Sonisphere UK 2011 Interview: Fozzy – Rich Ward

Rich “The Duke” Ward, a man who works tirelessly on his craft whether he is pioneering a genre with Stuck Mojo or taking a fun time covers band to the top or crushing it with his new supergroup, the man does it all.

Last year saw the release of the bands fourth studio album and their second original album ‘Chasing The Grail’ which saw the band prove to the world that they have much more to offer than just covers. Recently the band reissued the album on their new label, Edel, packaged alongside their live album ‘Remains Alive’ which Rich explains never received a proper release. With writing underway for their brand new album which will hit stores in the spring of 2012, I had the opportunity to talk to Rich Ward about the reissued package, their love for the UK, their upcoming album, being comfortable to now write original material and more.

Be sure to check out the bands official website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

EspyRock: How are you doing?

Rich Ward: I’m doing awesome!

Are you looking forward to playing tonight?

Oh yeah I can’t wait. It’s one of those shows were you plant the flag on the top mountain to say ‘I was here’, that’s what this gig is. We played Download in 2005 and my other band Stuck Mojo did a few of the big German metal festivals so it feels like I’m ticking off the bucket list of all the great festivals and this one could be the top of the mountain.

Yeah it doesn’t get much bigger than playing on the same bill as the Big Four and the return of Slipknot.

Oh yeah come on man, it’s unbelievable.

Is there anyone you want to see or hope to try see?

I’m not going to watch to watch any of the bands as I like the idea of not becoming desensitised. I love the reveal, when you stay on the bus and then at the last minute you walk out and for the first time you see it and that’s the beauty of it. It’s like being a dark room with no sound, nothing, then you open the windows and that’s when it hits you with all its energy. If you stand and you watch all of the bands you start to go ‘wow, this is amazing’, then you know how it is…

Yeah you just get too used to the atmosphere and eventually it loses that special touch.

Yeah exactly. It’s like seeing a horror movie where its body after body and after a while it’s no longer gross. I like the movie where they save the really genius death scene until the end.

Fozzy Rich Ward

Considering your fan base over here and how the band considers the UK a second home, did you think maybe you were more deserving of a bigger stage than the Jager stage considering you know there will be a great turn out?

I don’t know how any of that actually happens because as you know in the music business you have an agent, you’ve got a manager, then you’ve got a business manager and a tour manager so you have all these people that make up all these layers of the business side of it and we’re just obviously the creative side of it. So a lot of times we don’t know if there are five, eight, ten or ten thousand stages, we have no idea but we just knew that we were booked, they told us our time slot, that we weren’t main stage and if I’m being honest, every band would love to be on the big stages but if I’m having to go on stage at eleven o’clock in the morning to be on the main stage then I don’t want to do that. I think we have a great time slot, we go on at eight o’clock at night when everyone has already had a few pints and everyone is feeling good with a good meal or two in them and I think it’s great. I don’t think anybody could honestly stare at you and say they love playing the smaller stages but when it comes down to it, if it’s a question of go on later in the day when there is a little atmosphere or a bigger stage early in the morning, I’ll take the atmosphere.

Yeah I know what you mean, every morning I’ve went up to the main stage and while there are always a good crowd, people are mainly sitting down or lying down, focussed more on the screens or the band from a distance.

Yeah I know. People are not wound up at that time or still hung over from the night before [laughs].

What is it about the UK that makes it feel to you like a second home because it is a point that yourself or Chris [Jericho] always mention about how special the UK is to the band?

For us, grass and dirt and trees always look the same no matter where you are so what makes the UK so special are the fans. For whatever reason when we first started touring as a band outside of the US, the UK fans were just warmer to us and it then made us love them more because you know how it is, when a girl gives you a kiss on the cheek it’s nice, but when she gives you a big wet kiss on the mouth you’re like ‘I love this woman!’; it just seems like we fell in love together. My father is English but he moved to America in the sixties so I have a lot of family here, a lot of history plus all of our favourite bands like [Judas] Priest, [Iron] Maiden, Ozzy [Osbourne], [Black] Sabbath and all these greats that we grew up listening to are all from here. There is some magic, it’s almost like an astronaut who finally gets to go to Mars or something; this is a magic place for us. You look in the mirror and you say ‘I made it to play sold out at the Astoria’ and then you say ‘this is a place I want to come to all the time’.

Coming to the music now, the next release you have is the two CD set of your live album ‘Remains Alive’ and the recent studio album ‘Chasing The Grail’.

Yeah it comes out 18th July.

What made you want to re-release them in that type of package?

Well the live record never got a proper release. It was available as a limited edition and I think we only sold around five hundred of them but they were only available as a special bundle that you could buy online. So after that sold out so quickly many people were like ‘man, we could just download it for free from the internet but we would like to have it as the package’. So we decided why don’t we rebundle it as we have a new label now, Edel, so why don’t we start this new relationship with the live record and re-release the previous release. Plus it’s a good way to say ‘hey record stores, remember us?’ because we have a new record coming out in the spring of next year so it’s a good way to establish that we’re still here. ‘Chasing The Grail’ came out in January 2010 so it has been out for a while now and it’s nice to kind of pat everyone on the back and say ‘remember us?’ There’s a big difference between the fans and the music industry, with the music industry you kind of have to deal with it delicately because there are a lot of bands and a lot of releases and there is only so much space on the shelves in the record stores, so you have to be very accommodating and remind them you’re here.

I was going to ask you about the new album which you just brought up; how is everything going with the writing process?

