Rich Ward – Fozzy/Stuck Mojo: Interview Exclusive Print E-mail
Written by Tazz Stander   
Monday, 29 March 2010 06:00

Rich_WardIf you've ever wanted to know anything about the music industry then Fozzy and Stuck Mojo guitarist Rich Ward is that man to ask.  He's been in the business for more years than most would care to remember yet remains an amazingly humble man, and that is certainly a rare thing to find in the music industry.  Add in the fact that he is also a funny, honest and easy to relate to type of guy and you'll understand why he's our type of 'Rock Star'. 


Uber Rock's Tazz Stander caught up with the man also known as 'The Duke' recently and took a journey through the life vision of this very talented yet unassuming guitarist, as he explained how keeping a handle on what matters most to him in turn affects his fans all around the Heavy Metal world.


Rich, how you doing?


I'm fantastic, blessed to be alive and to be able to speak to you today about the Fozzy record.  Obviously playing music is a blessing and being able to do it as a living, waking up everyday and saying, "Wow, I'm a guitar player", it's a dream come true. But I just want to say to you, "Thank You" from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to help to promote it, because if it's not for you nobody knows I have a record out and then no one buys it (laughs).


Right back at you Rich, and thank YOU for all the good music.


It's a pleasure and an honour.  We knew that this album was going to be important to our career because we started off as a covers band and Fozzy was always a side project for me and the guys in Stuck Mojo.  As the band started to naturally evolve, we just knew we were at a place that if we were going to do this from now on, we needed to do it at 110% and we needed to make it our full time focus.  When we do go back to make a Stuck Mojo album or prepare rehearsals for a tour, obviously we will switch gears and focus on that 110% but this is the first time ever that all of us have said that Fozzy is our No. 1 band and if we're going to move forward with it, it deserves our 100% focus and attention and we really did pull out all the stops and put our lives on hold to make the album.  We have been rehearsing since ... well; it could have been 2001 or 2002 since we have all been in the rehearsal space together as a band rehearsing every night.  We feel like kids and it feels so good.  Sometimes you get caught up in the, "OK we've played together for so many years, lets just get together for 3 or 4 rehearsals before a tour", but this time we've got together for 6 weeks, every night of the week.  Not only does it make the music tighter but it also builds camaraderie in the band, which is something that I forgot is so important.


Chasing-the-grailAfter two years of writing, we finally have 'Chasing the Grail' here in the UK, describe the album for me in four words.


Classic Melodic Metal.


(Laughing)  That's three words.  You can play guitar but you can't count.


(Laughs) That's right, I only know three chords and three words.  That's about as good as it's going to get.


Let's talk about your inspirations and motivations on this record and in particular, a song that has moved me every time I have heard it, 'Broken Soul'.


Chris sent me 14 sets of lyrics when we first started talking about making this album and I looked at those lyrics, when I read it I really felt like ... it's interesting, you know when you read someone's lyrics, when there is no music, there is no covering of it.  I mean you get it at its purest striped down form.  Chris and I have been friends for 11 or 12 years and I had no idea he was going through this.  It's interesting that I know him well but I guess that was just part of his life, whatever he was going through in his relationship with his wife, was something that he hadn't shared with me. At least to that extent and it was interesting to read what kind of suffering, tension or whatever adjective you want to use, that he was experiencing.  When I read it, I thought that the song should be a melancholic ballad, a message that he was reaching out not only to the love of his life but to the ... that's how we work, he sends me the lyrics - it's like the Bernie Taupin and Elton John thing, he lets me interpret the lyrics the way that I see them.  I wrote the song, the melodies and I recorded it in a loose demo form, sent it to him and he said, "Wow, I had no idea, this is not how I saw this song at all", but he loved it and I think that that is the beauty of collaborating in a band environment.  You can take two different perspectives and the end result lies somewhere in the middle.  If you are a 3 piece or 4 piece writing unit, then it is even more of an amalgamation of inputs and ideas.  I love that song because I'm a big melodic rock fan.  My earliest memories are of American late 1970's, Journey, Rush and Boston.  Those are bands that I heard on the radio when I was 8 years old, it was my first connection with rock music.  Obviously they aren't Heavy Metal bands but the late 70's was a very exciting period in time because there was so much experimentation, it was like the wild frontier, it was a wide open canvas where bands were trying so many different things and that is why I have such a love and passion for that era of music, because you had Hendrix and Zeppelin, you had all of these off shoots, all of these bands like Deep Purple and some of the bands that I've already mentioned that tried so many different things, prog music and melodic rock.  I even love Foreigner because I just love hard rock guitars with beautiful, amazing rock melodies.  All those have always been big influences in my life and it was nice to have an opportunity on the album to express that part of my music vocabulary.


