Jag Panzer - Mark Briody

Jag Panzer - Mark Briody

In my book, JAG PANZER is an awfully underrated band and the news about calling it a day sometime after the release of “The Scourge Of The Light” fell heavy on my heart. However, the Gods of Metal were in a good mood, and in 2017, JAG PANZER are alive and kicking with a new album under their belt which sounds awesome. METAL KAOZ did a Skype session with Mark Briody and got an inside look into the JAG PANZER camp, so go on and check below what was said.

Jag Panzer - Mark Briody

Hello Mark, how are you?
I’m good, just doing Press today. I have done lots of good interviews so far and it has been fun.

Ok, I will try not to spoil the having-fun winning streak (laughs).
Ah, I think it will be good!

First of all, how does it feel having a new album released?
It feels pretty good, although it is a bit strange for me because the songs will be new to everyone else but to me… I have heard the album hundreds of times already, so it is very old for me. It’s been done for five months (laughs).

There were a lot of ups and downs in JAG PANZER after the amazing “The Scourge Of The Light”, so can you briefly tells us what happened following the release of that album?
Yeah, when “The Scourge Of The Light” came out we were really happy about it and it got some good Press, entered the charts here in the US and then... nothing happened. We had a hard time getting a tour, it was our first time in SPV, so we really didn’t know what to expect; I mean, we didn’t know if there’d be a tour support for it and there wasn’t.  This is how the industry has developed but we were not used to this, so some band members quit, so yeah, there were definitely some down years. It was still a lot of work for me because even during that ‘down’ period, we still had reissues coming out; we had “Ample Destruction”, “Shadow Thief”, “Chain Of Command” and the “Tyrants” EP, the boxset, so there was a lot of work getting all that stuff together. All of the original masters were on analog tapes, so they had to be transferred over, I had to dig out the original artwork, photos etc., so even though the band was not doing something new, I was still very busy with JAG PANZER.

Oh, I remember feeling frustrated when I read that JAG PANZER were close to call it a day.
Yeah, we did call it a day for a while. I just didn’t know where we could go and I could tell that my bandmates were getting frustrated. So yeah, we did call it a day until Oliver from ‘Keep It True’ and Manolis - a Greek promoter [from ‘Up The Hammers’] - offered us some shows and this brought some life to the band.

Does this mean that – theoretically, at least – if JAG PANZER were located in Europe, things would have been different?
Yeah, probably; it would have been much easier to do shows and - you know - it has been tough for us a lot of times because being out here in Colorado, we are sort of far from everything and all of us grew up with no money in poor neighborhoods, so financially could not get out in the beginning and do anything. So yes, I think if we were in a different environment, then, probably, things would have been different. We do shows here in Colorado and these are cool but it is very hard to work on a music career from here.

Anyways, lets fast-forward to these days; was it true that you were looking for a singer?
Yes, Harry [Conklin] left for a while and we were looking for a singer. A lot of people applied and there were really good singers on the list who were interested, but Harry’s voice is a big part of the band’s character and as I was busy with all the re-releases, nothing happened. Harry called me about the shows in Germany and Greece, saying that he wanted to do them, so everything sort of fell back into place. We never hired a singer but we were definitely looking for one for a little bit.

…Or you can just say that you have a new singer, and his name is Harry Conklin.
(laughs) That would be great, yeah...

Looking at the band’s lineup, I think it is as old-school as it can get, right?
Yes, it is the same lineup that did “The Fourth Judgement” and it is pretty much the same with “Ample Destruction” except from the drummer.

Right, so I will ask a question that I had in line for later, but I think this is best time; how different everyone is in the band now?
I think everyone understands the music business now, is comfortable recording by knowing how to create a song and - you know - how you support a song with your playing. We had a lot of fun on “Ample Destruction” and I think it is a great but we had grown a lot since then.

And speaking of the song-writing, let’s go to the new album, “The Deviant Chord”; how long did you work on it?
Oh, it was over a period of two years. All the songs started with me but everybody got their input, so it was really a group effort. Early on, we decided that we wanted to do a lot of variety; I hear a lot of Metal records and they’ve got a couple of great songs but bands tend to use the same tempos or the same time signatures or the same key signatures and we wanted to get away from that. We wanted to do an album with different sounding Metal songs and everybody agreed so I kept that in mind. I probably wrote about 70 songs and tossed 60 of them away; some of them that were tossed were just not good. I write a lot of stuff that is not good and other songs just did not fit to what we were trying to do with this album. So yes, it took well over two years to write this.

When I read at the album’s press release the number ‘70’, I thought it was some sort of a typo.
No, it was a lot. I write songs all the time. I always have my phone with me and whenever a melody comes to mind I will just sing it to my iPhone, so I probably have 200 videos of me singing at stops sings, at parking lots, outside my home... Well, it was 70 songs - I am not talking about complete songs but song ideas. And most of them were terrible.

Have you kept any of those ideas for perhaps the next album?
I used to keep stuff years ago but I do not do that anymore. I can write something new; I mean, if something does not move me or interest me now, then I don’t know if it will in the future, so it is easier for me to just toss it away.

