Taking To The Sky With 
Harry "The Tyrant" Conklin
of JAG PANZER!

Interviewed by EvilG

Jag Panzer are a band with a lot of history. However, I'm not here to give a history lesson. I'm here to tell you to buy the new f**king Jag Panzer CD MECHANIZED WARFARE!!! That CD has been kicking my ass since it came out. In my opinion, the band has really outdone themselves this time around! Thanks to the kind folks at Century Media, I was given the opportunity to speak with Jag Panzer's vocalist, Harry Conklin. We spoke for just over an hour and the result is, I feel, one of the better interviews I've done to date. Of course props go to Harry for making the interview so great with his willingness to go into great detail on all the things I had lined up to ask him. From swinging Peter Pan around on a theatre stage to the bands new album it's all covered here. Hope you enjoy it!!

 

Listen to the interview in MP3 format
11MB 1hr3min long


I want to talk about your new album starting out. I think you have a great album out and Iīm not blowing smoke by saying that. I think itīs probably your best album ever. I just want to know how happy you guys are with the final product?

Oh, pretty good. I mean, we like it, the songs are great, we enjoy it a lot. Put a lot of time into it but yeah, I like the way it came out and everybody else seems to be happy with it. So, yeah I think we like it. 

 

Cool. I know a lot of people always like to say AMPLE DESTRUCTION was the best JAG PANZER album ever and youīre never going to touch it again. Do you get tired or do you agree with that kind of opinion that some people seem to have? 

I think that was good for the time that we came out. Iīm sure those songs are timeless, you know, they are great songs but everyone evolves at a different rate and you never can tell where you are gonna go next. Hopefully these songs are going to compete with that album from a long time ago, 20 years ago.

 

When AMPLE came out; I was listening to Metal back in ī84 and when it came out I didnīt know who JAG PANZER were yet a lot of people seem to say: "I listened to that in ī84". It seemed like everybody and their dog was listening. That you would have been the biggest band in the world if you go by critics saying this is the best JAG PANZER ever yet back then I was into Metal pretty big and I didnīt know about JAG PANZER so I always found that kind of funny.

Yeah, well, you know lots of people were getting involved with the hype of RATT and MÖTLEY CRÜE and QUIET RIOT and bands like that that were posting themselves as Metal. Bands like METALLICA and MEGADETH and SLAYER were still underground, they werenīt really popular then. So it was quite difficult for bands, for REAL Metal bands, heavy bands, to get the notoriety because of just what was being pushed in the media. Thatīs kind of how it is nowadays too. Bands like STAIND and some new bands that are coming out theyīre getting popularity and theyīve got a heavy sound and itīs kind of mixed with rap ryhthms and stuff. So theyīre saying thatīs like the "new" metal. Actually thereīs still some old bands that are still going strong that are still touring and theyīre just not getting the notoriety of whatīs being pushed by the media. 

 

They could sell anything if they want to push it I think (laughs).

Yeah and you know and some of the bands that are playing really great music and have been doing it for 10 or 15 years now are struggling in the underground but thatīs the way itīs always been so we just accept that and we acknowledge that the fans are true to themselves and the band is true to the fans because they just keep the same things going. They donīt try to change just because itīs popular. 

 

I donīt guess youīve had this opinion back I guess in 84 / 83 when you put out AMPLE DESTRUCTION. I guess you guys where thinking the rock star life awaits us, here we are in high school...

We had no idea, we just wanted to put an album out. We thought we had some cool songs and we just wanted to see what happened and we got real big in our hometown but we were never able to cross that bridge to where we could escape and do things out of our hometown. Just when we were getting on the edge Joey and I left the band and we thought we could pursue things and be more popular on our own than with the band. We were young and stupid and didnīt realize that it takes a team effort to make big things happen. 

 

Talking about the team effort I wanted to ask a question about your producer Jim Morris. You again used him for this album, I was just wondering what your opinion is on his influence or what he brings to the band that maybe another producer wouldnīt be able to bring to the band?

Heīs been listening to Metal for quite a long time too. He did the last what was it, he did the last WARRANT album "Dog Eat Dog" and that didnīt get popular because the grunge era was happening. And so that's kind of like... Heīs been producing lots of bands that are kind of heavy. Incorporating almost like pop type rhythms. He grew up with DEEP PURPLE and IRON BUTTERFLY and early SABBATH. Heīs way into melodies a lot and big choruses. We were into the same thing. We were into like really heavy guitar melodies that stood out and huge choruses and we just struck a chord together and so sometimes heīll hear things that we play and heīll hear things that I sing, melodies and heīll say "thatīs good why donīt we try this?". Weīll either say "yay" or "nay" and sometimes we go a different direction that we donīt want to go but he never forces us or makes us go in a direction we don't want to. We are going to do this song anyway like the 'Powersurge' song on this album. He totally did not want to do that. He enjoyed it but at the time in his eyes itīs really cheezy, the lyrics are cheezy and the vocal melodies that I sing is cheezy in his point of view and I told him: "no, I think this is going to be a really popular song and this is, real metalheads will eat this kind of song up."