My other two favourite tracks on the album are 'Martyr No More' and 'Grail'.


Thank you.  Me too.  Actually those two songs, 'Broken Soul' and 'Let the Madness Begin' are my favourite songs on the album because they ... 'Grail' just has such a crushing heavy riff and then the chorus opens up into this big harmony vocal chord.  Again, it was a privileged to work with the guys on this record.  Actually, we worked with a guy named Renny Carroll who plays in a band called Forever Never, an English band ...


They're supporting you on your UK tour right?


Yes they are.  He is an amazing singer and he really collaborated with me on some of the vocal production.  He sang the vocal harmony bits with Chris in his choruses.  His voice just speaks to me.  He sang on the last Mojo album, the one before that.  He is just one of those guys that I love working with.


[Unfortunately, the next few lines from me were 'off the record', but the response from Rich was this ...]


I'm speechless, and I'm so appreciative because you work so hard on making these albums and at the end of the day, how they are received, you just have to be open to whatever comes.  You know that not everyone is going to like the album but you hope for the best that it will be received well and it's always nice to hear good things and to know that people like yourself are supporting us so again, thank you so much.




It goes both ways though; I've got a friend who is following your whole tour here in the UK.


That's great.  I love that because I remember when the 'And Justice For All' album came out from Metallica in 1988, they came through twice on tour and one of the times they came through, Queensryche was the opening band and I went to 5 shows, travelled everywhere to see them.  Any time someone comes up to me at the show and tells me how much they love the band and the next night I'm like, "You were there last night".  It's such a humbling thing because I recognise, as a guitar player and songwriter, I really haven't done anything for the greater good of humanity.  It's not like I've cured cancer or I've fed starving people.  I just play a few chords and sing a few melodies.  I'm pretty realistic about my impact in the world but it is humbling when you have people in the world that are obviously a fan of your music and are willing to spend their time and money to support you when there are so many other bands, so many other ways that people can spend their time and money and I don't take it for granted.  I want to honour this commitment by being as good as I can be.  It puts pressure on you to know that Albums cost a lot, Concerts cost a lot, T-Shirts cost a lot and I don't take it for granted, and I want to be as good as I can be to honour that support.


Fair enough, you might not have cured cancer or fed the hungry, but you have brought a lot of happiness to people by connecting to them with your music.


You know what?  They have brought a lot of happiness to me because without their support, my dream of playing music for a living would not be possible so it's a relationship that I honour and I'm just so thankful for.


Stuck_MojoLets talk about Mike Martin for a second.  Why has he left the band?


