In the latest of our interviews from behind the scenes at the 2014 Download Festival, Jamie caught up with Frank Fontsere, drummer from one of the UK’s favourite hard rock bands of recent times Fozzy, to talk about their performance earlier in the day, their new album Do You Wanna Start A War, working with Rich Ward for many years and various other things. Without any further build up over to Frank….
First of all congratulations on (the performance) earlier, it looked like it went really well, did you guys enjoy it?
Frank: Oh yeah absolutely man it went fantastic. It’s always strange playing so early in the day but there were so many people there and they were so into it it didn’t feel like we were going on early, so it was fantastic.
I saw you guys here on the second stage two years ago and you had a huge crowd then but today seemed another big step up from that.
Frank: Yeah, this is our third time here, our first time was in 2005 and then two years ago and we keep moving up which is great! We played the tent stage and last time the second stage and now the main stage and maybe even next year we can play the main stage again. We have our new album coming out later this Summer and hopefully it’ll do well enough for them to break the rules and have us play consecutive years.
Jamie: They’ve done that with a few bands down the years I’m sure they can do that for you guys.
Frank: I hope so, that would be a good sign that things are going well.
Is there actually a confirmed release date for the album yet?
Frank: Yep, it’s July 23rd. It’s called Do You Wanna Start A War, and it’s on Century Media, out July 23rd and we can’t wait because we’re more proud of this record than anything we’ve ever done.
Fantastic, I know Lights Go Out for example is quite different from some of the stuff you’ve done in the past, Is that typical of the songs on the album?
Frank: One of the things I like about this record is when I listen to it myself…. you get a few songs into the record you’ll get to the point where you go “I really don’t know what’s coming next”.
Frank: Which is great because Lights Go Out for example is different from anything we’ve ever done but I don’t think it’s different so much as it is a progression. I think it’s growth but there’s definitely a mix, for people who like the heavy stuff there’s a couple real heavy ones on the record which are more similar to what we did in the past on other records. There’s gonna be some surprises. It’s gonna be one of those things you won’t be able to tell what’s coming for sure.
Are you guys just here for the day and flying out again later or are you able to stick around?
Frank: Chris is staying because he’s doing his spoken word thing in London, the rest of us are flying out tomorrow morning. We flew in yesterday and we’re flying out tomorrow.
Jamie: Will you get to see any bands the rest of the day?
Frank: We’re gonna be around for a little while so there’s a few bands I’d like to check out, I’m hoping to catch Twisted Sister because I haven’t seen them in years and they’re one of the bands I grew up on. I definitely want to see them and I don’t know if we’re gonna be here long enough but I definitely want to see them.
Once the album is out have you got tours and plans lined up for getting out there with the album?
Frank: We’re working on it. Right now we’re just doing some radio festivals in the States, we’re doing this of course and we’re putting all the pieces together right now. It’s one of those things that when you’re planning tours you have to do it months in advance and there were some things that happened behind the scenes that caused us to have to change agencies. So now we’re a new band on a new agency and they’re trying to put things together. But by the time late Summer / Fall rolls around we’ll be out there and we won’t stop until…we’re dead! *laughs*
Do you think you’ll get back to the UK before the end of the year?
Frank: I’m sure we will.
Jamie: Well you guys are generally here often enough which is no bad thing, the UK loves having Fozzy here.
Frank: Well the UK knows we consider this our home away from home. The UK was the first part of the world that really took to what we were doing and it’s always been home away from home. We love coming here and we’re excited to come back again, especially on a new record. I can’t imagine for the life of me we won’t be back before the end of the year.
I saw you guys at the Garage in 2010 when you played the two shows on the same day and just to see how far things have grown from then as it’s only been four years…
Frank: Oh yeah, we did two shows in one day which was crazy, I think that’s only happened maybe twice in our whole career. You know we love it, maybe we’ll play two or even three shows a day the next time we come over! *laughs*
Jamie: Try and kill yourselves that way instead *laughs*
Frank: Yeah but it’s dying with a smile on your face!
With a song like Lights Go Out, I know there’s a few effects on Chris’s voice and other things, does that make it more complicated for your live shows?
Frank: Not really because we’ve always had songs where we have backing tracks. Backing tracks are so common place these days, a lot of bands do it and we figured we’d just embrace it and not try to hide it or anything. We’re perfectly honest about the fact we play to some backing tracks because it just makes everything sound a little bigger and let you try different things but still keep the core of the band the same. We really like to experiment within what it is we do. We like to have a sound that people can identify as Fozzy, but expand the boundaries as much as we can within the sound that we have. So yeah, I love Lights Go Out, I’ve had a lot of people tell me it “wasn’t what they were expecting” or “I wasn’t sure what to make of it but it’s really grown on me”. I think it’s one of those things that will grow on people.
Jamie: I’d definitely agree with that, the first time I heard it it was very much not what I’d expected but by the third listen it was “this is great, I can get on with this”.
Frank: It’s one of those that will definitely creep up on ya, but I loved it the first time I heard it. People have preconceived notions of what they’re going to hear when they hear something new, when I was growing up when my favourite bands would put out a new record I’d be like “I’m not sure if I dig this” and after a few listens it’s like “ah OK I get it now”. I’m really excited to hear what people think of this record because I really do think it’s the best thing we’ve done, certainly the most cohesive and mature record we’ve done.
Was the writing process any different this time because I know on previous albums Rich will have written a lot of the music and then Chris will have gone and written a load of lyrics based on riffs and other bits?
Frank: That’s our process for the most part. Everybody contributes things and everyone has ideas but every ship has to have a captain and Rich is the captain of the ship when it comes to writing. But he’s open to everything, he wants to hear ideas and he wants to hear your input. At the end of the day he’s a very passionate songwriter, I don’t want to say he’s a perfectionist because that has a negative connotation but he is a perfectionist and he knows what he wants to hear. He’s the one guy out of the band who’s able to get that sound, he knows how to pull it together. He’s an amazingly talented guy who I consider myself very lucky to be working with.
You’ve played in many bands with Rich over the years haven’t you?
Frank: Oh yeah, and he’s one of those guys who knows how to bring out the best in you as a musician. I wouldn’t be the drummer I am if I hadn’t been in a band with Rich.
Jamie: Are there any other projects on going at the moment or is it just focus on Fozzy and the new album?
Frank: Right now it’s all on Fozzy. We’ve got some ideas we want to explore in the future but at this moment in time with the new record just around the corner it’s all about Fozzy. It’s an exciting time because there’s a lot of excitement about the record from the label and we feel like we’re gonna take a step up the ladder which is great. I don’t think anyone forms a band not caring whether they’re successful or not. It’s just feeling that excitement and that momentum building, when you feel you’re making the right moves and doing the right things it’s an exciting time.
Fozzy’s new album Do You Wanna Start A War is out now on Century Media Records. You can read the Rock Sins review of Do You Wanna Start A War right here. Frank Fontsere can be followed on Twitter at @FrankPlaysDrums.
Frank Fontsere and the rest of Fozzy are currently gearing up to start a big US and Canadian tour as main support to Theory Of A Deadman throughout September and October as well as playing more US radio festivals and the odd headline show. Any further updates on Fozzy returning to the UK will be reported here in due course.