An Interview With Fozzy/Stuck Mojo Guitarist Rich Ward
Fozzy is one of the most unique bands going today. The band signed to the legendary metal label Metal Blade after performing only two shows and released their debut album in 2000, which mostly featured covers of bands they had grown up loving such as Scorpions and Judas Priest. The band created a unique angle for themselves by inventing a storyline which claimed they had actually written these songs and that all of these iconic bands had stolen their material. The storyline continued until 2005 when the band released their third album, "All That Remains." Fozzy has since developed a loyal fan base in countries as far reaching as Australia, Great Britain and Germany and have proved through their live shows that they can hang with the big boys. We were recently given the opportunity to interview the bands guitar player and co-founder Rich Ward (also of Stuck Mojo fame) which was a true honour. In this interview he talks about Fozzy's latest album, "Chasing The Grail" (which will be released through Riot! Entertainment on January 26th) as well as what the future holds for the band and himself.
Diamond Oz: First of all, thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us. It's been a good five years since Fozzy released the outstanding "All That Remains" album and in a few weeks you'll be releasing the bands fourth studio album, "Chasing The Grail." How has the songwriting process changed since the previous record and why was there such a long period between the release of "All That Remains" and "Chasing The Grail"?
Rich Ward: Every song that I have ever written for Fozzy or Stuck Mojo started with the riff and a groove. Then, lyrics and melodies are shaped to work with a completed musical idea. On this record I started the writing process with a stack of lyric sheets written by Chris. Kind of funny how it took me 16 records to realize that it was a good idea to have a lyrical starting point to help shape the direction of the music. As for the 5 years in between records, it really just boiled down to Chris, myself, and the band making the time commitment to do it right. With Chris' WWE obligations, and our Stuck Mojo recording and touring schedule, we just never seemed to find the time. We literally had to just say, time out on Mojo, Rich take Chris' lyrics, go into hermit mode, and write an album.
Diamond Oz: I was disappointed to see that Mike Martin is no longer a member of the band as I had been extremely impressed with his playing during live shows. What is the reason for Martin no longer being in the group?
Ward: It started to fall apart during the recording process when Chris and I became aware that there were some deeper issues, which resulted in both parties deciding to go separate ways.
Diamond Oz: On "Chasing The Grail" we can hear the return of drummer Frank Fontsere. What made him decide to rejoin the group and what were the reasons behind Eric Sanders leaving the drum stool?
Ward: Frank and I have been friends for 22 years, and in my opinion, is the best meat and potatoes rock drummer in the world. Frank should have never been asked to leave the band. That was my decision, and it was a huge mistake. He rejoined because I begged him to. Sanders is a great drummer and a good friend, but Frank will always be THE drummer for Fozzy and Stuck Mojo.
Diamond Oz: The song, "Martyr No More" features a guest guitar solo from Annihilator's Jeff Waters. How did you come into contact with each other and who made the first move to do the collaboration?
Ward: When we knew Mike would no longer be in the band, I asked Chris if he was ok with having a guest to record a couple of solos. We both felt that having Jeff on the record would be an honor, as we are both big fans of his playing. It also didn't hurt that Jeff and Chris are friends, so making contact was easy.
Diamond Oz: Do you have any favourite songs on "Chasing The Grail"?
Ward: As any parent would love his children, I love the record, but Martyr No More and Grail are my favs.
Diamond Oz: Are there any plans to film a music video for any of the songs?
Ward: We are talking about it, but no plans are firm at this point.
Diamond Oz: The last time I saw you perform, Chris told the crowd a story about how you guys saw a huge sign that read "FOZZY! GAY!" while on tour once and said that a picture of the sign would appear in the booklet for the next album. Now that the new album is almost among us, is there any truth that this will be in the booklet?
Ward: We just released an internet only fan package that contains a live album we recorded on the All That Remains Tour, called Remains Alive. That photo, which was taken of the Astoria marquee in London, can be found in that booklet. I can't believe we actually went through with putting it in there.
Diamond Oz: Do you have any plans regarding touring this year? Since the band has a fairly large following in the United Kingdom, will you be looking to trek over to our fair shores for a tour or any festival appearances?
Ward: Yes, just today I was told that we are putting holds on UK venues for mid May. I did a little dance to signify my pleasure in receiving this information.
Diamond Oz: Fozzy has previously released two DVDs, are they any plans to release another one to help promote "Chasing The Grail"? Perhaps one with footage from the road or a making of the album type documentary?
Ward: In 2005, we filmed 2 shows in Australia for a live DVD, but that project just sits on my shelf until I am told that the budget has been approved to proceed with the editing and producing of the final product. Beyond that, no plans.
Diamond Oz: Are there any Fozzy songs that you are particularly proud of or that hold a special meaning to you?
Ward: From a songwriting and production standpoint, New Day's Dawn is one of my favorite moments on this record. I always enjoy taking the liberty to stretch outside of my comfort zone, and this song successfully wanders a little off Fozzy's yellow brick road.
Diamond Oz: Moving away from Fozzy for a moment, you released your solo album, "My Kung Fu Is Good" in 2005 and it almost instantly became a personal favourite of mine. Would you consider releasing a second album under the "Duke" moniker at some point?
Ward: Thank you, and absolutely I would love to. I've written a lot of material for a future Duke record, but that album remains in "my cue". Patiently it awaits realization.
Diamond Oz: Growing up as a young musician, who were your biggest influences?
Ward: John Sykes, Neal Schon, Wolf Hoffmann, Randy/Brad/Jake/Zakk, Vivian Campbell, The Maiden Boys, The Priest Boys, The Scorpions Boys.
Diamond Oz: Many people also know you for your work in Stuck Mojo, who have been labelled as pioneers of rap metal. How do you feel about this tag and the rap metal/nu metal craze that followed in the 90s?
Ward: It's always an honor to be recognized as someone whose music was in some way influential.
Diamond Oz: Going back to Fozzy, the band are often associated with pro wrestling due to having Chris Jericho as lead vocalist. Do you feel that this connection should be played down so that those who look at wrestling with contempt are more likely to check Fozzy out or are you more happy that the band can achieve such publicity this way?
Ward: There are a lot of factors that contribute to how a band is perceived, some of which are out of our control. The songwriting, the album production, the quality of our live performances, these are the things that we focus our energy on to define who we are as a band.
Diamond Oz: What do you think the future holds for Fozzy?
Ward: Lots of good times with band mates that I have the highest level of love and respect for. Couple that with the fact that we have the greatest fans on earth, and I have lots to look forward to.
Diamond Oz:. Thank you once again for doing this Q&A: Do you have any departing words for our readers?
Ward: It is an honor. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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