|KINGS AND TYRANTS|
Life was never a bed of roses for Jag Panzer. Formed over 20 years ago in Colorado (USA) the band’s first demos were recorded in the early 1980s and had been warmly embraced by the underground metal community. But this momentum was followed by a series of exasperating set-backs - critical line-up changes, legal wrangling with ex-members, problems in scheduling proper tours (especially outside the USA), and possibly also some ill-timed strategic decisions by the band itself.
The return of original vocalist Harry ‘The Tyrant’ Conklin around 1995 and subsequent deal with Century Media in 1996 proved to be turning points that gave Jag Panzer the overdue global exposure, particularly within the all-important European market. Since the turn of the millennium Jag Panzer performed in various festivals such as Wacken Open Air (2001), Bang Your Head (2002) and Keep It True (2005).
Following their performance at the latter in Germany, I met the band for an interview and discovered that although the band’s career had taken off into stellar heights, its members remain as down-to-earth as ever.
The first person I met was guitarist / founding member Mark Briody…..
Chris Galea: Jag Panzer really seems to have built a loyal and substantial fanbase in a number of European countries, especially in Germany, Italy and Greece. How does this compare with the situation in USA today?
Mark Briody: It’s not as big as here [Europe]. The US doesn’t have that many true Metal fans – it’s just small crowds. Those ones are really good but they’re just a small amount. The real home of true Metal is Italy, Greece, Germany, most of Europe in fact. It’s not USA.
C.G.: Are you yourself influenced by European bands? Where do the roots of Jag Panzer lie?
M.B.: Well, when I was a kid I didn’t like the American bands on the radio. [For example] I didn’t like Van Halen, although I did like Eddie’s guitar playing. I more liked the NWOBHM bands – I liked Iron Maiden, Angelwitch, Witchfynde, even early Def Leppard. So I liked all the British bands as well as bands like Scorpions…..
At this point, standing a few metres away, Mark spots Chris Broderick – the other half of Jag Panzer’s twin guitar towers. After Chris acknowledges Mark’s invitation to join in the interview, I ask them a question related to their contribution to Jag Panzer.
C.G.: I’ve heard several excellent Metal bands that have however utilized complex technique at the expense of song-writing quality. How do you approach this dilemma of technique vs song structure – how do you create a balance between these two factors?
M.B.: When we’re writing a song, we have to make sure that everything has a purpose. For example, Harry has a very strong voice so we have to make sure the parts are appropriate for him. When it’s the turn of Harry’s to sing, we have to make sure the guitars make the vocals sound better and not show off our guitar skills.
But then there are other parts of a song where we can put some fancy guitar playing and more technical stuff. We try to balance it out.
C.G.: Earlier on we referred to the musical influences of Jag Panzer. However it seems that the band is also influenced by Arts beyond music, such as literature. Correct?
M.B.: Yeah, Harry reads all the time. He’s always influenced by Shakespeare – in fact we did the “Thane To The Throne” album entirely based on Shakespeare. So he’s influenced a lot by literature and we base a lot of songs on these influences.
C.G.: Chris, besides being one of Jag Panzer’s guitarists, you’re also known as a guitar tutor. I’d like to ask you a few questions related to this fact.
Today there are a lot of tools available to help a guitarist enhance his skills, such as instructional DVDs, various software packages, and so on. But are these enough to make a guitarist a great guitarist?
Chris Broderick: Yes and no. Sometimes there are some things you cannot see in a DVD or anything like that. So I think you need some personal interaction, somebody to tell you whether your technique is appropriate or not. To tell you, for example, that you might be forcing your arm too much, or if your arch isn’t really good on the strings, and other stuff like that.
C.G.: And what qualities do you encourage in your students? Ambition? Discipline? Just having fun? Creativity, maybe?
C.B.: Always discipline and having fun, at the same time. Usually when they’re coming to me for lessons, students want to try a style of music that’s pretty difficult. So you have to have discipline, but you can’t go into that too much with the idea of being the best, because you’re always going to find someone who is, if not at least just as good, even better than yourself.
C.G.: Do you have any solo recordings available?
C.B.: Old stuff from Industrial Eden which was the band I was in prior to Jag Panzer.
C.G.: Have you heard anything from the solo material of Joey Tafolla, the band’s ex-guitarist whom you had replaced in Jag Panzer? If ‘yes’, what do you think of his solo releases?