Chris [Jericho] has written all of the lyrics and I have six or seven song ideas but all in very rough clay; they look like stick figures right now [laughs], I have to put clothes on them and draw hair and stuff but we’re getting there. We’ve been touring a lot so it has been tough to get time and we’ve had so many things that have been happening as everyone has their little side bands that they do so we just had to say ‘okay, after the summer, time out and full time writing!’ Fozzy has been full time but it has been full time touring; you have to allow yourself time to write and record or it will never get done. There is bands like [Iron] Maiden who will go out for two years and it’s not like they can make a record on the road, you have to physically get in a room together and hash out the ideas, work it out, make some demo recordings, let everyone take them home and listen and make adjustments. It’s like writing a book, you start off with the rough outlines, and then you get your script and start refining it as you go with the second draft, third draft, fourth draft and that’s how you write and we make records the same way.

With your ideas for the songs you have right now are you looking at anything new or ways that will evolve the sound or take Fozzy to another level or direction?

I never go into the writing process with an idea of what we should do unless I read Chris’s lyrics and I can kind of gauge what he was thinking and then try to come up with an idea of what I should do with his ideas. It’s like scoring a movie and I try to write a musical landscape, I take his ideas and try to reimagine them with sound.

Fozzy Rich WardFrom his lyrics that he has presented you will there anything similar to ‘Wormwood’, the fourteen minute epic song or was that a one off?

Yeah that was definitely a one off but he has one song which is more of an epic for this album and it feels like an eight to ten minute song for me because of the length of the lyrics. I think there are five verses and bridges and all kinds of stuff, it may look more like [Iron] Maidens ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ than like some fourteen minute Dream Theatre song.

When it comes down to the finer points after the material is recorded such as producing, that is always something that is done within the band whether it is yourself or Chris taking on the role as producer or combining so do you prefer that control and keep other people away from tweaking it and making a mess?

I prefer to have complete control over the creative part of it and then when it comes to the mix I like to surround myself with some friends like Andy Sneap who is the best mixer and producer in the world in my opinion and I’ve worked with him on a million things but he stays so busy.

Yeah with his catalogue of work it is no surprise plus being a member of Sabbat and Hell, near impossible to grab his time.

Yeah of course. So now a lot of times there is a guy in Atlanta that I work with, Shawn Grove (Fozzy, Sevendust, Elton John), when he isn’t busy.

As a unit now, is the band a lot more comfortable writing original material as of course ‘Fozzy’ was a covers album and then ‘Happenstance’ was a mix and it wasn’t until ‘All That Remains’ that you tried to solidify yourself as an original band.

Absolutely. I’ve always been comfortable in my own skin of who I am as an artist but when you write as a band you have to find who we all are when we come together because we know who Chris Jericho is and we know who Rich Ward is but what do they sound like when they are together. That’s when you make magic albums, when you capture the personalities of everyone and not make it just a John Lennon or a Paul McCartney record but a Beatles album when you have everyone come together to make that amazing record.

When you look back at the first self-titled album, being that it was a covers album, could you see Fozzy ever getting to this stage with the fifth studio album in the works and it being the third full original album?

I don’t think we ever looked past every gig [laughs]. Fozzy only started off as a collection of good friends making amazing music, playing our favourite covers and I don’t think we ever thought two minutes down the road and I think that’s why this band has been really great. It’s not contrived, there are no board meetings were we have like this idea; it just happens. The process is very organic and I think the best rock music is made when it’s just a stream of consciousness and it’s not this business model or business plan. ‘We should do this because this band is popular’, we’ve never said that, we just said ‘what do you want to do’ and we just let it happen and to me it has worked out great. There is still effort but the effort is more natural and has less resistance because when you try to force something, you’re forcing against an opposing force and there is never any of that in Fozzy, it’s just…

Plain sailing.

Yeah that’s a good way to put it, plain sailing, no bumps, just nice and smooth, that’s perfectly right.

The last question and it’s one I’m asking across the weekend to all of the bands that I interview. With all of the knowledge and lessons you have learned throughout your career, what is the one piece of advice you would go back and give yourself?

Just be ready for it to be really hard. The music industry is a soul depleting place because you can spend eight months writing and recording a record and it only takes twenty seconds for someone to go on the internet and say you suck or ten minutes for a journalist to write that this album is terrible. You have to have thick skin and you have to know who you are and be okay with that because when I go see a movie or listen to a new CD I don’t always like it but it doesn’t mean that it’s shit, it just means that I didn’t like it. I like steak more than chicken but it doesn’t mean that chicken sucks, it just means that someone likes chicken better than you do and that’s what brilliant about music is that you have such wide flavours in the taste spectrum and there is a little of something for everybody. I think starting off [as a musician] I would have just told myself not to take it so personal. There are a lot of artists I look up to like Devin Townsend and these greats who take huge risks and with these big risks it also comes with a lot of ridicule because not everyone is going to like it.

Fozzy Rich WardI think Devin Townsend is a good example there because he did go through that phase of rediscovering who he was as an artist and he has been trying new and different things with the records he releases but ultimately he seems to be in something of a better place now, enjoying his writing that bit more.

Absolutely and there are always going to be people who tell Devin that they don’t like the album about the puppets but to me what makes him brilliant is that he doesn’t have any fear and that’s what I try. I’ve worked with Devin when he produced the second record I did with Stuck Mojo and that was something he helped to instil in me, to have no fear because you will make bad decisions when acting out of fear, you panic and that’s bad.

Yeah and then you go back to tried and trusted methods, you repeat yourself out of fear and you never move forward.

Exactly, you’re right and it’s one of the worst things that can happen to you as a musician, to let fear take over you as you just keep spinning your wheels.


About ??

Michael is the owner and creator of EspyRock. He is your general all round geek; sports fan; TV show fanatic. You can find him sharing his thoughts on his personal Twitter account. Contact Michael on Twitter or via Email.

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