I think I was right because Iīve got some good response from that song. [Yeah, I like it!] Thatīs a great song. At the time Iīm just laughing now because at the time it almost didnīt make the album. Jim Morris says "I can barely make it through this song itīs so cheezy".

He was earning his money on that song. (laughing)

 

Right, so can you tell me a little about the album cover art, what the concept was behind it and stuff like that?

Well earlier on our first two albums we had an artist come up with the concept. The artist point of view was of a mascot of a woman that was voluptuous in features, very foxy looking but with an angry look to her. Gave her a patch on the eye so she was kind of like a pirate. She was really mean and ruff. So yeah, two sides of the coin there. It was like a mascot type thing and that was invented by the artist, Keith Austin, he did our first two album covers. Then we couldnīt really follow along because we lost contact with Keith Austin along the way and so it was hard for us to keep the mascot going since it was his original idea. You know we didnīt feel it would be cool if we kept the mascot woman going along because it was the artists concept and not ours. So we changed our view and Mark is very good at computer rendering so he started designing the album covers himself. It was going good but we know that this guy here that does album covers for ICED EARTH and a few other bands who also did the Spawn comics and everything has been selling a lot of records and is really popular in the Metal scene. So we decided that weīd give him basically a concept and let him go with it and see if it came out with good shots and good scenes and everything. He and Mark worked together hand in hand on what they wanted and different ideas. He would send Mark stuff via email attachments and Mark would check it out and say "yeah this is cool but maybe we can do this". 

Finally they came out with the finished product and I think itīs just perfect, I think itīs just great. Itīs a mixture of reality and comic type stuff at the same time. If you really look at the picture intensely or if you have, if you get lucky enough to get a blown up poster you can see that in the person on the front cover thereīs pieces of the Panzer tank chopped up. Like the gun the barrel of the tank is an actual picture barrel of a tank that happens to be the barrel of his gun and then thereīs also like the back of a tank where the radiator vents are. That is kind of like the shields down over his sides and so he took pieces of the tank pictures and put it within the character and stuff and gave it a really distinctive look. I thought that was a good choice. I think with our next album cover weīll stick with him because it seems to be selling well. We like the way he works with us instead of just telling us: "Hey this is what Iīve got, take it or leave it". Weīve always been kind of control freaks when it comes to our products. We want to make sure that it pleases us first before it gets to the fans because we donīt want any BS going out there saying this is not quality. Usually if it meets our standards it exceeds the standards of the fans because weīve got really high standards to what we want and what we expect out of the Metal fans.

 

So how does the album cover reflect I guess some of the lyrics? Would you say, did you look at the lyrics, did you have lyrics written when you came up with the cover?

Not really, we didnīt even see the cover until the whole thing was already mastered. So basically we just had a name, after all the songs were written Mark came up with a name for the album. He says: "Mechanized Warfare is cool" and I was like, "yeah that sounds great". I was going to try and write some lyrics to that, in fact the song 'Cold As A Blade (And The Heart That Wields It)' was going to be the title track 'Mechanized Warfare' but I couldnīt rework the lyrics in in time enough for it for me to lay the actual tracks down so instead of reworking the lyrics to have a title track which we really never had on any of our albums in the past. I just decided to stick with 'Cold As A Blade'. We almost did have a title track to this album just because we like the "Mechanized Warfare" title but now we never went into writing songs with any forethought of how it was going to match the album because we had no idea what was going to come from this. 

 

You write all the songs on MECHANIZED WARFARE with either Mark or Chris. I was wondering do you approach writing the same with each person or does each present a totally different writing experience?

Actually what they do, Mark and Chris, they have little tiny studios. Well, Mark has a more elaborate studio and they produce whole songs on CDs and give it to every member of the band. Where Chris will write a mini bass part, Chris will write maybe drums and Mark will write maybe drums or samples. Theyīre not drummers, they may be bass players but they just put down scratch stuff just to get the gist of the song and then the body of the song. Then what I do is I take that whole song and I edit it if I need to or I might rearrange some parts. I might think this guitar riff is stronger for a chorus part. For this melody here is stronger in the first part and then I write lyrics based upon the mood of the song. Iīll listen to the song over and over again until I find it sets this kind of mood or this kind of sentence comes derived from this mood of the song. Thatīs how I write. The hardest project for me so far has been the THANE... because there was a solid direction that the album had to go and basically the guitarists, Chris and Mark, when they wrote the album, they thought ok, we have certain parts or certain moods that we have to depict in our music but for the most part they wanted to make five great songs each or six or whatever so they kept writing coming up with these cool riffs and making these great songs but then when it got to me I had to take each one of those songs and put it in an act of the play. So where it has a flow and it had an emotional flow to where you could go from the first song to the last song and you would experience the play just by the emotions of the music going and the words coupled with it. So that was pretty difficult for me. A couple of songs I think got may have got switched around. Like Mark has two songs in a row, Chris has two songs in a row instead of being one on, one off, one on, one off all the way throughout the album. There was one song that makes it on the last cut which is the whole encapsulation of the play. Itīs an eight and a half minute epic that Mark wrote and he intended for that to be the first song that opens up the whole play but I thought it was too long and it was too moody and that it would suit better as putting it as a separate track and encompassing the whole play within that one song. He kind of disagreed with it in the beginning but when it was finally done with all the choral arrangements and everything that we put inside it it turned out to be a great project so that again turned out to be like 'The Crucifix', 'Judgement Day' and just a big long epical song that if one person was to take that one song off of THANE...and listen to it then they could still experience pretty much they can get a general idea, like a Cliffs Notes type of idea of what the play was about. That was the hardest writing experience for me was the THANE TO THE THRONE album. 

