Mark Briody of Jag Panzer
Interviewed by EvilG in June 2000
Thanks for contacting me through the net and for agreeing to this interview! So you’re obviously online reading metal sites?
Dude, every day I spend a couple of hours doing that. I’m really into reading different metal sites. Anything that looks well done or unusual or form a different part of the world…anything.
Do you participate in any of the online metal chats or discussion forums?
Yeah, I’m on about ten of them.
Under an alias?
No, I’m under my e-mail, jagpanzer, but I try to avoid the blatant self-promotion.
So have you found the Internet helpful for promoting the band and has it attracted new fans?
Yeah, very much so. Even our record company have gotten a lot of calls and our website has got a lot of mention to them as getting new people into the band.
You do the site yourself along with all the graphics as well right?
And you’ve done some of your album covers as well, but you didn’t do the new one for Thane to the Throne. Can you tell me about that?
Yeah, we were having sort of a sales problem over in Europe. It’s not like we were selling bad, it’s just that we were getting reviews along the same line or tier as bands like Stratovarius or HammerFall but we weren’t selling anywhere near what they sell. So the record company started to look into what could potentially be the problem. One of the problems, in fact what they think was the biggest problem, is there’s a few distributors over in Europe who really think that metal albums should have traditional artwork on them. It’s not that they won’t carry an album with computer graphics, It’s just when it’s time to deliver posters to the record stores, or put album covers on their quarterly catalog, it’s never ones with computer graphic covers. So the record company really left it up to us. They said, “If you guys want more exposure for your music, try a different cover.”
To us the music really is the bottom line so my artwork to a back seat for this release.
I assume you are still happy with the album cover art?
Yeah, I wanted something really different. I wanted an EZ comics look like one of those early horror comics looks from the early 60’s. We had a few artists picked out including the artist for my favorite oil pointing I had. I contacted him and I was just really excited to talk with him but very disappointed at the price (laughs). It was half of what we spent recording the album!
So you (obviously) didn’t go with that?
How does it feel to be going strong and still gaining more and more momentum after approximately 20 years of being in the band?
It’s pretty exciting that it’s still going. I was like, 17 on our first record. It was a lot different back then. We had so many misconceptions of the music business. We just had no clue about the way things were run. Now, we sorta know what’s going on and we can see things picking up momentum. It’s pretty exciting.
Now that you’ve got this experience, do you look back and say we shouldn’t of done this or that?
We did a ton of things wrong. We did so many things wrong that it’s just incredible. After our first record came out we got a lot of good responses and we were in Hit Parader magazine and things like that. When you’re a teenager and you walk into a 7-11 (corner store) and you’re in Hit Parader, that’s the greatest thing in the world. So we thought we’d quit being on indie labels and hold out for a major label deal. That was the dumbest move. We should of just kept coming out with releases on indie labels. So things like that, in retrospect, were really dumb moves.
Since there are a lot of new fans getting into your band, I hope you don’t mind a couple of quick historical questions. First of all, your first full-length was entitled Ample Destruction. And like you said, at the time you were in Hit Parader and I remember seeing pictures of the band back then. Then, to me anyways, it was like- boom, and you were gone. What happened?
By ’85 a lot of members were really getting tired of waiting for the major deal. Our singer, Harry, got an offer to join Riot. We were really big Riot fans and we didn’t blame him because they had a lot more going on. Their album before was on a major label. So he left to join them. Our lead guitar player at the time went for a solo career on Shrapnel. We recruited another guitar player and a singer and we actually recorded an album called Chain of Command near the end of ’86. We received some indie label offers for it, the only problem is, another stupid thing we did, we recorded the whole thing ourselves so labels didn’t want to pay for the recording. They said “You already have it recorded, just give it to us.”
We owed a lot of money on the record so we really couldn’t do that. In the meantime with us trying to hash this out with label’s, someone bootlegs it and it comes out as a bootleg. After that all offers were off the table to release that record. We had some members quit after that and after that it was like a new singer every four months. It was basically just playing for fun.
During this downtime did you remain struggling, trying to get Jag Panzer off the ground, or was there a time when you thought “fuck this I’d rather do something else”?
