Jag Panzer's Mark Briody Talks To UM


Not blessed, or merciful
Apr 11, 2001
Sarf Lundin, Innit

Mark Briody is one half of the guitar team of the Colorado heavy metal band Jag Panzer. Jag Panzer has just released the excellent Mechanized Warfare that follows the amazing concept album Thane to the Throne. I was really looking forward to chatting with Mark and it turned out to be my longest conversation with anybody so far. Mark was down to earth, funny and just a great person to talk to. We discussed a wide range of subjects like the new album, the birth of his upcoming twins, hockey, Stanley Kubrick and posting on Internet bulletin boards.

Thank you to Mark for his time and Century Media for setting us up.

Ultimate Metal: How are you doing today?
Mark Briody: Pretty good. Doing interviews and painting the room that will be my new baby's room.

UM: That's right! You are going to have kids soon!
MB: Yes. We are having twins.

UM: Do you know what the sex of them?
MB: Boy and girl.

UM: Are these your first kids?
MB: No, I already have a son.

UM: You must be very excited.
MB: I am! I can't wait!

UM: When are you expecting them?
MB: They are due the first week of October but twins usually come early so probably somewhere in September.

UM: Isn't Harry going to have a kid too?
MB: Yeah, Harry's kid is due the first week of November.

UM: How do you think having more kids in your family and Harry's will affect Jag Panzer?
MB: Well since I have one and Harry already has a couple, our drummer, Rikard, has one. So it doesn't really change much as far as the band goes.

UM: Well Congratulations to Harry and you!
MB: Thank you.

UM: Ok, lets talk music now. I really think that Mechanized Warfare is an excellent album. I don't if its as good as Thane to the Throne, my favorite Jag Panzer album, (Mark laughs) but it is still a great album.
MB: I have been doing interviews for about 10 days now and I get people that really love Thane to the Throne or totally hate it.

UM: Really? Thane to the Throne is such an excellent album. That album just grabbed me immediately while Mechanized Warfare is growing on me with each listen. With the short time in between these two albums was it easy to come up with Mechanized Warfare?
MB: Yeah because it was so different to Thane to the Throne. With that album we approached it like a soundtrack. We imagined what it would be like to have this really cool, intense film version of MacBeth and we thought what kind of music we would like to put into it if we had a chance to play metal. That was sort of the idea behind Thane to the Throne. So there were some parts like a fast double-bass song that we didn't even approach for Thane because we couldn't find a place to put it. So while we didn't have exactly any riffs left over from Thane there were some ideas we didn't use. So when we finished Thane I immediately wanted to write a fast double-bass song. I think I had "Frozen in Fear" done in about 2 weeks after we recorded Thane. I think overall I had 2 or 3 songs that were written by the time Thane to the Throne hit the stores.

UM: Is it easy for you to write music?
MB: I throw a lot of stuff away. I have a home studio in the basement and I turn that on all the time. So I go down there a couple of hours a day and just record the stuff that I come up with. I write a lot of stuff but I throw away about 90% of it.

UM: So when you write music do you usually just go to your studio and record it or do you sometimes sit down and write it in a music sheet?
MB: I usually like to think of a vocal line first. I write songs in a really weird way. I come up with a vocal line and if I can sing the vocal line and its memorable to me for about 2 or 3 days then I will decided to make a conscious effort to make a good recording of it. So I will go down and record the vocal line and then I will write music to match that vocal line. Then I mute the vocal line track and give Harry the music to see what he comes up with. He usually comes up with a better vocal line. Sometimes he doesn't and I give him the line I used. We usually go from there.

UM: Do you and Harry ever come up with the same vocal line ideas?
MB: Sometimes we come up with things that are totally different. His vocal lines for "Frozen in Fear" were completely different from what I had done. They were not even close.

UM: So then Harry usually ends up writing all of the lyrics?
MB: Yes he writes all the lyrics.