 

Since you are on the subject of that album whish was obviously inspired by Shakespeare. How did you come up with the idea - were you at the time reading the book or something and you thought "Hey this would make an original idea for a concept album"?

This was really strange, we were on the road with ICED EARTH and we were going through a very long cold spell to where we had to drive for ten hours. We were just driving around on the road and Rikard said "Hey, I think is time for us to make a concept album" and everybody else felt the same way. It would be great for us to make a concept album because weīve grown together weīve been in the band together, we know kind of what each other is talking about so letīs do it and he said lets come up with MacBeth and I thought that was great because I was kind of familiar with the play MacBeth and I knew that within the play was just about everything; every ideal that was within Heavy Metal. You know, thereīs treachery, deceit, thereīs murder, thereīs chaos, thereīs mystery, magic... thereīs all kinds of stuff within that play. Those would be perfect areas for a Metal band to cover and plus it would be edgy, nobody will ever expect a Metal band to do a Shakespearian play. I think that weīre the band that could pull it off with our high standards of producing Metal albums. We would take the time and really think it out and come out with a quality product. We are really good with putting emotional segue in like kettle drums and violins and huge choirs and string quartets and everything that you need in between the songs, kind of like "Mindcrime" you know they have those cool little sequays to tie the whole thing together. So while we were one the road we just thought of MacBeth and they said as soon as we get home off the road lets just dive into it so I bought the complete works of Shakespeare and I read it everyday. I bought the Cliffs Notes version and I bought three or four different kinds of books. The college thesaurus version of the play and I read every one of them until I got really so familier with the play that I could just tell someone about the whole play within a couple of paragraphs in laymans terms and I knew if I got that familier with it then I could write a song about it and incorporate a few lyrics that were actually taken from the play and tie the whole thing together so that took a few weeks. We had about six or eight weeks to plan for the whole thing so while I was reading and getting beefed up on the lyrics of the play they were writing the songs and it timed out just about right.

 

Ok, back to the new album again...the CD credits "The Monks from The Order Of Saint Hubbins" for providing Gregorian chants. Theyīre not really monks?

Thatīs a big joke...(laughing) Actually its Jim Morris and me and Mark and John and what we did was we recorded eight tracks one track left one track right and then we recorded it four times and then we recorded those on top of that and every time we recorded a voice we put a little more depth to it or make the whole a little larger. What we did was we figured that we needed some original Latin words to figure out what we should say so we looked up on the internet some Latin terms that were spoken kind of what we needed to say. We figured out the verbage of how to say them and then we just came up with a melody between Jim and I. Then we just sang them. We kept doing it and keep doing it until it sounded great. It exceeded our expectations and we were very happy with what came out. Mark says "We canīt say who actually did this, weīve got to put some mystery to it" so Mark came out with The Monks from The Order Of Saint Hubbins. I thought that was funny. (laughs)

(Laughing) I read it and was like nah, it canīt be... evil Monks!

Also there is another thing that Markīs been doing. Our studio is a fairly elaborate computerized studio in the basement of Mark Briodyīs house. Itīs all encased in concrete and everything because itīs in a basement but we have thousands of dollars of equipment down there. Every year we go in there to record because it saves time and money and we can come out with a better product for less money. Pretty much the studio time we put in Markīs basement is free compared to 1100 or 1200 dollars an hour at Morrisound. So what we do every album is we call that studio something different and it was called Millie Bear studios at one time because he has a dog named Millie, a great Peranese so it looks like a white polar bear. This year we called the studio Weather Puss because every time Jim comes down he comes from Florida and lately weīve been recording in like December, January, February months so itīs really cold here and he gets down into the basement and itīs even colder down there and so he just turns it into this big weather puss so we called it Weather Puss studio. We put little funky thing in there just to keep people amused and just wondering about what really is going on. But all the voices that we do are voices weīve done ourselves and all these huge choirs came from five people. We have one Soprano that is an actual Soprano here in Colorado Springs. She does choirs and quartets and things. We also have singers from other bands up in Denver, one Metal singer thatīs a close friend of ours. My daughter, who's ten years old, actually got in and did some Alto voices in the choir. [Yeah, I saw the name listed and assumed it was a relative.] Yeah, my daughter and she was really happy to do that. She put on the headphones and everything and was actually in there. So most of the time we just layer it between me and Jim. I have had lots of choir experience and heīs been familiar with the choirs and everything and we just keep layering and layering until we get the choir that we want. We can actually make huge choirs out of just four or five people itīs really great. 

