I had the pleasure of seeing Fozzy live for the fourth time in New York City at the Gramercy Theater. As always, the entire band brought their A game and had a very eclectic setlist of their hits, past and present. The band’s frontman, Chris Jericho, is best described as a heavy metal Freddie Mercury along with shades of David Lee Roth and Paul Stanley. With Rich Ward and Billy Grey on guitars, Frank Fontsere on drums, and Paul Di Leo on bass, the entire band proves why they are THE live band to see time and time again. Everyone in the band compliments each other and they have that chemistry that you don’t always see. On top of that, they have a genuine appreciation for their fans and NYC is one of their absolute favorite and most visited places to play.
Prior to Fozzy’s return to the city in front of a packed house, I met up to do a sit down interview with Rich Ward. From a long history of being in Stuck Mojo and the founding guitarist of Fozzy, he is one of the most talented and underrated guitarists in the game today and has a heart the size of his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina.
I talked with Rich about Fozzy both past and present, from the covers off of the first two records to the band’s latest single, Lights Go Out, and of course, the power of a live Fozzy show.
Alex Obert: From the early days of the band, what are your favorite Fozzy covers from the first two records?
Rich Ward: Eat The Rich, Stay Hungry, Stand Up And Shout, those are probably my three favorites. Live Wire was cool. There’s only a couple of songs on that album that I felt like we didn’t quite nail. Blackout’s not great, Riding on the Wind is not one of our better moments on that. But back then, we had no intentions of doing anything other than this just being a totally for fun project. We wanted to make a great record, but we weren’t really a band at that point. We were the guys in Stuck Mojo and Chris Jericho singing and we hadn’t quite gelled yet together, we weren’t really rehearsing these songs. And so as a result, some things turned out great and some things not as much. That’s always gonna be happening when you’re treating something as a side project.
Alex Obert: Where was the music video filmed for Eat The Rich?
Rich Ward: That was at the Hard Rock in Orlando. We did a whole concert there and then filmed that song. I think we may have played it a couple of times in soundcheck to get some on-stage stuff, but a lot of that was live footage of us.
Alex Obert: The band has been known to play that song on the live shows, the only cover on the setlist, but if you it wasn’t that one, which cover would you choose to play?
Rich Ward: Probably Stand Up and Shout.
Alex Obert: I’d like to go over a few songs from the history of Fozzy and get your thoughts on the writing, recording, and your general opinion. The first one is Live Wire.
Rich Ward: Love it. One of my favorites, I think we really did a great job. For us, back then, because it was a project like I said earlier, the success and failure of a song more came down on how we worked with Chris on a song. Rather than “did we get the music right?”, it really came down to the chemistry with the band with Chris as the singer and I think on Live Wire, he killed it.
Alex Obert: Feel the Burn.
Rich Ward: I love that song. We did two original songs on that album and I think Feel the Burn’s probably the better of the two.
Alex Obert: With the Fire.
Rich Ward: I heard Zakk Wylde do a song that was tuned low A, like A octave, and it inspired me. We tune a whole step down, so then I dropped the low string down to G, so the song is tuned in G. It’s super low. I thought it was a cool song because it had a seventies rock sensibility, but it also had a heavy metal riff to it. So it was cool.
Alex Obert: Would you consider that to be one of your top favorite Fozzy music videos?
Rich Ward: Oh yeah, for sure. It was so much fun to film. Being in Fozzy’s so much fun when it comes to that stuff because we’ve always been a fun time rock band and we don’t go out of our way to protect the cool factor. We’re just being who we are. And plus we filmed it in my hometown of Charlotte, so it was cool to be around some of my old neighborhoods and stuff and clubs I used to go to.
Alex Obert: And speaking of that music video, how’s the research for Swinus going?
Rich Ward: I think we lost our funding. Arthur went in seclusion. He couldn’t deal with the public ridicule.
Alex Obert: She’s My Addiction.