UM: The lyrics of this album are really amazing. There are really strong messages in them especially in "Unworthy" and "The Scarlet Letter".
MB: He tried to be really diverse. We gave him free range and told him to write about anything he wanted to. He really touched on some dark subjects. Like on "Unworthy" he was telling me that it was something he was reading about or somebody he knew who was really religious and he wasn't getting answers to anything and it was driving him crazy.

UM: I was actually going to ask you if "Unworthy" had a personal message from Harry.
MB: Yes it is. Harry comes from a religious family and he has grown around people that put everything in their lives on religion. That's cool if it works for you but what if it doesn't work for you and that is what "Unworthy" is basically about.

UM: That is a really dark subject like you said. Moving on but staying with Harry, how would you rate him as a singer? He doesn't seem to get mentioned a lot in the metal community.
MB: I rarely see him mentioned. Which is really surprising because he has....

(At this moment the phone call was disconnected but Mark called me again.)

MB: Sorry about that. My cordless just died on me and I have now switched to another phone. I forgot what we were talking about though.

UM: We were talking about Harry not getting recognition for his singing.
MB: It is really surprising to me. I see singer polls all the time and he is rarely ever in there. Yet everybody we work with as far as producers, engineers and others are telling me halfway through the session, "God. He has a great voice!". Harry has an excellent voice, a good attitude and he is a trained vocalist. He has done stage productions, he was in "Pirates of Penzance" a few years ago. He can really sing all styles, he is great at harmonizing, read music and he is just a really great singer. So I just don't understand why he is never mentioned as a top vocalist because I think he is.

UM: I definitely agree with you. Do you think it might be that Jag Panzer isn't that well known, something that I couldn't believe, and maybe people just don't know him?
MB: In Europe I see a lot of people mentioning bands that I think are lesser known than us and their singers are always getting mentioned in singer polls.

UM: What a mystery.
MB: I agree.

UM: You once again used Jim Morris as your producer. What is it about the job he does that you guys keep going back to him?
MB: The best thing about Jim he will let you have your own sound. He works with everybody from Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse to Iced Earth. I think you would have a hard time saying that the same guy did all those. He really lets you get your own sound. He is also an excellent musician. He is well versed in everything: guitar playing, drumming, and singing, the works. He really is on top of what's quality in music as far tight playing and he is a great engineer. Plus the actual studio itself is one of the best in the United States. It is a multi-million dollar place. So for us it is the complete package working with Jim at Morrissound.

UM: Would you think about using anybody else?
MB: (Long pause) I really don't know. We are so happy with Jim I can't even think of using anybody else. If I did because Jim couldn't work with us for some reason I would want to use someone outside the metal genre. I would want to work with somebody totally different just to see what we would come up with.

UM: He really is one of the best in my mind as well.
MB: I really can't think of anybody else in the metal world that impresses me as much as Jim.

UM: You also used Travis Smith again for the album cover. The Mechanized Warfare cover is just incredible!
MB: It is my favorite Jag Panzer cover.

UM: I think so too and we finally have a tank in the cover.
MB: (Laughs.) We didn't even know he was going to do that. (Laughs again)

UM: Mechanized Warfare is an album that has been stated as one that was made to appeal to the long-time fans of your Ample Destruction days. I have never heard that album to my disappointment but do you think that statement is fair? To me I hear musical ideas that were in Thane to the Throne.
MB: I think the statement was taken out of context. Mechanized Warfare is definitely in the spirit of an old school record but it doesn't sound like that. I have no desire to go back to the guitar sound I had back then. A lot of the things we did vocal-harmony wise back then was kind of limiting. Even though we are very proud of that record I don't want to sound like that but there was a mindset and some values that we used then were definitely used for Mechanized Warfare. I can see why that statement is made but I don't want people to get the impression that the music sounds like it was from Ample Destruction.

UM: Right now my favorite song is "Take to the Sky". It totally reminds me of "Aces High".
MB: Harry is a huge Iron Maiden fan. Musically, Chris wrote that song and I don't know how big of an Iron Maiden fan he is but I do know that during that time period he was totally into shred guitar. So while he was probably aware of Iron Maiden I think his influences back then were Paul Gilbert and stuff like that.

