Wrestling star Chris Jericho -his real name is Christopher Keith Irvine, the Jericho nickname came from the first HELLOWEEN album Walls of Jericho– is one of the most polifacetic artists in the world. He gained the respect of the wrestling world in the 90’s after fighting off in places as Japan, Mexico or Germany with the only purpose of earning an oportunity in one of the most important companies of the United States: the WCW. When the 20th century was approaching its end, he made a band with some friends like Rich Ward (also in STUCK MOJO) to have some fun whilst he was waiting to start a new era in the WWF. That band was FOZZY OSBOURNE, which years later was renamed to FOZZY. Subterráneo Webzine had the oportunity to talk to him in Bilbao, before his last show of their European tour supporting STEEL PANTHER.
Subterráneo Webzine: It’s your first time here in Spain with FOZZY. How has the experience been so far?
Chris Jericho: It’s been a blast! We had a great time in Madrid and in Barcelona. Lots of fun, good fans, people had a good time, great emotion, good energy… Definitely, we had a great time!
Subterráneo Webzine: So, even if you’re supporting STEEL PANTHER, you notice that there are also FOZZY fans in the show…
Chris Jericho: Absolutely! I mean, there’s a lot of people that never have seen us before, so there was a lot of people that were waiting to see us in Barcelona and Madrid. They have been waiting to see FOZZY for many years, and I think that this is one of the main reasons of the great reaction we had.
Subterráneo Webzine: Let’s talk now about your new album Judas. What can the fans expect on it?
Chris Jericho: I think that it’s the best record of our career, and even the most popular. “Judas” is the biggest song we ever had, it had become like our “Enter sandman” or “Stairway to heaven“, the song that people identify FOZZY with. And I think “Painless” is getting there too. We have a lot of great songs in the record… very groovy and heavy, great choruses and melodies. I think that if you like FOZZY is going to be your favourite record, and if you have never heard us, now it’s the time to come and check it out.
Subterráneo Webzine: Almost twenty years since FOZZY was born… And there is a remarkable evolution of you as a band: you said that this is your best album to date. Do you agree with it? I mean, you started playing covers…
Chris Jericho: I think that most bands start playing covers and we just started off like them. We were a bunch of friends playing music and having some fun, and then we realized that we had big chemistry and a great song-writing… But I think that the “true FOZZY” started in 2010 with the Chasing the grail record, and if you look in how the band has progressed in that time between 2010 and 2018, you see the real evolution of the band and the quality of the records getting better and more fans joining every single time we played and every record we put out. So, I think, like I said… Do you wanna start a war? was the first record that captured who we were as a band and Judas is an extension of that.
Subterráneo Webzine: When you started the band, almost twenty years ago, you said that you were just a bunch of friends playing music… And it was almost like a joke band, you didn’t play with your real names…
Chris Jericho: Yes! It was kind of like if we were the original STEEL PANTHER, but it was for a very short period of time and such a long time ago. It was the start, yes, but I feel that, like I said before, I think that since 2010 has been the real evolution of FOZZY, and that eclipses what we have done in the past.
Subterráneo Webzine: In one of your books [‘A lion’s tale: Around the world in spandex’] you tell how did the band start, and also some anecdotes from those years. Especially, one with PINK in a radio interview…
Chris Jericho: It’s funny because in that time we were playing characters, and we were always staying in our characters, it was something like Andy Kaufman-Tony Clifton thing. And it was fun! Something fun to do! We did it for a year and a half or so… but it’s such a small part of FOZZY‘s history. You cannot forget so many different things that have happened even if we are focused on what’s happening now… But now I can’t remember exactly what happened with her in that moment, but she’s a huge star now, so good for her!
Subterráneo Webzine: Do you miss playing covers?
Chris Jericho: We still play some covers sometimes, but it’s more fun to play your own music. Whenever we do our VIP meet and greets we play some JUDAS PRIEST, AC/DC or VAN HALEN stuff… and that’s fun! But there’s nothing like playing your own music: it’s much more satisfying and that’s the only way to really make it in a rock n roll band, you have to play your own songs and those songs have to connect with the audience in the same way that other bands songs connect with you.
Subterráneo Webzine: When the band started playing their own songs, like “Enemy” for example, you tell in one of your books that you didn’t want to receive so much help from WWE…
Chris Jericho: Yes, I wanted to keep them separated. Because I knew that because I was in the band, a lot of people would think that it was only a celebrity band or just a wrestler’s band but it’s never been that: I have always been a musician. I have been in bands since I was thirteen years old, so I thought that the best way to do that would be keeping things completely separated. When Bruce Dickinson sings for IRON MAIDEN he’s not flying a plane and singing about metal seats and not smoking on the plane. He sings IRON MAIDEN songs, and then he flies a plane. I would not want him to sing an IRON MAIDEN song while he flies a plane because that would fucking crash.
It’s kind of same with us. While FOZZY is on-stage is just a great rock n roll band and Chris Jericho is just the guy who sings on it. And when he doesn’t sing on FOZZY he wrestles for the WWE. But, you know, I didn’t want to commute them at the same time because they are two completely separated entities.
Subterráneo Webzine: In the wrestling world you started from the bottom. You have wrestled in Mexico, Japan and Germany with the only purpose of making a name by yourself… Do you feel that you had to do the same in music?