C.B.: Yeah, I have. I think he’s a great player. I like playing his solos and think they’re a lot of fun.
C.G.: And do you have any intentions of doing something similar with your own compositions?
|"The US doesn’t have that many true Metal fans – it’s just small crowds. Those ones are really good but they’re just a small amount. The real home of true Metal is Italy, Greece, Germany, most of Europe in fact. It’s not USA."|
C.B.: I would like to but at the moment it’s not my top priority.
C.G.: What about the next Jag Panzer album – have you started working on it? And what about the live album? If I’m not mistaken, Jag Panzer was supposed to be working on a live release…..
M.B.: We are. We’re now in the early stages of writing the next [studio] album. It’s going to be a concept, so it’ll take a long time to make sure we’ll write it well.
We’re also planning a live album. We’ve talked to Century Media and they think it’s time for a live album and so do we think it’s time. So basically we have to figure out where we’re gonna record it, what songs we’re gonna play…..
C.G.: Shall there be any vintage Jag Panzer songs included?
M.B.: Yeah, of course. We’ll cover the whole Jag Panzer periods.
C.G.: About the band website…..do you think that JagPanzer.com and the Internet has brought the band closer to the fans, especially when compared to the 1980s?
C.B.: Yeah I think so. We’re easy to contact – just write us an e-mail. Sometimes when we get too many e-mails it’ll take us a while to get back to you, but we’ll get back to you.
With this comment I again exchanged greeting with Mark And Chris and left them to discuss Jag Panzer’s latest performance. Moments later, I bumped into Harry Conklin, better known as ‘The Tyrant’. This nickname was given to him by fans many years ago and relates to Jag Panzer’s early moniker before being forced to change the name; the name also strikes me as appropriate since ‘The Tyrant’ possesses a dominating presence and powerful voice. The ecstatic reaction of 2000 metal fans a few minutes earlier to Jag Panzer’s performance had evidently rubbed off some good vibes on him…..
Harry Conklin: It’s fantastic! This is a whole venue-full of real Metal fans, it’s great.
C.G.: Where are you going next after today?
H.C.: Greece, tomorrow we’ll be in Greece. And after Greece, Bulgaria, then Crete and back home.
C.G.: I’d like to ask you something about the new album. Mark just told me that it’ll be a concept album. Could you give me further clues as to what this concept is about?
H.C.: It’s a concept album based on computer technology. We’ve entitled it “Lucy XI” referring to 11 people that are top operatives in the government. They discover a secret of the government and now they’re tracked down and hunted down by the government until only 1 person is left.
All the songs are written, 13 in all, but we’ll turn them down to 11. Another reason for the title “Lucy XI” is that this shall be our 11th album out to date, so 11 means a lot.
C.G.: Keeping on the topic of lyrics, I’ve been checking out those penned by yourself, Harry, and have observed a recurring element of ‘fear’ within the songs you write. Examples that come to mind are ‘Despair’, Recompense’ and ‘Generally Hostile’. It’s as if you’re scared of something – at least that’s the impression I got. What is your opinion on this?
H.C.: Well, fear is a strong emotion so I like to write a lot of songs about fear ‘cause it’s such a strong emotion.
Jag Panzer seem to have a busy year ahead with 2 releases and, one would expect, some interesting tours and festivals to support both.
Definitely the band continues to be a pioneer of the Metal as much as it remains part of the scene. I was reminded of the latter while watching the performance of Raven, which were on the same billing as Jag Panzer at the Keep It True festival. Harry Conklin mingled amongst the crowd intent on not missing the show of these NWOBHM stalwarts. I smiled to myself as throughout this performance ‘The Tyrant’ gazed spellbound at John Gallagher’s vocal histrionics. Old tastes die hard, it seems.
©Chris Galea - firstname.lastname@example.org
Harry ‘The Tyrant’ Conklin - vocals
Mark Briody - guitar
Chris Broderick - guitar
John Tetley - bass
Rikard Stjernquist - drums
Casting The Stone (2004)
Decade Of The Nail Spiked Bat (2003)
Mechanized Warfare (2001)
Thane To The Throne (2000)
The Age Of Mastery (1998)
The Fourth Judgment (1997)
Dissident Alliance (1994)
The Wild Bunch (1985)
Ample Destruction (1984 – 1st version)
Other related websites:
www.chrisbroderick.com [personal site of Chris Broderick]