I absolutely love the new album
Rich, and I wanted to basically help to
inform people about it, so can you tell
me the story of the band?
Sure! Terry sings in a local church close
to where I live and my friend Kerry said ‘Hey
man, come and see this friend of mine, he’s
been trying for years to get things moving in
the music business, but he’s just having such
a hard time making something happen.’ Terry
has his own studio at home, but he was having
trouble making anything that sounded like an
album, the stuff was sounding like demos. He
wanted a producer to come in and help him,
so I came in... they were in this weird middle
ground between sounding a bit old fashioned,
and still wanting to be a bit cutting edge.
That’s a really fine line to walk, it’s tough
to serve both masters, getting a nostalgia
feel while being modern. So I said that they
should stop over-thinking things and just play,
let me record them just being themselves.
As we started getting into that, I started to
recognise that for Terry, the drummer he had
was not going to be able to do what I needed
from him, in order to give Terry the album he
wanted. You’re only gonna be as good as your
drummer, that is the honest to God truth.
Any recording, any live performance, if your
drummer is amazing, you’re off to the races. If
your drummer is just okay, you’re only going
to be okay.
I don’t mean you have to be technically
amazing, but you have to be able to lay a
solid foundation which you can build off.
I suggested he used Frank Fontsere, my
drummer, who has played on everything I’ve
done over the last twenty years. I figured
bringing Frank in for rehearsals would make
the project sound much better. Then, as we
evolved from there, I got more attached
to the songs and I started to really enjoy
playing with Terry, his voice is amazing. We
just sat down one day and I said ‘Hey, how
about we just start this thing from scratch
and just call this “our” band, because I don’t
just wanna produce this now, I wanna be IN
the band!’ (laughs) So I went from just being
the producer to being producer, guitarist and
one of the guys in the group.
At the time, we had Sean Delson playing
bass for Fozzy and I said that we should
do what I always do, when I’ve done Stuck
Mojo, The Duke album, Fozzy, it’s always the
same guys because I think the band should
be a family. Even when Sean left Fozzy, it
was the most amazing parting of the ways
with a band member I’ve ever been through,
nobody was mad, there were no hurt feelings.
Sean was very committed to the direction
of his Agent Cooper band, I’d met Paul Di
Leo from working with Adrenaline Mob and
we had become soul mates immediately, his
playing and mine are like two peas in a pod.
His playing reminds me a lot of Dan Dryden,
the bass player I had from the Stuck Mojo
days. Dan, Frank and myself, I thought, were
one of the best rhythm sections in rock. Not
because we were more talented or anything,
but because we clicked well. That’s the key to
a great band, the pieces all fit. You can put a
bunch of amazing musicians together but it’s
not always going to work, it’s all chemistry.
So when we were looking for a bass player,
I really wanted to find somebody... Paul plays
with several big name bands outside of Fozzy,
so I wanted to find another player that
would fit Walking With Kings perfectly, but
have a free enough schedule for it. That’s why
Adrenaline Mob didn’t really take off for Paul
and I, we were just so busy! There was no
room to prioritise it, whereas Mike Portnoy
and the guys wanted it to be their main thing.
I didn’t want Paul in that position, so we went
for Simon Farmery, who I found through my
Lainey rep in the UK. Simon is a Manchester
boy as you probably know, and he worked
out great, it was like it was meant to be!
Actually, the first time we were all
together in a room was when we filmed
the video for ‘Leap Of Faith’! It was crazy,
I was touring with Adrenaline Mob, calling
Simon, then speaking to Terry, trying to
scheme how to put this band together, to
lock together what Terry, Frank, myself and
Sean had recorded - Sean played most of the
bass parts before he left. Sorry this is a longwinded
answer, but the point I’m making is
some things in life are better left unplanned.
You work hard, you let things unfold. It’s like
a good relationship - if you see a girl and
you are trying really hard to get her to like
you, you’re trying desperately to make her
yours - most of the time it won’t work out!
The best times are usually when things start
off friendly and just unfold. We all have our
own stuff going on, but we’re all working
hard behind the scenes for Walking With
Kings. We’ve hired some radio promoters to
work the Christian market, a PR guy to get
us some more press... things are moving, but
we’re looking at Walking With Kings to be
something to cultivate - we’re not desperate
to force it to work immediately. We’ll start
small, we’ve put out what I think is a great
album, and when I’m done making the new
Fozzy record we’ll see about some shows.