 

Cool. Onto the lyrics of the album I was hoping perhaps you could pick just two or three of your favorite songs and give me an idea of what inspired you to write about that?

Iīd say probably the biggest one that I like on the album is the Part III of The Crucifix trilogy. To me itīs the final ending of the Crucifix trilogy when I originally wrote the Crucifix back in '83. I thought it would be a cool story to just keep going. Itīs funny how itīs been almost exactly five years between each part of that story. "Judgment Day" was five years from "Crucifix" and it worked in as kind of a Part II of that story and now "All Things Renewed" is Part III and if you read the lyrics to that youīll see how the story unfolds kind of like the Damien movie story and it just continues on and comes to an end. But Iīd say that that was probably the most challenging, was to continue the story to come to that idea to where in 'The Crucifix' in the beginning itīs like ok, youīve got Armageddon and it was kind of taken out of the verses of the Bible in Revelations and saying oh at one time there is going to be a war between the humans and the number of the beast will come out and there will be an Antichrist and war and pestilence will happen and the Four Horses of the Apocalypse and everything. I kind of started it with Christ dying on the cross for our sins and people overlooking that and not reaching for salvation but just continuing on with their serving the flesh type of thing and maybe a willing to war so then in "Judgment Day" I just came to terms and said "look, you know here's what I said five years ago and itīs coming to pass". Computers are the age. Thereīs one single monetary system in Europe that now is happening. The world power is basically the US thatīs helping all the other countries along and it looks like weīre closer to the end. So that 'All Things Renewed' on this album. Now five years later is saying "now that all that has happened and the Earth is destroyed itīs time for a rebirth". So all the good hearts of the people that are left are reborn, rebirthing the Earth and that comes kind of as a final close to that whole story. Another I like is when every time Iīm in Europe I try to go to these clubs. Theyīre almost like raves here in the US. Everybody dresses in black and has a goth look to them and their strong influence out there is vampirism and some people go as far as drinking blood on a daily basis and never going out into the sun. Just living in darkness all the time and reading books about vampirism and everything and just really striving and having a deep desire to be a vampire and to live as the vampires do. Thinking that maybe one day you know a real vampire will arise or maybe theyīll actually turn into a vampire themselves. You know if I file down my teeth and everything maybe through my bloodline eventually my child would just be born with these razor sharp teeth or something like that. But I figured I would write a song about a person that desired to be a vampire so much that until he finally met a real vampire and was turned into a vampire himself he finally realizes now that heīs cursed forever and even though he thought he was damned in the life before because he couldnīt live eternally and he couldnīt feed on people which he desired to now he MUST feed on people to live and now thereīs no way he could die even if he wanted to. He has to live with this curse eternally so now heīs damned and he comes to the realization that now being a vampire sucks, you know. So I think thatīs also another song I really like the lyrics to and put a lot of time in.

What song was that, was that 'The Silent' maybe? 

That would be 'The Silent', right.

Yeah man, when I was a kid I used to want to be a vampire. Like I saw that movie The Lost Boys I thought "damn I would love to be one of those guys".

Yeah, I was that way too. I was enamored with the Dracula thing thing all my life and I really thought oh that was really cool but when I sat down and thought about it you know well hey these Dracula people itīs kind of bad for them because they can never really enjoy sunlight unless they're the special kind of vampire that can walk in the daylight. But still he has to feed off of people to live and Iīm sure that can be a bummer after awhile. It can be pleasurable in the beginning but Iīm sure it gets old after awhile. There was also another one too that Jim helped me with, with 'Take To The Sky' and that was a song that Chris wrote and came up with the original riff and it turned out to be a really heavy song. I thought that it would bring JAG PANZER up to the age of now of the warfare thatīs happening with laser guided bombs and strategic maneuvers and planes that fly you know up in the upper atmosphere of the Earth and can strike at people below without ever being noticed. I thought that was a really cool thing and plus maybe it would get noticed eventually through time that you know "Hey, wow hereīs a song about stealth fighter pilots" you know and maybe the stealth fighter pilots would think it was cool. So what weīre doing is making a video of that which should be out in the next month. Actually I think itīs being edited right now. It should incorporate all kinds of up to date jet fighters and planes of that sort, SSG spy planes and everything. We filmed it in really high altitudes. The highest paved mountain road in the United States is where we filmed it just outside of Denver so that should be really cool. The lyrics to that song I needed a little bit of help. And then Jim is also a pilot, he just got his pilot license last year to fly small aircraft like Cessna's and things like that. So he gave me a little bit of insight about the instruments panel glowing an amber type color and the engines, they have to be ignited before they can burst and so he brought that insight in there and brought that song to life. I think that turned out to be a great song.

