Rich Ward totes a lengthy career rocking the guitar in Stuck Mojo and Fozzy, among other heavy-hitting groups. Following some time with Mike Portnoy’s Adrenaline Mob, Ward is now firmly focused on Fozzy, which features none other than WWE superstar Chris Jericho.
Ward is always a pleasure to interview-- bright, friendly and filled with knowledge about everything guitar. I recently spoke with Ward during his tour stop in Albuquerque, N.M., about Fozzy’s new album Sin and Bones, playing the Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival this summer and why he’s devoted to Gibson guitars for their consistency and quality.
What’s your go-to guitar?
For recording, it’s my 1975 Gibson Explorer. I bought it in 1992 or 1993, and whoever had it before me had taken all the paint off, so it was raw mahogany. There was some damage, so I sent it to a company in Kentucky called RS Guitarworks and had it restored back to the 1975 finish, but an aged version of the finish, so it looks like a finish that has aged naturally. I don’t take it on the road anymore, because it is that guitar for me. It has the perfect tone. Everything about it is perfect. So, I leave it at home and use it for recording.
On tour, I’ve been using my Gibson Moderne a lot, but I also have a 1995 Les Paul Standard with a tobacco bust, and it’s turned out to be an amazing workhorse guitar, great player. Guitars are something special. Guitars are like any piece of art in that they’re all unique. They’re all made of organic materials, so they’re all going to sound different-- that’s just the nature of wood and metal. This is just as special guitar.
Why do you choose to rock Gibsons?
Consistency and quality. And also because when I got that first Les Paul 1992, it was more about the overall sound of the instrument and feel of the instrument. It was the “aha” moment. The light bulb went off. It was not only that I was proud to be playing a guitar that Randy Rhodes had played, but it was knowing that there’s a reason they played it. Now that I’ve been playing Gibsons for years, it’s like a pair of shoes that just fit! My core tone and what I have found for myself as a player with Gibsons is the fit for me.
I hear you have a fun story about Zakk Wylde and a Gibson Moderne. Do tell!
Yes! This is a story I haven’t told any news outlet yet. I’ve been a fortunate person to become friends with one of my idols, Zakk Wylde. Zakk and I were talking about our bucket list guitars -- the guitars that we want to have before we die -- and I told him that mine was a Gibson Moderne. I told him I was looking for the guy who would be willing to sell his to me, and then, three weeks later, Zakk sent me a Gibson Moderne to my doorstep as a present! I don’t cry often, but I openly cried to think one of my heroes sent me a guitar just because we’re friends, and that’s what friends do. It’s the guitar I’ve always wanted. I feel blessed to have a friend in Zakk Wylde and to have that guitar.
The last time we spoke with you, you were in Adrenaline Mob. What made you decide to put all your efforts towards Fozzy this year?
I’ve had two main bands my entire life. I started my original, high-school-sweetheart band Stuck Mojo in 1989, and that was my main band for years. Then, I met Chris in 1999, but Fozzy was in-between part time status because of Chris’ wrestling and my Stuck Mojo. We would occasionally do touring and go out to support Fozzy.
So, when Mike Portnoy called and asked me to come and be in Adrenaline Mob, I thought it was a great opportunity for me, because I love those guys! I thought, “Man, I’ve got to do this.” And those guys have a million bands, so my understanding was that this was more of a side project for the members. But, as we started going, they made it apparent that those guys wanted to shift into a full-time role for all of us in Adrenaline Mob, and I had never been okay with that, because it wasn’t my band. I had my own family with the guys, and I had a history with them. This business is about relationships and loyalty and integrity. I loved the music and guys in Adrenaline Mob, but it would have been the wrong move for me.
What was the songwriting process like for Fozzy’s new album, Sin and Bones?
Most of it was written on the road. I started writing when the Adrenaline Mob summer tour ended, about this time last year, and I had a full week to just write. Our bus broke down on the last show, and I was stuck for four days, and I told the other guys to go home, since they all had kids, and I would stay with the bus and gear and make sure everything made it back to Atlanta. So, for that full week, I had a recording rig to start working on new songs. All of these ideas I started using in conjunction with the lyrics Chris had sent me, and they were excellent lyrics, so it was easy. It was real organic. How we write is that I collaborate with my bandmates in post. After I have the blueprints written out, I say, ‘What do you think of this?’ Then we turn these blueprints into a house.
Were you surprised the album it debuted No. 1 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart?
I was, actually! The reason I was surprised is because I had no expectations of what we would do in the U.S. This was our first album with a big marketing push for in the US. Most of our resources have been really focused on Europe, Canada and overseas. All of this great U.S. promotion was due to Century Media, a great, respectable label that has great relationships with the press and distribution and retail and radio. It takes all those things together to make an album successful. So, we make the music, and it is the music business, so they cover the business side. We hand the football off to them, and they’ve done an amazing job.
I saw you guys on the Uproar Festival this year and was blown away by the line of fans waiting to get their Fozzy CDs signed after the show. Do you sense that tight fan base when you travel the country playing shows?
Yeah, it’s been amazing. We’re headlining the first stage, and P.O.D. is headlining the second stage, and then you have the main stage with Adelitas Way, Staind, Godsmack and Shinedown. We’ve consistently been No. 3 in sales at the festival, even with all of those big names. It’s really affirmation that we’re connecting with folks. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we’re a hard-working band on stage. Leave it all up there. We grew up with bands like that, like Van Halen and Iron Maiden, who put it all up there on the line and were willing to make a mistake on occasion for the sake of going bananas and crazy on the stage. We’re a rock band with some elements of heavy metal and punk rock, and that punk rock we really comes out when we’re playing live.
What’s next for Fozzy?
Today is the last day of the Uproar Tour for us, and then we’re home for three weeks doing songwriting and working on material for the new record. We’re constantly writing. After that, we do an east coast headlining run with Candlelight Red and then go to Europe with Soil and do a month worth of dates, and takes us right up until Christmas. Then we go back out again the third week of January. We’re really excited to get out there and play more shows!
Photo: Chris A Photography