Rich Ward and Billy Grey - Fozzy - Interview Exclusive Print E-mail
Written by Tazz Stander   
Tuesday, 29 June 2010 06:00

uk-tour-2010If you were to believe everything that you read right here on the Internet, you would be forgiven for thinking that Fozzy are in fact a legendary American metal band who, unable to get out of their record contract, spent twenty years in Japan; when they returned to the U.S., lead singer Moongoose McQueen and the rest of the band found that artists like the Scorpions and Ozzy Osbourne had become stars by stealing Fozzy's material.   Of course back in the real world Fozzy are in fact an American metal band fronted by the great WWF wrestler Chris Jericho, so who am I to argue which version you want to believe? Especially when Chris is telling you the story.


With this in mind Fozzy also happen to feature one of the nicest men in Rock 'n' Roll in the shape of Mr Rich Ward.  Spending time with him on Skype and in his company recently has made me realise that he's not just an amazing musician but someone who is also willing to share his good and back luck musical history, so candidly that everyone can learn from him, not just musically but morally and physically too.  So when the band played a two gig in one day residency at London's Highbury Garage back in May I was more than willing to pick up the story from where we last left off back in March (you can read that interview here).  So here is another very happy hour spent with both of the bands guitarists, Rich Ward (RW) and Billy Grey (BG).


First off Billy, you're the newbie in the band ...


BG:  Yeah somewhat.  I played with Fozzy back in 2002, Rich and I jammed together with Sick Speed and they were nice enough to let me comeback and do some shows with them.


Nice enough - that is a key phrase in the description of Fozzy and more so Rich Ward!  I was really intrigued watching you guys on stage earlier (looking at Rich), "You've got a mini Duke in the band!"


BG:  (Laughing)


RW:  Yeah I know.  We grew up in the same hometown and Billy was the hometown guitar hero in Charlotte.  He was the guy that had the longest hair in town and could play all the Eddie Van Halen guitar solos when I was still trying to learn how to play Motley Crue's rhythm guitar stuff.  I hated Billy.  I was like, "I hate that guy, he's so damn good".  He was like the local edge that everyone rubbed in your face.  "Oh you play guitar?  Do you know Billy Grey?"  (Laughing)  We didn't go to the same school so we didn't really know each other but you know what rivalry is like when you're kids and then years later when Stuck Mojo got established, he was in a band called Method 51 that was a big band out of Charlotte and it just turned out really cool.  His band was in a place where he wasn't really happy with where they were and I had just started another band called Sick Speed which was basically Stuck Mojo without the rap guy and I took over lead vocal duties and Billy played guitar in that band.  We then asked him to come and play with Fozzy as well; lets just keep the family together.  Billy has had several successful bands since then, actually, it's pretty much been the same band but they've changed names a bunch of times because of legal trouble with the law.  There were some murder investigations (everyone laughs).  They were called The Beatles (laughing) and they found that name was taken ...


BG:  Yeah right (laughing).


RW:  So yeah, were just glad to have him back.  Fozzy started off as a side band for Stuck Mojo and a side fun project for Chris Jericho and over the years, we've had several different line-ups and to us, it didn't matter too much because it was a side band for fun.  It wasn't until this album ('Chasing The Grail') came out that it became apparent that we need to be very careful about the line up and Jericho made it very clear that he didn't want it evolving any more.  It was time to treat it like a band and not just a fun project for Rich and Chris.  Since I knew Billy was a metal guy ... Atlanta is not one of those towns where there were a lot of successful metal bands that came out of there.  I guess Seven Dust is from Atlanta, Stuck Mojo and Jackyl but as far as metal, there isn't not a lot of that.  There are a lot of guys that can play the crap out of some Dave Matthews band but what good does that do us?  So basically what we've done is ask Billy if he can be flexible enough as he has a full time band that he does as well, to try and bounce schedules.


I find that quite interesting because I heard a few hours ago that Chris is taking a bit of time off from wrestling and that Fozzy is coming back for a full tour in November!


BG and RW:  Yeah, that is right.


That is awesome.  So Fozzy is very serious now?


RW:  Yeah.  We will probably come back for a full 14-day tour - just in the UK.  Which is awesome for us.  That is the idea, to hit every town, a proper tour.




Your matinee idea seems to have gone down a storm today in London.  It feels like I've been at a festival.


RW:  It did have a kind of neat vibe to it playing at high tea.


I'm going to focus on Billy in a second Rich as you need to save your vocals for later, but how have you coped with your peaked performance today with 2 shows in the space of a few hours.


