Interview with Guitarist Mark Briody
Interview by EvilG
Transcription by Nick
CASTING THE STONES is another great album of metal and a masterpiece again from Jag Panzer. I think it?s one of the best albums of the year easily.
I was wondering to what you attribute your longevity and how you stay so on track and continue to one-up yourselves with every album?
Having the same line-up is huge. I mean, that?s probably the biggest benefit. Having the same line-up and having everybody who?s sorta grown up together in the music business. We were all learning what it?s about and how it works so everybody has the same expectations and goals. Everybody basically likes the same kind of music and we all get on really well together. I think it?s a combination of all of those things that make it work for us.
You new album is perhaps heavier than anything you?ve ever done. Did you deliberately try to make a heavier album or is that the way it came out when you were writing?
We deliberately tried to do that. We?ve gotten to the point now where we can pretty much talk about what we?re gonna try and do. A couple of things on the new album are definitely so we?d get heavier. We tried a few new amps for that, we added a few more progressive elements and we wanted to put the violin on hold for just this album and bringing in six or seven people for backing vocals, we wanted to put that on hold also. About three or four months before we started recording the album, we had a band meeting where we discussed these things we were gonna try and do for the record. Making it heavier was definitely the number one priority.
Was this done for any particular reason? Perhaps because some people seem to have a bad opinion about what power metal is and you wanted to lose the choirs and lose the violins and prove to people that you can be a much heavier band if you want to be?
No, we just wanted to be different. I love the violin, I?m a huge Skyclad fan and I like the way we use it in our music too. But those are things that aren?t an integral part of the band. The band is two guitars, bass, drums and vocals. Those aren?t an integral part so that?s something we thought we could put on hold. Maybe just for one record, it could all be back on the next one. It?s really just for a different sound.
The song ?Battered and bruised? is one of the more aggressive tracks on here. Do you think we?ll hear more songs of that heaviness in the future? Have you thought that far ahead yet?
Yeah, I?ve got some ideas for the next record. You?ll have to wait to hear it, but yeah, I think you?ll hear some more songs like that. That was one of Chris?s songs. I think the song writing works out really well now because I think Chris has a style that?s different from mine but each of our styles is really appreciated by the other band members and they?re able to bring it all together to one sound. It?s really cool to be able to write with Chris, we don?t actually write together but it?s easier to fill in his songs on the record than any other songwriter that I?ve worked with.
Have you ever tried to write a song with Chris?
Well, writing with other people usually doesn?t work for me. I tend to hear the whole song in my head and the song I hear might have a really basic guitar part on my part and if you go to rehearsal and play that, people are like ?oh wow, four chords, that?s impressive? and no one wants to work on it. But when they hear the vocal lines and a few harmonies in there and everything is put together, then it becomes a song. So it really doesn?t work for me and I?m not sure if it works for Chris either, he?s never mentioned to me about wanting to write together. He delivers great demos on his own and I deliver my own demos, so we?ll probably just leave it that way.
The track ?The Mission (1943)? is the first track on the album that instantly grabbed me on the first play through. I figured it was a war song right away when I saw the title. Obviously, it?s about ?The Guns of Navarone?. Have you read the book or seen the movie?
I read the book years ago. I need to re-read it again.
Did Harry write the lyrics to that one?
Yeah, Harry wrote the lyrics and I did the music.
Did you try to match the music to any kind of theme that reminded you of the movie or did you just do the song and the lyrics were put on after?
My vision early on was something that was sort of a tip of the hat to classic Iron Maiden. I really liked when Iron Maiden would do things like ?Where Eagles Dare?, ?Rime of the Ancient Mariner? or ?Alexander the Great? or any of these really cool epic stories. I?m also a big fan of Iron Maiden musically, so I wanted a song that reminded me like if it had been on THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST or PIECE OF MIND. Harry coincidentally at the same time wanted to do something based on ?The Guns of Navarone? and I said ?let?s get together with this?. A funny story is that he actually called me with the vocal line and left it in on my answering machine. I thought ?wow, that?s a great vocal line?, so I re-wrote my song to match his vocal line. Then when he came down to record his part, he?d totally forgotten the vocal line. He vaguely even remembered leaving it on my answering machine; he left it in the middle of the night when he was half asleep. We actually had to dig up my answering machine tape, we found it and he actually ended up re-writing it and made it better than the first time.
Is there any reason that Harry and you agreed to choose a fictional World War 2 story as opposed to something that actually happened? Or did you even think about that and just thought it was cool?