Hhhmm. Let me think, 'Cold As A Blade' is just like a Conan type of thing. I enjoyed what other bands, HAMMERFALL and MANOWAR have done to the Conan concept and bringing that age of when the sword was all powerful into view and basically that song is just talking about somebody that has a thirst for the blade and doesnīt really know what wielding the blade is all about and he thinks that the blade has the power but actually itīs not the blade that has the power itīs the hand behind it and by the end of the song he comes to realize itīs not about how sharp, heavy or how powerful the blade is but itīs about the mindset of the man and the hand that wields it. I thought that came out to be pretty cool and it was also in the Iron Shadows type of vein earlier on in our past and I thought that would be a great tie in with the AMPLE DESTRUCTION days and whatīs happening now.

 

A couple questions if you could give me a little bit of information Iīve read that you have been trained in Opera and done some Theater. What kind of stuff have you done and do you still take lessons or do you ever still have a desire to perform in the theater kind of thing? 

I was in the Colorado Springs Reportory Theater for three years. The last role I had was an apprentice role and I had to learn the lead role just as if I would have acted it if the guy would have got sick I would have had to step in his day so that was really good for me. He was in the Tenor range. I have always been into like whenever Iīm on stage I kind of act out or put lots of emotional energy in the songs that I sing and people enjoy that. Iīve seen a lot of singers these days, they just kind of prance around and they donīt really convey emotions through their lyrics when theyīre singing. They kind of sing at people rather than to them. I thought that was really great how singers like Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson from IRON MAIDEN that they would put lots of emotion, Ronnie James Dio, they put lots of emotion into their lyrics and they really believed it and they really acted and lived through what they sang on stage and people can see that. It made them a larger figure. So I was always intrigued about doing that in high school but never did. Actually I started working behind the stage as a gaffer. My first play was Peter Pan and I was a pulley operator. I was the fore and aft pulley operator. They put a huge harness on the Peter Pan character who happened to be a girl because their bones are lighter. They happened to be overall lighter and then it would be hooked to a big, kind of like a garage door opener track on the top of the ceiling and I had to work the guide wires to move her from the front of the stage to the back of the stage and also incorporated lift later on. So that was pretty fun for me but then they found I was in the chorus and Iīd be singing. My voice was naturally louder and it was a good tone, it was a full tone so I got with the producers and said: "Look I would like to do more stuff" and throughout the couple of years that I did it I would grow. I was trying to be a principal player but it takes a lot of time. Usually the run of the play is six weeks. Then you have the play that might actually go on for three more weeks later so then you are looking at nine or ten weeks of going, committing to the play and then actually doing the performances. So it was cutting in between the song writing of JAG PANZER and I happened to be in two bands at the same time. I was finishing up with TITAN FORCE and I was starting the JAG PANZER project so I couldnīt continue with that.

All through junior high and high school when I finally learned that through singing in churches and stuff when I was younger that I had a voice that would connect with people and move them emotionally I started getting into choirs. Once I got into choirs I started liking that a lot more. The instructors were saying to me that I should do more things with it so I got into solo things. I started developing my voice more classically and it was kind of funny even though I do Metal in my bands which is totally not even anything like real singing it helped me with my breathing. It helped me with holding my notes. It helped me with creating a real strong Falsetto that almost didnīt sound like a fake voice. It sounded like a real whole tone and it helped me a lot. Also the warm ups and the breathing exercises really helped me when I was in really poor shape on the road I could stay warm and do a better performance than some of these singers out there that just sing on stage and then they get drunk or they take drugs and then they recuperate until the next night when they get on stage. Well, eventually by the end of the tour that is going to catch up with you. With my aspect I think that since my body is my instrument I need to keep my body detoxified as much as I can. I donīt need to be putting bad things into my body thatīs going to run me down, thatīs going to tire me later on or thatīs going to you know like cocaine or speed thatīs going to give me a dry mouth later on during my performance. Or smoking tons of pot or anything like that that might give me a dry mouth during my performance and give me cotton mouth I donīt want that. I want to stay liquefied and smooth. Itīs like if you never put new strings on your guitar eventually theyīre going to break or theyīre just going to sound so dead that youīll never get a good tone out of them. So I donīt know, maybe itīs just my past training.

A year ago I was thinking oh man, Iīd like to get into the opera voice and really do this and maybe do something in my hometown with singing at basketball games or football games and doing the 'Star Spangled Banner' or 'Oh Beautiful' or 'Spacious Skies', the America America theme. Do something like that publicly and just sing in a totally different voice where I grew up. Iīm in another band called POWERSLAVE 2000. That is an IRON MAIDEN cover band and the guitarist of that band told me that his next door neighbor is an actual opera coach for the Colorado Springs Opera Symphony. I said "oh you gotta hook me up with her" because I want to take opera lessons and see if I have what it takes to be an opera tenor or opera baritone or something. He hasnīt got back with me yet but that is something I want to get into to see if I have what it takes to actually do that opera tone because I think maybe I just might. I took seven years of actual applied lessons with a coach and Iīve been singing now for over twenty years in front of people as far as doing performances. Iīve been doing performance vocalizing for over twenty years now so that helps out a lot. Some singers that are in bands they just figure out oh you know I just learned how to sing because my friends thought I sounded good so they start singing in a band. Only the great singers knew that they had a great talent before they even got into Metal bands and I think for me, Metal music is very great thing, is a very great area for classically trained vocalist to get into because thereīs so much emotion that you can put behind it and thereīs such an incredible range that youīre allowed to sing that you can really use all your voice. Itīs great. 

