JAG PANZER “Mad Scientists of Metal!” 

By Dr. Abner Mality

In 1981, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was starting to hit the United States in full force. One of the very first bands in America to incorporate this style of metal in their music was Colorado’s Jag Panzer, although they were initially known as Tyrant. It can be argued that almost no American band to this day was ever more successful than Jag Panzer in translating the British metal sound to Yankee shores. Their first full album “Ample Destruction” is still regarded as textbook American power metal.

The band went through almost uncountable line-up changes through the years but continued to release albums featuring the classic Jag Panzer sound. And then, as many older bands do, they threw in the towel.

Fortunately, they also followed another pattern common to long-running metal bands: they reformed. The result is a stunning new album “The Deviant Chord” that features all the trademarks of Jag Panzer…strong melodic vocals, powerful guitar harmonies, speed and power, precision playing. Guitarist Mark Briody has been the guiding force of Jag Panzer since 1981 (when your pal the Doctor was still in high school!). I was super lucky to hook up with this mastermind of American heavy metal and I now present to you the resulting interview!

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Greetings, Mark! What were the conditions that had to be met before the return of Jag Panzer became a reality?

MARK BRIODY: It was pretty simple, everyone needed to do this for the right reasons, meaning for a love of the music.  We had to take a very realistic view of todays music scene – the money would be little (or non existent) and no one was going to help us out.  Expect no ‘breaks’.  Thankfully everyone was onboard with this.

WC: Was there ever a period when you thought you were well and truly done with Jag Panzer, or was a comeback always something you were ready for?

MB: I thought we were done, but my worked never ended.  I was still working licensing deals and other things on the business end of things (such as working the details for us to have a song in the film ‘Dark Places’).

WC: When you came back together to record “The Deviant Chord”, did it take a while for you to click or was it like you had never been apart?

MB: It clicked right away.  3 of us have known each other since we were 6 years old.  The other guys we’ve known since our teen years.  We play very well together.  We’re all very familiar with one another, both personally and musically.

WC: What was the songwriting process like for “The Deviant Chord”? Were the songs already in your mind or did they take a while to come together?

MB: I start the songwriting process.  I’ll write a song, then toss it out if I don’t like it.  Once I get something I like, I’ll demo it.  My demos feature weak drum and bass parts (I’m not much of a drummer or bassist) but my bandmates get the idea of the song.  Our singer Harry then comes to the studio and we start fine tuning the song.  He always has some great ideas.  Then him and I do a demo that also gets sent out to everyone.  The rest of the band starts fine tuning that demo.  By the time a song is finished it’s usually very different from what I started with.

WC: Looking at Jag Panzer’s back catalogue, is there an album you think got overlooked or didn’t get its proper due?

MB: That’s a good question and one that tends to change over time.  Currently the overlooked album is ‘Casting the Stones’.  We got a couple of songs from that album in our set and they go over really well.  Yet that album is the only Jag Panzer album to never be reissued.  It’s strange that there is no interest in a reissue for that one.

WC: Is your approach to heavy metal the same as it was with “Ample Destruction” all those years ago or has there been an evolution?

MB:  I’m a much more skilled writer nowadays but the approach is the same.  I have to write music that I like and my bandmates like.  I don’t write songs to chase trends or money, I have no interest in that.  I need to enjoy the music I write.

WC: How did your deal with SPV/Steamhammer come about? Were other labels interested in Jag Panzer?

MB:  We had a few other offers.  I wanted some specific things in the contract, for example I want the rights back after a few years.  That was important to me.  Also, I wasn’t interested in any deal that asked for merchandise rights.  SPV was cool with these issues so we made the deal.

WC: How receptive were the other band members to the reunion? Did they all jump on board right away or did it take some coaxing?

MB: We had done some gigs in Germany and Greece and we really had a good time.  Those shows were the catalyst to us getting back together.  It showed us how much we enjoyed being in a band together.

WC: Tell us more about the cover art on “The Deviant Chord”. This is something really different for Jag Panzer.

MB: I had always wanted to do a mad scientist themed cover.  Nikola Tesla had his famous laboratory here in Colorado Springs many years ago.  His lab was not far from where our studio is.  So basically we all grew up on stories of the famous local ‘mad’ scientist.  So the cover is a tribute to him but with some Jekyll and Hyde tossed in there.

WC:  What’s the meaning behind the title track?

MB: Harry likes to write a lot about facing death and that song is one of them.  Specifically it’s about a man trying to redeem himself just before dying.

WC: What was the inspiration for “Foggy Dew”. I hear some Thin Lizzy Celtic influence going on here.

MB: My father used to sing that song, so I grew up with it.  I came up with the metal version in my mind many years ago.  I had been looking for a place to put it and this album seemed perfect.  You’re right about the Thin Lizzy influence!  I am a HUGE Thin Lizzy fan.  Great band!

WC:  “Fire of Our Spirit” is a huge sounding track, especially in the vocal department. Was it a real challenge for Harry to do?

MB: It’s got a lot going on vocally , that’s for sure.  Thankfully Harry has been a trained singer since he was a kid.  We grew up in a poor area, but for some reason we had great choir programs in school.  So Harry has been working with great vocal coaches since he was about 10 years old.  That really paid off with complex vocal parts like ‘Fire of our Spirit’.

WC: Have you given any thought to what comes after “The Deviant Chord”?

MB: Definitely a tour and hopefully a live album / DVD.  

WC: Any live gigs or touring planned for the album?

MB: We’re starting to get some tour offers now.  But we need something that works financially.  For example, we just got a tour offer that looked great on paper.  By after running the numbers we’d made $4 a show.  We can’t spend a month on the road for $4.  The problem with that tour was that they wanted us to chip in on the crew and tour bus.  That can get very expensive.  But that was just an early tour offer, something else will come along.

WC: If you could ask any 3 people from history to dinner, who would they be?

MB: Good question!  Let me go with Nikola Tesla, Einstein and Michelangelo.  All 3 would be fascinating to listen to.  All overcame obstacles to achieve greatness.  That would inspiring to talk to them.

WC: What was the last release you picked up just because you wanted to hear it?

MB: Sabaton ‘The Last Stand’.  It’s not exactly new, but it’s new for me.  I love it, I like the big epic choruses.

WC: What was the last live gig you checked out?

MB: I saw the celtic punk band Flatfoot 56 awhile back.  Great gig!  I love the energy in live punk.

WC: Any “Spinal Tap” story in the long history of Jag Panzer you could share with us?

MB: That part in Spinal Tap where they can’t find the stage, well…  that really happened to us.  We were playing in eastern Germany in a huge old building with many, many rooms.  Our dressing room was 2 floors up and around several hallways.  We got lost finding our way to the gig.  We walked in on a dance class and daycare before we finally found the gig!

WC: Any last words for the faithful?

MB: Thanks for listening to us!  We hope to see you on tour.