There are many ways to describe Chris Jericho: he’s a famous wrestler, he’s written several books, he is the singer for the heavy metal band Fozzy, he has a famous podcast called “Talk is Jericho” and he’s also at times an actor, most recently seen in “Sharknado 3”. But Jericho himself rejects being labeled as one or the other. “I think it’s just Chris Jericho at this point” he explains. “I don’t ever really allow characterization, so people who want to make them, that’s fine, but I’ve always kind of seen myself as an entertainer. I love playing in a band, and I have since I was 12 years old. I love wrestling; I’ve done that since I was 19 years old. People ask ‘if you had to choose, which one would you pick?’ and the answer is that I don’t have to choose. I get to do them both.”
But for Jericho, his focus is clear: Fozzy’s schedule take precedence over the rest, and he takes only non-televised wrestling assignments to limit his commitments while the band is off the road. He also readily admits that his status as a wrestler might have hurt the band’s credibility with certain people, but as he points out, like Jared Leto (30 Seconds to Mars) or Taylor Momsen (The Pretty Reckless), at some point you have to shed the tag of actor or wrestler. “It’s true of everybody: KISS wears makeup so they’re a makeup band. Slipknot wears masks. Alright, then what? You’re a good band or you’re not. And I think we fall in that category too. Every record we’ve done has been better, every tour we’ve done has gotten bigger. All you can do is produce good stuff and the rest will fall.”
A consummate showman, Chris Jericho is known as one of the best wrestlers in the business when it comes to working a crowd. It’s no surprise that he also commands the stage as a rock ’n roll frontman. “That’s always been my thing, and when I started wrestling I was fairly small so if I couldn’t be the biggest guy on the show, I’d try to be the biggest character, the biggest personality. I always wanted to be the ultimate rock ’n roll frontman in a wrestling ring; the David Lee Roth, Paul Stanley or Freddie Mercury of wrestling. And that’s where I got my cues; I took from all those guys to create the Chris Jericho persona. It’s a show, and you need to be a larger than life character when you’re performing on that stage. And I judge a show by how that crowd reacts, not so much by if we had technical difficulties on stage or did I fuck up a note. All that stuff is bad if the crowd is bad. If the crowd is going nuts and having a good time, I don’t care about these things. If the crowd is dead, it’s not a good show no matter how perfect the band is. We want to be Van Halen of 1979: everybody is having a great time, drinking, singing and shouting, showing their tits, guys or girls, whatever it is you wanna do.”
The band, who’ll open Heavy Montreal on Sunday, have had their eyes on the festival for a while. “We’ve been working to get on this for years now, and this year we got the invitation,” he says. “We’re very excited to play this. We understand how big it is; it’s kind of the Download of Canada.” Jericho fondly recalls past wrestling matches in our city, as well as previous Fozzy gigs, the last one when they opened for Saxon in the fall of 2013. “That show in Montreal was one of my favourite from what was a fairly big tour. Montreal’s always been one of the great cities for us to go to, and I think the reason is that it’s such a heavy metal city, and Quebec is a great heavy metal province. It’s different from the rest of Canada or the United States. There’s a different vibe, a different attitude there. Anytime you show up there with a couple of really loud guitars screaming at you, people relate to that. So I know it’ll always be a good show. There’s a couple of places like that; Chicago is one, London, Sydney too.”
The band is still touring behind their latest album “Do You Wanna Start a War”, an album that, to me, harkens back to the more melodic sound of their first two albums. But the singer assures me that this was not done on purpose. “We just wanted to write 12 great songs and not worry about if this one’s too dance or too poppy or too heavy. Queen, Guns ’n Roses, U2, Led Zeppelin or The Beatles: those are bands that never had any set patterns, they just played good music. Whatever style the songs might have been, they were just good. And whatever we write, with Rich and the band playing and Chris Jericho singing, it’s going to sound like Fozzy. It’s a very diverse record, no doubt about it. And we like that.”
One of the album’s highlights exemplifies this attitude as the band covers “S.O.S” by 70’s Swedish pop megastars ABBA. “We have very diverse musical tastes, and we were backstage after a show with Anthrax in Germany somewhere, and that song came up on shuffle. It’s a very dark song, with very depressing lyrics. It’s also got that really cool kind of Yngwie Malmsteen/Dream Theater thing leading to the chorus. It lends itself to be made heavy and is something you’d never expect. It’s something people know but not really, you know? They hear it and think ‘It can’t be’ but then they love it and it’s great. It really works with heavy drums and heavy guitars on it. We’ve even had some mosh pits for it during some of our shows. ”
Jericho and guitarist Rich Ward are already at work on a new Fozzy record. “I’ll write lyrics, and Rich will put together some riff ideas and song structures incorporating my lyrics that inspired him to come up with melodies. We’ll trade back and forth a bit and work on it more. It’s worked so far for 4 records so why change now. The idea is that after Heavy Montreal we’re pretty much off until we do the KISS Kruise at the end of October then we’re off to Europe and UK, and I think we’ll start recording the new album early next year.”
Fozzy will kick start Heavy Montreal on Sunday at 1PM, and if there ever was a reason to show up early, this is it.
Jean-Frederic also writes for his own site, Diary of a Music Addict.