 

So what do you think of NIGHTWISH?

You know, I donīt even know if Iīve heard them. Iīm really sheltered, if I donīt hear GODSMACK or MÖTLEY CRÜE you know, all the mainstream stuff. I really donīt venture out any further and the reason why I donīt is I want to stay true to my roots with JAG PANZER. Iīm easily influenced by other things around me. The only way for me, myself, to stay uninfluenced and to not sway away from my original style is to just stick with the bands I am familiar with and not go searching. But Mark Briody, heīs always constantly searching and heīs way into the underground scene. Thatīs something great for him because since he writes the music he can put that diverse style in there and then since Iīm always the same, my style kind of goes in there and compliments it.

Right. The reason I mention is just because as you might have read she, the singer in that band is a classically trained opera singer.

Huuuh?! Iīll have to check that out then!

Yeah, you might want to check it out. It was very different when I heard it because nobody has a true opera voice for an entire album anyway in Metal but this band seems to pull it off very well. [Iīll have to check that out then, NIGHTWISH] Yeah, cool. I wanted to ask a quick question about the, you did a cover called 'Youīve Got Another Cup Coming'? [(Laughing) that was pretty funny] Yeah, definitely, I checked that out on the website.

Yeah, we did that in Mark's studio actually and it was kind of a strange idea. The year before I had done a song and taken an AEROSMITH song and just taken the voice out of it and just actually put the voice down so low that I could sing over on top of it and that was 'Train Kept A Rollin'. It was for the football team going to the Super Bowl. I wanted to do that for a radio station and it never really got aired. There was other people more professional karaoke singers and stuff that had better studios and everything that got more air time. So this year Mark said: "letīs do it for the Avalanche team". Heīs a huge Avalanche fan and has been for many years and here was a chance that we could actually get the cup again and have another shot. So Mark said "letīs do 'Youīve Got Another Thing Coming' and lets rework the lyrics" and do it really professional in our studio and if it comes out great weīll put it on our website and maybe it will get some airplay. So it actually did. It took us three weeks to put together. I kind of stylized my voice a little bit like Robīs but since my natural voice is not anything like Rob's, itīs more like Bruce, it came out slightly different. It was a mid range song and we kind of put a lot of guts into it put a whole bunch of heavy guitars into it and opened the beat up really wide and actually got some airplay for three weeks on a Denver station. So we were happy with that. Our Drummer, Rikard actually laid down real drums. Chris actually played the lead. Shawn actually played the bass so it was like a JAG PANZER song and that turned out to be a really great project. 

Weīre going to do another project here in the next few months and itīs the Gordon Lightfoot song 'The Wreck Of The Edmond Fitzgerald'. Thatīll be on the website also and weīre thinking of maybe putting that on a single later on but Century Media is not really big on doing singles. 

 

They donīt mind you guys doing a song here and there like that and putting it on the website?

They donīt produce singles on CDs and stuff but no, they donīt mind us doing a song or two and putting them on the website. In fact that is just better for them because it popularizes our band, it'll sell more records. But yeah, thatīs our next project is 'The Wreck Of The Edmond Fitzgerald'. Weīre going to metalize that.

Have you always been interested in that story or the original song?

Mark liked the melody and we just came back from Wisconsin. Just seeing that huge lake flying over it and he was just like "oh man this is awesome, I think we aughta do that song from Gordon Lightfoot". I was like "you know, that has a cool beat and that could make a really great Metal song". Like what METALLICA did with 'Turn The Page'. They took that song and I never really used to like it much but they turned it into a Metal riff and I think it turned out really good. So thatīs how it got started just flying over the Great Lakes and saying this is a really big thing and that Gordon Lightfoot song was really popular. And I think we can put a nice John Bonham type drums to it that are really open and really huge guitars on it and put a big production to it and it might take people by surprise.

 

Another guy who writes here for Metal-Rules (Ed. Note: yes you Ricky Razor heheh!!)  is a very big RIOT fan and when I told him I was interviewing you he said "oh he sang for RIOT for a little while ask him if they recorded anything" he always wanted to know?