There was still an interest in the re-issues of Ample Destruction. I was still doing a lot of band business. There was no interest in what were doing then because we would have different members every few months. We were doing really low budget demos because we were such a poor band. It wasn’t until ’94 when one of these low budget demos happened to get the attention of a small record company in Germany and they liked it. We released an album called Dissident Alliance which sold, I dunno, ten copies maybe? And all ten of those people hated it! (laughs)
Yeah, I’ve heard the reviews were not the best…
They were unbelievably bad.
That was with Daniel Conca on vocals and that was the only time I’ve heard mention of him. So where did he come from, where is he now, is he still doing the music thing?
I haven’t heard from him in years but he actually signed my band guest book this morning….so I guess he’s in South Dakota and he’s trying to get another band together. he was just a guy who happened to be living in Denver and we always had ads up for singers and he answered one. I didn’t think we’d get a deal with him. I just thought it was going to be cool just jamming with somebody…just to get to play.
When Harry left and joined Riot, did he ever actually record anything with Riot?
He actually did a series of really, really good demos with them. They never got released and I think Harry’s got a copy himself and that’s about it and Mark Reale from Riot – I’m sure he’s got a copy still. But nothing other then that was done.
What was the reason why he ended up leaving Riot anyway?
A couple of guys in Riot didn’t like him at all. Harry’s got one of those voices where I really like it….
He’s got one of those AWESOME voices!
Yeah, I know, a lot of people really love it and are into it but then I get about one out of every twenty e-mails that says “I really love your band, but I hate that singer.” I can’t figure it out, but two of the guys in Riot were like that.
Well if they hate him then they must like hate Bruce Dickinson, Ronnie James Dio…how can you not like it if you’re into metal right.
That’s the way I think.
When Daniel left and you got Harry back in the band, I guess that was in ’96?
Yeah it was.
Then you were able to get the Ample Destruction line-up back together.
Yeah I had been doing some demos. The recording quality of Dissident Alliance was so bad that I just went into debt and bought my own recording studio. I was doing my own demos and I had a bunch of songs without vocals and I just happened to talk to Harry one day cause we were always close friends. I said to him “why don’t you come up some weekend and check these songs out.”
So he came up we had a great dinner together, we had a great time and he said “do you mind if I put some vocals to this?” I told him to go ahead. He came back a week later and laid down the vocals and we sent the tape out to just some friends of ours in Europe and some journalists and within a couple of weeks we had labels calling. It was the weirdest thing.
Unexpected at the time?
When you first got the Ample Destruction line-up back, obviously Joey Tafolla was playing guitar again. He was on the first (reunion) album but after that Chris Broderick was in the band. Can you tell me the story of why Joey split and where Chris came from?
I think Joey was expecting, he really wants a top, pro gig for guitar playing. He’d like to play in Megadeth or something. So when we first got the deal with Century Media, Century Media has got some fairly big acts…so he joined to do the album. I think he was gauging to see how things were going to go. We got the first tour offer which was opening for Gamma Ray and right away he saw that this was not going to be some big money gig – at least for a long time. So it wasn’t something he was interested in doing. He would rather play any kind of music just so he could get to play his guitar and support himself by doing gigs all the time. He just called me and said “this really wasn’t what I was looking for, it was fun doing the album with you guys but I’m going to have to do other things.”
We then thought we had a tour coming up so we had to find a replacement. We didn’t think we were going to find anybody in Colorado. I then get this call from Chris Broderick in Denver who I just vaguely knew, I’d never heard him play guitar. I said to him “if you’re going to do this tour, you have to play all the leads Joey did.”
I didn’t think he could but he said it was not a problem. He showed up a week later and he pulled ALL of them off! It was incredible and he’s been with us ever since.
I’m sure you’ve been asked this a zillion times but has Century Media considered re-releasing your first full-length Ample Destruction?
They really want to release it. But they haven’t been able to work out a deal with Joey.
They haven’t? Money?? (laughs).
Yeah it’s a money deal. Joe’s a really good music attorney and he’s got a really good idea of what he thinks the album is worth and unfortunately that idea is not in line with us or Century Media (laughs). So until he changes his mind or works out something, we’re sort of at a stalemate.