Yeah, we didn?t really think about that. He?s a huge fan of the book and the movie. Once he said that he wanted to do it, we just took the idea from there.
There are also a couple of hints of a Nevermore influence on the track ?Tempest?. Some of the guitar parts sound like it could be a seven string thing with a progressive Nevermore feel.
Yeah, I?ve been hearing that a lot from people.
Did you notice that when you were putting the song together or do you think any of that crept in maybe because Chris did some touring with Nevermore?
It?s sort of opposite with me because I?ve known Chris for a long time. When I first heard some of Chris?s writing, and Chris is always playing riffs for us all the time on tour and stuff, it?s like when I heard DREAMING NEON BLACK I thought, ?wow, that sounds like the songs Chris writes?. So it never appeared to me as this sounds like a Nevermore song, but I?ve done a lot of interviews where they agree with you. To me it just sounds like that way Chris has always been writing.
Have you decided yet if you?re going to do a video for the new album?
We?d love to, but it?s really Century Media?s call. There?s a lot of things we?d like to do, we?d like to do a live DVD and things like that, but a lot of this is really down to Century Media. Contractually we have albums to do with them, so those are pretty straightforward, we just tell the label we?re ready to record and they say ?go ahead?. But with things like that, that aren?t in the contract, it?s sort of you have to take them on an individual basis. I?ve told them that we would like to do a video and I haven?t heard anything back yet. You can?t really take that as a yes or a no, it just means they haven?t addressed that yet.
I understand from what I read in an interview or two with you that your least favourite track is ?Cold? on the new album. I?m not sure if that was the mood you were in at that moment or is that still true? Is there any reason why you?re not 100 percent happy with that song?
Yeah, I just don?t like the direction it went at all. But it?s something the other band members, like Harry, he really likes it, Jim Morris likes it, Rikard likes it, that?s good enough to put it on the album. I wrote the song and I like about half the musical parts and the other parts are ok. I thought that maybe Harry would take it in a direction and make the whole thing very cool but he took it in like the opposite direction of what I wanted. I heard it and I told them in the studio, ?What do you guys think of this?? Jim Morris said, ?I love it? and Jim is a really, really honest person to work with. I asked Harry, ?What do you think?? Harry said, ?Hell, I think it sounds great!? We had some guests there during mixing, some friends came down to Morrisound, and THEY really liked it. ?Wow, that song is great!? So we decided to keep it then, but yeah, it?s probably my least favourite Jag Panzer song from the last three albums, it?s probably ?Cold?.
Do you play it live?
No, I?m really pushing to not play it live. I think the only way it would be is if we had a lot of response, people asking for it, but we haven?t had that and we?ve had people ask for ?The Mission? or ?Tempest? and a few other tracks. A few people asked for ?Cold? but it?s not a top choice.
Have your albums sold progressively more and more as you release more albums or have the last few albums reached a peak and you sell about the same amount each time?
They?re selling a little bit more each time. Century Media kinda gauge the sales of the studio albums, so they don?t really look at things like CHAIN OF COMMAND or DECADE OF THE NAIL SPIKED BAT. But as far as the studio albums, it goes in a straight line. MECHANIZED WARFARE was our biggest seller, THANE TO THE THRONE is the next biggest seller, AGE OF MASTERY was the next. So we?re hoping that CASTING THE STONES takes it up a little bit more. There?s still a lot of countries that we have done nothing in. No sales in Japan?
Is it released in Japan?
Probably not. I know MECHANIZED WARFARE did like 19 copies in Japan. That?s a serious number, I?m not even joking! To get it in Japan, you had to go into the store and special order request it and then wait for a month to get it. I think 19 people did it.
So that?s an untapped market for Jag Panzer for sure?
Yeah, I?ve heard stories that they only pick like 5 percent of the Century Media bands and if they don?t pick it, you?re just out of luck. Warrel Dane was saying that Sanctuary was really popular in Japan and the Nevermore stuff of Century Media is nothing.
So apart from Japan, are you kinda content with the level you?ve reached or do you ever wonder if there is something more you can do musically to reach more fans? Or do you think that?s more the job for the people who do the marketing and the PR for the band?
