September , 2012
By Craig Hunter Ross
Inside the Walls of Jericho
Wrestling Superstar Chris Jericho Breaks Out
If you were to ask the average person to put a name behind the phrase, "King of All Media," chances are the reply you would get is the name of shock jock Howard Stern. You mention that phrase to a wrestling fan, however, and without hesitation the name Chris Jericho is mentioned.
The wrestling superstar, known to millions of World Wrestling Entertainment fans around the globe as "The Best in the World at What He Does", indeed has an impressive resume of things he does outside of the square ring. He's an actor that's appeared in several movies. He has penned books that landed on the New York Times Best Sellers list, hosted numerous television shows, written columns on the hard rock industry, and lasted six weeks on Dancing with the Stars before the tango got the better of him. Perhaps his greatest individual reward is his band Fozzy, currently on tour as part of the Uproar Festival. Jericho is the lead singer of this heavy metal band founded in 1999.
Jericho has gone on hiatus from the WWE to devote his full attention to music. Fozzy recently released its fifth album, Sin and Bones, with a single from the record, "Sandpaper" receiving heavy airplay. The wrestling icon who frequently subdues his opponents with the infamous "Lion Tamer' move, has dominated his sport for two decades. Today, he's displaying a new set of moves on stage, whipping up audiences as only 'the best in the world at what he does' can do.
JAM: Okay Chris, I'll go ahead and give you your proper intro.
Chris Jericho -Thank you sir!
JAM: I'm here with the Man of 1004 holds, The First Undisputed WWE World Champion, a two-time New York Times best-selling author, Awards Show Host, Game Show Host, Radio Host, Dancing With the Stars finalist, actor, singer, songwriter, Canada's favorite American born son, Y2J, Fozzy front man, The Best in the World at What He Does ... Chris Jericho!
Oh my, gosh! You got everything in there! Oh wait, you have to add number one Billboard Heatseeker chart topper too! So that's another accolade you can throw in there. Other than that, that was pretty good.
JAM: Today you are basically living out what you have said is your childhood dream - being a wrestler and a rock star. Did you ever have a back-up plan if neither would have taken place?
No, I didn't. The only thing I kind of did, when I was seventeen, was this. I graduated from high school early and you had to be eighteen to go to wrestling school. Instead, I went to college for two years and got my journalism degree, so that was kind of a back-up plan. When I was in college, they would send me out on these assignments, like "go cover the volleyball tournament" or actually one was the CFL Fashion Show, yes the Canadian Football League had a fashion show. I realized pretty quickly though, that I wanted to be the guy that was being written about, rather than the guy that was doing the writing. So journalism was kind of a back-up plan, but it went out the window very quickly. It was wrestling and music for me. When the wrestling thing took off, I still continued to play music until we started Fozzy in 1999. It's been going on ever since. There is no Plan B - this is it! With all the activities I'm involved with, everything is based around the Fozzy schedule. It is a make it or break it attitude with us, you know?
JAM: Your assessment of Fozzy right now?
It's been great. All the stars seemed to line up for this record, (released Aug. 14, 2012), as far as the album being released on Century Media and then landing a spot on the Rockstar Uproar tour. Sin And Bones is a great record. You hope other people will think is great too. It's a nice feeling reading all the positive reviews and watching the sales go up. It is like, "Wow, I'm glad people feel the same way." This tour is huge for us. There are a lot of people who may have heard the name Fozzy, or maybe know who I am, but they have never really checked out the band itself. Now they can. I always say that the only people who don't like Fozzy are the ones that have never seen us perform live, or heard our music. All that changes once you become part of a big festival like this. Obviously people are drawn to an event like this because they really want to see certain bands. The thing is, they will also make an effort to watch every group because that's what you do. It's really cool to see this crazy long line of people when we do our signings. It's nice to hear them say they love our band and the record. Some say they just kind of wandered by and saw our performance, or they are wanted to see you, but they end up being die-hard fans.
JAM: You've mentioned in past interviews that before your mom's unfortunate passing, she forbid you from 'giving up.' Do you still draw strength and inspiration from those words?
Absolutely! I've always had that kind of attitude. My mom's words of making sure you don't give up just cranked it into the tenth gear. I'm often asked, "How do you do both these things? How did you think you could do this?" I'm pretty clear with the answer. I eliminate negativity from my life and I'm a big proponent of staying away from negative people. I don't accept no for an answer. Here I am today.
JAM: For those that may not know, your father, Ted Irvine, spent ten years in the National Hockey League with the L.A Kings, the New York Rangers and finally the St. Louis Blues. Your father was a left-winger nicknamed the "Baby-Face Assassin." How old were you when you realized his celebrity status.