We’re building a solid foundation - good
songs, friendship, a good live show, just see
where it goes.
I downloaded the album simply
because you were involved, I love your
stuff, I’m a big Fozzy fan and I loved
The Duke record. I really didn’t read
anything about the band, it was only
when I was halfway through that I
realised there was a Christian theme
to the songs. I must admit, if I’d known
it was a “Christian” album, I’d have
been less receptive - Christian music
often gets negative connotations,
but you guys have done it without
being too overbearing - many of the
songs are lyrically ambiguous. Did you
deliberately try and tone it down?
The songs are a bit of a mixed bag, some
of the songs were mine before we started
working together, some were Terry’s. The
songs basically just were what they were, not
a lot of thought went into it at that point.
Some songs were Christian by nature, but
others were maybe more spiritual or uplifting
by nature. When Terry and I started writing
together, we had a positive theme. The
reason why Christian music gets a negative
reaction is because people tend to focus on
negative things. It’s like policemen, if one is
in the news because of corruption or police
brutality, then they’re all judged like that. So
you get a Catholic priest that has molested
a child and that’s what society focuses on.
I spent twenty years on the road and my
faith played a very small part in my life. I was
concentrating on music, that was my religion
and God for many years, even though I was a
believer. I prayed and if I had a friend or family
member in need, I’d always pray, but I just
didn’t feel like God listened all the time. Part
of it was probably selfishness about what I
wanted, what I was going to do, what records
I was going to make - that led me to buy into
the negative side a bit. But in reality, probably
97% of Christian people I’ve encountered in
my life are the best people I’ve met. The same
thing happens with soldiers, we had that
soldier in Afghanistan who killed seventeen
civilians, that’s a terrible, awful thing. But there
are so many British and American troops out
there who are so brave, fighting with honour
and dignity, sacrificing everything, but we
ignore what the good guys do and look at
what the one bad guy did. That’s a problem
with society rather than Christians, soldiers,
police or anything like that.
I have no intention of using Walking
With Kings as my sword of righteousness
to go out and tell people they are wrong if
they don’t believe what I believe, because of
course, there is no right and wrong! I just
know what’s right and what works for me.
If somebody has a need or a longing to find
out more about spirituality and what positive
things God has done for me, I’m more than
happy to share that with them. If they don’t
want to hear it, I’ll keep my mouth shut!
(laughs) You’re right, some people of faith can
be a bit heavy handed and none of that can
be seen more prominently than in extreme
faiths like militant Islam or the TV evangelists
who are judgmental and condescending.
I think we all need to get away from that,
not just Muslims or Christians, but people in
I can’t argue with that. Regarding
the album itself, like I say, it’s not heavy
handed lyrically, it is a really strong
rock record... and you decided to give
it away absolutely free via the website.
Was that to raise the profile and hope
you’ll get maybe support along the way
from a label or distributor, or are you
keen to stay independent?
Like I said earlier, it’s all baby steps. We
could easily get a record deal and distribution
for this, but the problem is we are a brand new
band, so we’d have to sign a contract that really
wouldn’t be that favourable to us. We need to
prove we can be profitable on our own, that’s
what labels are looking for. They want to know
what kind of people we’re drawing, how many
CD’s we are selling at shows, are we getting
airplay... we decided not to go with our hands
out, looking for money. We wanted to work
it on our own, try to build it into something
special. We have had record companies reach
out to us, but we need more for the industry to
take note of the impact and following the band
has. We’ll let it grow organically.
I think people, by and large, are still in
the mind-set of ‘You have a record deal?
Oh wow, you’ve made it!’ which is far
from the truth. To hear you say getting a
record deal is less beneficial than running
it yourself via a website is quite an eye
Oh yeah - like you said, the idea of a record
deal now really means nothing. In the eighties
and the nineties, there were only a few real
record companies. Now, everybody with a
studio has a “label”. In the eighties, you couldn’t
just make a record, it cost a lot of money to
make a record. Now, you can make one in
your living room! Because it doesn’t really cost
anything now, the quality of the albums out
there are not as high, simply because there are
so many more! Remember the eighties, you
slugged it out in the clubs, spending months
sweating it out hoping somebody discovered
you. Then if you were spotted, you had the long
process of working with the label to choose
the songs, getting a producer... it was a really
involved process. Now there are less filters
involved. There is still genius out there, but
there’s a lot more stuff out there which is less
refined. It’s a good thing, I think - I don’t look
back, things are always better going forward,
but they will be different. Look at every day
as an opportunity to grow, learn and do new
things. It’s like bands complaining about illegal
downloads who are promoting their record via
a website! There’s a dark side to any technology.