I think it?s totally a marketing job. I don?t care if I sell a ton of records. What matters to me is that anybody who could possibly like Jag Panzer has heard us and have made up their mind, ?I like ?em? or ?I don?t?. I know for a fact in Japan, that Helloween will play and you get 10000 people seeing them and out of those 10000 probably 9990 have never heard one note of Jag Panzer. That bothers me there. There?s other countries like that. Not real big in Sweden, not real big in South America either, and these are places where metal does really well, so I guess the marketing department needs to step up in some of these areas.
Are you able to release the album on another label in some parts of the world or is Century Media a world wide thing?
No, that?s a world wide thing.
Do you still consider yourself an underground band based on some of these countries that haven?t ever heard you?
Yeah, we?re definitely an underground band I think. We?ve never had management and we?ve never had anyone doing anything for us really. We?ve always been a grass roots type band, we?re a band where if people write us, we respond directly to them. We try to do our own bookings. It?s always been an underground scene with us.
Is there any such thing as a typical Jag Panzer fan? If so, what would you see as a typical fan in terms of age, sex, lifestyle, that sorta thing?
From what I?ve noticed, and I always like to talk to people after shows or via e-mail, the typical Jag Panzer fan is someone that is really well educated about metal. I think the typical Jag Panzer fan could name a hundred other underground metal bands from the top of his head, someone who listens to a lot of stuff and has a lot of passion about heavy metal. I don?t think there are many casual Jag Panzer fans.
How many more albums do you still have for Century Media?
Have you thought ahead of if you?re gonna stay with them and extend the contract or explore the options?
I don?t know. They?re a good label. Like any relationship in business if there?s problem that comes up and it?s usually resolved. Century Media, I think they do a good job. The people who work there generally like metal.
Do you ever wish they would send as many press releases to people like me about Jag Panzer as they do about Shadows Fall? (laughs)
[laughs] They?re pretty honest about that to me. They have to service who sells, because they?re paying salaries and people are supporting families from working at the label. I?ve been at labels before where you don?t get the honesty about what?s going on with things like that, but Century Media, they?re pretty straightforward.
Has the band gotten any flak, and in particular, has Harry gotten any flak for sporting the black nail polish look and his new ?do? and that in the new promo pics?
[laughs] A ton of it! Oh man! Yeah, like a LOT!
I?ve read online that you?ve had a lot of e-mails.
Yeah, yeah! A lot of e-mails and a lot of mentions in interviews.
I guess Harry is sitting back having a great laugh about it?
He is! Because ever since I?ve known the guy, I mean, people are always referring to the classic ?Ample destruction? days, even back then, he had bleached blond hair for a while. He had his hair done like Vince Neil for a while. He had a Greg Brady perm for a while. The guy just really could care less about what?s fashionable or not, what?s in, what?s out, what he?s supposed to look like, what he?s not supposed to look like? He?s just a really unique personality. He?s a really cool guy and he?s an honest guy. He definitely has a wacky side, he?s definitely a wacky, eccentric person and he?s been like that since he was a kid. So you don?t know what he?s gonna show up like at a photo session.
So you didn?t know he was gonna come in with his nails all painted and??
No, no clue!
When he came in, you all just had a laugh or what?
Yeah, it doesn?t bother me what Harry does at all.
If he can sing like that, he can do what he wants?
On your website you have a ?coming soon? section for new merchandise and new shirts and some of your new shirts look pretty cool. I was wondering, any rough idea when they?ll be available?
You actually have to ask the other band members. The way we work or merchandise is, we sometimes have different band members say ?I wanna buy the shirts this time? and whoever buys them can get a bigger percentage of the profit. It works out really good, because we have a lot of merchandise for tours and it just works out well. The only downside to this is when you get someone saying ?I?m gonna get shirts? and you start waiting for them and that doesn?t happen. That?s sorta the problem now. I might have to step in and get some shirts here because we have a lot of requests for them, I get a request every day for those shirts and probably have about four of them here. All I bought was basically some samples for the band just to see what they would look like. The big request used to be just for the black shirt with the white JP sickle on, that was done on the 1999 tour and we didn?t want to redo a 1999 tour shirt so that was how we came up with the new design but we just did a couple of them so now we gotta get on the ball and get those other ones ordered. The other merchandise is doing good, the Sterling silver pendants, people seem to like those.
On your website I noticed an upcoming festival in Colorado called the Deep Freeze Festival.
Yeah, that?s coming up in January.
Do you get a lot of support from the local area in Colorado? Is Jag Panzer the type of band that only the metal guys go to or do the local mainstream media like a newspaper or television station, do they ever take any interest in a metal band from their city?