Again, quoting the press release, this was the first time that the band did multiple demos of the songs.
Oh yeah, for some of the songs we did 5-6 demos. I started doing demos for the songs myself and I am a weak drummer, bad bass player and I can do an average guitar solo (laughs). So, I did complete songs and then sent them out to the guys and they knew where I was going for. Harry would come over and with him we would do a complete new set of demos. Make the songs a little bit better until the rest of the band would get involved and then we would do a new set of demos again.

And this is what you were talking about how everyone knows how much work and what needs to be done to make a record.
Yeah, everyone knows where their parts fit. For example, our bassist John [Tetley] knows where he can put a cool bass fill so it won’t interfere with the vocals. I mean, you don’t need a cool bass fill behind a great vocal like; your ears will pick one or the other. So, everybody is very skilled and knows and how the parts fit together without stepping over on others.

Got it, so let’s talk about the album itself. First of all, is there a meaning behind the album’s title? I mean, what is this deviant chord?
I always liked titles that have multiple meanings and “The Deviant Chord” is an excellent example of this. It has a meaning to me but I do not like to tell people that because I want them to come up with their own meaning; like what ‘chord’ means? Is it a musical chord or a DNA chord what? As far as the lyrics, Harry does a lot of different things; there are a couple of adventure songs there, some about death like “Long Awaited Kiss”, and some about the brotherhood of Metal. You go to a Metal concert and it feels like that; “Fire Of Our Spirit” is about this. So yes, he has a variety of lyrics in this album.

Is there a story running behind the lyrics of “Far Beyond All Fear”? I was watching the really nice lyric video you did for this one.
Oh thanks, I had fun doing the lyric video. The storyline about “Far Beyond All Fear” is sort of an adventure story; I grew up loving adventure film and Harry as well likes those and I asked him if we could do a couple of those. So, this song is about a story set in 1899 to the south Pacific, specifically the Bosavi area of New Guinea. The song “Dare”, which ends the album, is the exact same expedition done in modern times with a completely different outlook. So, there are similar events happening in two different songs over two hundred years apart.

And who is this guy we see in the artwork?
It is a little bit of a tribute to Nicola Tesla. Tesla has his famous laboratory here in Colorado Springs where I live and, in fact, it is a few miles from the band’s studio. Harry, John and I grew up in Colorado Springs hearing stories about Tesla and in the late 1800 they called him the Mad Scientist, with all his crazy lightning experiments. So, I always wanted to kind of a mad scientist album cover and album graphics and I also wanted to toss a bit of Jeckyll and Hyde, a bit of H. P. Lovecraft to sort of mix up these science themes. And that’s who the guy on the cover artwork is, who is actually turning into a Velociraptor because he encountered one in the expedition during the song “Far Beyond All Fear”.

Cool, and you did a cover on “Foggy Dew”, a multi-covered song, so is there anyone in the band with Irish roots?
I am of Irish descent and my father was a singer and he used to sing Irish like his father did. So, I grew up hearing “Foggy Dew” and I loved it. When I stated writing my own songs, I guess I was about 15-16 years old, I started hearing “Foggy Dew” a little bit differently; I started to hear what a Metal version would sound like. It was very clear in my head and I always considered whether to put it on each album we were about to release and, you know, it would not fit on “Ample Destruction” or “Chain Of Command” and I was trying to find the right album to put it on. Finally, this happened on this one although, I hadn’t decided until we were ¾ done writing “The Deviant Chord”. I did a demo first to see what the other guys would think and they liked it so we went forward and put it on the record.

It is amazing how Harry is singing on this; I guess, he turned into an Irish singer…
(laughs) It was a fun thing for him to do because the melody line is very different from what he usually does, so he worked really hard on it and I like how it turned out.

Do you think that you will do “Foggy Dew” live?
I think so. I am not sure and we have to discuss what we want to play live, but I think this one will do really well live. I was at a Punk concert a year and half ago, I saw YOUNG DUBLINERS and they play “Foggy Dew”; their version is quite different from ours, and the crowd’s reaction was amazing. It is a very good live track.

Yeah, I think DROPKICK MYRPHYS use this one just before getting onstage and it works create getting the blood pumping before kicking off the show. You said that you did the “Far Beyond Fear” lyric video; so, are you into graphics and video editing?
I love doing it but it is a hobby. There are people out there a lot better than me but we don’t have a budget so... (laughs) “here’s your budget to make a lyric video; zero!” I had to teach myself how to do it and it was really fun. I also did one for one of Jack Starr’s songs - he is a friend of mine - and actually I got a lot of emails from people who like the lyric video asking me if I do lyric videos. But I do not have the time to do them.

Cool. This album was released via SPV, so do you have more albums to do under this contract?
No, that’s it. The contract has been completed. We had a good time with SPV and I don’t know if they want us for another record. The business is always weird, so I don’t know. But yes, this was the last album for this contract.

What are your plans for getting “The Deviant Chord” on the road?
We finally have management which is really cool and, in fact, we have a few tour offers already. One of them is not going to work – it would have been far too expensive – and the other, I just need to talk to the manager about it. In any case, I think something will work out. I am anxious to get on the road and play some the new songs live.

What continent are you talking about?
The two offers we got so far on the table were both for Europe which is cool because I love playing live there.

So, no US…
No for the time being, but we will definitely work on this.

And on that positive note, we can wrap this up. Thank you, Mark for you time.
Cool, this was a good interview, so you kept the standards up (laughs)!