Interview: Chris Jericho

Wrestling superstar and heavy metal frontman Chris Jericho speaks to Stephen Bance about boyhood dreams, Shakespearean plays and spiders in his mouthUnsurprisingly, six-time World Wrestling Entertainment champion Chris Jericho is a hard man to pin down. Following a month-long courtship, one botched interview, and an alleged 18 missed calls to his phone (c’mon Chris, it was more like five), Otwo finally got the chance to talk shop with the self-proclaimed ‘ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla’.For a certain generation of young Irish men, Chris Jericho conjures up memories of boyhood, of battles waged up and down the country in the gladiatorial arena of some school playground or front green. Having just evaded a clumsily executed ‘Peoples Elbow’, some merciless foe would flip his opponent onto their stomach bending them into an almighty contortion, all the while squealing “Walls of Jerichooooo!” Yes, we have indeed all been there. The name Chris Jericho is synonymous with wrestling. Lesser well known to the masses however has been his 13 year foray into the music industry, as lead singer of metal band, Fozzy.Originally dubbed Fozzy Osbourne, the band was formed in 1999 by guitarist Rich Ward. Fozzy have since produced four studio albums, the most recent being Sin and Bones which was released in August. Having come a long way musically since the early days of performing covers, Jericho is adamant that the new album is taken seriously, likening it to Fozzy’s equivalent of Metallica’s infamous Black Album. “We wanted to put the listener on a little bit of a rollercoaster ride. So that’s kind of where the Black Album was our inspiration because that’s the epitome of a record that you can listen to all the way through, that has a certain feel to it. The concept was that we wanted these songs to be very heavy and melodic. It’s definitely a very dark record.”Despite their pretensions to darkness, Fozzy’s listening tastes are more light-hearted. “We love The Police and Queen, Pink Floyd and all those type of bands.” Indeed one dimensionality is something no one can accuse them of, with band members having played with acts such as Enrique Iglesias, Paul Simon and Billy Joel.The lyrical content of Sin and Bones certainly lives up to the albums billing as dark, with the subject matter fluctuating from the bizarre to the gruesome. Their hit single ‘Sandpaper’ gets straight to the point with gems such as “Blowtorch my brain away, there’s nothing left for me to pray” amongst other squeamishly mental phraseology.Fozzy’s approach to song writing is a novel one. “Inspiration comes from a lot of different places but it’s always based around song titles for me.” Much like his repertoire of wrestling moves, Jericho explains that the paramount concern for Fozzy’s lyrics is entertainment value rather than authenticity: “Some songs, like ‘Spider in my Mouth’, I read that phrase in a Stephen King book years ago. It doesn’t literally deal with someone having spiders in their mouth but it’s just a great way to start a set of lyrics with that phrase, so I just kind of work backwards from there.”Safe in the knowledge that it was impossible to execute a Code Breaker via telephone, Otwo queried whether the transition from wrestling superstar to a less well-known figure in metal was tough personally. “When I was a kid I wanted to be in a rock band and I wanted to be wrestler. Those were my two dreams and they both came true. Whether I’m playing in front of ten people or 10,000, I love it. You know when you have a passion for something and you know that you’re good at it and that it’s working, it’s never hard.”Jericho retired from WWE in August, but to him Fozzy has been his primary concern for the last few years. There is a sense that he is aware of the band being labelled as a gimmick, and he refuses to let Fozzy be depicted as a spin-off of his wrestling fame. “It’s not a hobby for me, it’s something I’ve been doing my whole life since I picked up my cousins bass guitar when I was 12 years old. I didn’t just wake up one day and say, ‘Hey I wanna be a singer in a rock band.’ It would have happened whether I had been in wrestling or not. I’d be playing music no matter what.”He is enthusiastic about the upcoming European tour that kicks off in Cork this month. “To start off in Ireland is going to be huge. We’ve been waiting to come back for a couple of years; they’re always crazy tours and always a blast to do.” It’s clear that Jericho’s primary aim is to please his fans. Indeed who can forget such infamous performances as the night he whipped a packed out stadium into a frenzy by urinating into the teapot of his wrestling nemesis William Regal.  “Whether it’s wrestling or music or a doing a Shakespearean play or whatever, the crowd is always the x-factor for any good performance. Some nights you get it, some nights you don’t, but you just have to do the best show you can.”Jericho may have mastered the art of appeal, whether through mounting the stage in his skin tight purple pantaloons or performing with Fozzy, the crowd lap him up. When asked by an adoring fan on twitter last week what the most important attribute of being a performer was he simply responded: “All about the CHARISMA BABAY.” Charisma, confidence and an affinity for anger and shiny purple pants that is.Fozzy's latest album, Sin and Bones, is out now.