Chris Jericho: That’s what do you have to do. Anywhere you start, it could be on music, on wrestling or on journalism writing a blog, you have to start from the bottom. Any great band, from THE BEATLES to METALLICA, have started from the bottom. But now, after all these years, we have a huge fan base, and now we’re on the highest point that we have ever been! “Judas” has had more than 15 million views on YouTube, we have sold more than 200000 copies of the album… It’s a good time to be in the band, for sure!
Subterráneo Webzine: In one of your books you also tell an anecdote with GAMMA RAY in a festival in Germany. You outplayed them with only showing a German flag to engage with the crowd… Do you state that there are some wrestling clichés that are useful in music?
Chris Jericho: Is not only a wrestling cliché, it’s connecting with the audience, which is something that a good frontman, a good comedian or a good wrestler does. When you are in front of a live crowd you have to make sure that you have to engage them with what you are doing. And for me that all started with music. I loved the great rock n roll frontmans like Paul Stanley, Freddie Mercury, Bruce Dickinson, David Lee Roth… Those are the guys I always really relate myself to. When I first started in wrestling I wanted to be like the ultimate rock n roll frontman, but in a wrestling ring. And when I started in FOZZY, I took the same things I was using in wrestling that I learned from music and I put them back into music, so it’s a full circle.
There are certain things that you can do to engage and connect with the crowd and you can use them as a wrestler, as a musician, a comedian, a Shakesperian actor… whatever may be, because those little tricks always work and that always make for a better show. We never have bad shows, probably we could have something that goes wrong or some mistakes here and there, but the crowd always have fun in a FOZZY show. And that’s the most important thing for me.
Subterráneo Webzine: Wrestling fans tend to agree that you are one of the best wrestlers to wrestle with, because as you said in one interview, you want to help young wrestlers to showcase them and put them on top…
Chris Jericho: Not only with young wrestlers, the secret of wrestling is to make each other look good and have the best match possible. Whoever wins or loses it doesn’t matter. We have to ask ourselves: what could we do to make this match better, to make the best performance, not only for ourselves but also for the fans watching? And I think that is something that, after 27 years of career in wrestling, I understand how to do it better than almost anybody.
Subterráneo Webzine: And would you like to do the same in music? I mean, now that FOZZY is a reputed band, probably touring with a young band is a good chance to put them on top…
Chris Jericho: Yes, and that’s something that we do quite a bit. We never do it when we are not headlining tours, but we do it when we headline some shows. We like to pick some young bands or some bands that we like and maybe people don’t know. Whenever we do a tour we like to choose the bands who are going to tour with us and we put a lot of time and effort on it: we try to find out which bands are good, which of them are hot and who is going to enjoy the show from the moment it starts to the moment it ends… We like to pick some bands in the same vibe of FOZZY. And I think that this is one of the main reasons because this tour with STEEL PANTHER works so well, because both of us have the same vibe and want to have fun, and then the people come with the same intention, to enjoy and have some fun. And that is all about man.
Subterráneo Webzine: At the end of the year you are doing the Jericho Cruise, and there is also some music on it. Tell us a little bit about it…
Chris Jericho: Yeah man, the Rock n wrestling rager! We played the KISS Cruise a few years ago and we had a great time, and when it was done I thought: “I can do my own cruise, we are able to do it“. And then I thought “For what I’m known for? I’m known for rock n roll and wrestling” so I decided to combine them and make something that never has done before. It took a couple of years to get it rolling but here we are! We are eight months away and the cabins are selling quickly and it’s going very well. My goal is to sell them out and make it an annual vacation for everyone.
Subterráneo Webzine: Two more questions related with wrestling. NXT Takeovers’ main themes are songs of awesome new bands. Do you think that wrestling is a good way of promoting new bands?
Chris Jericho: Absolutely! There’s a big connection between wrestling and music, especially heavy music because the both of them are aggresive forms of entertainment, with tons of energy and once again, engaging with the audience. So, it’s a natural crossover to use wrestling and music together.
Chris Jericho: Yeah yeah! It’s funny because when we do shows in the States the guys are always working because they have so busy schedules, but there are a lot of people that appreciate FOZZY, that have appreciated Judas and there are some guys in the company that really like rock n roll.
Subterráneo Webzine: When you were a child, you dreamed with being a wrestler and being a rockstar. Do you have more dreams to fulfill?
Chris Jericho: There’s always some stuff that comes out and it’s interesting to me and I wanted to do, but yes, when I was a child I wanted to be a wrestler and to be in a rock n roll band, and that’s what I do! It’s a pretty cool job to do whatever you always have wanted to do. And that’s why I never took it for granted because these two dreams are very difficult to achieve and once I made that happen, now I can do whatever I want, because I’ve got confidence in my abilities and what I want to do in my life. I live everyday in the present and see what is going to happen, and if there is something interesting for me I will do it! And in the meantime, we are trying to build FOZZY into one of the most important rock bands in the world and we’re making it!
Subterráneo Webzine: We’re done. I let you this microphone to say whatever you want to your fans.
Chris Jericho: It’s very exciting to be in Spain! It has been a long time and we had three great days here. We are coming back again in August for a big festival: Leyendas del rock, and it’s great coming back to Spain again because we loved the atmosphere, the vibe and the energy of the fans… And there is also some beautiful women too, which is something that is great!