UM: Musically it doesn't sound like an Iron Maiden song...
MB: But certainly vocally. Harry has sung everything that Maiden has ever recorded at one time or another. He has his Maiden tribute band going. We have messed around with Maiden covers periodically. I think we have done everything of Killers and Number of the Beast. So I am sure that Maiden is a big influence for Harry for his vocal lines.

UM: You also use a female singer throughout the album, who is that?
MB: She is a friend of ours. A friend of ours runs the Colorado Metal Board on Yahoo and that is his wife and she is a professional singer. She is totally cool, she has a great voice and we have used her for the last couple of albums to lend her vocal abilities.

UM: I like the usage of the female vocals in Mechanized Warfare.
MB: Yeah, we used them a little bit different from Thane to the Throne. I think there is a time and place where the female vocals sound cool. Its tough to do now a days because you have to be sure you don't sound like one of those bands with female vocalists. Like Nightwish, who has a great female vocalist and a few other bands. We really wanted to be conscious and not do something like they are doing.

UM: Well in the case of Nightwish, Tarja is the full time vocalist, which is different from what you are doing.
MB: Right.

UM: "Cold is the Blade" is another song I really like and one of the songs that remind me musically of Thane to the Throne.
MB: Actually you are way off on that. (We both laugh for a while). Let me explain why. "Cold is the Blade" right now is my favorite song and it actually has a chorus that is completely in a major key. It is something you rarely hear metal bands do and when they do that it sounds very happy, like the European metal that has a happy edge. That's the major sound. We wanted to do and not sound really happy and it took us a lot of work. So that's "Cold is the Blade". Thane to the Throne has no major keys, just very dark keys. So I think sound structure wise I know exactly what you are talking about, it is very similar to a Thane to the Throne song but melodically it is actually on the opposite side.

UM: Thanks for clearing that out for me. I have been playing guitar for a while, mainly for my own amusement and it is difficult sometimes to pick out those differences.
MB: It's just a different view on what people hear and I like hearing stuff like this.

UM: What are some of the others songs you enjoy from Mechanized Warfare?
MB: I really like the last song, "All Things Renewed". I have always been into the long epic songs with big choirs. Plus it has what we called the "Def Leppard guitar part". (Laughs) You know the harmony part. Everything has silly names in the studio before the song is finished. "Mark please come in here, we are mixing the Def Leppard guitar part." We have never done anything like that before so I kind of like listening to that. I like Harry's vocals on that song too.

UM: I think it is an excellent song to end the album with.
MB: Thank you.

UM: Plus, you have the extra part at the end.
MB: Oh right! (Laughs)

UM: Who does the solos for the band, Chris or you?
MB: No. He does all the solos. I use to share that. I think I did 3 or 4 on Ample Destruction. I mean lead guitar playing takes so much time and I spent so much time writing that I was just neglecting my lead guitar duties. I don't what to say it but my solos suck compares to Chris's. So I just don't play them anymore. I will play a lead if I have to but after I hear one of his leads mine are not cool.

UM: What did Chris use to do before joining Jag Panzer?
MB: He was in a band Industrial Eden. They were a really technical band, kind of like Spiral Architect. He is big into Dream Theater as far as technical musicianship. He is also into shred guitar stuff. I actually heard his name but I never heard him play before he came into the band. We were pretty surprised when we were auditioning him. He could play everything of Fourth Judgment, which was pretty amazing at the time.

UM: Who led you to him?
MB: We talked to the band The Quiet Room, who had a release on Metal Blade at the time, they knew him. They said this guy is pretty ripping.

UM: I heard you guys played a show in Denver in early April. How did that go?
MB: It went pretty good. They actually sold out that little club. We haven't done a show in years in Colorado because the last time we were doing shows attendance was really lukewarm and there wasn't a lot of interest. We sort of quit playing and nobody was asking us to play. So we figured it was a mutual thing here in Colorado. A few bands and people asked us to do a show, so we decided to do it and it went pretty good. There was a big crowd and the other bands were really good to see. It was just a really cool show. We hope to do it again but our drummer lives in Arizona so unfortunately we can't do things like that all the time.

