Not too long ago I spent some time chatting with Mark Briody, guitarist and founding member of JAG PANZER. Their newest record The Deviant Chord was about to be released and Mark was eager to discuss that, his approach to writing, and what he likes to do in his spare time. He also regaled me with a funny football story from years ago that I really got a kick out of. Have a look:
Amps: The first thing that jumped out on me with this new record was “Foggy Dew.” Being Irish that one grabbed me instantly. Tell me about how you came to do that one?
Mark: I grew up with “Foggy Dew.’ My Dad was an Irish singer and he would sing that one all the time, so I have a real personal connection to it.
Amps: I think the riffs and the timing on “Black List” really make it one of the album’s best, too.
Mark: That’s the one where three members of the band love it, and the other two are like, “Ahhh, it’s one of the weaker tracks” (laughs).
Amps: How long did it to take to complete The Deviant Chord?
Mark: I’ve been writing it for a couple of years. I’m a slow songwriter anyway, and the specific sound for this record, I was looking for something that sounded like what we grew up on, like early RAINBOW records. We wanted to cover various styles of metal, have different time signatures and key signatures, so I ended up throwing away a ton of material for the sake of having more of a variety. So it took a couple of years. Then I started demoing everything, then my bandmates put their stamp on the tracks.
Amps: It seems like everyone in the band now has a deep-rooted connection to it, whether they’ve left and come back, or remained somewhat constant. Is this a Corleone Family thing? Just when they think they’re out, they get pulled back in?
Mark: (Laughing) yeah, that’s exactly like it!
Amps: Speaking of longtime members, Harry (Conklin, vocals) sounds great on this album.
Mark: Yeah, he keeps his voice in shape. Harry and I grew up together in a poor part of town. He’s always had professional vocal training since the age of ten. He knows how to take care of his voice, and he sounds just as good now as he did then. His voice shows no signs of age to me.
Amps: You mentioned that you’re a slow writer. So how often are you actually writing?
Mark: I don’t write with my guitar anymore. I have to be able to sing the melody. I’ve probably got 200 videos on my iPhone. I’ll be in a store and bust out singing a melody into the phone and people are staring like they need to call the guys in white suits to take me away! I always have my phone ready to record an idea when it hits me.
Amps: What are you listening to at home or in the car these days?
Mark: I listen to music several hours a day and it varies from day to day. Today was lots of Kate Bush, about 15 tracks. Then I went opposite direction and threw on some SABATON, some Night Witches and The Last Stand. I had some later period MOTÖRHEAD stuff on, too. I’m more a fan of the later stuff.
Amps: Me too!! I was always a casual fan of MOTÖRHEAD, until 2008’s Motörizer. That’s when my fandom kicked into higher gear. And I think the last two Aftershock and Bad Magic are excellent records. Nice to see bands like them and you doing great work in the later stages of a career.
Mark: I think a lot of it, and I know for me personally, is self-doubt. You hear a lot of put-downs as a musician, especially late in the game. “Are you sure you wanna put out another album?” or “They’ll never have a great record like they used to.” And I think that motivates older bands like us to prove people wrong. Even bands much bigger than us hear that same thing, and I think that drives them as well.
Amps: Away from music, what are some things you `do to relax and unwind?
Mark: I love movies. I’m a total film buff.
Amps: What did you think of some recent Best Picture winners like Argo and Spotlight? I love both of them.
Mark: I thought Argo was fantastic. The pacing of it throughout the whole film was outstanding. Speaking of Ben Affleck, I really enjoyed The Accountant.
Amps: What would you hope the listener takes away from this record?
Mark: I want them to need and want to listen to it ten more times. We put a lot of depth into the music, and it definitely benfeits from multiple listens. We also put a lot of cool Easter eggs in the packaging as well. We want people to really look at that the way I looked at album artwork when I was a kid.
Amps: Are there any tour plans set up yet?
Mark: we got a really cool tour offer the other day but there was no way to make it economically feasible. It’s a lot of work, but we’ll find the tour that’s right for us.
Amps: What are you playing and what are you playing through?
Mark: I’m playing an ESP 1000. It’s sort of ESP’s upper end of their import line. I don’t fly with expensive guitars anymore. I’ve had a couple necks break, so I try to get high quality imports that won’t break the bank (laughs). And I was doing that for live shows, and using my nicer guitars to record. But this ESP sounds great, even up against some of my other guitars like my Les Pauls. It’s my main axe right now. I put Bare Knuckle Rebel Yell pickups in it, and I’m using an ENGL Powerball for my amp. it’s got its reputation in metal but it’s just an all-around great amp.
Amps: Is there any one moment, song, record, venue, country, or city that stands out to you over everything else you’ve done with JAG PANZER?
Mark: There’s a ton of great things to mention. The thing that stands out is being 18 years old and getting a big box in the mail, and you open it up and there’s your album…on vinyl. It’s an incredible feeling. We grew up in the worst part of town, so getting a record deal and then holding the vinyl in my hand was just incredible.
Amps: What would you like to say to all the JAG PANZER fans out there in the world?
Mark: Obviously thank you everyone for your support. That goes without saying. But I wanna do something a little different. What I want to say to everybody is this: come talk to us. Go on Facebook to the JAG PANZER page, because that is manned by the band members. You got a question for us, you can reach any of us on that official forum. You can ask us anything, talk about football, whatever you want.
Amps: Who’s your team, the Denver Broncos?
Mark: Actually, no. I’m a die-hard Minnesota Vikings fan. Harry’s the Broncos fan. Our drummer Rikard (Stjernquist) is a huge Cowboys fan. Oh, you’ll love this story. I think it was during the recording of our Mechanized Warfare album. It was a Sunday, and our producer Jim Morris at Morrisound Studios is a huge football fan like me. But we’re with two bandmates who hate football, right?
So all of a sudden Jim looks at me and goes, “The board’s overheating! Hey, I’m gonna need Mark to stay and help me with this. It’s gonna take roughly three hours, so you two should probably go back to the hotel.” All so we could watch the game (both of us laughing)!!
Amps: As a die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan that story just made this one of the coolest interviews I’ve ever been a part of. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with A&GS.
Mark: My pleasure. And thank you. Have a great weekend, Damian.
Mark Briody is a really cool guy. We actually got into a lot of other silliness that didn’t make the interview because that was just between us. Inside jokes, if you will. You can pick up The Deviant Chord now wherever you buy your music. And be sure to watch for JAG PANZER tour dates in 2018. Something tells me these guys will destroy wherever and whenever they play. Now I sit and wait impatiently for a Philly gig.