The CD came out, people were upset that they
couldn’t have their albums with that great big
vinyl sleeve. But it was easier to transport, you
could play it in your car... like anything, there’s
good and bad. You have to look at the positives
- okay, 1,000 people may have taken your album
and you’ve made no money, but how many
other thousands of people have you managed
to promote your album to, basically for free?
On the subject of record deals, Fozzy
has recently signed up with Century
Media, who will handle the next Fozzy
album. I know you’re working on that
at the moment, which surprised me,
because Chris Jericho is back in the
WWE at the moment, on TV every week.
Is there a release date in mind, or are you
just working on it when Chris has time?
No, there is a release date planned, but
I can’t say when, the record company will
announce that... I can ball-park it for around
early Fall. The reason we can work on it okay at
the moment is, as the singer of the band, all Chris
has to do is a couple of hours a day. No singer
comes in the studio and sings for eight hours,
because the human voice can’t do that! After
two hours, you can’t keep going indefinitely,
there are physical limits to what the voice can
do. Vocal cords are just muscles, and when they
tire, the quality will diminish rapidly. The vocals
are all done in Tampa - I go down on Chris’
off days. He wrestles on Friday, Saturday, Sunday
and Monday, and he has Tuesday, Wednesday
and Thursday off. On those three days, he does
two hour sessions for vocals. We do a couple
of songs a day, or we may write a bit together if
things need tweaking. Then Chris can go home
and spend time with his family and I’ll spend the
rest of the day working on production, backing
vocals, all that stuff. My favourite part of being
in a band is making albums. It can become a bit
dizzying, especially for someone as chaotic as
me with my organisation. The biggest part of
being a producer and engineer is remembering
what you forgot to do! (laughs)
On your Facebook updates, you seem
rather excited about the playbacks...
Oh, it’s without a doubt the best thing
Fozzy has done, and I’m even going to say it may
be the best thing I’ve ever worked on. But you
never know until the finished article - Chris
and I were laughing about this the other day.
Our favourite song from ‘All That Remains’ was
‘Lazarus’ and it ended up being the penultimate
track on the record! We had such high hopes
for it early on. But that happens - with ‘Chasing
The Grail’, from the start I thought ‘Under
Blackened Skies’ was going to be THE song, but
it turns out that ‘Martyr No More’ was the one
- mostly because the mix was so good there,
so powerful, and Chris’ vocals were so good
on that one. That’s often what it comes down
to, can the singer sell the song? That’s the most
powerful thing - look at the greatest songs
of all time, be it ‘Dream On’ by Aerosmith,
‘Paranoid’ by Black Sabbath or ‘Burn’ by Deep
Purple... it always comes down to how good
the vocal is, if it captures something special.
That’s not diminishing the bass or the guitars
or the drums, but to work, the vocal has to
be at it’s best. That will determine the success
of this Fozzy record - it’s not all on Chris, it’s
what I capture from him as his producer. Chris
gets his headphones on and sings hard, but I
have to communicate to him what was amazing,
and what I still need from him. He can’t really
hear what I hear, because he’s singing at full
volume and hearing so much of himself, he
can’t hear what I can. He needs guidance and
coaching, and that’s what a producer does. All
the greats, Rick Rubin, Bob Rock, Mutt Lange,
they are all great at communicating with their
singers. That’s what I have to do with Chris,
tell him when he’s hot and tell him when he’s
close, but not quite. I have to be careful, I can’t
inject negativity into the session, I can’t make
Chris feel like he sucks! (laughs) Even if he has
a rough day, and it doesn’t matter who you are,
you’ll have great days and rough days. It’s up to
me to make Chris feel like on his okay days, he’s
still great. Half of being a singer is confidence.
I’m not a false cheer leader, but I do guide him.
I love the production on your records,
are you self taught or were you schooled
by somebody in particular?
