FOZZY – Skin And Bones
Fozzy (l-r): Frank Fontsere, Rich Ward, Chris Jericho, Billy Grey and Paul Di Leo
On January 18th, 2012, American heavy metal quintet Fozzy revealed the fact that they had inked a global album contract with Century Media Records. Previous Fozzy studio full-lengths to date include the self-titled Fozzy (October 2000, Megaforce), Happenstance (July 2002, Megaforce), All That Remains (January 2005), and Chasing The Grail (January 2010, Riot! Entertainment), the four releases roughly spanning a ten-year period.
“If you look at the roster Century Media has, they have a huge roster,” enthuses Chris Jericho, vocalist and co-founder of Fozzy. “An amazing roster with so many cool bands, from Lacuna Coil to In Flames to Iced Earth. It’s a very, very strong label; there are a lot of cool bands on there. We just thought it would be a perfect fit. Rich worked with Century Media for years with Stuck Mojo, and always had great reports about them and all the work they did. Robert Kampf (founder of Century Media) is a great guy as are all who work for him, and they really get the band. That’s the most important thing. Whenever you have a record label who stands behind the band and gets behind the band, that’s all you can ask for.”
Fozzy has never experienced such label support, the mainman feels. “This is the first time we’ve ever had that,” he reckons. “It’s a good feeling.”
August 2012 platter Sin And Bones – the group’s fifth overall – marks the inauguration of Century Media’s involvement with Fozzy. “For the record we decided we wanted to really focus on what we particularly do best, which is creating heavy music with very melodic choruses, and a lot of harmonies,” Chris discloses. “Almost like if Metallica and Journey had a bastard child, it would be Fozzy. We started doing that on our last record Chasing The Grail, so we really wanted to focus in on that and make even more of a statement about what we do.
“We sat down, and started working on the album basically. We wanted to make a very cohesive record where all the songs share a certain vibe and share a certain tone, where song one all the way through to song ten would take you on a little bit of a journey. That’s exactly what we did. Every band always says their newest record is the best thing they’ve ever done, but we really thought that. Once the record came out and we saw that it was the fastest selling record that we’ve ever had, the highest charting record that we’ve ever had, we saw that people felt the same way that we did.”
The frontman considers Sin And Bones a companion piece to Chasing The Grail. “If you listen to both of those records together, you get a real direct feeling of who Fozzy actually is,” he critiques. “Both of those records are filled with great tunes, and they both have some diversity to them. I think they’re both great albums. I just think that Sin And Bones is a little more streamlined. I think the vocals on Sin And Bones are some of the best I’ve ever done. I think they’re both great records in the same way that Ride The Lightning (July 1984) and Master Of Puppets (March 1986) were both great records (and Metallica’s second and third albums). They’re both great in different ways, depending on what you like best. I like Sin And Bones better, but I love Chasing The Grail too.”
In cutting vocals for the record, Chris “just focused more on being Chris Jericho. I think I’ve got to the point now where you hear my voice you can tell whose it is. There’s a little bit of a distinctive tone to it, a distinctive quality to it. Songs like ‘Inside Head My Head’ and ‘A Passed Life’ really stretched me as a singer. I’ve never really sang like that before; I think it just turned out awesome. I love listening to those songs because they’re completely different from anything I’ve done before, and then yet sound really, really cool.”
Topics like real life issues, fantasy, TV, movies, and history encompass Sin And Bones’ lyrical content. “You’d have to look through the lyrics to see what’s on there, but I take my inspiration from a lot of different places,” the singer muses. “You just never know what’s gonna inspire you to write. There are a lot of different things on there that stand out to me for different reasons, and in different ways.”