None at all! We get huge, huge support from other bands. I mean, the other bands are so cool here. I can?t express enough the gratitude to the other metal bands in Colorado, they?re just incredible to work with. They?re the ones putting this show together and they?re the ones that pushed us to get on the bill. We?re not easy to book because we got a drummer in Arizona and a guitar player in California. It?s not like we drive to the venue and play. It?s really the other local bands that put this together. But it?s weird with support from other places, cause we play Colorado and especially Denver a lot when we?re on a national tour and when we?re on a national tour and we play Denver with like Iced Earth or Helloween, they treat us great. They say, ?You guys are hometown boys? and usually give us a little extra merchandise selling space or maybe we get some really nice catering. So we get treated well, but if we try to book a show there when we?re not on tour, we just get nothing. The local paper doesn?t cover us, it?s pretty much a big lack of support except for the other musicians.
Have you booked any type of a tour yet or is that still ongoing?
We?ve got the Bang Your Head Festival booked in Germany next June and we?re actually trying to book a small European tour around it. It?s not as easy as it sounds, because you have to give priority to the festival, meaning if the festival says ?we don?t want you playing within a hundred miles for a week before?, you gotta respect that. There?s some things like that that have to be worked out and we?re really trying to get that worked out, because we were in Europe last year for just a week, week and a half, otherwise the last two tours have been in the US and Canada. So we really need to get back to Europe, we?ve been neglecting that market. We miss being over there.
Any chance of headlining?
There actually is a chance. We were asked, ?Do you guys wanna do an opening slot or do a smaller thing headlining?? We looked at who would probably be touring around the same time and I think we deciced it?s probably better for us to do smaller venues and headline.
As you mentioned, you did some North American tours for the last albums. Will there be any Canadian dates or North American dates this time?
We?re gonna see how long we?re gonna be in Europe. All the rest of the available time will probably be in major markets here in America. Toronto and Montreal are definitely major markets.
Are there any areas that you?ve never played in? I know you said you weren?t big in Japan so obviously you haven?t played Japan, but are there any other areas in Europe or the rest of the world that you never played in, where there is a fan base that you haven?t been able to play for?
Yeah, Eastern Europe. I did a ton of interviews this time in Poland, Czech Republic, Serbia, Montenegro, we haven?t played any of those places. I did some press for Belarus and we haven?t been near any of those places. In fact I think Poland has been pretty strong interview-wise for the past several albums. With those countries it?s just a matter that we?ve never been asked. When we?re over there for Bang Your Head, I?d love to go to Eastern Europe. I?d love to go to Prague and to Warsaw and we?ve sent out some feelers to some promoters to see what we can hook up there, but haven?t heard anything yet. A lot of fans don?t understand that and I wish they did, they can mail things like ?You?re neglecting us over here, why don?t you come?? we have to tell them we haven?t been asked.
I saw a recent press item about your endorsement of Dean Guitars. I was wondering how that came together and how long have you actually been playing Deans?
I played Deans on AMPLE DESTRUCTION and on the ?Tyrant?s EP?. I mean, I love those guitars, I was a Dean fanatic back then. But in the mid 80?s I had to fly to Los Angeles and I took my Dean and the case was a little too big and I got hit with a $50 oversize charge, which at the time was a huge chunk of money to me. I was playing music full time and working a couple of hours a day just so I could bring home 150 bucks a month. So a $50 dollar expense was just incredible, so I called the airline and they basically told me, ?Hey, you?re gonna get hit with that every time you fly?. We had a flight coming up to a gig in Texas, so I sold my Dean, bought a Charval, a smaller Strat-sized guitar, and bought some flight cases, something that was smaller and I hated doing that. Those were the guitars I was playing until after 9/11. It?s funny that the 9/11 tragedy affected what guitars I play? After 9/11 they started clamping down on luggage again and even my Strat flight case were half an inch too big. I?ve been charged four times since 9/11 for flying, 80 bucks a shot. I told the other guys in the band that if I?m gonna get charged, I?m gonna get another Dean, I wanna start playing those again. So I started looking for them on tours the last couple of years. I even had Jon Schaffer calling me up when on tour saying, ?Dude, you gotta get to this guitar shop, they have a Dean!? I never quite found what I was looking for, so this year I started looking online for some Deans and I found out that Thor, the lead guitar player for Ezra Stone, he was a Dean player, so I wrote him and asked him some questions and he gave me an lot of information and referred me to the Dean board. So I went to the Dean Guitars board, talked to the people there ? great people on that forum. I decided I?m just gonna buy one I haven?t seen, so I ordered a Flying V – actually it?s just called a V, not a Flying V ? ordered a Dean V and loved it. It played just like the Deans I remembered from the 80?s, wow, this is great! I put a package together and I approached Dean Guitars and said, ?I?m not asking for anything from you guys, I?d just be honoured if I could be listed as one of your players.? They wrote me back and offered me an endorsement.