RW:  I did not pace myself on the first show.  I gave everything I had until I realised the gas tank was empty.  I figured out early in the day, with only one meal in you, that I would run out of energy.  I only had a little snack.  Food is a very important component in any high-energy activity.  That is why I needed to eat when I did.  You can't eat to close to the show because then you feel too heavy but if you don't eat too far out, then you don't have enough fuel.  Water is also very important and making sure you're taking in enough water throughout the day because I will sweat out 2 litres of water on stage.  It's important to think about those things.  Also, if you're going to take in some caffeine beforehand for a little friendly stimulant, you got to think about when you do that - if you take too much of it, is it going to make your hand shaky?  (Laughing)  I know I sound nerdy; most bands take cocaine before hand and were like, "Don't drink too much Pepsi".


Billy, you don't feature at all on the new album, 'Chasing the Grail'.  Are you a fan of Fozzy's latest offering?


BG:  Yes, very much so.


What is your favourite track on the album?


BG:  I would say 'Let the Madness begin'.  I love that riff.  It's a classic Rich Ward groove, in your face, kill everybody and make the Pope bob his head riff.  (Everyone Laughs).


RW:  I like it when the Pope bobs his head.  He's got to be smiling too.


Are there going to be any horns involved?


BW:  Yeah Dio will be behind him. (This interview took place the day before Dio sadly passed away - RIP RJD).  I've met Dio a couple of times and boy, that was a real treat for me because he's one of those guys that sings and everything is just perfect from him.  He never does something that leaves me thinking, "Woah, I wouldn't have done that".  I always think, "Oh man, I wish I could have done that".  He is the quintessential bluesy rock metal singer.  I love Dickinson and Halford but I will always say that Dio is for me the best of the lot, of that era.


Sadly he's just had to cancel his tour.


RW:  I heard, I heard.


Going back to 'Chasing the Grail', what song do you enjoy playing live the most?


BG:  'Madness' is also my favourite live track.  I gotta say, I love playing them all live but that one song just really has the groove that I really love.  They all have great energy, great groove.

Rich:  It's actually a fairly difficult riff and that is the cool thing about some of these songs is that ... Billy and I are both those kinds of guitarists that want to play like professional athletes.  Everything is just off the hook.  Problem is, is that some of the stuff off 'Chasing the Grail' is fairly difficult to play while moving so we have to pick spots and determine at what point we can perform at to when we have to pull back to make sure that the execution of the parts are there.


fozzy_6I'm still totally addicted to the album.  I DJ tracks off it, and I played 'Martyr No More' on Amped Rock's podcast ...


RW:  We had a great chat last time, it was awesome.


Just looking at the track listing though, 'Under Blackened Skies' is the most perfect opener I've heard to an album in years.  Following through with incredible tracks from beginning to end.  Are you playing my favourite song tonight?


RW:  You love 'Broken Soul' I remember.  We're not playing it tonight.




RW:  I know, I thought you might not be happy but we're keeping it for the big tour.


Ok, I will let you off this time.


RW:  Because we're on a curfew tonight, it's a shorter set so we're doing 12 songs, it's all pedal to the metal.  There is going to be no slow moments.  We decided ...


That you're all just hanging on behind Jericho for the ride?


RW:  (Laughing) Oh yeah.  That was our goal on this mini tour.  I would be nice to break it down and play it all but we would need a full 2 hour set.  If you're only doing an hour and 20 then you just hammer it.


My other all time other favourite Fozzy song is 'Lazarus'.


RW:  I love that song.  It's one of my all time favourite songs too.  That was Jericho and my favourite track on that album in the demo versions.  We really liked the album version but it's one of those things that happen every once in awhile that you like the demo version better than you like the album version. 


(Looking at Billy)  Have you ever done that before?


BG:  Yeah


RW:  You have the demo version and then try and magic over it to capture it.  It's still great but there is just something in that original performance that was just kinda ... what ends up happening in demo's is that you're recording things before you have really refined it so you're basically just off the cuff.  All of a sudden you stumble across something and then you can never capture it because it was in a moment.  That is why they call them recordings or records because it's a record of who you were at that very moment when you did it.  When Twisted Sister redid 'Stay Hungry' of some of these bands that try and re-record some of their classic songs, very rarely do they actually capture it.  It's the imperfections of those songs, the details and the little things that happen in those recordings ... just because it may be tighter or sounds better, it doesn't make it better right?  Think about Bon Scott - some of those records of Bon Scott, he sang a little out of key at times and Angus's guitars were sometime out of tune - I would never want them to redo those, it's such magic, such character and brilliance.  It's such a magic moment in time, they can never be replicated and it shouldn't be.


