Mike Greenblatt’s Rant ‘N Roll

One-on-One With Chris Jericho

Recently, when I had the chance to talk to the lead singer of Fozzy, Chris Jericho, who also happens to be a professional wrestler, I jumped at it. Truth be told, I’ve spent a hefty chunk of my own career in the ring, well, not as a combatant, but as Editor of Wrestling World and Lucha Libre De Puerto Rico magazines (the latter in Spanish!). I also did press and rang the bell at ringside for independent promotion Ring Of Honor, but that’s another story for another time.

I dug your recent Kinks cover of “Father Christmas.”

I just decided to do it because the Fozzy guys were busy writing and recording for our next album, so I put together a band I call The Christmas Helves.

Rock ‘n’ roll and professional wrestling has had a very colorful history going back to Cyndi Lauper with Captain Lou Albano.

The crowd vibe is very similar with hard-hitting, electro-energetic crowds. When I was a kid in Canada, all I ever wanted was to be in a rock band and be a wrestler. I always say to kids today that if you really want to do something and you feel passion for it, then just go for it, do it. And don’t worry about the reasons why you might not be able to. So yeah, I may be the only guy who ever did both at this level. And it’s because I put in the passion and a lot of hard work for almost 30 years now.

There’s always humor with you in the ring.

It’s who I am. You can never take yourself too seriously. Especially in this business. People don’t like that. Plus, if I can’t insult myself, who can I insult? I like to bust my own balls. People respond to that.

What led you to leave the biggest wrestling company in the world, the WWE, and join the upstart All Elite brand?

I did all I could do in WWE. Now I like being part of a company that I’m bringing up from scratch. That appeals to me. I could go back to WWE tomorrow and I know exactly where I’d stand. I prefer being here. There’s no limits. It’s uncharted waters. We don’t even know what’s going to happen from day to day at AEW. Also I think the fans like an alternative. Wednesday nights on TV rock now.

You’re the AEW Champ. What did you tell those boys? Did you say you’d sign up but only if they make you the champ?

It doesn’t work that way. I would never say that. The belt is just a prop anyway. The important thing is how you conduct yourself, how you work in the ring, and how you connect with the audience. That’s much more important than having a title.

Did you know that AEW was going to go head-to-head with the WWE’s NXT federation on Wednesday nights? It’s like the late nineties Monday night wars between WWE and WCW.

Not at all. That’s just how it played out. It has garnered a huge buzz, though, so it’s all good.

What does this do to Fozzy?

Nothing. We’re not on tour now. When we start up again after the new album is finished, I’ll deal with it. 

Twisted Sonic Illusions

For their fifth album, and second with American avant-garde guitarist David Torn, Swiss band Sonar has amped up the kind of mysterious elements they’ve always dabbled in. Tranceportation Volume #1 (RareNoise Records) is, indeed, trance music built on simple hypnotic repetitions that build into, as composer-guitarist David Thelen likes to say, “polyrhythms and odd time signatures that subtly create complex and twisted sonic illusions.” The three guitars, bass, and drums dance together in alternately sprightly/spooky formations. Torn has collaborated with Jeff Beck and David Bowie. His stuttering effervescence adds immeasurably to Sonar’s quiet storm of gathering intensity. By utilizing prog-rock, jazz-fusion, and elements of contemporary classical minimalism, a stunning synthesis is achieved that works its magic over the course of four tracks with an average time of 10 minutes each. Self-produced and recorded in Switzerland, it only represents half of what they laid down. Volume #2 is due in February. 

The Greatest Living Piano Player?

Keith Jarrett has to be in the conversation as the greatest living piano player. He got his start—as did so many others—in the college of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, before moving on to the bands of Charles Lloyd and Miles Davis. His 1975 Koln Concert has been widely hailed as the greatest solo piano album in history. It’s also the biggest-selling solo piano album ever. The new Munich 2016 (ECM Records) was recorded in Germany on the last night of a solo tour and he was particularly inspired on that night.

The art of spontaneous composition is akin to walking a tightrope with no net. There’s plenty of that here as well as a show-stopping/show-ending extrapolation of Harold Arlen’s 1939 “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” Throughout these two CDs, Jarrett tickles the brain with effervescent flights of pianistic magic. The cat needs no band. It’s almost as if each of his eight fingers is a different musician making up an octet (I’ve heard he uses no thumbs). Incorporating flourishes of gospel, classical, folk, jazz, pop, stride, and what seems like soundtrack music for a good mystery, Jarrett is that rare type of musician in whose unaccompanied music one can lose themselves in for an extended period of time. 

That Psychedelic Cowboy Band

They called it hippie country music back then and New Riders of the Purple Sage were a prime progenitor. They toured with the Grateful Dead for years and Jerry Garcia would—more often than not—play pedal steel onstage with his opening act. When they emerged out from within the Dead’s shadow in 1972 with two landmark albums (Powerglide and Gypsy Cowboy) and replaced Garcia with Buddy Cage, they came into their own and were extremely popular on the East Coast. On Friday, November 23, 1972, at the Academy Of Music in New York City, the second of two shows was recorded for posterity but never released.

Until now.

Singer/songwriter/rhythm guitarist John Dawson, lead guitarist David Nelson, bassist Dave Torbert, pedal steel guitarist Cage, and drummer Spencer Dryden (who had left Jefferson Airplane) took Rick Nelson’s “Hello Mary Lou,” the Lefty Frizzell classic “Long Black Veil,” Jagger/Richards’ “Honky Tonk Woman” and the Johnny Otis R&B burner “Willie & The Hand Jive,” and juxtaposed them with originals like “Groupie” and “Whiskey,” to make Thanksgiving In New York City (Omnivore Recordings) a pure delight, and a forerunner of what became, decades later, Americana music.