in all of it so whatever you use good on you”. So then it becomes an issue of me trying to find what works and what REALLY works. I’m hoping that cos it took like seven or eight months to write the last Fozzy record it’d sure be nice to have some stuff to work with and be able to go “oh wow thats killer lets use that” because if you have more hands on deck, first of all you have more influences which are nice and then secondly the burden is less. In the old days we used to hire Andy Sneap to produce and now I wear that hat and being the producer can be a pretty time consuming and burdening thing, especially if you wrote the songs because then it is difficult to be completely subjective because the producer is the guy that says “Rich, maybe we shouldn’t do that”. Now I have to tell myself that we shouldn’t do that, but then I want to say “no we should, seriously”. So then I have to convince myself and you have split personality conflicts and then the whole thing can fall apart.
Jamie: This is the last day of this tour, what happens for you in the next couple of months, do you have any US tour plans or will you get some time off?
Rich: We go home and then my immediate first priority is that I have a side band that I’ve started with another singer that actually Billy, Frank and Sean play in, its called Walking With Kings and that record is almost finished. I have to finish that record, two weeks tops and I’ll be done. As soon as that’s done I have to start writing for the new Fozzy record. Adrenaline Mob, I think we’re doing 3 weeks of shows in the States supporting and it’s not confirmed yet but I think we’re doing a short run with Godsmack in late August/early September. I haven’t been told whether that’s 100% or not and then in October we’re doing three weeks in Canada with Fozzy. November we’re coming back here to do another extensive UK run, lots of smaller towns, we’re going to go up to Scotland, Wales. So we’re trying to work out all of that stuff. Then December we’re talking about Japan. Meanwhile the writing process will be full, ongoing, trading tapes working back and forth. There are no tapes anymore I’m sorry mp3’s (laughs) I’m still in old mode where you had a four track! Hopefully by the holidays the album will be written and partially recorded and we can look for around a late Spring release which would be great.
Rich: So that would be great to be ready for festival season next year and we’ve got some really cool preliminary offers for UK festivals for next year so knock on wood that will happen and I think our motto moving forward is that we’re open to all different ideas. Maybe some support, maybe some co-headline. Before our idea was that we would headline because it made more sense
Jamie: I interviewed Chris last time you guys were in London about eighteen months ago and when I asked him about that he said that up until that point not headlining wasn’t something that you were too keen on.
Rich: Yeah, we have a very American rock band approach to live shows, kinda the Van Halen/Motley Crue – it’s a party but I wanna pace it. You can’t rush a party but it has to be fun. Fozzy is a serious music band but the delivery is a good time rock band. So in order to be a good time rock band, it’s like a receipe, it has to be done just right otherwise you can take people out of their vibe, and all of a sudden it feels like we’re going through the songs like smack, smack, smack, smack and we’re rushing through things and when you’re an opener there’s a tour manager staring at his clock and staring at you and you gotta get your shit on and off. So we really didn’t think we wanted to do that. But if we find bands like Anthrax that we’re actually friends with and have relationships with, they’re cool. They want you to do your thing, they’re not going to stand over you with a broomstick..
Jamie: They won’t have a tour manager over you going “you ran six seconds late, you blew it”
Rich: That’s right. And if we do run a little late they’ll say “hey guys why don’t you go on five minutes earlier tomorrow”, you won’t get a scolding. That’s the thing, we’re all adults, I don’t wanna be scolded by anyone, it feels bad (laughs).
*Huge growl can be heard from the support band on stage*
Jamie: These guys sound pretty angry
Rich: Yeah they’re pretty pissed about something! A lot of people say that a few of the Stuck Mojo albums were really angry and people now say “you should do a record like that again” and I’m just not that mad anymore y’know? And I know there’s a lot of bands that fake it and I call it faux angry and they go through the motions like that because they think they should.
Jamie: I think that’s why Devin Townsend’s said he doesn’t do Strapping Young Lad anymore, because he’s not that angry
Rich: Exactly right. Devin’s one of my heroes. He helped produce Pigwalk, the second Stuck Mojo record, he and I have been friends and he’s been someone that I’ve always looked up to. He has no fear, he does what his heart tells to and what his gut tells him to and if it starts becoming a job then I’ll just stay home and do a job because travelling is difficult at times. It can be uncomfortable at times, so if it becomes a job and you’re going through the motions then why not just get a covers band and stay at home. If you’re going to be out here and make records and you’re going to tour it should be from a place of complete honesty and an extension of who you are as guys. If not, you’re just faking it.
Jamie: Ok, one last slightly weird question
Jamie: I saw in a recent interview that Chris claimed to be the inventor of the Jager bomb and I wondered if in your years of touring with Mojo and Fozzy and everything else if you’ve ever invented any interesting drinks yourself?