Too bad. Is it available through ANY label right now?
It’s completely unavailable.
When I think of metal from the States, I don’t think “yeah Colorado!” (laughter) Yet that’s where you guys are from. So what kind of a metal scene do you have down there and do you get to play a lot in your area?
It’s…not that great a scene. There’s a very small following. We don’t play here. I think we’ve played here maybe once in the past six years. we play Germany way more then we do our own town (laughs). We don’t go over too well here. We have a few people that like us live. Harry on stage is very traditional looking – leather, spikes, a Rob Halford looking type of guy. He’s always been that and he’s still the same. That draws a lot of criticism in the States, and for some reason, particularly here in Colorado. I don’t know why they think he should look like he’s in K**n (ed. note: this is a blasphemous word to have on a metal page so I won’t bother typing it in ever again) but still sing like he does but for some reason people want that.
So the “metal” bands in your area are that kind of flavor of the month K**n CRAP?
There’s a lot like that and even with the traditional bands it’s jeans and t-shirts – which is what I wear on stage. The philosophy of our band has always been we’re not going to tell anybody what to wear on stage. We’re not going to enforce any kind of a dress code. If Harry wants to look like Halford on stage then fine, that’s his expression. It’s kind of disheartening when we do a gig here in Colorado and you read the reviews online and half the people are complaining about the way our singer looks.
That’s the least important if you can sing!
It doesn’t motivate me to want to book a lot of local gigs (laughs).
That’s what I was going to ask you about next – you’ve done some tours around the States…so in recent years have you seen anything improving when you are on the road or is it just frustrating with all this rapcore shit?
The places in the US that have a strong College radio presence that they’ve had for a few years like Cleveland, it kicks ass doing shows there. You’ll pack a place, everyone will know your songs, it’s a really good gig. Places that don’t have any way for people to hear new music, you’re going to get like 50 guys there who heard about you on the net. That really looks like the key to me – college radio, cause mainstream radio is never going to play this kind of music.
When you tour in Europe, can you compare that at all to a typical show that you play at in the States?
It’s so different over there. It’s like MTV has control over no one’s mind over there (laughs).
We don’t have MTV in Canada either but….have you played in Canada?
Yeah we played in Montreal, London and Toronto.
And was that any better?
Montreal was great! London was a good crowd but very small. Toronto was a bit better.
So onto your new CD Thane to the Throne…What was the reasoning behind making a concept CD?
We always wanted to do it but we could never get the whole band to buy into it because everybody figured it would be a lot more work. They figured we had to have a decent budget from the record label. So all the timings got to be right. This was finally the time period where we had a record company that would commit to the budget to do and we had the good producer in line already. It seemed like the right time to do it. Plus, it offered us something a little different to do for a change. We were kinda burned out from the record before because we re-did a bunch of old songs because they were only available as a bootleg. Everybody was complaining that the bootlegs was expensive and the sound quality sucked. So we wanted to do something totally different from the record before.
The second question then is why did you choose MacBeth? Was it a personal favorite Shakespeare story of any of the band members?
On the album before we had done a song called “The Moors” about the King Arthur legend. Harry told me that he really enjoyed writing that because he got to re-tell a classic story in his own words which was really different for him as a lyricist. We thought we’d do that for a whole album so we started looking at various stories to see what would be the best one. We figured MacBeth would probably adapt best to metal.
Have you all read the book MacBeth, since you decided to do the concept album, or was this mainly Harry’s territory?
Everybody read, or everybody says they’ve read it (laughs). I’ve quizzed them on it and I don’t think they did but they claim to of read it.
Jim Morris produced Thane To The Throne as he has with your recent releases. What was it like working with Jim and does he add anything extra that brings out the best in Jag Panzer?
Oh it’s GREAT because he really cares about the project. It will get to be where he knows the songs as well as any musician. He could pick up a guitar and play all those songs right along with us. He could sing them with Harry, he’ll know the vocal lines. What he offers, well obviously he’s a good engineer so he runs all the gear top notch, but what he offers is an unbiased ear. So you can say “Jim what do you think of this guitar part, or what do you think if I accent it this way?” And he’ll tell you right away “I don’t like that or why don’t you try this?” He’s got a million suggestions for Harry. The guy is just full of ideas and he’s a great person to bounce your own ideas off of.