A bit of both. I will give every bit of credit
to Andy Sneap, one of my best friends for
almost twenty years. He has just been the best
mentor for me. I’ve done a bunch of records
with him, from Stuck Mojo to Fozzy, because
I love working with him, love being in England
and going for a curry afterwards. It’s difficult
now, the band is spread all over the U.S. My
wife and I don’t have kids intentionally because
we both knew I wasn’t going to be around all
the time. But not everybody is in that position,
so it makes sense to record here in the States.
Over the years, basically I learned not just from
Andy, but an engineer here called Shawn Grove
- but if it wasn’t for Andy I wouldn’t be where I
am. I’ve learned from others, such as Rick Beato
who did ‘All That Remains’ - the more albums
you make, the more guys shoulders you can
look over, asking ‘What are you doing there?’
Finally, we’ll be seeing Fozzy in the
UK at Download this year too!
How awesome is that? To be on the same
day as Metallica is really cool - but you couldn’t
go wrong either way, if we’d have been on
Sunday, we’d have been on with Black Sabbath,
so either would have been great. We have
a great slot on the second stage and we’re
honoured to do it.
I think you’ll do great - I saw you guys
last year in Camden. I couldn’t believe
how much Chris had improved vocally -
it was the best Fozzy gig I’ve seen. Every
time I see you, you’re better!
Thank you man. That’s part of the curse of
being part time. When we started, my priority
was Stuck Mojo and The Duke, Chris’ was
the WWE. We were never able to be a full
time band then. That’s why, recently, Chris has
taken big chunks out from his wrestling. He
realised we had to be full time to take Fozzy
to the next level. Chris spent his whole life
on the road wrestling, I spent my whole life
playing guitar. I was very aware of who I was
as a performer and guitarist, and Chris knew
exactly who he was as a performer, but he had
to find his voice. You can sing in the studio, but
live, it takes years to get that right. You can
sing from your chest, your head, your throat,
if somebody’s voice gets tired you can move
it around to protect it. You can hear that in
James Hetfield. He sounds nothing like he did
years ago, because he’s protecting his voice.
He’s learned how to sing differently because he
knows if he screams like he did on ‘Master Of
Puppets’ or ‘Ride The Lightning’, his voice won’t
last. Some fans may go ‘Oh, it doesn’t sound the
same’. Well, it’s either that, or the tour is over!
Chris really worked it - I said to Frank, “do you
realise, Chris is the only guy in our band who
has improved?” (laughs) I don’t sit a practice
scales for hours like I used to, I work on songs
and play for an hour or so every night, but it’s
actual playing, not metronome work. Just to
stay in shape. Chris though, he’s really worked
with a mind-set of ‘I’m going to get better’, and
he has, he’s great.
Well Rich, I hope Walking With Kings
does well for you guys, it’s a great record -
if you’d sold it, I’d have no qualms parting
with money, it’s a great album.
Thanks man! Thank you for showing an
interest and for your support of Fozzy. Like
you said, the record is only available from www.
walkingwithkings.com, it’s not in stores or on
iTunes, you have to seek us out intentionally. We
feel very blessed we have such good feedback
and we had a lot of fun. I hope it grows too - it’s
been an honour talking to you James, and we
look forward to seeing you at a Fozzy show in
the future. We haven’t announced anything yet,
but I’ll tease it here - expect some shows in and
around the UK around the Download time...
Fantastic - when you’re touring with
Fozzy, if Chris has been playing Hulk
Hogan’s album, I’m afraid that’s my fault.
(Laughs) Did you give him a copy?
Yeah, when my brother and I
interviewed him in Camden, (Fireworks
#47) we asked him a joke question about
who was the best wrestler, who plays
bass, that had made a record, thinking
he would say ‘Me’! But he didn’t, he
said Hogan. He hadn’t heard the record
though, so we’d taken him one on the off
chance to present to him!
(Laughs) That is awesome! I’ve heard that
album, back in the nineties when it came out.
Didn’t he do like a rap song on it?
Oh yeah, rock, rap ballads - it’s
twenty nine minutes of tortured genius.
Everyone should have a copy.
(Laughs) Oh, it sounds so awesome. I’m
gonna have to borrow it from Chris and put it
on my iTunes, just to get fired up!