We recently spoke with Fozzy vocalist and wrestling legend Chris Jericho about the new Blood Divisions EP, which rounds up a phenomenal lineup of musicians. The EP contains an epic new version of “The Morgue” by Nasty Savage, orchestrated by actual members of the veteran act, along with a cover of Scorpions‘ “Top of the Bill.”
Along with the EP, Chris went on to chat about finally getting KISS legend Paul Stanley on the Talk is Jericho podcast, how the metal world is handling the ailments afflicting metal’s first generation of gods and more! Check it out below!
I was listening to the new EP, I thought it was super interesting — especially because Nasty Savage is kind of an underrated band. You guys turned “The Morgue” into this new 21st century epic. Can you tell me a little about recording that song, what you wanted to bring to it and what the guys in the band wanted to achieve?
You mentioned it, Nasty Savage is a very underrated band and for whatever reason, one of my favorite bands in high school up in Winnipeg, Canada. I always found that there was this little group of friends of mine that were big Nasty Savage fans because they were so weird, so technically brilliant; a lot of tempo changes. The musicianship, actually it reminded me a lot of thrasher King Diamond. The musicianship was insane, it was off the charts, but the vocals were very weird. It works with King Diamond because he is King Diamond. It is the same with Nasty Ronnie, very guttural and these high, almost out of tune screams for no reason, but that was heavy metal in the ’80s.
So anyways, when I first moved down to Florida, I met a guy, and he told me this story later, so his name is Ed Abel and we became friends and Ed used to be in that scene, the early Florida thrash metal scene back in the ’80s. He never really went anywhere with the band, but he was friends with all the bands that did and one of those bands he was friends with was Nasty Savage. So I was always like, I would love to meet the guys from Nasty Savage and he introduced me to a guy named David Austin, the guitar player and pretty much the major songwriter for Nasty Savage.
Fast forward to let’s say a year ago, I got a call from David and Ed that they are putting together some songs. David wanted to do a new version of “The Morgue,” which he never liked, because it never turned out the way he wanted it to. He asked me if I wanted to sing on it so I said sure. They had made this whole new arrangement that had kind of put a lot of the orchestration in there, the intro and all that sort of stuff, and I was thinking this is great, but he said, “When you sing it, there’s going to be a lot of gaps in instrumentation from getting all the people to do the guitar solos on it.” I said, “Who are you going to get?”
He said, “I’m just going to get my friends, dudes from Iced Earth, Obituary and Six Feet Under and all these other people. The way I think, which is always PT Barnum, “the bigger the better,” but I said, “What are you using this for?” He said, “Oh, I just want to do it for myself.” I said, “No, here is what we are going to do. We are going to do an all-star ‘Hear ‘N Aid,’ of the Florida death metal scene, you know that whole really cool time of thrash metal in that mid ’80s or ’90s time period and we are going to do an all-star thing.” I called Brian Slagel from Metal Blade, who’s a friend of mine and also Nasty Savage fan, and we will see if he likes it. So that’s how it happened. That’s where it all started and then once it kind of started becoming a thing, we’ve got all of these guys, Jerry Butler, Ben Myers, Rob Santolla and all the other cats that got involved. And then it becomes kind of this all-star death metal project that’s just from Dave just wanting to re-record one of his songs. Then he’s like, “Hey, you want to do ‘Top of the Bill’ by Scorpions and I was like, “Sure.” Never heard it, listened to it on the way to the studio and got it out in like two takes so there you go man, sometimes it’s a lot simpler than you might think.
That’s such a cool lineup of musicians. As you were saying, Florida at that time, especially with people in death metal bands. Florida is a death metal mecca. It’s cool to hear all of them together and to hear you with these death metal musicians.
It’s not really the way that I sing, but it isn’t too far off. I mean, once again, Nasty Ronnoe wasn’t a “cookie monster” singer, ever. He was more of that guttural, Metal Mulisha, early James Hetfield way everyone would sing, but then out of nowhere he would rip up these crazy high screams and that’s my wheelhouse, screams like that. There’s one on “The Morgue” that’s super fun right near the end which is so high and that’s kind of Nasty Ronnie’s thing, but I can do it too. So it was kind of like I love to do it and I am going to try and figure out how to sing it because Nasty Ronnie, I am not going to copy that, because his style is unique to him, but to do my version of that type of vocals and was a lot of fun. I threw a lot of harmonies and background things into it. It was really no pressure.
When you do a Fozzy record, everything has to be perfect, everything has to be completely tied up, even harmonies. I was just making up harmonies on the spot. Let’s leave it, it sounds great. It’s a lot more free form than doing a Fozzy record where you’re doing it perfectly, sitting for four hours on a song then coming back to do some touch ups later. This was like, each song was banged out in about an hour and a half, vocally, at least.
You mentioned James Hetfield and when I was listening to your vocals I was thinking you were definitely channeling a little bit of a Hetfield vibe. I know you’re a huge Metallica fan.
Yeah, huge Metallica fan but if you’re talking about how does Jericho sing thrash? That would be my style. If you’re a thrash metal singer, you’re either doing it Hetfield style or you’re doing it Tom Araya style. Those are your two choices. You can be real guttural and more yelling or like Hetfield who is more in the pocket and just kinda tough singing. I think any time you go into that world, especially for me, I feel very comfortable singing the James style and probably could be in a Metallica cover band if I really went all the way with it, but I could also be in an Ozzy cover band too.