Mike and I were best friends in the band.  We used to go to the gym together to train and when we were on tour, we spent the most time together.  The relationship just got weird and to the best of my knowledge ... well when you're in a band or in any relationship - I equate being in a band to being in a relationship, a lot of the time, people are not that comfortable voicing their displeasure or unhappiness with things, they keep things inside and I had no idea how unhappy Mike was with a lot of things. It wasn't just with me or Chris or the band or just management, but there were lots of issues that he had and it all popped out in one burst of unhappiness and negativity and it got weird.  I reacted back with my hands in the air saying, "Why did this all build up, why has this happened, we're best friends you could have just come to me", and it just got very awkward.  The conversations were very guarded and that lead to us not having healthy conversations, there were ultimatums and it just got ugly. I want my quality of life to be of the highest level.  Ultimately, you can make music or work in McDonald's and be happy doing either one, or you can be miserable doing it, and I made a choice a long time ago that I will never be in a relationship where happiness and joy can not be derived from that relationship.   It wasn't just me either, Chris had some real big issues with the way that him and Mike had some dealings on the record and again, it wasn't personal, at least it wasn't for me.  It just got to the point where our working relationship was damaged, in my mind, beyond repair, because the trust was gone.  Like in any relationship, if everything you do moving forward is guarded and with cynicism and scepticism, you don't actually have a good relationship.  Even if you live in a mansion and you have a pool in the backyard and you drive a Maserati and your career is based on having to be in a band with somebody that you can't derive joy from and make music with, it's worth selling it all.  Again, I didn't get into the music business to drive a nice car or to hang out with the cool people in L.A. or in London.  I love music, I have a passion for making music and I'm fortunate to be able to make a living doing it, but at the same time I'm not willing to compromise.  Mike is an amazingly talented guitar player and he does not need me to make a living playing music, just like I don't need Mike Martin to make a living.  We can have separate bands and both find happiness.  I came to that conclusion many years ago in Stuck Mojo.  I call myself a Metal Boy Scout, kind of a nerd because I've never drank or done drugs.  I've always been the guy that drove the van to the next show afterwards because I was the sober guy.  I never went to the strip clubs or the pole-dancing clubs, I never cared about any of those things, I never got caught in the trappings.  It was always about the music, and I found out the hard way because I never kept track of things. I found out that my singer in Stuck Mojo was addicted to drugs and all kinds of things.  I just thought that he was really grumpy and that he was sick.  I just didn't know because I was ignorant and I tried to keep that relationship together for years knowing that he was not performing at 100% and that his priorities were based on what the addiction dictated.  After years and years of being miserable trying to hold that relationship together, I told myself that I was always going to shake hands and walk away from a relationship when I felt like we were at that point where it just probably a good idea for us to end it here than try and drag it along limping and squealing.  You know what I mean?


Fozzy_FireYeah I'm right with you on that one.  I was just very curious as I saw a Press Release from Mike where it seemed that a journalist had asked him if he was doing this tour with you, and in it he mentioned that he had left Fozzy because he had an issue with one person in the band and I realise there are two sides to every story and guessed that you were the best person to ask.


I'm sure he's meaning me with that because Chris is a bit passive when it comes to those types of things.  He didn't want to get into it with Mike but ultimately it was Chris's decision that he didn't want Mike in the band any more.  When it comes down to it, it's easier when you can say that somebody has an issue with you than it is to accept that you've done something to create a situation where several members of the band don't want you to be in the band any more.  Again, it doesn't change the outcome and whether Mike wants to put a happy face or a frowny face to it.  When Mike puts out a record, his next solo album, I will be the first guy in line to buy it and I will be the first guy in the front row to watch him play because I love him, I just don't want to be in a band with him anymore, because as I said, we got to that point where it was just time to go some place else.  It wasn't a Rich Ward/Mike Martin issue, it was a Fozzy/Mike Martin issue but hey, again, it doesn't have to be a bad thing.  For Fozzy fans in general, Mike never played on a Fozzy record, he wasn't on 'All That Remains' and when we did the new album, the only song he played in is the song he wrote, 'Wormwood' so he really just was the bands touring guitar player for years.  In other words, I don't want to make too big a deal out it because I want Fozzy fans to continue to support Mike, not because of any other reason other than he's a great musician.


Sticking with line-up changes, Frank Fontsere is back in the band.  Apart from being a kick ass drummer, was he the only man for the job or are there other reasons for his return?


Remember the shows I was telling you about back in 1988?  Frank and I went to those shows together.  We've been best friends since we were kids.


He's also in Stuck Mojo with you isn't he?