Yeah, we did record something but it was on cassette because they didnīt have CDs at that time. We did a song called 'Medicine Man', a song called 'Magic Maker' and another song I canīt remember the name of it and I have since then made copies of it but kind of a sad story that the cassette got played so many times that now itīs in a bad, scratchy tone. So if I wanted to make it a copy to my CD writer it would be all nasty. I donīt know if I really should produce that song and put out any cuts from it because it was tunes that they did actually put on their album later on with a different singer. But it was kind of like radio WHITESNAKE type of music. I did right after, way before Red Forester passed away, I did a tour with RIOT and just did three or four dates in LA and a couple of dates up in their hometown. He just lived outside of Manhattan, well a couple hours outside of Manhattan. It was a good experience with them and I donīt, I guess I originally got called when we were writing another album for JAG PANZER. We were going to put out the Shadow Thief album and we had just finished those songs. Don Van Stavern, who was the bass player of RIOT at that time had called me up because he heard from someone else in Texas that they had seen JAG PANZER and said wow this guyīs a really great singer, you should check him out. He called me up and said "hey would you mind doing some songs for us?" and I said no but I am bound here to do this album so I said if you can fly me out roundtrip Iīll go. So they flew me out a roundtrip ticket but they held me up to where I couldnīt get back on my flight and so I was stuck in San Antonio, Texas. We did a couple of shows there in San Antonio and I tried to make it back for the recording but by then everybody in JAG PANZER was really pissed off at me so thatīs what caused another breakup in JAG PANZER for me too. That was the final straw basically. The drummer at the time just said "youīre way too flaky to be in this band so why donīt you just follow this RIOT thing". So then I did for about ten weeks but then the drummer for RIOT Sandy, his wife was managing the band so it was creating a conflict of interest within the band because she would favor Sandy over the rest of the members of the band. And Mark was not really liking it much. Other band members were getting paid not very much for gigs and having to live in LA which is very expensive so I told him "Look man, Iīm out of here". She didnīt like me very much. She thought that my appearance on stage was like that of David Lee Roth and I was really like commanding and in control. The audience seemed to like it but she didnīt like that personality and thatīs not the way I was offstage and so she was kind of confused with that. How can you be two people, you know? So what I think they were doing was she was talking to Sandy and Sandy was talking to her and between the two of them they just didnīt like me. They never talked to me, I stayed two or three days in their apartment in LA and I never spoke to them once, they just happened to be gone all the time. Well, I figured I donīt want to be in a band like this and thatīs when I got out and thatīs when I did the TITAN FORCE thing. Got in with old friends who used to open up for JAG PANZER in Colorado Springs in 1984 and they were all three brothers and they were doing something that was similar to JAG PANZER, Prog in music styles is the progressive Power Metal. I figured this would be a great way for me to maintain my Metal status and at the same time make some people happy. Let the fans know Harry the Tyrant is still out there. But yeah, it was fun with RIOT. I grew up loving the RIOT songs and "Fire Down Under" and it was great to be able to sing those songs on stage with them. It was a very electrifying experience and Mark Reale and I had a good relationship that carried on couple years later but finally he had to go his separate way and so did I. Thatīs when JAG PANZER reformed and I just never cared to talk to him and lately I hear that heīs finally retired from the whole thing.

Isnīt he doing the WESTWORLD thing? 

I didnīt really hear that but he could be.

 

Quick question, I am sure you have been asked this a few times but I havenīt read it yet and that is where or who gave you the name or how did you earn the nickname "The Tyrant"?

Oh well, back when JAG PANZER was PURPLE HAZE we were touring around and doing like club songs and once we started inventing our original songs we figured we needed a name for ourselves so we called ourselves TYRANT. When it came to put out the album under Iron Works Records there was a New York TYRANT and like a San Francisco or something like that TYRANT so the record company guy said hey look if you come out as TYRANT from Colorado nobody's going to know who you are and they might even be confused with these other bands. And he said if you are really good that would be bad for you because they would think these other bands were that. So he happened to have, he looked outside his backdoor a couple times from behind our recording studio and saw a Volkswagen Beetle there and it said JGPNZER. He said it looks like Jag Panzer or something on that so he said why donīt you guys look that up and see if it means anything and you know, it sounds cool to me. So we said "yeah, it sounds cool to us too"! So Mark looked it up and we looked it up and it found out that it was actually a Panzer tank and it was J-A-G "Jagdpanzer" that was a German tank division that on their free time they would go out and they would just destroy villages that were not in their path of destruction. They just were a bunch of tank rebels basically. So we thought this would be cool but for America we need to drop the "D" because it would be confusing so we just went with Jag and thatīs how we went with JAG. Well, I said, hey, I like this tyrant name and Harry to me at the time was kind of like a silly name for such a powerful voice that I had on the album. So I said this would do two things, it would give me a heavier type of persona and at the same time it would make people wonder and guess at who and what is this "Tyrant" person. It would create a mystique about the band and maybe it would even increase record sales or make us that much more popular because thereīs this mysterious person within the band. So thatīs how I kept it. I was going to change it earlier but it was just working for us so I adopted my name Harry "The Tyrant" Conklin. And then once I got in TITAN FORCE I just went with Harry Conklin and now I just go either way. It just depends. Sometimes, I think on the latest album Iīm just Harry Conklin, only in the press I am Harry "The Tyrant" Conklin.

No one calls you "The Tyrant" by name obviously? (laughs)

(Laughing) Yeah, nobody at home. In fact itīs a big joke because I am not in the least bit a tyrant. The only thing tyrant about me is my vocal tone and thatīs it.

Right on. Iīm just about finished, I just wanted to mention about touring and if youīre going to be doing many shows, I know youīve done Milwaukee Metalfest and things like that but are you going to be able to do any type of tour throughout North America this coming year? 

