Chris Jericho chatted with us about his current band, Kurantine, who have been releasing covers of non-makeup era 80s KISS.
Chris Jericho is renowned for being a busy man with fingers in many pies, and he’s not one to let a little thing such as a global pandemic slow him down. Pre-Coronavirus days, Chris was busy recording and touring with his band Fozzy as well as being a world-renowned wrestler with All Elite Wrestling (AEW). He is also the host of “The Rock of Jericho” which is a weekly radio show on SiriusXM Octane and also his “Talk Is Jericho” podcast.
So when COVID-19 paused recording of the new Fozzy album and caused them to postpone their tour, Jericho was not going to sit on his sofa binge watching Netflix for days and weeks on end. When his friend Kent Slucher (drummer for Luke Bryan) sent him a recording of a song asking him to guess the song, Chris jumped at the chance to record the vocals the moment he realized it was “No No No” from his favorite era of KISS. So together with Joe McGinness (KLASSIK ’78) and PJ Farley (Trixter), they formed Kuarantine. As we all know, Chris does not do anything half-hearted or just for fun, so they sent the song to the radio and were astonished by the great reception it received. Stepping things up a notch for their follow up single, “Heart of Chrome,” they invited KISS’ own Bruce Kulick to join them. Now how do you top that? Knowing Chris, he’ll certainly find a way.
Chris chatted with us about how the idea for Kuarantine came about, what they have planned for the future, and how Fozzy’s plans for 2020 were impacted by COVID-19.
LH: I hope you and your family and friends are all safe and well in the current environment.
Chris: Thank you, sir. I appreciate that.
LH: I wanted to talk to you about Kuarantine because I absolutely love the videos that you’ve put out so far. One thing that jumps to mind with you, you’re always a busy guy generally. But a lot of people lately since we’ve all been locked down with COVID-19, seem to have just put off 2020 and are looking forward to 2021 when this is all done with. You seem to be doing more than ever, including taking on a new project while you’re locked down. What was the driver behind it? Was it just to keep you busy or to put something new out there?
Chris: That’s the exact reason why we did it because I refuse to subscribe to the “This is Groundhog Day, let’s write off this year.” I mean, life is a gift, man. There’s some ups and downs for all of it. I don’t want to wait till 2021, that’s five months from now. Who knows what can happen in those five months. When the idea came up for it, this is a perfect example of how to be productive during this pandemic and do something positive rather than be down all the time. It was not something that was created by me or thought of by me, it was brought to my attention, but as soon as it was I said, “This is the perfect time to start a non-makeup 80s KISS cover band with a guitar player from KISS!” It’s the perfect time for that, I mean, why not right? 2020’s such a wacky year as it is, let’s make it even wackier. I think that’s one of the reasons why people really gravitated towards it and really dig it because it’s something new, it’s something fun in the middle of all this shit, to where you’re like, “Alright, man. This is something cool! Let’s sink our teeth into this and check it out.”
LH: I’ve interviewed a variety of vocalists and guitarists and when I ask them, “What turned you on to music,” it’s amazing how many of them say KISS. Do you remember your first experience of them?
Chris: I was a big Beatles fan in the 70s and I was into the Stones and that sort of thing, so when all of my friends were into KISS I never really rated them. And then when I started to get into heavy metal, I’ll never forget when I saw this video that started with his hands on fire and he looked like he was having the best time ever with his band, making out with chicks and hanging out backstage and then he jumps through a ring of fire, and I’m like, “Who is that guy?! Who is this?” “This is KISS.” “I thought that KISS wore makeup.” “No, KISS took their makeup off a few years ago.” “Well, who is that guy?” “That’s Paul Stanley.” “F*ck, well I want to be like that guy.” So I got into KISS at that timeframe, on the Animalize record, just as they started playing without makeup, and that’s my favorite era of KISS. There’s a whole sub-genre of KISS fans who love 80s KISS better than 70s KISS and I’m one of them. And so are the other guys in Kuarantine so why not do this and bring a little bit of focus back onto those songs that are great songs that a lot of people just don’t know.
LH: They’re not the best known, and that era was a lot heavier. When I first came across KISS, I thought they were a metal band and expected them to be really heavy and, actually, a lot of the makeup era is not really metal, it’s rock n’ roll. That non-makeup period was a lot heavier sound and certainly the two tracks you’ve done (“No No No” and “Heart of Chrome”) are heavier tracks.