Lead cut ‘Sandpaper’ includes guest vocalist M. Shadows, a founding member of American heavy metal assortment Avenged Sevenfold. “He’s a friend of mine,” Chris shares. “We did the Uproar tour last year, and Avenged Sevenfold headlined that tour. We just got really close, and realised we were kindred spirits. He was a Fozzy fan, and obviously I’m an Avenged fan. When I had the vocal idea for the lines ‘A Cat-scratch, a whiplash, a witch-hunt in black’, I gave him a call. Not only did he lay down a great vocal but he helped with the arrangement of it too, which was really cool. He came through in spades vocally and arrangement-wise. Professionally and friendship-wise it was really an honour to have him involved.”
An Evil Dead-inspired music video was filmed to compliment ‘Sandpaper’. “I just thought it would be a cool scenario for a video,” the lyricist remembers. “We tried to think of a way we could have M. Shadows involved, even though he sings on the record but isn’t in the band. At first he wasn’t gonna be in the video, so I thought about some kind of a possession, a spirit, or something. That’s how it all came to be. We’re just huge fans of Evil Dead. We used a great cabin in the woods, told the director what we wanted to do, and that was basically it man. We just thought it was a cool idea.”
1981 horror movie The Evil Dead is be subject to a remake, scheduled to be released in 2013. “Remakes are weird,” Chris contends. “Most of the time they’re bad, but once in awhile you get a good one. I think the Dawn Of The Dead remake they did a few years ago (2004) was amazing, and then there’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) and The Amityville Horror (2005). Those were all kind of crap, but I saw the trailer for it and it looks pretty intense. I’ll give it a try, but it’s gonna be hard to capture the magic of the original because the original was obviously low-budget, and there was just something magical about it. I guess we’ll see.”
Guitarist Rich Ward supplies growls to ‘Blood Happens’. “That’s been a Rich Ward trademark for many years,” the vocalist supplements.
A fortunate accident spawned the title track. “When we were over in Europe, Rich was texting somebody about how he hadn’t been eating much and that he was turning into skin and bones,” Chris reveals. “When he put that into the phone, the auto-correct changed it to ‘…sin and bones’. That was basically it. He showed it to me, and I said ‘That’s awesome.’ It was a total fluke that ‘… sin and bones’ came into our heads, but once it did we knew that it was a great song title and a great album title. I wrote a song inspired by that as well.”
‘A Passed Life’ signals a change of pace on Sin And Bones. “That was interesting,” the mainman recalls. “Rich just called me one day and said that he had a song with the vibe of ‘Diary Of A Madman’ (from Ozzy Osbourne’s November 1981 full-length of the same name), so I started writing some vocals and some lyrics. I actually sang the exact lyrics to the melody line of ‘Diary Of A Madman’ to help me write them, to help me get the vibe that he wanted. It then all started coming together. It sounds like a combination of The Doors meets early Iron Maiden, Paul Di’Anno-era Iron Maiden.
“It really gives you a certain vibe, and a feel. It’s almost like you’re driving down a California highway with the top down. It really gives you a visual image when you listen to that song, and that’s why I love it. I think the vocals on that are probably my best on the record. I’d never really sang like that before, and just the whole vibe of the song and how it builds at the end… I think over the next few years, that’s gonna be the one song that we’ll go back to to say ‘That song is great.’ When you first hear it, it’s a grower. You have to listen to it two or three times to really appreciate it, but once you do. I think the vibe of it just really, really goes beyond all the other stuff that we have on the record. I love that. You can listen to this record and hear different things the more you listen to it. All the best records are like that.”
Motörhead guitarist Phil Campbell provides a guest solo on ‘She’s My Addiction’. “Phil’s been a big Fozzy fan for years,” Chris explains. “He played a gig with us at the Whisky A-Go-Go (in Hollywood, California) back in 2011 (January 13th). He came down to jam with us, and it was great. We had a great show, a great time. He kept calling me, saying ‘We’ve gotta do something on your next Fozzy record.’ I was like ‘Okay, sure.’ Whenever Phil Campbell calls to play on your record, it’s not really much of a stretch to say ‘Okay.’ It was just a matter of finding the right place for him and the right song. It’s more ‘What do we need to make this song a better song?,’ and then who can do that job best.