So you plan on working with him for the foreseeable future I assume?
Yeah definitely. I talked to him last weekend about doing something for the next album whenever we’re ready.
Why is there something planned already?
Probably in 2002.
I assume you’ll still be on Century Media for that?
I guess you must be more than happy with what they’ve done for you in the past couple of years!
Yeah! I’ve seen a lot of other bands complain about Century Media but we’ve been on so many different labels and Century Media does about ten times more than the rest of them. We’re not getting rich on Century Media but I don’t know any metal bands that are getting rich on indie labels but as far as the promotion end, Century Media does a lot for us.
Would you consider Thane to the Throne to be your best CD to date?
I think it’s the best one. It doesn’t have any parts where I hit the forward button on the CD player. Every other CD does and it’s usually because of time constraints or budget constraints where you just can’t quite get something the way you want it so I have to skip over it. This one doesn’t have any parts like that…maybe it will next month (laughs).
Is that you or Chris playing the acoustic track #16 “The Downward Fall”?
That stands out on the album as something totally different. He obviously must have some kind of influence or training in classical or Spanish style of guitar playing.
All the guy does is play guitar and he’s really into every different facet of guitar playing – flamingo, classical, regular acoustic, different styles of electric…. We asked him if he could think of something that would really, really be different to separate the final ending song from the rest of the album and that’s what he came up with.
What was he doing prior to becoming a member of Jag Panzer? Was he in a band and do other recordings of him exist?
He was in a band called Industrial Eden. they were on, I think, the first PowerMad sampler from that festival down in Maryland. He’s still with them but he kinda puts them on hold while we’re really busy so they haven’t done anything in a while.
On the new CD what tracks stand out for you?
I like track two “King At Any Price” and I’ve always liked big long epical songs so “The Tragedy of MacBeth” the last song.
How much of a part do you have in the writing. Is it a band effort or does someone bring riffs in and you jam them out?
No, we did that on Dissident Alliance and it really doesn’t work for us anymore because I write in layers. So if I just pay a riff for someone, it doesn’t sound that cool. I demo everything. For this album we split the song-writing in half. We assigned Chris certain scenes from the play and me certain scenes from the play. He writes pretty much the same way I do. We each go in our own studios and we hash out everything – drum parts, bass parts, vocal lines. But I don’t tell anybody my vocal line. I get Harry to come in and he sings his vocal line and after he’s done with his I show him mine. So if he likes anything better in mine he takes it. Then we get everybody else in the band these demos and our drummer makes my drum parts WAY better – he does much cooler drum parts and our bass player does much better bass parts.
So you actually have everything recorded (before showing it to the band)?
Yeah we really do a serious job of recording it like it’s going to be on the album. We spend a lot of time on these advance demos.
And you do those by yourself, without anyone else at all?
Right, by myself yes.
Who are the primary song writers in the band – it’s you and Chris?
On all the previous Jag Panzer albums I was always definitely the primary songwriter but on this one it was split right in half.
I wanted to ask you about Holy Dio – you covered “Children of the Sea.” Why did you pick that song?
Heaven and Hell is probably the absolute most biggest influence on our sound. Harry and John (our bass player) and I have probably known one another since we were about six years old. We all skipped school the day Heaven and Hell came out because we were big Rainbow fans. We skipped school and came home and I think we went to Harry’s house cause his parents worked (laughs). So when Century Media asked us to be on Holy Dio we said we’d take anything off of that album but we’d prefer “Children of the Sea”, “Lady Evil” or “Heaven and Hell.”
What are your thoughts in general on the cover/tribute album craze?
I think there’s way to many. I liked the idea at first but know there just so many to listen to. I don’t even have any desire to hear any more of them unless someone were to do some really strange off the wall tribute. Like Steel Prophet did a cover of a Simple Minds song and I had to hear that right away because it was so unusual.