Yes he is.  It's amazing that, in the music business, and this even goes back to the situation with Mike, it is a difficult business because unfortunately you have to muddy the waters between your art, your passion and the business.  The business can be so frustrating because once you've written a song and recording it ... it's like raising a child and then sending it off to school, and then the child comes home saying all these things and you're like, "Where did you hear that?" and they're like, "I heard it from Johnny in third period in English studies", and you recognise that some things are out of your control.  The record company that we were with on All_That_Remains'All That Remains', they basically stole all the money from Chris and I for that album and filed bankruptcy, and everything that we invested in it, they kept all the money.  So if you're not a strong person and just say, "That's life, I'm not happy about it and it stinks that I'm now three months behind in my payments and I'm knee deep in credit card debt in order to buy groceries because this is my living and this is how I expected to pay all my bills".  You either put a smile on it and recognise that that is life and that sitting around moaning and groaning about it doesn't change it, that is what happened with Frank and I.  Frank got upset with the business because he had expectations that things should be different.  We made great albums and we worked hard and when things don't turn out the way you think they should, it affects your attitude and your playing.  Frank got to that place in his life where he just needed to go home.  A lot of times when you're in a hotel room every night of the week or you're stuck in a van or plane, you can't sort these things out, you've got to go home.  That is basically what happened, Frank went home, he took a few months off playing, he found some other guys to play with.  We spoke all the time, we stayed in touch.  We just got to that point where we said that we should play music separately because we didn't seem happy playing together anymore and through talks we realised that we didn't really have anything to be upset about.  I will never close the door on any relationship I've ever had with anybody.  As far as I'm concerned, I love Mike Martin and down the road, if he has an epiphany that he had a role in the break-up and comes to Chris and I and says, "Hey I'm sorry, I was just in a mindset and the business was mind melting me and I just blew a gasket and I'm sorry for my part of it".  I've already apologised to Mike for my part of it, he just didn't want to take ownership for his part of it.  That is what it took for Frank and I to get all this sorted out, for him to own up to his part, for me to own up to my part.  Even the Stuck Mojo singer, I couldn't even tell you the stories of debauchery and bad displays of human badness (laughs), I still love the guy.  He's a good guy but he was just a slave to these substances that made him be an ugly person and ultimately he has to be accountable for it because nobody forced him to take them.  It's just when he was on them, he became someone that no one wanted to be around.  If one day he became sober and willing to atone for what he's done, we could probably make music together again because I'm all about clean slates.  I've done enough bad stuff in my life that I hope that people will forgive me as well.


Talking of you being the geek of the band, one of the best comments I've heard was you saying that nothing good happens between 3 and 7 in the morning.


(Laughing) Nothing good does happen.  I go to bed every night about 12 or 12.30 and I get up about 7.30 or 8, which is totally un-Rock 'n' Roll hours.  When I'm on tour, I stay up until 4 or 5 because, as a live player, it's about getting your schedule right.  You're never at your highest peak energy wise right before you go to bed.  It's not like that for all musicians though.  Some of them just go out there, play the chords by the numbers, and do the gig by the numbers.  For me, I want to be at the height and peak of my energy - I owe it to the fans that have granted me their time and their treasures to support me.  I owe it to them to calculate the time of day when I'm peaking energy wise so that I can give them my best performance.  Anyone who is honest will tell you that after about 1am in the morning, there's just nothing good going on.  You're either going home with someone you probably shouldn't go home with, you're drinking too much ... like I said, I hate to be a fuddy duddy but my life has to be about absolutes.  I don't like living in the grey.  I like knowing right and wrong and it's not just a moral thing.  It's all about wisdom, it's the thing that I didn't know when I was 19 but now I know at 41.  People go, "Man, that's awful old for a rock guy", but let me tell you this, put the average 21 year old guitar player up on stage next to me and I will run around him so that he looks like he's standing still and I will play better than him at the same time.  That's my goal and if at 41 I can't do that, I should just retire.  I've said that to all the people I know, I will retire when I can't keep up with the 21 years olds.  I don't want to be second best, I want to be the best player on the stage every night.  It's important because not only is your reputation based on that artists, musicians, guitarists, drummers, without our confidence, we're nothing.  It's what makes David Lee Roth great and it's what made Freddie Mercury great.  You have to know who you are as a musician and then you have to be that amplified a hundred times over, at your best every night to succeed.




