Chris Jericho’s Christmas Tune Paves Way for New Fozzy Music in 2020 [Interview]
But even though his main group didn't record the song, the tune by Chris Jericho and the Christmas Helves still points the way to new music from Fozzy. Indeed, the entertainer's longtime rock band was chipping away at fresh material around the same time Jericho and a handful of other rockers tackled the 1977 cut. But while its proceeds go to support a good cause, "Father Christmas" was undertaken due to the musician and athlete's cheeky disdain for more ubiquitous holiday numbers.
"If I hear 'Wonderful Christmastime' by Paul McCartney again, I'll blow my brains out," Jericho joked to Loudwire last week. "It's the most annoyingly catchy Christmas song ever. And it's the only one that ever gets played around the holidays. So people are always looking for good rock songs to play around Christmas."
He continued, "And 'Father Christmas' was always one of my favorite songs by The Kinks. Even just as a song, not only as a Christmas tune but just as a rock tune. I'm a big fan of '70s Kinks; it's an underrated period for that band."
Surely there must be other rock-based Yuletide jams listeners can turn up when the season is nigh? But Jericho couldn't think of many originals when asked what Christmas tunes he fires up for himself this time of year.
"It's hard to find great, original Christmas music from rock bands," the Fozzy singer explained. "If you look at other great rock songs, they're all covers — you know, Bruce Springsteen, 'Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town,' that sort of thing. There's a great Christmas song by Stryper called 'Reason for the Season,' that's a good one. But if you look at original Christmas tunes, there's not a lot."
So Jericho and some of his musician friends near the entertainer's Florida home base whipped up the Kinks cover in less than two days earlier this year. Never one to let a good thing pass him by, the 49-year-old singer earmarked the song to benefit an organization close to his heart, the JDRF, or Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
"I thought it might add to the Christmas spirit of the whole song," Jericho said. "I have close family members that have diabetes, so it's my go-to. If you spend $1.29 on it on iTunes, you can be sure that it's going to a good cause. If not, you can stream it, too — that's fine as well. But I just wanted to put a little twist on it and keep the Christmas giving theme attached to it."
Of course, Fozzy's formative bread and butter were classic rock and metal covers. It's how the group initially made a name for themselves when they emerged from the Atlanta music scene 20 years ago. Fozzy's first album, a self-titled affair from the year 2000, includes renditions of Dio's "Stand Up and Shout" and Krokus' "Eat the Rich" among Iron Maiden and Ozzy Osbourne covers. It's a motley crew of tunes the vocalist attributes to the band's rise.
"We started like every band does, playing covers," Jericho remembered. "But we did things backward and got a record deal because of that. I think when you're looking at our older albums, we were doing old-school heavy metal and covers like that because it's what we all liked."
Now things are a bit different. When Fozzy record a cover song, they choose the tune based more on its distance from rock and metal than anything else. The most recent cover that appeared on one of their albums, a take on the 1975 ABBA single "SOS," landed on Fozzy's 2014 effort Do You Wanna Start a War. And when the band performs such an unlikely number in concert, the audience reception is one of affirmation.
"'SOS' gets an enormous reaction when we play it live," Jericho recounted. "Because people know the song, but they've never heard a heavy version of it. So I think that's kind of how we pick covers now. We just started doing 'Relax' by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. You're thinking, 'Really?' But when you hear it, it's a great rock song. We choose songs that you wouldn't expect to sound great played by a rock band. Those are the ones that usually work the best."
Throughout the six Fozzy albums leading up to 2017's Judas, however, the cover songs quickly took a back seat. Jericho and guitarist Rich "The Duke" Ward have written the majority of Fozzy's original tunes — usually with Jericho penning lyrics to Ward's arrangements. But even that formula got shaken up on Judas when outside songwriter Johnny Andrews joined the fray. (Andrews has written songs with Three Days Grace and Halestorm, among others.)
"I always wrote songs, and Rich is a great songwriter," Jericho offered. "Then we started working with Johnny Andrews on the Judas record, and I realized that his lyrics are way better than mine. So, I've kind of taken a back seat in the lyric writing, which is cool to me because it doesn't matter who writes the lyrics. All that matters is the song. So sometimes I feel a little bit like [Rush's] Geddy Lee singing Neil Peart lyrics."
And, yes, new music is on the way. Fozzy signed with entertainment giant Sony Music earlier this year, and Jericho noted that "Sony wants to keep the momentum going. That's why we put out 'Nowhere to Run' in August. And we were working on a couple of new songs last week. I think we'll probably put out another single in February."
For now, Fozzy fans can get in the holiday spirit with the Christmas Helves' "Father Christmas" and bask in the irreverently wistful lyrics of The Kinks' Ray Davies. In just a few months, there should be more music from Jericho for all the good little girls and boys.
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