“That’s what we did with M. Shadows, and that’s what we did with Jeff Waters (Annihilator guitarist / founder) when he played with us on Chasing The Grail – his fast solos were definitely the best for that (‘Martyr No More’ and ‘God Pounds His Nails’). It was the same when we had Zakk Wylde play with us on All That Remains (on ‘Wanderlust’), and Marty Friedman (‘Born Of Anger’), and all those guys. We love having guests; we’ve had guests on every single Fozzy record ever. It just depends on what we wanna do, and who the right person is for the job I guess. ‘She’s My Addiction’ was the perfect song for him, because it’s very Motörhead in a lot of ways. It was very cool to have him involved; he’s just a great guy, and always a blast to talk to.”
Treading the path outlined by Chasing The Grail composition ‘Wormwood’, ‘Storm The Beaches’ rounds out Sin And Bones. “I’ve always loved long songs,” the frontman beams. “One of my favourite things about music is when you get a really good epic, like some of the songs Helloween and Dream Theater have written. I’ve always loved long songs on a record. We did ‘Wormwood’ on the last record, which was a really cool subject to write about. I came up with the song title ‘Storm The Beaches’. I thought it would be pretty cool to write a song based on D-day, almost like the opening of Saving Private Ryan (1998). I really wanted to capture that vibe on a song, and nobody ever, ever has. Iron Maiden had a song called ‘The Longest Day’ (on August 2006’s A Matter Of Life And Death), but it didn’t really describe D-day – it was vaguely about it. I wanted to write a song that had actual detail though.
“I found this letter that a kid had written home to his mother, a kid who had survived D-day. He had lived through D-day, and survived it. He wrote this letter to his mother describing that day, and I just constructed the lyrics based on that. I also did some research. When you’re writing about personal angst and all that kind of stuff, I really wanted to understand what that stuff was before I wrote about it. I happened to give myself a little bit of history lesson as well. I think the lyrics were very visual though; if you close your eyes and listen to the lyrics, you can actually see what’s going on. The music that Rich then wrote for it fitted perfectly. It was really one of my favourite songs from Sin And Bones to write and record.”
Chris is of the Christian faith, though Christian-oriented lyrics aren’t included on Fozzy’s fifth jaunt. “There were Christian-based lyrics on the last record, like ‘God Pounds His Nails’ and ‘Wormwood’,” he ponders. “With this one, I don’t think there really is. There are always positive lyrics as far as being a Christian goes. I don’t think we’ve ever really had out and out Christian lyrics, but there were some songs that were Christian-based. On this record there wasn’t really a Christian lyric at all though, off the top of my head.”
‘Dark Passenger’ references Jesus, but only in passing. “That’s about a serial killer,” the singer notes. “‘Jesus is my co-pilot / That’s just what they say / But it’s not the saviour / Who guides me every day’. He’s a serial killer, so there aren’t really church lyrics on that one (laughs).”
An interpretation of Black Sabbath number ‘Fairies Wear Boots’ (originally from September 1970’s Paranoid) was recorded as a bonus tune. “We had to do some B-sides, and originally we were gonna do four covers,” Chris divulges. “We discussed about The Kinks’ ‘Destroyer’ (originally from August 1981’s Give The People What They Want). We discussed Sabbath… I can’t remember what the other one was… We were actually talking about the Skrillex song ‘Cinema’ (remixed by Skrillex, and originally by Benny Benassi), which we thought would make a really cool metal song. We were just discussing different ideas and different songs.
“Rich kept writing cool songs though, so we did three originals instead. We had to do one B-side. I said ‘Let’s do a Sabbath song’ because I thought that would be fun to do, and no-one’s ever done a cover of ‘Fairies Wears Boots’. That’s another reason why we wanted to do it. Like I said, there has never been a cover of ‘Fairies Wear Boots’ ever. I’ve always loved ‘Fairies Wears Boots’. I love Sabbath and I love Ozzy, but most particularly we love the version that was on Speak Of The Devil (November 1982), Ozzy’s live album that had Brad Gillis, Rudy Sarzo and Tommy Aldridge on it. That’s the version that we covered. It’s a little longer at the beginning, and Paul’s bass line (Paul Di Leo) is more Rudy Sarzo than Geezer Butler.