I remember when I was about three or four years old, we came out of a New York Rangers practice and a bunch of fans were gathered outside the arena. They were asking my dad for his autograph. Then someone asked me for my autograph. I was too little to sign so I just wrote an X. To this day, I literally remember just signing an X on a piece of paper.
JAM: Did you ever think to yourself, "Hey I might want that?"
You know, when you're little like that, you just figure it's what your dad does. It doesn't matter what you do. With my kids (a son and twin daughters), it's the same way. I'm just dad to them. It's kind of cool, but now they are old enough to start getting into what I do. When they were younger, they could care less. I was the same way growing up. I thought my dad plays hockey and that's okay. When I reached my teen years, 15, 16, 17, that's when I realized that my dad in the NHL was really cool. That's one thing I love about YouTube. You can go on there and type in "fights and Ted Irvine" or "goals and Ted Irvine" and see all this great footage and clips of my father. It's really cool to be able to check all that out.
JAM: Do your kids prefer daddy the wrestler or daddy the rock star?
Well. my kids (ages eight and six) are just getting into wrestling now, so they like that. They like Top 40 music and Fozzy too! When we did the first demo for "Sandpaper," they came in and I played it for them to see what they thought. It was pretty funny to see them all dancing and bopping around. I'm thinking they liked it. We'll be doing a show in Tampa shortly, and they will be coming out to the show. I think it's going to be awesome. It's the first time any of them have seen the band live, so I'm really excited about that.
JAM: With the release Sin and Bones, and this tour to support it, do you enjoy the camaraderie of being on the road with the band as opposed to the independent travel in the WWE?
Yes I do. I always travel by myself in wrestling because that's just the way it's done. Over the years, I started with six partners, then five, then four, then three, then two, then decided to just go my own speed and do my own thing. I love traveling on the bus with these guys because it is so stress free. Besides, these guys are a lot more fun to hang with. First, there's the camaraderie you share being in a band. Also, if you want some time alone, you can just go to your bunk and close yourself off. The thing is, the bus becomes like your everything. It's a rolling office and sanctuary.
JAM: The music business is a much different world than the wrestling one you grew up in.
It is, and that's because it's an all-day process. You get up, have breakfast, take a shower and get dressed. Then at one o'clock, our press starts. Thankfully, every day there are people that want to talk to us, and this usually goes on until two-thirty. After that, it's dark time. We start warming up and getting ourselves ready for the show. After we perform, we do an autograph session at the Best Buy tent that usually takes about an hour. We finish up any additional press requests, visit with our VIPs then do a 'group hug' with all the people there for our meet and greet. That's followed by a 'bus bash' where people come on the bus and hang out with us. By the time we have finished all of our responsibilities, it's about seven thirty or eight o'clock. Then it's a several hours ride to the next town. That's a long day. It's good to have a really great bus you can be comfortable on because that makes a big difference.
JAM: With Fozzy, you are responsible for the lyrics and guitarist Rich Ward writes the music. It's almost like you're the Bernie Taupin and Elton John of metal.
Yeah, yeah! (laughs)
JAM: I understand you actually come up with song titles first, then you write the lyrics around the title. Do you keep a journal to write down ideas?
Actually, it's all on my iPhone, on the yellow notepad thing. If something pops into my head that I think is interesting as a title, I'll type it into the notepad. When the time comes to work on some lyrics, I'll go back through my notes to see what stands out to me. Some never make it, some do, and then there's some that never get used even after I've written down the information. There's a song called "Death Perception" I wrote for our new record that didn't make it on there because Rich couldn't get a feel for it. It was about different religions and their theories about the afterlife. I thought the idea for the song was amazing, but maybe it was a little too scientific for Rich because the music just didn't come to him. I'm thinking of saving it for my solo record.
JAM: It's definitely important that Rich get on the same page with you before he can create music around your lyrics.
Yes it is. "Spider in my Mouth", "Storm the Beaches" and "Dark Passenger" all started out that way and Rich got them. "Sandpaper", "Blood Happens", there were no communication problems there. I had a really cool title written down called "Sabotage Me", but something about it didn't sit right with me, so I set it aside. Then I realized I was being too smart for my own good. This organic title, "Inside My Head", kept repeating itself over and over in my head, so that's what I renamed the composition. Usually the lyrics and song title go hand in hand, but sometimes I have to change the title because the words just don't fit the song's name when I'm finished writing it.
JAM: You mentioned "Storm the Beaches" from the new album. That title would have fit right at home with Iron Maiden's Powerslave.