UM: Did you play any songs from Mechanized Warfare at that show?
MB: We played "Take to the Sky" and "Frozen in Fear". They sucked though that time. We were so used to hearing them in the studio; they are totally different because we layer a lot of stuff in the studio. They were pretty much a disaster in that gig. In fact nobody recorded them.

UM: Weren't you planning to release a live album from that show?
MB: Both of the other bands recorded the set for a live EP. So they recorded us anyway. I just haven't had the chance to get back to them because we have been so busy doing everything for this new album. I will take some time off and then give them a call and use 3 or 4 songs and release those.

UM: That wasn't going to be on Century Media right?
MB: No, that was going to be on King Fowley's label. We asked Century Media if we could do it like that and they said "Fine." We had wanted to do something with King because he is a total old school, underground, and US metal guy. So I thought it would be cool to do a release with him.

UM: What about re-releasing the Tyrants EP and Ample Destruction?
MB: It's just a matter of Century Media getting agreements with some of the ex-musicians. For a while we had complete resistance from the other musicians and then we started getting some more of a positive response into releasing them. Century Media sent the paperwork to our former drummer and it was completely the wrong paperwork. They sent guest musician forms to him, which basically entitles you to no royalties. So he says, "What the hell are you guys sending me!" and he is calling me all pissed off and I tell him, "This has to be a mistake." So it's been all kind of things like that. We just need to iron everything out.

UM: Do you think it will happen?
MB: Yeah, I think it will come down to how profitable Century Media thinks it will be. They got so many bands and so much to work on. I think its a matter of is it worth their time to straighten this out.

UM: Are you happy with Century Media?
MB: I think they do a good job as far as I am concerned. I think I have been on 8 labels and this has been the best. I do about 100 interviews a release. We did a record on Pavement and we did zero interviews. I begged them to do interviews. So that shows you a big difference there.

UM: What is your favorite Jag Panzer album?
MB: Right now it is Mechanized Warfare but you have to ask me in between releases because the new stuff is so fresh to me. I really like listening to it right now. I also like Thane to the Throne and Fourth Judgment. I am not really crazy about Age of Mastery.

UM: When did you first start playing guitar?
MB: I started when I was 15 with the focus of wanting to play in a metal band with my friends. I just thought it would be something cool to do. All I used to do was listen to music all the time with my friends and we all thought it would be cool to start playing. A friend of mine knew how to play guitar and he taught me how to play a few Judas Priest and Kiss songs.

UM: Did you train yourself?
MB: No, I took lessons at Johnny Smith's studio. Johnny Smith was Bing Crosby's guitar player. So he is retired now and lives in this area. He had a music store at that time and it was very strict lessons. It was only Jazz he taught me. I am not the biggest Jazz fan but it was a really good experience for me.

UM: You recorded a song in honor of the Colorado Avalanche, which must have been a blast for you?
MB: (Laughs) I am a huge hockey fan. I go to as many games as I can and I watch them a lot on TV. I have been a hockey fan since I have been a kid. Every year they play these terrible Avalanche songs on the radio, they suck! I always tell people that they really suck and they tell me, "If you can do better, do it." This year I decided we should do it. So we had to pick a song that the radio stations were going to play and it had to be a metal song. So really Judas Priest is really the only recognizable metal band sort of in our vein. That's why picked "You Got Another Thing Coming", changed the lyrics and it got quite a good amount of airplay here in Denver. So we put it in the website and I think we have gotten like 4,600 downloads now, which is pretty good I think.

UM: Do you have to get permission from Priest when you do something like this?
MB: No. If we were to release it I imagine they would be calling me.

UM: Well I have to say "Congratulations" to the Avalanche despite the fact that I am a LA Kings fan.
MB: Oh. (Laughs) Deadmarsh and Miller are really good players.

UM: Yes, I was really happy with that trade. But the off season has been weird so far. For example, they didn't resign Luc. So I don't know what they are doing.
MB: I noticed that Robitaille went to the Red Wings. I thought that for sure he would be back. They saved the money by trading Blake, you would figure they would sign some players.