We were looking forward to it. We were going to do a tour with ICED EARTH and then ICED EARTH got put on the PRIEST bill. [Yeah, too bad it wasnīt JAG PANZER, ICED EARTH and JUDAS PRIEST] Yeah, then it would be two JP bands on there. It would be great but it just didnīt work out that way. Both Mark Briody and I have new children coming up. Mark Briody has a pair of twins coming up in the next couple months and then I have a child thatīs going to be born in December. So that stressed out our family life. In order for us, you know if weīd be on the road weīd be away from our wives when they were having children and they didnīt really like that very much. We figured that weīd stay true to our wedding vows and stay by our wives during this time of need. We told them, well we canīt do this tour. Well, it was good for them because they would have had to cancel our tour plans anyway because of the JUDAS PRIEST thing. Well, then we spoke with HAMMERFALL and they wanted to do a tour with us but then thatīs not the tour that HAMMERFALL wanted to do so they were trying to back out while we were trying to back out so that was a good thing. So it looks like January, February, ICED EARTH is going to be, going to put their lives back together as far as looking out for ICED EARTH instead of just touring with bigger acts and getting twenty minutes to play. They want to do an ICED EARTH headline tour. So after they get off this JUDAS PRIEST thing they want to start up a big tour for the US and for Europe. We want to be a big part of that because weīre close to Jon. Also thereīs...ah...the guy that sings for DEMONS & WIZARDS [and BLIND GUARDIAN] right, heīs in BLIND GUARDIAN, theyīve got another album coming out and BLIND GUARDIAN might be touring Europe around the first part of the year and they've asked, Hansi has asked us if we could do a tour with them itīd be great. So weīre looking forward to that. It looks around like the first of the year or maybe next spring that weīre going to put a lot of attention into touring because we know we havenīt been out in three years and thatīs not good. Weīre a great live band and we can do it. We can bring out a great performance and attract a lot of people when we play. Itīs just unfortunate that itīs just the bad timing every time we want to plan something something always comes up.

 

ChrisHave you guys been talking at all about the next album or youīre not thinking that far ahead yet or do you plan things that far in advance?

Right now we are working on the Fitzgerald song. Mark and I want to do a side project of just some violin, voice and guitar and then we want to get together and start using the studio since itīs been beefed up and do another album but no we havenīt been seriously thinking about song titles or no one has presented me with any music yet.

 

So, what, I know Mark Iīve asked him last time I interviewed him heīs like some kind of "Mr. Computer Geek" dude when heīs not "Mr. JAG PANZER" so what do you do when youīre not writing, recording and touring and all that fun stuff?

I work at a mailing service and I run an ink machine that prints out addresses on top of an envelope. Thatīs what I do. We basically do Christian mailings. People that want money, are asking money. Missionaries and stuff for people in the US so they send out these big mailing lists to my company and I print out the addresses and then we stuff them with whatever inserts they need and then we ship them out for them. 

Ever stick any JAG PANZER fliers in there? (laughs) 

That would be BAD! (laughs) [Itīd be funny though] Yeah, I can see this 70 year old person you know wanting to, opens his letter that says feed the hungry children in China and all of a sudden thereīs a flyer for JAG PANZER. (both laughing) [Yeah, that would be funny] He probably wouldnīt appreciate that too much.

They wouldnīt get the meaning I donīt think. You never know maybe they will send YOU some money (laughing)!

Yeah.. that would be great.

 

So is there any other news or things going on with the band youīd like me to let people know about?

Thatīs about it. You should check out our new website, itīs all updated. Itīs got new album stuff on it, new soundbytes. We just added a video from a recent show we did in Switzerland called V7. Itīs a song called Futureshock. Itīs done completely with a digital camera and it looks fantastic. Itīs downloadable through Real Video and itīs kind of a medium to small file so it wonīt take a long time to load it up but itīs a really good quality piece that you can see JAG PANZER live.

 

Cool, and you did say you are doing the video for 'Take To The Sky', whenīs that supposed to be out again?

Right. Thatīs being edited right now. It was supposed to be out this month but right now itīs being held up in editing. I donīt have an actual release date for it but I am looking forward in the next couple weeks of checking out the finished product.

Is that something youīll put on an EP kind of like NEVERMORE did with their 'Believe In Nothing' video or do you hope to get played?

Thatīs what weīre trying to do with Century Media now. Century Media is being really good with backing us up on this video now. We want to come out with like a DVD and take some live footage along with that video and maybe show us how we are on tour, backstage stuff and all kinds of things and put out a JAG PANZER DVD.

Oh, that would be amazing. Every band Iīm into if they've got a DVD Iīve got to own it. Iīm a freak when it comes to DVDīs. 

Yeah, itīs a great new thing.

It is, well that would be cool if that happens. Anyway, Iīd like to thank you for your time.

Thatīs ok, I enjoyed it!


Photo credits: Ted Banks & Century Media Records

Transcription kindly provided by Skyklad from
The Metal Gospel!!!!!!!

CD Reviews
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