“So yeah, we kind of did an Ozzy Osbourne band, Speak Of The Devil version of ‘Fairies Wear Boots’ rather than the Black Sabbath version. It’s fairly subtle, but for those of you who know that record you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s just a great song. It’s funny because on the last couple of records some people have said that Jericho sounds like Ozzy when he sings, that I sound like Ozzy. I thought ‘I’ve never tried to sound like Ozzy. What would happen if I actually did an Ozzy song, and tried to sound like him? How would it sound?’ It’s hilarious. It’s like Ozzy Junior came into the studio to sing.”
“I never said ‘Wow, I sound like Ozzy’ but talking about ‘Under Blackened Skies’ (from Chasing The Grail), people have said that I sounded a little like Ozzy. I think maybe people might hear it a little bit in certain words, but I thought ‘What if I actually try to sound exactly like Ozzy? The same intonation? The same tone?’ ‘… Late last night’ (imitates Ozzy’s voice), like really go into that sort of thing? It was fun; it was fun to do. It was fun to imitate Ozzy.”
‘Destroyer’ and ‘Cinema’ aren’t earmarked to be future covers, however. “We’ll probably always do a cover, but we’ve moved on from The Kinks,” the composer submits. “We’ve definitely moved on from Skrillex. We’ve already discussed one that we wanna do for the next record, but your mind changes a lot. It’s always good to do a cover as your first song back to the studio as a singer, because it gives you something to warm up with. I hadn’t been in the studio for a year and a half to two years or whatever it was, and the first song that I sang on Sin And Bones was ‘Fairies Wear Boots’. It was really to warm up.”
From November 27th until December 6th, Fozzy will tour across the United Kingdom. Repeatedly during interviews, Chris has praised the band’s UK fanbase. “I always say that the UK is like our second home, and it really is,” he compliments. “That was the first country that ever really embraced Fozzy, and I remember the first ever gig we played there was at Rock City in Nottingham. We played there in February of 04 maybe? I remember going to the venue, and I couldn’t believe how many people were there. It was just jam-packed, sold out or whatever, and I couldn’t believe it. I thought ‘Why? Why is this happening?’ I didn’t know that we had that sort of a following there. That’s why we like playing there; they like what they like, and there are really no trends. It’s just people like the music, or they don’t. You can hear that at the festivals; there are such eclectic line-ups every year, and people go to see as many bands as possible no matter what style. At those gigs I started to really appreciate the fact that we had a great fanbase, and we just kept going back over and over.
“I remember our last record label SPV… One time we played a show at the Astoria in London. It was like our third tour for All That Remains, and the record exec was like ‘Why are you guys here again?’ We said ‘Because people are coming to see us.’ There was no help from the record company. It was like ‘Fuck you. We’re here because our fans want us here,’ and that wasn’t the end of it. We’ve had so many great shows over the years. We played Download in June, and it was probably one of my favourite shows that we’ve ever played. It was probably one of the biggest crowds that we’ve ever had, which was insane considering that the band before us (Page 44) had like 500 people. I thought ‘Alright. It’s gonna be one of those days’. I go to the dressing room, and then when I came back out there were 25-30,000 people there on a Saturday afternoon in the mud. They were all looking for us, and they found us. It was really cool to know that people felt about us that way, and we feel the same way. That’s why we’re excited to come back. We need to come back as soon as possible to continue this amazing momentum we have from Download.”
Sin And Bones was released internationally (excluding North America) on August 13th, 2012 and subsequently in North America on the 14th, all via Century Media Records.
Interview published in November 2012.
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