Chris: KISS has always had that element to them but they didn’t really expand on that until the 80s because they were keeping up with the Joneses in a lot of ways and that’s why I think Kuarantine, we have material for the next ten years if we want because there’s so many of these great songs on these records that people just don’t know. Or have forgotten about or have never heard because at that time you had Rock And Roll Over, Love Gun, Kiss, and Alive! What about Asylum, Hot In The Shade and Revenge is like huh? So I think we were able to pull those songs out you’re like “Holy shit, this is really good stuff!” And because it’s new, it’s produced with a modern sound, it fits right in with what’s going on on the radio, and it’s one of the reasons “No No No” is now in the Top 60 on the mainstream Billboard Rock Charts. We’re taking this song from Crazy Nights that was never a hit, that was never released as a single, and we’ve gotten a Top 60 song with it which I think is great for us, great for the fans. I know Paul and Gene think it’s really cool, Bruce Kulick really loves it, so it puts a little focus onto this era that deserves a little more focus.
LH: What was it like getting Bruce to join you on “Heart of Chrome”? If you love that era, having a guitarist who actually played with the band must have been a real treat.
Chris: Only in the middle in the pandemic can you start an 80s non-makeup KISS cover band with a guitar player from KISS. That would never happen any other time. Bruce is very proud of his era, as he should be, and he knows that I’m a big fan and supporter of it so it was a no brainer to ask him. And then we had to ask him if he wants to be involved in the video which he was great in as well. I think once again it gives him a little bit of extra credit, a little bit extra happiness to know that this era of his that kind of is forgotten, is being remembered in a big way.
LH: I love the fact that when Kent sent it to you, he didn’t think there was any chance of you singing on it but when you heard it you were like, “Hell yeah! Let’s do it!”
Chris: Yeah, I mean Kent’s one of those guys that’s like me, he loves 80s KISS and when he sent me the drum part he said, “Guess the song.” I go “‘No No No.’ What are you doing?” He said, “Me and my friend Joe are just putting this together.” I said, “Well, do you need a singer? I’d be happy to sing on it” and he’s like, “Yes.” And we got PJ to play bass and then I’m like, “I never do anything small. Let’s release this to the radio and see what we can do with this.” As big as Fozzy is, we’ve never been featured in Spin Magazine before and there’s Kuarantine with their debut song being talked about in Spin and followed up with the second one in Rolling Stone or whatever the hell it was. So we’re getting some great coverage from these journalists from mainstream sources because, once again, there’s not a lot of bands putting out a lot of material right now because there’s nowhere to go touring. So here’s a band who’s putting out some great material that we have no aspiration of touring, just some gigs here and there maybe. If nothing else, it’s given the radio stations something cool to play.
LH: Can you imagine if this had happened even 15 years ago when technology wasn’t what it is today?
Chris: Oh my gosh. Even five years ago. There was no Zoom, or Skype and the connections that we have…Once again, I’ve said it a million times, I’ve never even met Joe McGinness, our guitar player. We’ve never met. And this is how you can form a band during a quarantine just having the tracks that you put together and all the stuff can be done remotely. There you go.
LH: It’s crazy. How did you find it just having tracks sent over to you like that and that recording process?
Chris: You know, I’m not an engineer, I’m not a producer but I know people that are so I sent the tracks over to them and they did all the magic and put it all together, got it mixed by a great mixer called Kyle O’Dell who did the last Fozzy song, “Nowhere To Run” which was Top Ten for us. So when I told him, “Just mix this as if KISS was a new band and have just submitted this song to you in 2020. Don’t mix it like it was in 1987, mix it like it’s for now” and that’s what he did and that’s why it sounds so great because today’s radio format is different from the 80s high glossy production and mixing so it just really kind of fit what was going on and he did so well, both of them sound solidly amazing.
LH: Thinking of KISS and their performance – you’ve always had that element of showmanship from your wrestling career, but were KISS a big influence for how you wanted to perform with Fozzy in terms of putting on a show?
Chris: That’s what rock n’ roll is. My favorite frontmen were always about that Paul Stanley, David Lee Roth, Mick Jagger, and Bruce Dickinson. It was always about the performance and that’s what rock n’ roll is to me. I’d rather have a great performance rather than worry about hitting every note properly which is important too but you have to have some showmanship. you have to be a frontman, you have to be the party host. And that’s what I take great pride in doing that.