Rich Ward: Great. Chris said, “Hey, I have this idea and I have this set of lyrics for something that’s kind of rock n’ roll and sleazy, think Guns N’ Roses meets AC/DC meets Buckcherry.” I said, “Cool.” Went into it and started working out ideas for it. It’s certainly one of the better songs on Sin and Bones for sure. We still play it every night.
Alex Obert: Would that have been the next music video if you did another one for that record?
Rich Ward: Probably so.
Alex Obert: The last one is the new single, Lights Go Out.
Rich Ward: It feels real comfortable for me. Along the years, I always tried to keep my bands separate because I’ve always had several projects going at one time. I always wanted to make sure that Fozzy sounded different from Stuck Mojo and Stuck Mojo sounded different from The Duke and The Duke sounded different from Sick Speed. I kept everything separated. But on this record, because I don’t have any other active bands, my idea was just to write honestly and not try to think in terms of the rules like “can’t do this” or “can’t do that”, let’s just write a great record. And I think a song like Lights Go Out would have been hard for us to do five years ago because it has a Stuck Mojo style of riffing, so I probably would have stayed away from it in the past. The new album, when you finally do hear it, you’ll say, “Wow, this is a little different for Fozzy.” But if you know Rich Ward’s writing, it sounds very much like everything else that I’ve done with Frank in every band. The core of what it is is very much an honest Fozzy record because it wasn’t like we were trying to do something. These songs sound like us.
Alex Obert: Do you have any new song titles you can share?
Rich Ward: I definitely can share that we’re playing a song called Do You Wanna Start A War, we’re playing that live on this tour.
Alex Obert: What’s it like playing the new songs live?
Rich Ward: It’s like wearing a new shirt to school, the first day of school. It’s like, “Yeahhhh!” You’re proud of it.
Alex Obert: Which songs did you take out to fit them in?
Rich Ward: Well every show on this tour is different because some of them are thirty minute festival sets, some of them are opening for Buckcherry, which can be anywhere from forty minutes to an hour, and then sometimes we’re headlining. That’s when we play an hour and a half. So on the headlining sets, we’re really not taking out anything, we’re just adding songs. But on those forty to sixty minute sets, I think fans will be really happy because we’re getting stuff on every record, we’re playing To Kill a Stranger, we’re playing Eat The Rich, we’re playing old songs and new songs. I think it’s still a good balance.
Alex Obert: Would you ever look into a second live album in the future? You had Remains Alive from a show in 2005, but now you have songs from Chasing the Grail, Sin and Bones, and Do You Wanna Start A War on the setlist.
Rich Ward: We haven’t discussed it, but I think it’s something we’d totally be into. Like you said, now this will be the third album that we’ve done since that Australian live recording. I think we’re a much better band now. Earlier I said we were a side project, we never treated the band like it wasn’t the most important thing, but now we treat it like it’s the most important thing all the time. When you’re a pro baseball player, there’s an off season. Well in rock n’ roll, there’s no off season. And before when we were touring, there was an off season because Chris would go back to wrestling for a few months, and now there is no off season. We’re a full time band and things have just started to gel. We’ve become a much better, not only a live band, but we’ve become a much better unit. Anytime that there’s a consistency with touring and you’re with each other all the time, your chemistry not only as musicians, but as people, will grow. I think we have a much better cohesive bond now.
Alex Obert: How do you feel Fozzy’s live show has evolved over the past few records?
Rich Ward: I don’t think we’re performing, when you see a Fozzy show, you see guys where it’s a natural extension of their personalities. Sometimes you go to see a band and you feel like you’ve paid to see a performance, whereas anyone whose seen Chris wrestle and anyone whose seen him live on stage, you really get the feeling that this is Chris. Even though his characters in wrestling have been characters, they’re still based somewhere in Chris. And it’s the same for us. I don’t walk around, jumping around like a wildman, but I carry the same kind of energy. It’s just an extension of who we are and plus, we’re all products of our influences growing up. And I think some of our favorite bands were Van Halen and KISS and Pantera and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, those bands who just have amazing stage presence. We’re really influenced by those types of performances and because as kids, we looked up to that, we’ve kind of patterned who we are as musicians and entertainers after those folks.