Thank you! That's kind of the inspiration I want my titles to evoke in people. "Wormwood," from our last album, is another one of those song titles that makes you stop and think. I love Maiden, Helloween, Dream Theater, Avenged Sevenfold and Rush. Every one of those bands wrote songs in the range of seven, eight, nine, even ten minutes long. On the last Fozzy record (Chasing the Grail), I wanted to do a sort of Dream Theater-esque song in that mold because our old guitarist, Mike Martin, was that style of a player. He and I wrote "Wormwood" together (nearly 14 minutes long). The tune had a lot of keyboard solos switching back and forth with the guitar.
On "Storm the Beaches," which is the last song on the new album, I wanted Rich to write his version of a long composition along the lines of Iron Maiden's 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." That was the template used for this song, and I think we definitely nailed it. The tune seems to go by in just minutes, but it's almost twelve minutes long. The lyrics tell a great story, the music paints a wonderful landscape. Rich's music fits the words I wrote perfectly. If you close your eyes and listen to the song, it really takes you somewhere. You can actually see it playing out in your head. That aspect of a song is something I've always admired in Iron Maiden's music. Some of their songs really take you on a trip.
JAM: "Storm the Beaches" sounds tremendous through headphones.
Yeah, I agree!
JAM: The production work on the album is also top notch.
Well that's all Rich Ward, he produced this album!
JAM: Since we're on the subject of "Storm the Beaches", what was the inspiration behind that song?
I believe I read those words 'storm the beaches' somewhere. When I saw the phrase I thought, "Well, on the last record, 'Wormwood" was about the Book of Revelation, the end of the world with The Antichrist." It was a very heavy metal subject that was easy to write about. For "Storm the Beaches," I thought no one had ever really done a lengthy song about D-Day. Obviously Maiden had written "The Longest Day," but I wanted a song that would basically encapsulate the opening to Saving Private Ryan. So I started researching the subject online and found this letter a soldier had written to his mother that had survived D-Day. It was kind of an eye witness account of all that happened. I printed that letter out and read it a few times. That's when the inspiration hit. I just started writing the lyrics based on that letter.
JAM: Do you read a lot to elevate your songwriting? The lyrics you compose for songs have a tremendous amount of depth to them. Even the promos you cut for the WWE are cleverly written.
Well, not as much I used to. Unfortunately, and this is sad to admit, but I'm always on my phone looking at Twitter and stuff like that. I have books in my bag that I carry with me, but reading sort of goes in phases for me. I may read for six months straight then afterwards take a break from it. Honestly, I would consider myself well read - maybe not recently well read - but definitely throughout the course of my life. I have probably read at least a thousand books, if not more.
This all goes back too to some of the journalism background I acquired in college. I've always been a good writer and it is something I love to do. In fact, writing my books was a blast. I wasn't much for math, chemistry or anything like that. Creative writing was something I really enjoyed. Whether it's coming up with a concept for a wrestling promo, sitting down to write a book, or creating lyrics for a song, I'm always conscious to not 'out-clever' myself.
JAM: I really enjoyed reading your books. They came across like this interview, very conversational, as though the reader was actually speaking with you.
Well thank you! That's the way I was hoping they'd come across to people. First off, I didn't want to have a ghost writer, I wanted to do it all myself. I do work with a guy to bounce a few ideas off of, but every word in both those books, on every page, was written by me. It is a hard job writing books, but that's the way I wanted to do it. People always ask when the is the third book coming out. I haven't even started it yet. I have every intention of writing another, but I just need to get that creative side of myself kicked into gear. In order to write, you have to be really inspired; you have to be in a zone. If you're going to talk about a specific period of time, even if it's a week, six years or thirty years ago, you have to be really tuned in to what happened then. Remembering all those little details is what makes a good read.
JAM: You're doing something right to land on the New York Times best seller's list.
I always hate reading autobiographies where they just sort of gloss over certain things. I want details. Some guy will say something or the other, but doesn't exactly remember the specifics of what he's saying. If you don't know exactly what happened, Google the time and try to get as specific as possible. The way I look at writing is this. If I don't remember details of a story I'm telling, it's still my responsibility to tell you the dates, what happened, the show, this and that. I have always been very OCD when it comes to the details of writing a book.
JAM: So there is a third book coming out from Chris Jericho?
Yeah, I signed the deal for it. Since the last one did so well, I signed the deal for the third one. That happened a year ago, so I should probably get started on it soon.
JAM: What could possibly be left for Chris Jericho to do?
Building this band is a priority. We've been doing this since 1999. The last three or four years, we all have gotten really serious about making this band work. Right now we have a lot of momentum going for Fozzy, and we don't want to lose that. I'll work my wrestling career around the band's schedule instead of the other way around. This music is a priority for all of us. We're writing songs people can listen to and enjoy. Our stage show is very energetic. We're doing all the press we can to spread the word. That's our focus. We want this band to get to the next level ... and the level after that! We want Metallica's job. We want to be the best band in the world.