On a general music level, when a song is born, is it first text or music?  Do you put words to melodies or melodies to words?


Until this album, I almost always wrote music first and I would have an idea of what I want the song to be about and I will start crafting some general lyrical ideas around that.  Usually it's a humming, I'm strumming guitar and [Rich starts singing out a guitar sound and humming and then sings, "Don't you know that you're the only one" - yes, if this was a live review, you too could hear what I heard!!]  I use that as a placeholder and then I start replacing the melodies that I really like from that placeholder.  With this album, Chris had the lyrics written before I even got into note 1 so it was an interesting experience to start with the lyrics.  I had to do 20% of the album with a lyrical change because you can't always fit poetry and prose into a song format.  It's shaping the lyrics to fit where the song is taking you.  I never have an all and out blueprint that I stick to.  The song always moves, it's organic and I like to keep it loose until I'm really happy with the format.  At any time, a very metal song can turn into more of a classic hard rock song if the melody dictates that it should go there.  You should never be so rigid that you try and force a song into something that it shouldn't be.


On a personal level, are you planning on doing another solo album?


I would like to.  My record company, Spitfire, went out of business, so I would have to find a new home for it, but saying that these days you don't necessarily have to have a label.  I'm fortunate enough to have a good solid fan base and I could probably release it without the support of a label at this point. I'm fairly unorganised and I don't necessarily plan things well. I wake up and decide on what I'm doing for the day but I'm very fortunate to have a manager who keeps me focussed and tells me what to do, otherwise I may just wonder around in circles looking for something to do.  I have written and entire new Duke album but it's always a matter of the next emergency, "We've got to get this Fozzy album done, OK, now we got to get the next Stuck Mojo record done", and there is always this business apparatus dictating what I should be doing, but I will put out another solo record because I tried on the last Stuck Mojo record to make it more melodic and I got crucified for it, so I realise it's best to have different vehicles for your different musical outlets, it's not always good to make a Prius act like a sports car (laughs).


Where do you think Fozzy fits into history?


I will leave that up to everybody else to say.  I am always bothered by musicians who are so pompous and arrogant that they want to write their own death dedication, or write how they want to be viewed.  I'm OK with letting everyone else decide.  Again, I don't think that my contribution to rock and metal should be a blip that should be recognised in some type of award.  I'm just happy that everyday I continue to wake up and have the privilege of being a musician that derives happiness from my job.  I don't want to take it for granted so if someone down the line wants to say that Rich Ward did a couple of good things, I would be honoured with their words and thankful for them.


uk-tour-2010With regards to your upcoming UK tour, what can fans expect from a live Fozzy show, and please explain the concept of having a matinee show in London.


Fozzy is one of the best live shows that anyone can see and I wish I could take credit for it, but it's because Chris Jericho is one of the best front men in the business.  He is an amazingly talented and charismatic guy without a doubt, he gets out there, he doesn't have to try, he just is.  It makes it easy for the band.  We've got the world greatest sports car driver so all we have to do is sit in the back seat and make sure we hang on for dear life and it's a great show.  The matinee show came about because Chris's schedule with wrestling is so demanding that we don't have too many free opportunities in his schedule to tour.  Basically when we were over in the UK a couple of years ago.... Six years ago (laughing)

Yeah, that's right; see once again, I only know 3 chords, that's all I can tell you (laughing).  That year, we did a matinee show in Manchester and that night a show in Liverpool and we thought it was pretty cool that we only had 3 days to do shows in but we could do 4 shows if we did it that way.  So this time, we've decided to do it in the same venue and we've come up with an interesting idea which is to change out the opening acts so the support acts will be totally different and we will also play a different set list so that if people decide to come to both shows, they will see a completely different show both times.