Alex Obert: On the live shows, where did “Fozzy Fozzy Fozzy! Oi! Oi! Oi!” chant come from?
Rich Ward: Australia. That was from the live record. Once people heard that chant on the live record, it just carried over.
Alex Obert: Would you look into Fozzy releasing more covers in the future to revisit the covers you didn’t get to do at the time?
Rich Ward: Well there is a cover on the new album. We’ve never been against doing covers, it’s just that we did them for so many years because we were a cover band. It just made sense once we decided we weren’t gonna be Moongoose McQueen and Duke LaRüe in Fozzy Osbourne, we were going to take the band to a new place the same way a lot of bands did in their careers where they started something and it was a natural evolution to become something else. For us, the idea of going back and doing lots of covers was not something we wanted to do, but I see us doing covers in the future. Like I said, there is one on the new record.
Alex Obert: Cover you wish Fozzy did on the first two records?
Rich Ward: I wish we had done Firestarter by Prodigy. As a matter of fact, we actually discussed doing that song as the B-side for Sin and Bones.
Alex Obert: Favorite one hit wonder?
Rich Ward: I love that song Children of the Sun by Billy Thorpe, it was a really cool song from the eighties. I also loved Fantasy by Aldo Nova.
Alex Obert: Favorite band name of all time?
Rich Ward: Ministry is a pretty cool band name. I think Van Halen is a super cool band name too, even though it’s their last name, it’s still a great name, and so is the logo.
Alex Obert: Favorite Chris Jericho match?
Rich Ward: Wrestlemania XIX, Shawn Michaels.
Alex Obert: If you could relive one Fozzy gig, which would it be?
Rich Ward: I had a great time last year at Bloodstock. I thought it was one of our better performances as a band, we were really playing well. Either that or the Rock Vegas Festival from last year on the Uproar tour.
Alex Obert: Band you wish you could listen to for the first time again?
Rich Ward: Maybe Metallica. I remember the first time I heard Metallica, I didn’t like it because I thought it was so heavy. Everything that was popular at the time was Dokken and Ratt. And then there were heavy songs from Ozzy like Over The Mountain, those were heavy songs, but when I first heard Metallica, I thought it was the heaviest thing I’d ever heard. It almost to me was like noise, I wasn’t desensitized yet. I hadn’t heard that. And I just remember thinking, “I don’t know if I like this.” And then three months later, I couldn’t stop listening to it because I thought, “This is genius.” and “Why didn’t I get it?” It’s always cool to have that experience, like the first time I heard the Red Hot Chili Peppers on Mother’s Milk and I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever heard. And the first time I’d ever heard the Faith No More album, The Real Thing, it was amazing. I’m such a big fan of music. The first time I ever heard The Wall by Pink Floyd. There’s been so many great records.
Alex Obert: In closing, what are your websites at the moment?
Rich Ward: TheDukeOfMetal.com is my main site. And of course my Twitter is @thedukeofmetal.
Alex Obert: When does Do You Wanna Start A War come out?
Rich Ward: It’s tentatively schedule for the third week of July. The release date is based on what tours are coming up. You never have a second chance at a launch. It has to be right. I think the record company is working with the distributors and management and our booking agent just to make sure that the date is the right date and everything is in place and the setup is right. I’m just a dumb guitar player from Atlanta. I love music, I’m super passionate about it and I love writing and recording and gigging, but when it comes down to it, it is the music business and my side is the music and the business side of things is something that I leave to people who are smarter than I am when it comes to business. Musicians will often argue with their record company and there are some creative differences, but when it comes to the business, most musicians have never owned their own businesses. They don’t know about marketing and they only know what little view that we get from the club perspective and from the venue perspective. I think it’s important for musicians to be more open and work as a team with their record companies, as opposed to having this kind of “at war” where we’re supposed to hate the label and the label’s supposed to hate the artist. I’m completely okay with the record company deciding what the best date is, my dumb butt wouldn’t know what was best.
Alex Obert: I’d like to thank you so much for your time.
Rich Ward: Thank you!