I know how important this was to you, finally getting your interview with your beloved Paul Stanley. Going from yelling at him at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to actually getting him on your podcast. What was the highlight of that? What surprised you?
To be honest, the whole situation surprised me. It really was just a fateful thing to where, like you mentioned, in April of 2014 I’m screaming at Paul Stanley at the Hall of Fame and he’s kind of raising his hand going, “Alright, buddy.” Then, six months later, his son Colin is a huge wrestling fan and wants to get some videos of some wrestlers saying happy birthday. So I kind of took charge of it and suddenly Paul Stanley and I were exchanging numbers because Paul was so excited about making his son happy. To repay the favor he’s like, “I’ll do your podcast.” So I went to Las Vegas to see the KISS residency and Paul does my show and suddenly he loves what I do and we start talking all the time to the point where, I’m not saying this to be a name dropper, but I just talked to him last night on the phone for lil five minutes because we had something to discuss. We’re just two dudes now, which is real cool. It happened to me in wrestling too, where you go from someone who you’re in awe of to someone you have an acquaintanceship with, to an okay friend, to someone you become a peer with and then suddenly you’re just dudes.
That’s the strangest thing about it to me, “Yeah, Paul’s calling. I’ll call him back in a bit.” That’s a cool thing. Here’s the best thing about meeting people who are kindred spirits; once you break down the wall, so to speak, you realize that we’re just guys that have a cool job with similar interests and you can sit down and talk about the Beatles for an hour. We’re all the same.
Now that he’s crossed off your list, who’s your No. 1 guy that you need to get for your podcast?
Man, I don’t know because there are so many. Now that the show has kind of taken off to where it’s a thing other people know about, it’s fun to see who shows up and who I can get now with the power of dropping those numbers. Everyone is looking for results nowadays. If you have decent numbers, more people will want to do it. I’d love to get Lars Ulrich. Lars is another one of those guys that I’ve talked to quite a bit over the years. He’d be great, I think he’ll do it. I think the biggest one would be Paul McCartney. Just from hearing him on Nerdist, he’s just a fun guy. I think I’d be able to have a good conversation with him and I wouldn’t flip out about it until after. I think I could handle it because I understand on a small level what it’s like to get asked the same questions all the time. I also know when people ask me weird questions that’s when you have the most fun. I’ve had a lot of people say from all different worlds say my show was their favorite interview they’ve ever had. That’s really cool to hear.
I think there’s a dialog that’s happening right now, because these metal gods of ours are getting older. Some like Ronnie James Dio have passed away. Some like Bruce Dickinson, Vivian Campbell and Tony Iommi have battled cancer. It’s interesting because the first generation of ’50s rock and roll, a lot of them are gone and we’ve made peace with that. I think metal fans are getting pretty frightened because the first wave of metal gods are beginning to get to that age. How do you think the metal community is going to deal with the first generation of metal musicians eventually passing away?
I think for me, the biggest one that started it, I was going to say Ronnie James Dio. Obviously that is a huge, huge one, but I remember back as a big Armored Saint fan, right after their third record, Raising Fear, their guitar player Dave Prichard died of cancer. I remember, “F–k, how do you die of cancer when you’re in your 20s and in a rock and roll band?” That didn’t make any sense. But when Dio died, then you realized, “F–k man. He’s not an immortal wizard.” We’re all just people. I’m sure you’ve discussed this at length with many other guys, but it’s a real dilemma. Who is the next level of arena band?
I went and saw the Stones this summer and they were incredible. The Stones are a great rock and roll band, not just for 70-year-old men, but for anybody. And nobody commands that stage like Mick Jagger does. But what happens if one of those guys dies? They just lost their saxophone player, Bobby Keys. If one of those guys dies, Charlie, Ron, any of them, the Stones are done and then that’s it for the Stones. That’s it for them. Then U2, maybe. Metallica, Springsteen, McCartney; you get the pattern. These guys are in their 70s or 60s, Metallica; 50s and U2; 50s. Let’s say they’re the same age. Who is the next wave of bands after that to headline Download? To do an arena tour that sells out? You’ve got Avenged Sevenfold and Slipknot. You’ve got Linkin Park, but I don’t rate them as a metal band, that’s just me.
That’s the thing that scares me the most, the way the record business has become. We’re eating our young to where the major, huge bands that you mentioned that you’re obsessed with for 30 years, that’s getting smaller and smaller and I’m really scared by the time I’m 60 years old there won’t be anyone left to go see in a stadium unless you’re a country act or a pop act. That’s what scares me the most about all of these bands getting older. How can Malcolm Young forget how to play guitar? That’s not fair.
It’s a tragedy.
The greatest rhythm guitar player ever doesn’t play guitar anymore. We all get old and that’s the thing that’s scary about it. I haven’t seen AC/DC on this tour yet, or Aerosmith or KISS. They all don’t sound like they did in 1990, or 1980 or 2000, but who f—ing cares? A world with those bands in it is a hell of a lot better than a world without those bands in it.
Thanks again to Chris Jericho for giving us some of his time. To grab a copy of the Blood Divisions EP, click here.
Chris Jericho Plays ‘Wikipedia: Fact or Fiction?’ (Part 1)
100 Metal Facts You May Not Know