Rich: You know Mojo was one of the first bands ever on tour that drank protein shakes before we went on stage (laughs). We had a tour manager one time that used to give us shit all the time for being the healthiest band in rock n’roll. And he came up one time smoking a cigarette and he looked at our blender and was like “that stuff’s no good for you” while he’s drawin on a malboro. So I think that’s Stuck Mojo’s claim to fame, we toured with Pantera, and Machine Head, and Life of Agony and Type-O and Testament, we were always out in the parking lot lifting weights. We were like crazy marines or something. We were signed to Century Media which at the time was a very small label and there wasn’t alot of money, in fact there wasn’t a lot at all! So there was all these other bands with buses, we were in vans and we didn’t even have enough money to get more than one hotel room so some people were sleeping in the van or we’d find someone’s house to sleep at after the show, driving ourselves, having virtually no crew and it made you hungry and angry. I think living like that, being very stressed and strained, sleeping on the floor or asking the club owner if you could sleep in the back after the gig, it made you hungry and so training was an extension of that. I still train but I train differently now. I train for fitness not for muscles, but I was very strong and very angry and so I played that way. I drank protein shakes and I ate a pound of chicken, it became my obsession to become the strongest most potent guitar player on the planet. So that whole culture is what I think kept us alive because if we didn’t have that to focus on, other people turned to drugs, booze, whatever to kill whatever that discomfort that they were feeling. Everyone goes to something, some people hunting women every night. We were never that band, I mean I love looking at women and they’re pretty n all but to me when you’re picking up girls at your shows you’re having sex with your fans and then you have no intention of having a relationship with them. So then you are just taking advantage of the weird fan – band relationship and I know the girl will say it’s nothing and that they go into it willingly but its an awkward thing. It always ends badly. Am I saying I’ve never slept with a fan? Of course I have but its nothing that we ever, it’s never been part of our lifestyle. It was a very extreme example where we found somebody that we really got on with, so it was more than “just sex”, it was a case of “this girl’s really cool”, we’d have dinner and hang out whenever we came through town, that kind of thing. But we always avoided all of the trappings because in our minds it was always the weak bands that did that. And there was something strong about being the alpha male, the morbid angel or the wolf on top of the mountain. That’s why I loved bands like Pantera and the first couple of Pantera records and the Domination Morbid Angel record. Those were strong men who went to war and also with Strapping and Devin, I loved the fact that he was a killing machine. Did he do it in underwear and in a slightly funny way, yeah. But still, he was the best guitar player, the best singer, the best performer, any stage he was on he owned it.
Jamie: I think City has got to be one of the angriest albums..
Rich: Of all time? Yeah, it is. Maybe between City, Far Beyond Driven, there’s a few records that are just REALLY pissed in a cool way. And even recently, The Haunted are a pretty pissed off band, they have some angry records. And I love The Gathering by Testament that’s an angry record.
Jamie: An awesome record too
Rich: Yeah it’s an awesome record, that’s one of my favourite Andy Sneap production records. I used that for training because Chuck Billy, and the riffing and the screaming and the songs are great, great bounce, excellent record.
Jamie: Do you think Testament are a band you guys would like to tour with?
Rich: I’d love to. We get along great, even Chris and Chuck are good friends. You’re going to love this tour: 1997, opening band Strapping Young Lad on the City tour, middle band Stuck Mojo, headliner Testament.
Rich: For ten weeks in the States. It was amazing, all three bands were so different. It was so eclectic, we had the kindof hardcore/crossover kids who were there for us, the old school thrash folks who were there for Testament and then the music/musician worshipping fans for SYL, but that was before Devin really broke so it was still kinda a new thing, it was magic. Also Chuck sang guest vocals on a Stuck Mojo record, the relationships are good, so it’s something I’d be interested in, for sure.
Jamie: Awesome, well I think that’s about it, thanks very much!
Rich: No problem!
Interviewer’s note: If you ever get the chance to talk to Rich Ward, you’ll get to find out how much of an awesome guy he is, who at heart is a big fan, just like the rest of us!
Fozzy are returning to the UK in November as Rich mentioned for THE LAST tour backing the Chasing The Grail album, the dates are as follows:
2nd Reading Sub89
3rd Southampton Talking Heads
4th Cardiff CF-10 Cardiff University
5th Coventry Kasbah
6th Leeds The Well
7th Nottingham Rescue Rooms
8th Glasgow Cathouse
9th York Fibbers
10th Wrexham Central Station
11th Plymouth White Rabbit
12th High Wycombe WAMA
13th Brighton Concorde 2