LH: It always makes me laugh when you see Gene Simmons talk about certain bands. Normally, it’s when he talks about the indie bands when he says, “Just do something! Dance, move around the stage, don’t just play the music! Give people a show!” It seems like a massive part of what he does and what he believes in.
Chris: You’re right, exactly.
LH: So Fozzy has a new album coming out. Did you put the release back due to what’s going on at the moment?
Chris: Yeah, I mean the COVID obviously pushed things back. The original idea was to put it out late summer/early fall and it’s not plausible with everything getting shut down, all that sort of stuff. We then realized if we can’t get make it for 2020, let’s not rush it, let’s just get it out when it’s ready. Once again like I said, it’s hard to tour right now and not even knowing what the schedule’s going to be or what’s going to be allowed. We’re just kind of taking that day by day, and just worrying about the song which are all amazing and incredible. We’re really excited about this record and I think it’s going to be something that really takes us to the next level, just like Judas took us up to the level we’re at now.
LH: Is everything done for the album? Was it all done pre-COVID or do you still have tracks that are to be done?
Chris: Yeah, I was just starting the vocal process at that point so they’ve got a long way to go but, you know, we’re working on it. Like I said, the way that the world is today, obviously when you record a record, we can record one or two songs at a friend’s house and it’s fine, but when you’re recording a Fozzy record I’ve got to get in the studio with the producer, Rich Ward, so that’s a little bit more of a face to face type of a thing that you’ve got to do. When the time is ready and we can do that, I’ll be the first in line for sure.
LH: One thing that’s got to be keeping everyone going is imagining that first time back on a stage or back in the audience for a live show after this is all over. That’s going to be absolutely crazy I would imagine. Is that in the back of your head, thinking about stepping out for the first time after lockdown?
Chris: Yeah, I mean it’s exciting. We’re just really wanting to do that and I think the world needs it. It’s one of those things where once again we’re all in the same position and we’re lucky to be safe but, with no one in danger, someone’s still got to get up there and give it a try the first time whether that means socially distance shows or everyone’s wearing masks or whatever it is, we have to start trying at some point. So hopefully, we had our April/May tour pushed back to July/August and now it’s got pushed back to October/November so hopefully we get to do that in October/November and continue to do what we do best which is to make people happy and play some rock n’ roll. And go to shows, there’s a lot of great shows this year. There was supposed to be The Rolling Stones, Guns N Roses, Elton John, Def Leppard and Motley Crue. I mean all of those shows got canceled so it hurts for all of us.
LH: We had tickets for nearly all of those so it’s really disappointing.
Chris: Yeah, it’s a drag, right? It is what it is. We’re going to get through it and there’s going to be some great rock n’ roll when it’s all over.
LH: Absolutely. Do you think some of the stuff you’ve done during lockdown, like your Saturday Night Special, is that something you might keep going, maybe not as regularly? Or do things just get too busy?
Chris: I mean, I don’t know. I started because there was nothing to do and I thought, well if there’s nothing to do, let’s do nothing together and hang out. And here I am with 100-150k people every Saturday night checking out the show. You know me, like I said, I’m looking for sponsors, I’ve already got a few in the pipeline. So, yeah, I’ll continue it. Why not. I have a lot of fun with it. It might not be every week but I’m sure there’s a way to get it done and still an opportunity to put that out. Like you said, we’ve stumbled on a whole new way to entertain these days with just doing the best that you can with the situation that we’re all put in. I think if people are enjoying it, there’s no reason not to continue it.
LH: I’ve chatted to some other musicians during quarantine and they’re doing live-streams or private online concerts and they’ve been enjoying the connection they get with fans through that. Obviously, it’s not a replacement for a live concert but it’s something different and some have said they might keep doing that off into the future.
Chris: Yeah, I agree with that.
LH: Finally, looking at the future for Kuarantine. The reaction’s been so great. Is this something you want to keep working with the guys on going forward because it seems like you’re all enjoying yourselves?
Chris: Yeah, once again, like I said there’s no reason not to continue because we have this wealth of material. We have all these songs by this band that people just don’t know or have never heard of or have forgotten hearing. We love playing together, like I said, we’d possibly like to do a gig at some point. We’ve got a great group of guys and we’ve made some great friends out of it if nothing else so I think there’s no reason to not continue to do some more when the time is right. And we’re already working on the next pair of songs now.
LH: That’s good news! Thanks for taking the time. I really appreciate it.
Chris: Stay safe, dude. Thank you.