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Interviews, Music

Moonsaults and Metal: An Interview with Chris Jericho

By: Daniel Gerichter (@ZenDonut) –

Chris Jericho

C

hris Jericho is many things. Some know him as a professional wrestler (or sports entertainer) while others know him as the enigmatic frontman of Fozzy, from his podcast, or even his time on Dancing with the Stars. The one thing Jericho’s always been is a star.

It’s been 16-years since Jericho’s WWE debut. As soon as his name flashed on the screen that night, the crowd (and the internet) lost their minds. At that point, Jericho’s story as a suppressed and underused talent in the bloated World Championship Wrestling organization had concluded, and a new chapter had begun. Jericho’s day had finally come, because in WWE his debut involved a now-classic exchange with The Rock (and several more as the years passed) and a recurring role as a Ric Flair-like antagonist (or heel). All of that started with the introduction of Jericho’s WWE theme song (which he has maintained to this day) “Break the Walls Down”.

In fact, it’s easy to create a parallel between Jericho’s wrestling career, and the music that played him in. While in WCW, Jericho’s theme song was a blatant ripoff of Pearl Jam’s “Even Flow”; a stock piece WCW management had yanked out of their database. Jericho was an obvious talent, brimming with charisma, a next-level sense of humour and an in-ring style that brought American, Japanese and Mexican styles together seamlessly. The fact that WCW management could never see that truly was to their own detriment.

“I wasn’t a big fan of any of WCW’s choices for my theme song. I actually thought it was pretty lame. The first one I ever had was pretty rotten and it took me about a year to get another one. And even then, it was some stock music they had at TBS. I remember actually hearing it on some basketball highlights on their nightly news. But when I went to WWE it was a combined effort. They wanted a rap/rock thing – maybe a bit more rap than rock – and when I wanted there to be a bit more metal in there, they listened. I think what came out of it was a classic and I’m still happy with it to this day. I remember thinking it really reminded me of what my character was all about. That it matched my character and got me (and I hope the fans) really fired up when I walked through the curtain.”

Before Jericho’s WWE story took flight, Fozzy – an enduring passion project – was well underway.

Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania 29 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey in 2013.

Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania 29 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey in 2013.

“I’ve been a rock fan my whole life. I wanted to be a rock star since I knew what rock and roll was. As I grew up, I knew I wanted to be a rock star or a wrestler. Just so happens that wrestler came first.

Jericho knew the work ethic and effort involved with wrestling, he also knew how much was involved in maintaining one (or even several rock bands). So while the challenges of juggling his wrestling career and kicking things off with current band Fozzy, Jericho believed he had a future on both fronts.

“I’ve been writing, jamming and recording with bands since the eighties. And even during the nineties when I started wrestling I was making demo tapes with a few bands at the same time. Fozzy started because I was close with a few guys from Stuck Mojo. We’d jammed and recorded demos before, but at a certain point, we started talking about trying something together. I think we all knew it could be a worldwide thing if we just gave it a try.”

There’s some astounding numbers you hear associated with a full-time pro wrestler’s work schedule. Some have claimed they hit the road for dates (there is no off-season) for up to 300 days a year, while others tend to have fluctuating figures.

“First of all, the whole ‘300 days on the road’ thing is a myth. If you really think about it, it’s kind of impossible. In reality it was between 180 and 200 dates a year. Even still, Fozzy had to be a side project when we first started because you were working every week. Wrestling doesn’t have a summer break or anything like that, so it’s a year-long process. Plus, it was impossible to get tours going, because even a short one takes three weeks to a month, and Rich (Ward) needed to get to work with Stuck Mojo and his other projects. “

Despite scheduling challenges, Jericho and Fozzy (originally dubbed Fozzy Osbourne) made it work, cranking out 3 albums – Fozzy, Happenstance and All That Remains between 2000 and 2005.

“After that third album, we took a hiatus for a while. I was working a fuller schedule for the WWE and the guys were doing their own thing.”

It was in those years that Jericho’s career in the WWE had reached its zenith. Jericho had won essentially every title the WWE had to offer, from the Intercontinental Championship to the Undisputed Title and in memorable feuds with stars like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels, while also taking part in memorable storylines with fellow canucks Trish Stratus and Christian. After 2005, Jericho would take a career hiatus to pursue other interests, which would be one of several. In 2009, he’d take his second hiatus, which is exactly when Fozzy would reconvene. The band would give it another go in 2009, getting back together to record and release Chasing the Grail (released in 2010).

“That’s when I think we all knew we had to give it a full chance.” Jericho remembers. “Even though the band’s been around for 15 years, its progress in just the last five years is astronomical.”

Despite Jericho's hectic WWE schedule, his side-project Fozzy (pictured) has released six albums between 2000 and 2014.

Despite Jericho’s hectic WWE schedule, his side-project Fozzy (pictured) has released six albums between 2000 and 2014.

“When we put Chasing the Grail together, I think that’s when it really took us to that next level. We were ready to dedicate all of our time to Fozzy.“

And while Fozzy’s early work showed a heavy bent towards his eighties influences like Helloween, their repertoire goes deeper than that.

“I think I have a larger palate than just eighties hair rock (laughs). Just from artists today, I think Avenged Sevenfold are probably one of the most amazing bands of the last 10 years. We’re also huge fans of Bullet for my Valentine, Shinedown, Hailstorm and Stone Sour. “

Jericho’s dedication to WWE has always been unwavering, but he never looked to them as the gatekeepers for his other passions.

“They were always supportive of Fozzy. They used a couple of our tracks in their pay per views (as did rivals TNA Wrestling), but I never asked their permission to record with them. And it’s not like they were a sponsor, either. Fozzy had a separate recording contract and we found our own funding for the albums and tours. So they used our songs the way they used songs by Black Veil Brides or Shinedown. To be honest, I always liked it that way.”

Jericho owns a unique characteristic of having kept a prominent (and mostly injury-free) role in professional wrestling throughout several generations. That’s in part due to Jericho’s athleticism and in-ring style (a mixture of high-flying and classic mat wrestling). But that’s also due to Jericho knowing when to take a break, revitalize his passion for the business, heal (both mentally and physically) and return refreshed and renewed.

“Those breaks I took were always exactly what I needed at the time to get back into the mindset you need to succeed at this job. Whether you’re doing it full-time or just once a year (Jericho currently wrestles part time for the WWE – entirely in non-televised events), you have to love what you do. If you don’t, you’re going to get hurt. Or you could hurt someone else. That goes in every part of show business.”

“The best advice I can give is, if you don’t love what you do – don’t do it. You can’t fake it. You can’t pretend you want to be there, you actually have to want to be doing it. If you do pretend, the people who paid to come out and see you are going to see right through you and resent you for it. Hell, you’re probably going to resent yourself after some time.”

Jericho’s beliefs when it comes to his career(s) is surprisingly free of materialism.

“I don’t do anything for money. I do it because I love it. That’s why anyone should do anything. I think that’s why I’ve managed to get anywhere at all as a wrestler and as a musician. But that’s also why I’ve managed to get so much out of my books, my new podcast (Talk is Jericho) and in my time on Dancing with the Stars. Fans aren’t stupid and when you’re not giving a thousand percent, they can tell. That’s what’s helped guide me throughout my career.”

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