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Interview

Jag Panzer Guitarist Mark Briody Talks Latest Album, "The Deviant Chord," Playing In The UK For The First Time And More

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Band Photo: Jag Panzer (?)

Power metal is an interesting genre. While some countries can't seem to get enough of it and hold up such bands as Blind Guardian and Iced Earth as idols equal to Judas Priest or Iron Maiden in metal music, it seems to be almost invisible in other nations. While Germany has long welcomed the genre, it's pretty rare to find a power metal show in the United Kingdom. Perhaps this is why, thirty eight years after forming, Jag Panzer, regarded by many as the fathers of American power metal, has only just performed in Great Britain for the first time.

Not only was I privileged enough to attend this moment in history, but I also had the pleasure of sitting down with founding guitarist Mark Briody to discuss the history of the band, their latest album, "The Deviant Chord," the return of bandmate Joey Tafolla, Dean guitars and much more. You can watch the interview in full below.

Diamond Oz: It's been thirty eight years since Jag Panzer formed and you've finally made it, you're finally in the UK, so welcome!

Mark Briody: Thank you. We've been trying to get into the UK forever but Kerrang! never covered us. I don't know why (laughs) So I don't know if that had something to do with it but this is the first time we were ever booked to come to the UK so we jumped on the chance!

Oz: I was shocked when I saw the poster and it said "First ever UK show."

Mark: I was shocked when they made it work because I've always wanted to come. I grew up reading Metal Forces magazine, reading Kerrang! and so I've always wanted to play the UK so this is cool.

Oz: Of course, you're still promoting the latest album, "The Deviant Chord," which came out about two years ago now. Now that the dust has settled a little bit, how do you view "The Deviant Chord" compared to previous albums?

Mark: I'm proud of it and I'm happy with it. It usually takes me years before I can just listen to a record for enjoyment so I'm not there with it. Yeah, it usually takes me about four years because otherwise when I hear it I kind of hear the process and how we recorded certain sections, so I don't really listen to it for music. Give me a couple of years... I liked it and I like playing the songs from it live.

Oz: I've seen a lot of positive feedback online. A lot of people really excited... Especially to have Joey (Tafolla) back in the band as well. This is the first album he's been a part of since "The Fourth Judgement..."

Mark: He's not on tour with us though. We're not sure how much this tour will make and he's got some expenses at home, he's gotta get his dog in the kennels. You know, he's not asking for a crazy amount of money at all but he asked for a little bit each gig and we can't really guarantee that for this tour.

Oz: Well, having him back in the band for the album, how much did that change the writing process for the previous record, "The Scourge Of The Light"?

Mark: I don't know, I don't really write for lead guitar. Joey did some great parts on the album, he did some great melodic parts. He enhanced the rhythms a lot and I thought he did a great job but I don't really write with lead guitar in mind so writing didn't really change at all but I thought he did an excellent job on the record.

Oz: Cool. While we're talking about the album, one of the things I really like about it is the art work. It's one of those that's cartoony but not goofy. Who did the art work?

Mark: That was Dusan Markovic from Serbia. I've been a fan of his for a few years and I wanted to work with him. We wanted to do kind of a mad scientist theme because Nicola Tesla had his famous laboratory in our town, probably about five miles from where the band's studio is so we grew up with all these stories of Tesla so we always wanted to do kind of a mad scientist thing. So when Dusan agreed to do the art work, I thought this would be the time to do it.

Oz: Yeah, have a Serb do a Tesla theme, it works perfectly! This year also marks the twenty fifth anniversary of "Dissident Alliance." Are there any plans to celebrate that in any kind of way?

Mark: No, I don't think so. I like a lot of parts to that album but most fans hate it. They tell me all the time how much they hate the record so I don't promote it a lot. We've only got a limited time to promote certain releases and songs that in our set, which is nothing from that record. I'm not embarrassed or ashamed of it, it's just fallen by the wayside a little bit.

Oz: I'm really surprised to hear that. I think it's a record that's aged well and it's got some great material on there.

Mark: Well thank you, you're one of very few people. Most people make a point to tell me how much they hate it.

Oz: I know you're also an admirer and user of Dean guitars...

Mark: I used to be. They took me off their user list. I was playing Deans since I was a kid, I used to draw their logo on my desk in high school and then I started playing Deans and they put me in their catalogue and everything was great. Then they had a change in staff there and one day I was doing an interview and I was saying how much I love my Deans and the interviewer looked on their website and said, "You're not a Dean artist." So I called Dean and they said, "Yeah we took you off the list, we're not interested."

It was completely embarrassing to have that happen during an interview so I called ESP, who I've always liked and they were like, "We'd be glad to have you aboard" so they sorted out a guitar within a week and I've been playing ESP ever since. It was disappointing. I'd always tried to promote the brand. I know they had much bigger guitar players than me but that really worked and I thought I did a good job promoting the brand.

Oz: Obviously in September you'll be playing ProgPower with bands like Demons & Wizards and Evergrey. Have you played the festival before?

Mark: We played ProgPower 1! The very first one in Chicago and it was cool. Lots of people from the US metal scene all go to that show so it's nice seeing old friends again. That's going to be a cool show.

Rikard Stjernquist (drummer): We've actually played with Demons & Wizards before at Bang Your Head.

Oz: Cool. I think you can definitely hear a bit of Jag Panzer in Iced Earth and such.

Rikard: Well they do say we're the founders of American power metal and that's the bucket that they seemed to be placed in.

Mark: But Jon (Schaffer, Iced Earth/ Demons & Wizards guitarist/founder) said he'd never heard of us...

Oz: Well, just to round it off, obviously you've got ProgPower coming up, you're still promoting "The Deviant Chord," but what's the plans for the rest of the year and do you know if it'll be as long a wait for the next album?

Mark: We're going to record the ProgPower set for a live Blu Ray and album. We haven't done a live album yet. ProgPower's got a great stage, great lights, excellent techs so I think that's going to be the show we pick for the live album.

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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