That's awesome.  I was really looking forward to sitting down with you guys for an interview in London but got bummed out when I was told there were only going to be phone interviews due to the lack of time you guys had on tour. But I will be at the London show and I'm going to teach Chris how to wrestle and you how to play a forth chord. (laughing).


(Laughing)  That would be awesome.  Both of us have lots to learn.  That would actually be great especially as we're in the same venue, there will be plenty of time for us to hang out between shows and the great thing about London is there is an early curfew so we can hang out after the show without getting into our too late motto.




I'm taking you up on that offer! The venue has just been revamped and the sound is immense.  I saw Europe in there a couple of months back and it was ridiculously brilliant - stadium sound whilst being up close and very personal.


I've got to ask you a question now if you don't mind?


Not at all.


Was John Norum playing guitar?


Yes he was.


Argh, he's one of my favourites.  That guy will hurt your feelings on guitar.  He is so amazing.


I love the way you describe him.  I say he's a guitarist with a capital G.


Yes he is.  Thank you.  That is the perfect description of what he is.  There are very few of those on this planet that have a master control of an instrument and not just from a technical point of view.  He is a guitar player that can just emote so well and it is the perfect blend of melodic sensibility whilst throwing so many notes at one time that you feel like you're being attacked by hornets.


He literally leaves himself when he solos.


He leaves himself and every guitar player in the crowd poops their pants (laughs).


The_DukeI think there are a few people in this world that say the same thing about you Mr Ward!


(Laughing) They poop their pants for a different reason though. Its just disgust.


Finally, Friday the 13th


I'm ready for you to say the name of the song, go ahead, para something, something, go ahead.


I can't say it either, so I'm going to give it a go and then you're going to give it a go.


Alright, I'm ready.




Para ... skeka ... deka ... naka ... (laughing).  Man, when Chris told me that he wanted to name that song that I said that there was no way.  I mean, how are people going to request the song, how are they going to chant it?  Chris takes his passion for Iron Maiden, Dream Theatre and Helloween to a whole new level.  He is really passionate about being ultra clever about things whereas I'm more from the AC/DC school where I don't care about being clever.  I'm OK with being clever about the context of the music but song titles and album titles and photo shoots, I don't really care.  I'm really glad that Chris does care because that is what he cares the most about.  He will write a whole set of lyrics just based on a song title.  On previous albums, when I would write the lyrics, he would give me the song title.  He really gets excited and will see a word in a book or on TV or a film and he will want to base everything off of that song title.  I can't argue him out of it so I asked if we could just put Friday 13th in quotation marks just so I know which song we're talking about.  I could probably make the effort to pronounce the song title but I tour in France often too and I haven't made the effort to learn French either.  There are certain things that I just draw the line on as a silly American guitar player that only knows 3 chords. (Laughing) I'm OK just being me.




(Laughing)   Good job.  If you walk up to Chris and the first thing you is say that, you're automatically on his Christmas card list and best friends.


We're pretty much done now. Thank you so much for taking the time out Rich, it's been great.


It's been a pleasure and again, I can't thank you enough and I'm really looking forward to having a nice sit down, face-to-face chat with you soon.  You and I and Chris can talk all sorts of stuff and a conversation with him will look completely different to a conversation with me.  He's a walking encyclopaedia of obscure knowledge of metal and movies.  He's just really cool and I will occasionally have a Tourette's moment where I just yell over him and say something.  I look forward to the future and more chats together.


'Chasing The Grail' has most certainly opened our eyes to just how great a Heavy Metal band Fozzy are, and we'd like to thank Rich for being such a top bloke.  We'd also like to say thanks to Andy at Metal Blade for arranging this once in a lifetime interview opportunity for Tazz and Uber Rock and we are all now looking forward to the UK tour with baited breath. Make sure you don't miss out on this metal feast when it hits Glasgow, Nottingham and London (where the band perform the much mooted matinee show as well as an evening show) in May 2010.