UM: Exactly. They said we don't want to give Blake so much money because we want to use that on more than one player.
MB: Its weird. They didn't make a move for Jagr or Turgeon.

UM: It's just really disappointing especially with the success they had.
MB: I would be pissed if I were a Kings fan. You guys had a great team last year and I thought it would be a cinch to keep them together.

UM: You personally post a lot on certain Internet Bulletin Boards. Is the Internet a big promotional tool for you?
MB: Its huge! I look at it in two different ways. There is the promotional aspect of the band and the other way is really just for me to talk about metal and my favorite bands. If its another bands board, I try to avoid blatant promotion. I will talk about the band when the subject comes up but I don't go there and post "Check out my new release!" I try to avoid this sort of thing. I have been using the Jag Panzer nickname since '93 and in some boards I can't register with that name like the Judas Priest board. Luckily I got into the Maiden board.

UM: That's the one I post the most at and I see you there a lot.
MB: It's a cool board. You get a lot of information on Maiden and talk about a lot of different stuff and people are pretty cool there.

UM: I also see you in the Perpetual Motion board a lot, although I am mostly a lurker in that one?
MB: That's a good board as well. That's a different sort of board because a lot of people on it are high-tech workers, doctors and scientists.

UM: Who would think that those people are metal fans.
MB: Right! I was actually looking at some at old fan 'zine from Albuquerque. I found out that the guy who interviewed me for that 'zine is now the Director of Endocrinology at Harvard Medical. (Laughs)

UM: What is your opinion on MP3's and sites like Napster, when it was big?
MB: I am really cool when it is 2 or 3 songs from an album. The ramifications of downloading an entire album are huge. The obvious thing people say is that the band loses money. The first thing that happens is that the label loses money and the label they are not going to take a money loss lying down. The first thing they are going to do is get the money back from the band's next recording budget. So all of the sudden your favorite band that had a great sounding album all of the sudden doesn't have such a good sounding album. The label is losing money because the album is getting bootlegged all the time. Then the band doesn't make as much and then you have people living. It all leads to bad things. But 2 or 3 songs I think are great. People email me all the time and say that they downloaded the album and now they will buy it. There has to be people who just download to bootleg. Not everyone is honorable.

UM: I agree with you and I see people post all the time saying they downloaded an album and they have no intention of buying it.
MB: If I had it my own way. I think the best idea personally would be, I mentioned it to Century Media but they don't like it, the record company and the band designate 2 or 3 songs and then just tell everybody, "Hey! You can put this MP3 on your site. You can do anything you want with this MP3. These 3 songs are completely legal. We grant you the rights to do whatever you want with these songs. But everything else is completely off-limits."

UM: That makes sense and Century Media has various songs on their site.
MB: I should probably have the same songs they do on my site and every other site that has Century Media bands. Everybody should have the same songs and then it becomes very clear what songs to download.

UM: I read somewhere that you are a big Stanley Kubrick fan. He is one of my all-time favorite directors.
MB: I like everything he does. I really connect with all of his movies. A lot of people say that his movies suck and they don't get it. I just like everything he does.

UM: I agree and a lot of people I know say, "How could you like that?"
MB: I heard that from half the people I know regarding "Eyes Wide Shut".

UM: I actually saw that last night.
MB: It's a brilliant movie!

UM: Have you seen "A.I."?
MB: No, I haven't. I really need to see that.

UM: I saw it and it's a great movie. It's interesting to see how Spielberg interpreted Kubrick. You might like it.
MB: The best thing about Kubrick is that his movies aren't black or white. There is no clear-cut hero or villain. Everybody has good points and bad points.

UM: Its true. Most of the main characters always have a downfall in his movies.
MB: Right.

UM: Well, I have no more questions so if you want to talk about something else now is your shot.
MB: I can't think of anything else. I have done so many interviews my mind is a blank right now.

UM: I will let you rest then.
MB: Well, thanks a lot for the interview and I will see you on the Maiden Board.

UM: See you online Mark!