Posted on July 30th. 2017
Questionnaire by Omni on behalf of METAL TO INFINITY WEBZINE BELGIUM
Jag Panzer shouldn’t require any introduction to seasoned heavy metal fans. Ever since the legendary Ample Destruction was released in 1984, this band has played with passion and intensity. I decided to check in with guitarist Mark Briody about the band’s upcoming album, The Deviant Chord, and talk to him about what it’s like being part of a veteran band in this day and age.
Omni: Hello, Mark! How are you doing?
Mark: I’m doing well! Just keeping busy doing lots of press and lyric videos. Those are a ton of work.
Omni: I’m glad to hear it. I’m not surprised that you are busy since your new album is coming out in September. What can you tell me about it?
Mark: We always try to make each album unique and different. The Deviant Chord is no exception. We demoed the entire album for the first time since the early days. I think that gave the album a different feeling. We always tried to put in a lot of variety as far as tempo, time signatures, etc.
Omni: I’m looking forward to hearing it. I’ve already heard “Far Beyond All Fear” and I really like it. It’s a great song with a classic Jag Panzer type of sound. Can we expect any surprises on the album?
Mark: There are a few musical surprises. We have one song in waltz time and we also did an interesting cover tune on this album. Well, it’s interesting to me. I hope the listeners will find it interesting as well.
Omni: This is the first Jag Panzer album that Joey Tafolla appears on since The Fourth Judgement in 1997. What does he bring to this album compared to recent Jag Panzer efforts?
Mark: Joey has an unreal sense of melody. He has world-class technical skills but it’s his melody lines that always floor me. His playing takes the songs to the next level.
Omni: Yeah, I’ve been a fan of Joey’s playing since I heard heard Ample Destruction and I began to appreciate his style even more when I heard his solo material. Can you tell me about the concept behind the album art for The Deviant Chord? The artwork is definitely an interesting piece but I am sure that there’s a story behind it.
Mark: We (John, Harry and I) grew up just a few miles from where Tesla had his famous laboratory. It was a long time ago (1899 or so) but we grew up with stories of the ‘mad scientist’. I always wanted to do an album cover with that theme, sort of a mad scientist with a literal representation of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde theme. There are a few cool surprises in the album inner sleeve as well.
Omni: That’s interesting. I’ll have to wait until I have it in my hands and see for myself. A lot of underground metal fans consider Ample Destruction to be the only essential Jag Panzer album. Even though it’s my favorite Panzer album, I think that does a serious disservice to your later works. What is your favorite Jag Panzer album?
Mark: I’m very proud of Ample and it’s opened a lot of doors for us. But on some levels it can be a bit of an albatross around my neck. For example, we occasionally get asked to do gigs and play only Ample songs. We’ve done this type of gig for some close friends in the past, but moving forward I’m not interested in that. Playing only Ample songs is an artistic dead end for me. But keep in mind that our normal set always includes some Ample songs, so it’s not like we’re ever going to neglect that album.
Omni: Yeah, I can see that. It actually took me several years to appreciate the newer albums because I was so caught up in Ample Destruction. I’ve noticed that you spend a lot of time interacting with fans on social media. You clearly care about your fans. Do you think that more bands should try to approach their fan base through social media?
Mark: I believe the fans are just a part of our music just like we are. I’m both a player of metal and a fan of metal. It’s all one to me. I like to talk with people as fellow metal fans. We have a lot in common that way.
Omni: Your attitude is refreshing. There are a lot of very nice bands and musicians, but I’ve also noticed that there is no shortage of musicians who don’t want to interact with their fans. People seem to view you as the de facto leader of Jag Panzer. What is your opinion on this? Is the band more of a democracy or does one person make most of the decisions?
Mark: I’m sometimes called the de facto leader, but I try to reject that title every time. Jag Panzer is a sum of all the parts. It’s not ‘Mark Briody’s Jag Panzer’. Everyone in the band has a full equal say in everything we do.
Omni: That’s excellent. I think that a lot of bands are run by one overbearing musician who thinks that everyone else can be replaced. A lot of Jag Panzer’s music is very sophisticated. Have you or any of the other band members studied music theory or had a musical education?