As far as your live shows go, which are pretty intense and highly energetic, I've always had this opinion that to have the perfect rock show, you need to take your energy, transpose it to your fans and take it back off them.  If you're in front of a difficult, unresponsive crowd, where do you draw on that energy to give out to them from?


BG:  Just put it in their face and shove it down their throats.


RW:  I always find its better not to have any expectations of the audience as it comes across as a bit arrogant if you feel that you're deserving of something.  They pay a lot of money to come to your show - how arrogant is it of us to determine how they should react to our music?  It's up to us.  We are there because of their support.  You play and whatever they give you, you are thankful for.  You are a professional musician by the grace of those people that walked in those doors.  Otherwise we're at home playing guitar for ourselves.  Sometimes you see bands that are like, " What the fuck is going on?"  Man, never question the audience.  Those are your supporters and just because they're not doing flips for you then work harder.  Work harder to earn it.


(Looking at Billy)  Isn't he just amazing?


BG:  That's right, he is.  I've always been inspired by Rich, since Stuck Mojo days.


RW:  The music business is a heartbreaking place.  You can work your fingers to the nub and sacrifice everything in your life, make your records and do whatever it takes to do it but ultimately your career is in the hands of your team.  You are just a player on that field.  You can be the greatest centre forward in the world but if your goalie stinks, you will never win and that is the problem that Billy and I have had over the years is that record companies, agents, managers and this and that - there are so many components to it, then you have member in the band, maybe some of them are on drugs or maybe one of them get arrogant and think that the fans owe them something.  You have so many components and it's tough for the fans too because you don't want to reveal everything to them.  You don't want to tell them that someone in your band is an asshole and behind the scenes he thinks that he thought the show was a lame show because the crowd was cold or something like that.  After a while, if the distribution is not there or there have been some problems in the business side of things, that's what causes bands to break up.  Instead of coming together or trying to be closer a lot of times the guys turn on each other.  I've done it a million times.  It's one of the things I try not to do these days, try not to look to someone else to point the blame at.  What can I do to work harder?  Ultimately the only thing I can do is control me, my output, and my commitment to what I do.  I can't control what anybody else does and I can't make decision for them.  Wisdom comes through good and bad experience.  Wisdom doesn't come when you don't take those good and bad experiences and learn from them.  I find myself that I always write things down in the book of what not to do again.  For Billy and I, we've both travelled a long road; we've both had a great deal of success and more failures than success.




At what point do you think a band becomes a brand and the business side takes over?


Rich:  It becomes a brand when you have nothing to say any more.  You hear what I'm saying? It's like when you've lost your voice.  If you watch the movie, Some Kind of Monster from Metallica, they don't know who they are any more.  They're asking producers, management, they're asking everybody.  A lot of great art comes out of the struggle and when the struggle is gone, the art sometimes suffers and I think that is why for some bands like Kiss, there is no real struggle.  The only real struggle is to try and figure out who they are any more because somewhere along the way, they are not those 25-year-old poor guys in New York City trying to make it.  Even at the time of their 2nd and 3rd album, they were still hungry.  They wanted to be bigger than Zeppelin and Van Halen.  When you're the biggest band, on top of the mountain, you're not hungry any more.  The food is there when you want it.  I've had fans that have come up to me in the past before and have said that they're glad that I've never really made it huge because it keeps me hungry.  It's good to hear that because when I go into writing mode, I write for me and me alone.  I don't write for any fans or record companies because I know who I am as an artist.  I know sometimes that I'm going to do something that is going to make my fans mad but I don't second-guess it.  I don't worry about it because I would rather have their respect knowing that I do things on my terms.  I'm a 40-year-old man.  I don't want to keep up with the 21 year old kids; I want them to keep up with me.


You said that once before.


RW:  It's true.


"They're going to be standing still while you run circles around them whilst still playing better than them".


RW:  That is exactly right!  I want to run circles so fast that the earth starts to go back in time.


(All Laughing) 


BG:  Yeah right, Super Man 1 when he spins the earth backwards.


Guys, on that note, I'm going to get out of your tour bus and let you get ready for your next kick ass show.  Thank you both so much for taking a bit of time out to chat to me again.


BG:  Thank you.


RW:  Tazz, it's been fun hanging. It's so much better than just chatting to you on the phone.


I was then off to watch set number two from Fozzy in the space of just a few hours.  This is something, which you can read the review of later this week right here on Uber Rock.  All kudos for the live pics go to me, Miss Tazz Stander this time around, but huge thanks to Nina Edwards for loaning me her epic big assed camera to make it all possible.