FOZZY have already experienced incredible success with the Judas single. The official music video has accumulated almost nine million views in just a few months, and the song hit No. 1 on iTunes charts in eight countries. Vocalist Chris Jericho went to bat for the single, eventually convincing Century Media to release Judas as the new album’s flagship cut.After their hugest charting (#54 on the Billboard 200) and most successful record, 2014’s Do You Wanna Start A War and subsequent tour finished at the end of 2015, the band began focusing on taking their future to a new level creatively and enlisted critically acclaimed song writer Johnny Andrews to produce the new record. With Andrews, Ward and Jericho (the team who created FOZZY’s highest charting single Lights Go Out) at the helm, FOZZY spent 2016 crafting their new masterpiece for a spring 2017 release. Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles spoke to Rich Ward about the new album.
Congratulations on album number seven, does it feel like a relief now that it is done and that you cannot do anything else?
It is kind of interesting right, you nailed it! Making records seems like it takes forever and all of a sudden the album is released and then phase two is pack your bags and kiss you wife goodbye and see her in about a year. I love both parts, I love working in the studio and I love writing and recording but also love touring. Both parts of it feel like two of my greatest pleasures in life and are both very different processes. Recording is a methodical, slow, deliberate action whereas the live experience is living in the moment and enjoying that explosive energy and the connection in the band and the audience.
How important was it for the band to take most of 2016 off?
We started working on the recording half way through 2016 and weren’t working everyday but I was working with the guy who we hired to produce this album, Johnny Andrews, and he lives about an hour away from me in the Atlanta suburbs so I was able to go to his house several times a week and we would work for a few hours a day working on song ideas.
It was building the framework of some songs and our idea was we don’t have to have twenty or thirty songs, we didn’t set any goals of what type of output we would have, just running with the idea of making the best record that we can and having a focused album. We are a bunch of rock and metal guys in this band who love prog and rock that we are all over the board on our influences and passions that it was cool to work with a producer who could help keep that focus. We did take some time off but at the same time we were still working a couple of days a week on the songwriting process. It was cool for us because Jericho went back to wrestling and we made a record with our other band Stuck Mojo.
Everyone was still working every day and staying busy, we weren’t hanging out on some beach somewhere sipping beverages with umbrellas in them, we were doing what working musicians and entertainers do. It was good to step away from Fozzy for five minutes because we put two years in to the last album cycle, it was nice when we did come back together it was nice to see everybody, felt like the gang was back together.
Was this process of making the album different this time rather than just sitting down and writing a bunch of songs?
This has been the strangest album I have ever been a part of making. The last three albums I produced, that required a different type of mindset. I was a principle writer on the record, I was engineering and I was producing. That required around the clock tender loving care and also required me to manage personalities. A part of the job of being a producer is getting the best performances out of your musicians and put things a little awkward because I’m having to tell my best friends and band mates that it is really good but I think you could do it better. That creates tension, even though it is not unhealthy tension, it is still tension when you are working in those environments.
Having someone else come in who could be the coach was a real lift of responsibility of my shoulders. The difficult thing for me was turning the reigns over because we as a band for the last decade we have all had our roles. We have figured out what position we play in the team and did take a few months to recalibrate and bring a brand new guy in to the group because Johnny pretty much became the sixth member of the band. He was a part of the writing process, he was part of every bit of the lyrics and the creative direction of everything. I think the album really benefitted from that.
Any time you change the balance of any type of group, whether it is a sports franchise or anything in music where there is people who are writing and performing, there are a lot of fragile egos that can be easily hurt and it takes the right balance of encouraging and positive stuff while you are tempering that with that’s not good enough, we have to do better. The best thing about these chapters of our lives is that if you’re willing to try new things and that you are honestly willing to put your best foot forward a lot of the time it can push the band to do bigger and better things.
Do you think this is the blueprint now for how the band will do it next time?
I think we will stick with this, maybe some tweaks we need to do to the formula so to speak. If we were able to tweak it we would be able to do it faster because there was such a lengthy courtship period where we were testing each other as alpha personalities usually do. I was the leader of my former band and Jericho has a very strong personality, he is a great leader, it took years to be able to find that balance between the two of us where we were able to work where things were productive without damaging the friendship.
Those are hard things to do when you are working in business and in a creative endeavor with someone who you are obviously good friends with. The same thing is now in play with the producer where we are having to fine tune that balance and figure out ways to be able to do this because there was a lot of tip toeing (is that an Australian slang word) where you don’t know how hard you can push or how much do you allow them to push you. Being delicate as you go in to the process you find out where your boundaries are for everybody and what works best.
When the band reconvened and things started to unfold did you realise that you had the nucleus of something great and that this would be the album for the band?
I think so, a lot of it came down to the fact we wrote this album over such a long period of time there were songs we had written a year previously to the recording process that it had been a while since we had heard them. It was interesting that some of this material felt really fresh to me once we entered in to the studio and started rehearsals to prepare to record. I would hear them and then I would start getting excited because when you have spent such a long period of time working on songs you can lose perspective on things because you have gone from the macro to the micro.
The macro is let’s make great songs to then in the writing process you go micro dissecting the lyrics, dissecting the melodies and then there is draft one, draft two and then we’re going in making big changes to something. Some of these songs went through huge organic metamorphosis process and some were truer to the original demo. Throughout that process I did not know if it was going to be good or not. In my gut I knew this was going to be a great record but it wasn’t until we started getting together I started hearing them as songs performed by Fozzy then I did realise this is going to be an amazing record. We were lucky to have Jay Ruston mix it, Jay is one the best mixers in heavy music. I think we had all the right people involved.
Going back to the sports analogy it’s not singles tennis or golf, being in a band is a team sport it requires everyone from at the top of the game, you’re only strong as your weakest link and the worst attitude in the band. It takes so many small bits and pieces for an album to become successful. Sometimes you do all the right things and you end up with something like Judas which we are happy with.
Is Australia in the mix for a tour next year?
Absolutely, we’re in discussions about an Australian but there is no timeline or date, we’re working with promoters to organise that and we’re talking to other bands about organising a really good package so all those things said by the summer time, which will be your winter we’ll be over there. I’m hoping we’ll get to play some headline shows, we came over for Soundwave and did support for Steel Panther on our last two tours with both having shorter sets. It would be nice doing a full headliner set in Australia.
Interview by Rob Lyon