Mark: Most of us have a musical background. It helps communicate things faster. I can ask Harry “Go to the 6th there” and we’ll both be on the same page.
Omni: Back to what you had mentioned earlier about The Deviant Chord’s track list, Jag Panzer has done a few surprising cover songs. How did these come about and are there any other songs that you’d like to do that originate in musical styles outside of heavy metal?
Mark: Sometimes I hear songs as metal songs ever though they were not originally intended to be metal. There are certain chord progressions and themes that scream ‘metal’ in my mind when I hear them. Sometimes I have to convince my bandmates though that these songs can be metal.
Omni: “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” works perfectly as a metal song. Even the lyrics are fitting for metal. I’ve read that you had the same manager as Slayer in the early 1980s. Is this true? Did you ever have any interactions with Slayer?
Mark: No that’s actually not true. I get that question every few years though. Other than me being a fan, we have no connection to Slayer whatsoever. They are on an entirely different level success-wise, we don’t run in the same circles at all.
Omni: I see. I wonder how that rumor came about. It’s a weird story. What are your favorite Jag Panzer songs?
Mark: That changes often for me. Currently I really like “Legion Immortal” and “The Precipice”. If you ask me next week, you’d get a totally different answer!
Omni: I would have a hard time picking as well, but “The Watching” is a song that I consistently feel drawn to. Are there any newer bands that have inspired your recent albums?
Mark: No. My writing is kept completely separate from my music listening. There are many newer bands I like listening to (such as Orden Ogan) but it’s more for my own pleasure not as an inspiration.
Omni: I suppose that would explain why Jag Panzer always delivers music that is recognizable and pleasing to fans. How did you decide to put out an EP with cover art featuring the band being violently killed on your debut release? Queen’s News of the World is the only other album that I can think of with a similar cover art idea. I love the art, but I have always wondered where the idea originated.
Mark: That was Keith’s idea, he painted the cover. We wanted to distance ourselves from the ‘rock star’ image many bands had. The kind where bands portrayed themselves as gods or super heroes. So we took the opposite approach – we decided to show us dead! I like it.
Omni: Yes, I was happy to finally get the EP when High Roller reissued it, and I was very interested in the art at that time. You’ve reissued a lot of your early music in the last few years. Are there any plans to reissue Dissident Alliance? I have seen it praised in some circles.
Mark: Among Jag Panzer fans, I’d say less the 1% like Dissident Alliance. It’s our most despised album, but some people do like it. We did reissue it once and I have no plans for any more reissues. The one album I would like to reissue is Casting the Stones. That is actually the only Jag Panzer album to have never been reissued.
Omni: Fair enough. If I’m not mistaken, Casting the Stones features backing vocals from Bob Parduba, who also sang on Chain of Command when Harry had left for a while. I really enjoyed how the band invited Bob Parduba back to perform “Shadow Thief” as a duet with Harry several years back. Is there any chance that he’ll have another guest appearance on a Jag Panzer album in the future?
Mark: I don’t know. I like Bob and he’s a great singer. It would be a matter of us having a song that required an additional male voice. There were no songs like that on the album, but perhaps in the future.
Omni: That’s good to know. For fans who aren’t aware, Bob also sang in Alloy Czar which had their material reissued a while ago. What do you think of the current state of heavy metal compared to the 1980s? How about compared to ten years ago?
Mark: There are always good metal fans. Always. But I do miss the ‘80s, particularly the tape trading scene. Back then I’d get a cassette tape in the mail with about 10 different bands on it. I’d listen to the whole tape several times. Everyone did that. All you judged a band on was the music, not image, not promo videos or anything like that. Today there is more emphasis on image.
Omni: Yes, there are a lot of bands that favor style over substance. I spend most of my time listening to older albums and I can’t see that changing any time soon. Thank you for your time. Do you have any final words for the Jag Panzer fans who are reading this interview?
Mark: It’s cliché, but I always like to say “Thanks” to the everyone for listening to us. Without that, we’d never have the opportunity to play out, meet people and experience some great countries.
I’d like to thank Mark again for his time and passionate approach to heavy metal. With bands like Jag Panzer around, the future of heavy metal is good hands. The Deviant Chord will be released on September 29th via Steamhammer. Fortunately, the band has a big discography to keep me occupied until then.