Did they send you a lot of guitars or customize any of those that were or did you just get off the shelf type models?
Well, they sent me a really nice one! I?d bought the V so I wanted one of their Strat shaped models. I said, ?pick me out a nice one?. Just joking, because I didn?t figure they were gonna just go to the warehouse and start picking me out a nice one. They said, ?oh, we?ll get you a nice one? and from what people have told me, it was a beautiful model they picked out. Maybe they actually went to their warehouse and picked me up a nice one, I don?t know.
Did they do signature model guitars for some of their players?
They did that for Michael Schenker and they have a Dimebag model that?s coming out soon.
Do you play any seven string guitars on the new album?
Yeah, Chris plays a ton of seven strings. Dean used to make a seven. I have to ask them if they still have any sevens lying around, cause there are a few songs like ?Tempest? that are heavily based on seven strings.
Do you plan to play it on seven or do you play a higher part?
Yeah, if I can?t get a seven easily and if Dean doesn?t have one, I?m not gonna get one. I?m not gonna take another guitar up there. I really like these Deans and if they don?t have any sevens lying around, I?ll just play the higher part.
I think in every interview I?ve read with you in the last year people always say, what?s the latest on the Iced Earth ?Gettysburg? DVD?
From what I understand, it?s nearly complete and I know a lot of your time has been taken up working on that. It seems like its been at least a year that you?ve been involved with the project.
Yeah, fourteen months working on it.
Are you finished from your point of view or just doing the finishing touches?
My basic work is done. I?m waiting for the ?Declaration day? video, someone else is doing that so we can include the ?Declaration day? video, which is great. I love adding more content, it just gives the metal fan a lot more to have. Basically I?m waiting for that, which should come any day I think. Then I?ve got the offer to work with an authoring house in Denver cause Jon Schaffer wanted a choice of multiple surround soundtracks. He?s got an orchestral mix of ?Gettysburg? that?s very cool and he has a metal mix and both are a lot different mixes from the stereo mix on the album. So in order to be able to pick from a different 5.1 and a stereo mix we really had to work with an authoring house that does like Hollywood films and stuff. I?ll be working with them on the final authoring once I get ?Declaration day?.
I was wondering how you?re coping with the Colorado Avalanche / NHL being on strike… Are you having any withdrawal symptoms from hockey?
Yeah, I hate it! [laughs] I?ve been having huge withdrawal symptoms since I saw it and it?s also affecting my wardrobe. I counted, I have thirty Avalanche shirts, home and away jerseys, and I just can?t put them on. I just can?t do it, they?re not playing now! There?s this whole section of my closet that I can?t wear.
Since Christmas is fast approaching, will you be putting any of the Jag Panzer Christmas songs online? Or maybe you?ll be doing a new one?
I think we?re going to be doing ?We three kings?.
Can I make a request?
Can you do ?Snoopy?s Christmas?? Snoopy versus the Red Baron, it?s got the WWI background story?
[laughs] I remember that song! Let me try to dig it up and see what I can come up with. That?s the one where they don?t shoot each other down, they just bid farewell.
Yes the one with the line ?Merry Christmas my friend?. Are you a fan of TSO and that kind of stuff?
Yes and no. The musicians in TSO are phenomenal, like Pitrelli. But I like my Christmas music to be the exact opposite. To me, the ideal Christmas album would be someone with a classical guitar, a cellist, a violinist and Dio, just right there in your house doing it. I think that would just be incredible. I would run to the store to buy that. I really like my Christmas carols not electric and really intimate and personal sounding. TSO, they?re a great band and what they do is really cool, it?s just the exact opposite of what I like to hear in Christmas carols.
Do you think you?ll ever combine all the Jag Panzer Christmas songs into an EP and release it? Or is it strictly gonna stay as a web page release for fans?
I think it?s gonna be a free thing. I?ve had some people from companies asking about that before, ?Can we release them?? and nah, I think they?re just meant to be free things.
Well Mark, thanks again for your time. All the best to you and Jag Panzer!
Thanks to you and thanks for metal rules.
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