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Jag Panzer

Jag Panzer is één van die bands die in de underground een legendarische status heeft, maar daarbuiten bij de meesten niet zo bekend is. Enkele tussenpauzes niet meegerekend is de band al 36 jaar actief en heeft gedurende haar bestaan enkele prachtige albums afgeleverd, waarvan het debuut ‘Ample Destruction’ uit 1981 mijn inziens ongeëvenaard blijft. Zes jaar (waaronder zelfs twee jaar uit elkaar te zijn geweest) na hun laatste langspeler, ’Scourge Of The Light’, kwamen de heren eind september met een nieuw album, ‘The Deviant Chord’; een sterke en bijzonder afwisselende heavy/power metal plaat, en vooral typische Jag Panzer plaat die voor mij de oude tijden doet herleven en diezelfde kracht en muzikale uitstraling kent als het debuut. Bovendien is dit album eentje die bewijst dat gitarist/bandleider Mark Briody en zijn mannen het nog steeds in zich hebben. De gitarist vond even de tijd om de Lords te voorzien van enige tekst en uitleg over de wederopstanding en uiteraard de nieuwe plaat.

Door: Nima | Archiveer onder heavy / power metal

First of all congratulations and welcome back to the metal front! How does it feel to be back with a new album?
It feels good! It’s always nice to be able to channel creativity and get the band’s name out there.

What was the reason to call it quits shortly after ‘The Scourge of the Light’, and what got you through to finally re-join forces again after – fortunately – only two years?
There was literally nowhere for us to go after ‘Scourge of the Light’. We had no tour offers available that we didn’t lose money on. It would have been real money, not something the record company was funding. Each band member would have personally had to pay to go play and we just couldn’t do that. But in the past few years we’ve been able to go play without losing money, so we thought “Let’s keep doing that and lets record a new album”.

There is of course more reason to cheer and that is the new masterpiece, ‘The Deviant Chord’! The reactions have been quite positive so far. Are you satisfied with the feedback so far, and still happy with the final result? I’m happy with it, but it will be a few years before I can appreciate the music. Right now I am too close to it, it always takes a while before I can hear our music the same way a listener does.

One of the (many) things I’ve always admired about Jag Panzer is that you have never submitted to anything musically and have always done what you wanted to do and have always remained Jag Panzer. But you have also never made the same record twice and every album has its own vibe and character. Do you have a certain direction in mind when you start working on a new album?
Thank you! I am glad you noticed that! We make it a point to never make the same album twice. For this album the direction was “variety”. We wanted to cover a lot of ground musically on this record, but all heavy metal of course. So we tried different time signatures, different tempos and things like that.

In my opinion this album is more back to the roots, and although this is a very versatile album, the main focus seems to me a lot more on the traditional heavy metal and a more straightforward approach. To me the album has that same atmosphere, feel and youthful enthusiasm of ‘Ample Destruction, and also the faster material on ‘The Age Of Mastery’, and ‘Thane To The Throne’. Was this something that came naturally or was there – be it subconsciously – a will to prove that after 36 years Jag Panzer is still not “burnt-out”?
It comes naturally to us. We never try to force things and I think that helps. For example, it would be very easy to take a song from ‘Ample Destruction’ and change a few chords, use different lyrics and call it a new song. But we never do that, we don’t approach music like that all. We start from scratch with every new song, so I think that helps keep everything fresh.

Besides the more straightforward approach the album has quite a dark vibe in general, and there is a lot of emotion within these songs. At least, that’s how I experience it. In how far can you agree on this, and if so, how would you explain the reason for this?
We did record this album differently. For this record we did lots of demos. Some of the songs we did five or six demos before the real recording. We’ve done some albums where we did no demos. I don’t know if one way is “better” than the other, but they do make for different sounding albums. Having each album sound unique is very important to us.

Something that is striking is of course the mutant scientist on the front cover, and the “science lab” theme throughout the whole booklet. Could you please explain a bit more about this and its connection to the album title and the themes you deal with in general on ‘The Deviant Chord’?
I’ve always wanted to do a mad scientist-themed album. Nikola Tesla had his famous laboratory a few miles from where we all grew up. So we always heard stories about the “mad scientist”. Of course now we know that Tesla was brilliant, but back then he was doing some crazy experiments that some people considered “mad”. So I think these are cool themes for heavy metal graphics.

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Something else; I must say that I really like your version of ‘Foggy Dew’ and how you’ve made it into a real Jag Panzer song, as it fits surprisingly well to the rest of the material on this album. Could you please explain a bit more about this song and the reason to cover it for this album?
My father was a singer and that is a song he used to sing. So I’ve loved the song since I was a child. When I was about 16 or 17 I started hearing what it would sound like as a heavy metal song. So I’ve had the arrangement in my mind for years. But the problem was finding the right album for it. I thought it would fit on this album, so I did my own demo and sent it to the guys. They all liked it so we put it on the album.

Again something different; this is the first album without your long-time producer Jim Morris, and I remember saying that ‘The Scourge of the Light’ was the best-produced Jag Panzer album at the time. Was there a particular reason for this? But anyway, it seems like changing producers was to the album’s benefit after all, because ‘The Deviant Chord’ sounds even stronger and more fresh…
I love working with Jim but I was unable to reach him, plus I heard rumours that he was no longer producing. Plus, I know that Morrisound had been sold. So we had to find a producer, and turned to John Herrera who had already done the drums for ‘The Scourge of the Light’. John has a cool studio in Arizona and we already had a working relationship with him, so it was an easy choice for us.

I opened my review for ‘The Deviant Chord’ with the words “Unknown to the most, cult for a select group of people”, and in the underground you do indeed have a legendary and a cult status. I think the responses at the Keep It True festival alone speak for themselves. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the band has a greater support in Europe than in the US. Your opinion please, and if what I think is true, why do you think is the reason for this? We do have a very dedicated, but small, US fan base, but I agree that our support is greater in Europe. We have never been a band that gets radio airplay and I think the Europeans seem less interested in radio hits than the typical American. Of course there are exceptions to this, but I am speaking in general terms.

What can we expect next from Jag Panzer? I mean, from what I understand the songs on ‘The Deviant Chord’ are only a selection from a large number of songs you’ve originally written in the past few years. So can we expect a new album soon?
I think another album would be a few years away. We need to focus on a tour right now.

If I’m not mistaking you haven’t been very active on the live front in the last few years, and as far as I could see there isn’t anything planned yet to take the band on the road. Are there plans being made for gigs or maybe even a tour and of course revisiting Europe?
We love to play as much as possible, but the issue is always making sure we don’t lose money. Honestly I don’t know how other bands do it. I’ve been to shows where I count the people in attendance, I know how much the ticket prices are and I know how much the expenses are, like tour bus and things like that. Some of these gigs lose money. How are the bands paying for this? I really wish I knew. We have no tour support from our label, so I don’t understand how bands can do this. Maybe they have wealthy people in the band. We are a poor working class band, we can’t afford to lose money playing.

How difficult is it nowadays for a veteran band like Jag Panzer to get a decent gig? Both on a national and an international level.
It’s very hard. We don’t live in the same state, so even a local gig means air travel. So any gig for us involves travel expenses. We do what we can to keep travel expenses low, we take the cheapest flights, we borrow amps and drums at the gig so we don’t have to bring those. I bring only one guitar on a flight and no other luggage. We never bring a road crew. So we’re doing what we can to make these gigs happen.

Well, I guess we can call it a day for now. Unless of course there is something left that you’d like to mention…
Thank you for the cool interview! These were some great questions!

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