Have you guys ever covered anything weird like that?
We did “In-A-Gada-Da-Vida” but that’s sort of metal…..
SLAYER!!!!! Slayer did that one as well!!!!!
It’s funny, we did it before them and we actually got a call from the music director for Less Than Zero (the movie) and asked for our version. We sent our version and all of a sudden SLAYER came out with a version that sounds a lot like ours. I think someone pointed that out to SLAYER in an interview and then SLAYER dropped it from South of Heaven. There’s no way SLAYER ripped off our version but I think the guy that produced their version was the guy that requested ours so I wouldn’t put it past the producer making some suggestions.
Are you fans of Iron Butterfly?
Neither am I!
Are you a fan of SLAYER??
I like older SLAYER a lot. I like South of Heaven and Hell Awaits and stuff like that. I just want to make it clear that I’m NOT saying that SLAYER ripped off our version. I think the producer had a few suggestions that he’d heard before.
In terms of music that you’re listening to right now….
The new Maiden.
And what do you think of that?
I’ve only heard it like three times and when I first hear an album I like to focus on songs that I really like so I found “Ghost of the Navigator” and “Blood Brothers” I like a lot. So I’ve been playing those a lot. Once I get done doing interviews for this album, because I’ve been doing them like every day, then I can start listening to it more.
I’ve been listening to it a lot recently of course….and it’s awesome! I hope Bruce continues his solo career though cause that was amazing.
Oh his solo stuff was great!! I’ve also been listening to Secret Sphere, an Italian band that is sort of like Stratovarius. I’ve been listening to a lot of Devil Doll – been listening to them for about the past year and I really really like that band a lot. That’s about it for what I’ve been listening to lately….Demons & Wizards too.
Your bio from Century Media was kind of confusing in one way. They talk about you as “traditional metal” then they say something like “at the forefront of power metal.” I love power metal like Stratovarius and Gamma Ray, but when I put on Jag Panzer I don’t think power metal. I think it’s heavy metal.
Yeah I consider us just basic metal but if someone’s gonna say “I love power metal and Jag Panzer is great” I’m not going to correct them (laughs). But I would agree with you. Power metal to me implies more of the major key double bass type of German metal.
Are you into that as well?
Yeah, Gamma Ray’s Land of the Free is actually one of my favorite metal albums. I can’t listen to that kind of music constantly but it’s high energy, so I like it.
Another question about a cover song you did…I saw that you had a version of the Xmas song “Do You See What I See” on the Century Media site over the holidays. How did you come about recording that track?
I was just bored one weekend before Christmas (laughs). I like to pick up my acoustic guitar because my dog loves it. So I was playing my acoustic guitar and my dog came over and was just looking at me. Since it was Christmas time, my wife asked me to play some Christmas music so I started playing “Do You See What I See” from sheet music and it really sucked so I started to come up with my own arrangement. My wife thought it sounded really cool, something like Blackmore’s Night. I didn’t think it did, but it sounded OK. Harry happened to call and ask what was up. I said “I’m playing this song and I’m going to record it in a few minutes, do you want to come add vocals to it?” He came over later that night and added vocals.
Final question, what are your tour plans for Thane To The Throne?
We’re going to Europe and doing the Bang Your Head festival and the Milwaukee Metalfest here in the States after that. Then I have to get my jaw broken and reset. That’s going to put me out of commission for 6-8 weeks. After that we’re going to plan some sort of European tour.
Will there be a US tour this time?
It depends on our record company. US tours are money losers, so it’s up to them to fund the difference. They look at what tours are available and if they think it’s a viable tour they’ll fund the difference.
Have you planned any videos, or is that not in the budget right now?
I’m trying to get someone to film us at one of these festivals. The one in Europe has got 18,000 people and we’ve got third from the headline slot. So we’ve got a really good slot and we’ll be playing at night – the big light show, a lot of people…a really good environment for filming.
Would it be for live shots put to music or would you consider releasing a live home video?
I’d like to do that. Just run a live feed to the board, record everything and release that. I don’t know if the label is into that. I haven’t heard either way. I just sent them a request for a budget to film it. We’ll see.